'Transparent' Creator Jill Soloway Shares Words Of Wisdom About Being A Boss & Finding Success In Hollywood
In the past few years, more and more women have been shattering Hollywood's glass ceilings and climbing their way to the top of the television food chain: Tina Fey (30 Rock, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt) , Jenji Kohan (Weeds, Orange Is The New Black), and Mindy Kaling (The Mindy Project) have all done it, and their unique voices have made television better than its ever been. Also amongst the batch of female creatives poised to change Hollywood is the brilliant and talented Transparent creator Jill Soloway, whose wisdom and insight about finding success was on full display in a recent interview with The Hollywood Reporter. Soloway sat down with five other showrunners (Black-ish's Kenya Barris, Silicon Valley's Alec Berg, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt's Robert Carlock, Modern Family's Steve Levithan, and Togetherness' Jay Duplass) to talk about her path to becoming one of Hollywood's most influential voices, and, for anyone looking to pursue a high-powered career of their own one day, her words of wisdom are worth paying attention to.
Soloway has been in the business for a while, but making it to the point of creating her own series has been anything but a cake walk. Like most artists, she revealed in the interview, it took a lot of time, hard work, and some jobs she was less-than-enthused about on the way before she found success with Transparent(which now runs on Amazon Prime).
Transparent is not Soloway's first gig as a showrunner — she was also head honcho for a season on Diablo Cody's United States of Tara — however it is the first show that is entirely hers. Creator, head writer, and executive producer: Soloway's calling the creative shots, and she's got a lot to say about how it feels to finally be doing what she dreamt of doing.
Here are the most important takeaways from Soloway's part in the discussion. Bathe in the wisdom of a true boss:
When you're a boss, it's just as important to manage the expectations and involvement of the people above you as it is to supervise the people below you. With Transparent, Soloway began sending episode scripts to the studio heads before they were totally done: "We turn things in to our producing department as well as the network earlier than I would have in the past, then we continue working," she said in the THR interview. The reason behind this, Soloway continued, was so that when the studio came back with notes, the writers would have pretty much already covered what needed to be changed. "It's a way of keeping everybody feeling included and vetting everybody's notes against each other."
Always At Least Pretend To Listen
Craig Zisk, a producer/director on United States of Tara, once told Soloway something that she has always remembered: "People just want feel like they're being heard." she said in the THR interview.
Live Your Vision
Before she found massive success with Transparent, Soloway was having trouble getting her voice heard in Hollywood. She was at a low point in her career when Lena Dunham started becoming successful, and she was struck by Dunham's self-possession. As Soloway described it to THR :
Hire Someone Inexperienced
Soloway values having at least one person in the writer's room whose still finding their way. As she put it to THR , "it keeps everybody young."
If Someone Is Wrong About Something, You Don't Have To Tell Them How Wrong They Are
It's not actually a savvy idea to go telling everybody how wrong they are, even if they are extremely, painfully wrong. "If you have conflict, if you think they're dead wrong, do that in private," Soloway told THR. "It's a political job. It's like captaining a ship."
Don't Be The "My Only Thing Is..." Person
As Soloway put it in the THR interview: "There's also always the "my only thing" guy in the room. "My only thing is …" You don't want to be that guy." It seems like there's always someone in any team setting who just can't help but nitpick at the most insignificant details. If Shakespeare had asked a writer's room for help on Hamlet, this is the person who would have been like, "My only thing is, why Denmark? Have you thought about setting it in Africa?" Don't be that person.
Work Begets Work
Soloway's career path is proof positive that you have to make work to get work. When her career was becoming static, she made a movie — Afternoon Delight — specifically so that she could put her voice on display herway. The movie became her "calling card," as she told THR , and she was able to show studios just what she was capable of. "I made the movie, then felt I was ready to walk into a network and say, 'I know what the tone should be. I know how to edit now. I know what cinematographer I want, I know how to cast.'" It goes to show that you have to be proactive; no one is going to hunt you down to give you a job.
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