We caught up with the brilliant and insightful Gloria Stella a few weeks ago and have shared our conversation below.
Gloria, appreciate you joining us today. How did you learn to do what you do? Knowing what you know now, what could you have done to speed up your learning process? What skills do you think were most essential? What obstacles stood in the way of learning more?
I had absolutely no connection to the entertainment world. I had no experience and I didn’t know anyone who had experience so every new task I took on I was forced to do the research myself and learn by trial and error. From learning what an acting headshot and resume was at 19 years old to breaking down a script when I started working behind-the-cameras to preparing legal documents for investors when I started producing – google was my best friend. And knowing that google is not always a reliable source of information, my research over the years has consisted of hundreds, if not thousands, of hours of researching a wide variety of sources from people’s opinions, legal articles, actual law documents, professional interviews and various workshops to ensure that the information I applied to my work was accurate.
Every first-time task took me probably 20x longer than it would take someone who knew what they were doing. Do I wish that I could’ve had a mentor take me under their wing and show me all the ropes personally? Honestly….yes….and no.
I’ve been in the entertainment industry for 20-years and I have always said “I wish that I had a mentor or someone to train me or even someone I could observe – just once – doing everything that I’m doing so I could know if I’m doing it right.” But now, as I’m writing this out, I’m realizing how truly valuable being forced to learn as I go has been. Instead of knowing only one way to do something because it was the only way I was taught, I have a wealth of diverse approaches from my research and I have a good understanding of not only what is standard, but also what is possible – which often times are completely different things. And I think it’s the knowing what’s “possible” that helps me to succeed many times. Because I didn’t exclusively learn what’s standard in this industry, I find that I’m less limited by the status quo. I’m more willing to find solutions that are out of the box and I’m far more likely to question the standards if they don’t make logical sense – and then research it for myself, many times leading me to find out that was is standard is not always best, it’s just what’s always been done – but as this industry changes rapidly, what has always been done is not necessarily still the best way. As a major disclaimer, I certainly am not discrediting what has been tested and proven over the years (especially when it comes to safety and legal measures) – I 100% think you have to know what the standards are before you can customize your approach. What I’m saying is, that I know the standards but I’m not limited by them. And that’s something I don’t think I would have gained if I had not been forced to research everything I do so extensively.
Also, having to figure things out on my own with essentially no resources and no option to hire someone, has given me two other major traits in my work – a deep understanding of many aspects of production that I never would have learned if I had the ability to hire it out. So now, although I’m not the actor, the 1st AD, the editor, etc – I still have a pretty good understanding of what it takes to accomplish these tasks and am able to have richer conversations with those professionals. Secondly, learning on my own has developed a resilience that I think is essential to succeeding in this industry (or any industry for that matter). Every time I had to push through in the dark on my own, I grew a little stronger in my resilience and most people know that this is a cut throat industry and if you don’t have the resilience to keep going, you likely won’t make it.
Even with all the good that came out of having to learn as I go, I still think having a mentor to guide along the way is absolutely invaluable and I wish I would have had one then and I wish I had one now – but I suppose not having a mentor has made me far more reliant on my faith in God to guide me along.
Great, appreciate you sharing that with us. Before we ask you to share more of your insights, can you take a moment to introduce yourself and how you got to where you are today to our readers
I am a film producer and director – although I am starting to dabble in television as well. My husband and I founded En’val Entertainment in 2013 after a short career as a 1st AD preceded by a seven-year career as a professional on-camera actor (mostly industrials).
The vast majority of my films are in the faith-based genre as everything I do in this life stems from my faith. I produced my last two films in partnership with my good friends at Pryor Entertainment – BLACKBEAR and TULSA. BLACKBEAR streamed on Netflix for a couple years and TULSA had a 16-week theatrical run in the United States and is now available online and through streaming on various platforms.
I’m currently working on several projects now in various stages of development and early production including a couple faith-based dramas (UNFORGIVABLE and UNTITLED SEX TRAFFICKING FILM), a television drama and my first animated feature.
Have you ever had to pivot?
When I started in the entertainment industry in 2004 – I knew that I was “called” to the entertainment industry but I didn’t know in what facet. I started my journey out in acting with spurts of success, made decent money (mostly doing industrials), got discouraged most of the journey, tried to quit a couple times but was pulled back in.
Finally in 2011, through a series of unusual events, I found myself as a 1st AD for a feature film that later went on to be widely distributed and it was at that point in my life that I knew without a doubt that my skillsets and my passions were meant for what happened behind the camera rather than in front of it – so I left my agencies, deleted any evidence of my acting days from the internet (as much as I could anyway) and started working behind the camera.
Since I was thrown so quickly into my 1st AD role, I realized after production wrapped successfully, how much I still needed to learn in the transition to crew so I spent a couple years working as a PA on studio films and just spent time learning and observing. I stepped into independent producing rather quickly and with TULSA discovered how much I love directing as well.
I think it’s essential to learn how to pivot in your life and not to box yourself in. Most people will go through several transitions in their career until they discover what they ultimately are meant to do. My greatest advice for someone starting out is not to get discouraged because you aren’t “there” yet – life itself is like art – it’s developed over time and 20-years ago, I didn’t even know where “there” was. It was God who led me to each “there” and I’m sure there are more to come that I don’t even know about yet.
What’s the most rewarding aspect of being a creative in your experience?
The most rewarding aspects of producing for me are first, being able to deliver a message of hope that most people would not get otherwise. Secondly, I love the collaboration of production. The part of a movie that moves me to tears are when the end credits scroll. Something about so many people coming together and uniting under one vision to create one work of art is so beautiful to me. That it’s not just one person’s idea but it’s one person’s idea that was inspired by another person’s idea and adjusted by another person’s opinions and brought to life by many other people – the art of taking, leaving and building from the minds of talented people is invigorating for me. Lastly, I love being the one that God uses to give people an open door. I love helping people get their foot in the door and helping launch careers.
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