Having a mentor or even just people you can look up to is extremely important. I don’t think I realized how important mentors were until I decided at the age of 17 that I wanted to be a film maker and I had no immediate female role models at the time. The arts is arguably one of the hardest professions you could try to get into and make a solid living. Having a career in film making is no exception. Being a very young, moderately experienced female in this profession makes it even harder. I am 23 now and I’m always looking to do better but I actually make a living doing what I’m doing now. I did not get here on my own, however. That is why having mentors or people you can look up to is exceptionally important.
For me at first finding someone to look up to was difficult. My first person I looked up to was Tom Woodruff Jr who stirred up the film in me. And I had great role models like Robert Rodriguez, Steven Spielberg and Quentin Tarantino but I couldn’t relate very well to any of them. There were some female directors in Hollywood too but all of my favorite movies were directed by men, and all of the people in my area that I started making contacts with were men. It’s nothing against men, I work with them all the time and enjoy what I do, but I had no female to look up to who was doing what I wanted to be doing. You see, some day I still want a family, I want a pet and a partner and eventually kids but I don’t want to have to choose between my career or my family. Women are so often expected to choose and it doesn’t seem right to me. I wanted to know that what I desired existed in someone else’s life.
When I was about 18 my Dad showed me this video of a female indie director who gave a talk about women directors in Hollywood. I watched the hour long video in awe. This lady was so excited about film! And she knew about other successful women! Granted the ratio of women to men was drastically different, but she still knew. I was so excited that I talked my parents ear off the rest of the day about what I learned. Eventually my dad said I should try and email her and she if she’d respond. So that’s what I did, and guess what, she responded that same day! I was over the moon. Not only did I just witness a talk of a woman doing exactly what I wanted to be doing, but that same woman was now talking to me! That woman was of course Kate Chaplin (now know as Dr. Leah Leach). Getting to know Kate and have her as a mentor has proven to be greatly beneficial to not only my career but my personal life.
Creating art as your career can be very draining. It is easy to get down on yourself and doubt. I tend to see Kate’s Facebook posts at just the right time because any time I am down on myself I am reminded that she is there and she has persisted. Kate has helped me learn that I can appreciate my own work. She has taught me that there really is value in caring for others. She has shown me that you can have a career, family, pets, as long as you balance. It’s all about how you tackle it and what you allow yourself to believe. If you believe what society tells you and that you can’t achieve your dreams, then you won’t. So we dare to dream.
Eventually I was on one of her film sets. We talked about movies constantly. Then I moved on to being a guest on one of her podcasts and now we host a podcast together called Your Gal Friday. I am also now on the board at Gal’s Guide to the Galaxy. All of these these things could not have happened without her. Not to mention the fact that she has given me confidence in my craft.
It is because of people like her that I know I can achieve my dreams. Sure I do lots of oddball film jobs now, but they are still film and production. I’m building my resume and Kate has helped me every step of the way. Since finding Kate, my eyes have been open to other people I can look up to. There is an entire world of possibilities out there. There’s no right or wrong way to do things. If you don’t like how one person did something, try something else. Having a mentor doesn’t mean you copy that person’s life, it just means that you have more guidance as you follow your dreams and a support system for whenever you’re in need.
Since Kate changed her name back to Leah, she has retired from filmmaking and has committed herself to Gal’s Guide to the Galaxy. And you know something? That is inspiring too. Even though I don’t see myself leaving film anytime soon, Kate/Leah is still following her dreams. There is still a lot to talk to her about and she is still my biggest mentor. I honestly can’t thank her enough for all of the support she has given me over the years. With her I don’t feel like a total crazy person! I am not alone! And neither are you.
What are your goals and dreams? Who do you look up to? Who is your mentor? If you don’t have one yet, take a look around, be a little brave. People might surprise you.
Having a support system is the #1 reason why I am able to do what I do and am able to continue on everyday. It’s not just Kate, it’s my friends, my family, everyone I surround myself with are incredibly supportive. Kind words and feedback go a long way. If you don’t have a mentor or support system yet, I encourage you to reach out. If you think I would be a good person for you to talk to, don’t hesitate to contact me.