Ep142: Michelle Tesoro (ACE) On Playing Chess With Your Health & Well-Being (Pt2)

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How many times have you finished a job and felt like you had nothing left in the tank? You gave it everything you had 24/7 thinking to yourself, “I’ll start taking care of myself when the next hiatus comes” only to be cursed by the fact that you’re good at what you do…and that hiatus never appears. You repeat the cycle for months, years, or even decades wondering where all the time went.

When you imagine a high-profile award-winning editor like Michelle Tesoro you imagine burnout wouldn’t be a problem – that’s just for people struggling to “make it,” right? Given her track record having worked on shows such as House of Cards, Godless, On the Basis of Sex, When They See Us, and most recently The Queen’s Gambit, Michelle must have it all figured out.


As you’ll hear in part two of my conversation with Michelle, just like us she too often finds her tank completely empty at the end of a project. In part 2 of our conversation (here’s part 1 if you missed it), we specifically examine the question of what is leaving her so drained. Michelle is incredibly open, honest, and brave to share her challenges maintaining such a demanding career while balancing it with friends and family, and she even allows me to put her on the ‘Hot Seat’ to really dig into what is driving her to still work so hard at this level of her career (Spoiler Alert: Even she fears missing out on the next gig). One key takeaway from this interview that I hope everyone understands is that greater success does not make career and lifestyle decisions any easier. In fact, if anything, it’s the opposite. It becomes harder to say no and the fear of missing out never goes away.

P.S. If you missed part 1, you don’t need to listen to it first to understand this conversation. But I do recommend you listen to part one if you’d like to hear Michelle talk about her career path and what has driven her success.

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Here’s What You’ll Learn:

  • Michelle has come to realize that there is a balance between high profile projects and having a happy home life.
  • Three important priorities Michelle tries to balance.
  • The defining moment that gave Michelle a reality check about her priorities and where she spends her time.
  • How Michelle came to be on my email list and what attracted her to my work.
  • The piece of software that changed the way Michelle worked and gave her more balance in her life.
  • I put Michelle on the hot seat to uncover what is the source of her draining her tank on every project she takes
  • KEY TAKEAWAY: The fear of missing out is high even for someone like Michelle.
  • The process of restoring herself is always something that she struggles with.
  • KEY TAKEAWAY: Compressing creative time allows for better pacing of energy levels to work smarter not harder.
  • Michelle’s process of working through a day of dailies.
  • The realization Michelle came to about her next gig.
  • Michelle’s wish list of how she would love to spend her time.
  • Why she hasn’t been able to commit to a long-term gig since the Queen’s Gambit.
  • Michelle tries to answer which fear is greater: experiencing burnout from filling the gap or taking a break.

Useful Resources Mentioned:

Twitter: @mtesorito

Instagram: @michtesoro

Michelle Tesoro’s Website

Continue to Listen & Learn

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Ep127: Chasing After the Next Gig vs. Building Your Career | with Kabir Ahktar, ACE

Ep132: How to Pursue Fulfilling Work and Find Your ‘Calling’ | with Dr. Tal Ben-Shahar

Ep128: How to Have a Successful Career Without Sacrificing Family | with Farrel Levy

Ep64: [CASE STUDY] Overcoming Burnout and Imposter Syndrome | with Chryss Terry

Ep47: The Ugly Side of Depression, Burnout, and Imposter Syndrome | with Gen Malone

How Total Burnout Led to the Most Productive Year of My Life

How to Overcome Post-Production Burnout

Struggling to “Do” It All? Try “Being” First. (Three Strategies to Reclaim Your Time and Sanity When Working From Home)

Ep136: Promoting Mindfulness, Well-Being, and Sanity In the Edit Bay | with Kevin Tent, ACE

Episode Transcript

Zack Arnold 0:00

My name is Zack Arnold, I'm a Hollywood film and television editor, a documentary director, father of two, an American Ninja Warrior in training and the creator of Optimize Yourself. For over 10 years now I have obsessively searched for every possible way to optimize my own creative and athletic performance. And now I'm here to shorten your learning curve. Whether you're a creative professional who edits, rights or directs, you're an entrepreneur, or even if you're a weekend warrior, I strongly believe you can be successful without sacrificing your health, or your sanity in the process. You ready? Let's design the optimized version of you.

Hello, and welcome to the Optimize Yourself Podcast. If you're a brand new optimizer, I welcome you and I sincerely hope that you enjoy today's conversation. If you're inspired to take action after listening today, why not tell a friend about the show and help spread the love? And if you're a longtime listener and optimizer, O.G., welcome back. Whether you're brand new, or you're seasoned vets, if you have just 10 seconds today, it would mean the world to me if you clicked the subscribe button in your podcast app of choice, because the more people that subscribe, the more that iTunes and the other platforms can recognize this show. And thus the more people that you and I can inspire to step outside their comfort zones to reach their greatest potential. And now on to today's show. How many times have you finished a job and you felt like you had nothing left in the tank? You gave it everything that you had 24 seven thinking to yourself? Ah, I'll just start taking care of myself on the next hiatus comes only to be cursed by the fact that you're good at what you do. And that hiatus never appears. You repeat the cycle for months, years or even decades, wondering where all the time went. When you imagine a high profile award winning editor like Michelle Tesoro, well, you would just imagine that burnout isn't a problem. That's just for people that are struggling to make it right. given her track record having worked on shows such as House of Cards godless on the basis of sex, when they see us and most recently, the Queen's gambit. Michelle clearly has it all figured out. Right? As you'll hear today, in part two of my conversation with Michelle, just like us, she too often finds her tank completely empty at the end of a project. And in part two of our conversation, we specifically examine the question of what is leaving her so drained. Michelle is incredibly open, honest and brave to share her challenges maintaining such a demanding career, while also balancing it with her friends and her family. And she even at one point allows me to put her on the hot seat to really dig into what is driving her to still work so hard, even at this level of her career. And spoiler alert, even she fears missing out on the next gig. One key takeaway from this interview that I hope everyone understands is that greater success does not make your career or your lifestyle decisions any easier. And in fact, it becomes the opposite, it becomes harder to say no. And the fear of missing out never goes away. By the way PS if you did miss part one, you don't need to listen to it first to understand this conversation. However, I do highly recommend that you listen to Part One at some point. If you're interested in hearing Michelle talk about her career path, and what has driven her to this level of success. Now, if you're struggling with creative burnout right now, or you find yourself sacrificing time away from family, when you know deep down that it doesn't have to be this way. Then I invite you to download my Ultimate Guide to Optimizing Your Creativity and Avoiding Burnout, which offers over 50 pages of my best tips, tricks and strategies to consistently stay focused and energized throughout your long work days. When you're trapped in a dark room that most likely has no windows, you can download my ultimate guide 100% free at optimizeyourself.me/UltimateGuide. Alright, without further ado, part two of my conversation with ace editor Michelle Tesoro made possible today by our amazing sponsors Evercast and Ergodriven, who are going to be featured just a bit later in today's interview to access the show notes for this and all previous episodes, as well as to subscribe so you don't miss the next inspirational interview. Please visit optimizeyourself.me/podcast.

I mean, I don't know what the ultimate top of the ladder is for you. But you're you're doing pretty well on it so far.

Michelle Tesoro 4:39

Yeah, you know, it's funny talk about that because it's there's varying degrees of what people define as, as their success, right. And I think that I don't know what my tippy top was. Maybe it was editing like amazing Academy Award winning movies or whatever. And maybe that's the way But, but it's sort of evened out, kind of dive down in the last couple years only because I realize, sometimes you don't have control over certain events, and certain projects that comes to you. And also sometimes the sacrifices that people have made, who are in those positions, you may not want to make that in your life. So, you know, when you define success, it's like, well, is it a career that you, you know, I guess for me, I was just thinking, I'm pretty happy with the content that I'm able to edit. And I like the people I work with, I've now realized that it's really important. I don't want to work with assholes anymore. And I also want to have a happy home life, you know, I want to have these other things, and I want to be healthy. So what is that balance? And I think you have to say, well, since I don't have control over what that tippy top actually is, and maybe I just need to recognize this as being what what I should be grateful for and feel like this is the tippy top. And then I don't have to worry about getting to the tippy top. Because what is that going to get me anyway, I think this happened to me, because you know, a friend of mine passed away in 2014, really close friend. And it, it was in the middle of, you know, I just was trying to remember all the times that I didn't spend with him. And I realized that while it was because I was working my ass off. And I was really in the middle of it. And not that he would say, Oh, you should have done this or that. But you do recognize that, you know, not just your time on this earth as women did, but other people's and your time with them. So is it worth the tippy top if you never see these people who if they go, you're going to regret that,

Zack Arnold 6:57

You would think that I'd given you a word for word script of this podcast interview, because that is what I call the perfect segue. This is exactly where I wanted to go with the heart of this interview. And the reason that I consider this a perfect segue is that the real heart of this conversation is the life in addition to the job, there is no doubt in my mind. And you and I haven't talked about this at all yet. But given the body of work that you've worked on, and especially given you've done more than one series, where it's very unusual, where you're the only editor that you probably had to put in some really, really long hours. And you've talked about some of the possible regrets that you've had maybe working too much and realizing that maybe this is the top of the ladder for me. Maybe I don't want to get to the top tippy tippy top and win the Oscar because of the sacrifices that are going to come along the way. And this is going to bring me to telling kind of an embarrassing story that you've never heard before. But I don't remember exactly when it was I think you alluded to was maybe in 2019 I was either in the middle of finishing up House of Cards, or I had just seen on the basis of sex. I'm not sure which one it was. But I was very well aware of you and done some research on you. And then I happened to look at my email list one day, and I'm like, Oh my god, Michelle Tesoro reads my newsletter like it was just a like, I blushed and I was like, Oh my god, I was so embarrassed. It was like I had been passed a note in study hall, that you liked me. I was like, oh my god. So what I want to talk about is why? Why did you subscribe to my newsletter and what brought you to me because there was a very specific episode and story that resonated with you.

Michelle Tesoro 8:41

There was a newsletter that came before that specific story, which we'll get to about how you can I think it was about focus, you have something about focus, I kind of just jive with some of the things that were on your blog, like, deep, deep work and kind of doing your work in trying to maximize your day and your time and like physically taking care of yourself. And then I think I just sort of started listening to the podcast. And I can't remember I think the Roger Barton one Yeah, that one was the first one I listened to. You know, I didn't know what it was going to be about, really. But because I was in New York at the time, I was doing a lot of podcasting. And I had gotten an apartment in Chelsea. So I had about a two and a half mile walk, which was about an hour, perfect, perfect for podcast. And I was listening to it. And he was you know, talking about his life and talking about all the hours and the hours away from his family and all this stuff. And of course, he talked about how he was able to use this other. Well, it was the thing about Evercast, right. So he talked about Evercast and I was like oh, let's see what This is because, you know, here I am in New York, because we're doing post in New York to Scott lives in New York. But production is actually in Berlin. They've been Berlin for weeks now. And Geez, I left home and I'm in New York, and why am I here, I'm making great money, obviously, you know, it's a distant hire, it's like, I was just banking, all that money we're trying to save, in my mind actually knew because I had done this with him before, that I knew that I was going to be by tank was going to be empty. And I wanted to take the fourth quarter off. So I was banking, everything that I could, so that, so I could force myself not to take a project. And then I saw this, and I was like, Oh, I don't know, maybe he'd be interested in working this way. And maybe I could buy some time where I could stay home and work and not have to move, you know, for so long. Cuz, you know, on Godless, I did 13 months in New York and Queens Gambit was a little less than a year. And, and we did it. And of course, you know, Scott actually fell in love with this idea of doing it, because of course, he had his own thing. Oh, do you think I could do this from Connecticut? Can I do this from from Martha's Vineyard, you know, and like, I know, and don't get me wrong, we love each other's company, for sure. But all of a sudden, you know, our world opened up to Oh, you know, we can kind of feed our, you know, we introverted selves that don't, that doesn't really like going places and but still do the thing that, you know, we want to do. But yeah, I think I just got to that point where I'm like, I need balance. Because I was engaged. I was still trying to sort of learn how to balance having somebody else in my life, and I no longer could really make decisions without talking to somebody else, because it affects him now. So and actually, in fact, having this ability to just say, yeah, I'll go to New York for a year. I don't you know, nothing's going on for me here. I'll go there. I'll do Godless. I can't really do that anymore. Although, because Brandon also works on location, it's a little easier to do it, because you do it too. So, you know, we've made it work. But yeah, I mean, it's, it started to sort of get to me a little bit, although I really enjoy working with Scott. So it's not that hard of a sacrifice.

Zack Arnold 12:37

But at the same time, though, what everybody sees are the pictures of you and the articles and on cinema editor magazine and Queens Gambit is everywhere. Oh, my God, I so want that I so want that. But nobody really hears about the year long relocation city that you don't really need to be in. And what I really want to hone in on is this idea that I know at the end of this, my tank is going to be empty. What gets you to that point where at the end of a project like that there is nothing left in the gas tank.

Michelle Tesoro 13:07

I mean, how does it happen? Or is it is it more? What do you what do you mean? What are you?

Zack Arnold 13:12

What are what are the factors for you that you think lead to it, because for some, they can't even get to the finish line for others. They'll just push and push and push and push and push and get to the end. And it's super long hours, crazy, long creative sessions. But then for others, it's a lot more of a paste out marathon than it is a constant sprint. And I think you had mentioned something, I don't remember which interview that it was, but it's similar to something that I've always said is a trap. We fall into this mindset of, Oh, you know what, I'm going to get healthy again when the next hiatus comes.

Michelle Tesoro 13:45

Yes, well, yeah, unfortunately, that happens. You know, it's like, that's when people decide they're going to see their family and see their friends. And, you know, you kind of you kind of go under water for for the period of time that you're on on a show. I mean, even by the time I got on Queen's gambit, I already felt like I I wasn't that I was running on fumes, in fact, because I hadn't really taken a break. Prior to that. And what scared me about it was I knew that I knew what it was going to ask of me, because I had done it before with him. But I think the thing is, is when I'm on that when I'm working with Scott, it's a little different because I have you know, especially when it's just me I have a little bit more creative control. He allows me to manage my own time. I'm not managed. I hate being managed.

Zack Arnold 14:39

Here. Here, by the way. Yes. Like you. You want to irritate me try and manage my time.

Michelle Tesoro 14:44

No, I don't. Yeah, don't tell me when to do this and when to I know exactly what we all need to do. And he understands me in that. Well, he called me I'm a born department head You know, so There's that freedom that now there's not even though it seems like it's more work, it's less stress, because I'm allowed to be who I am in many different ways. So it seat feels less stressful. And plus I enjoy, I enjoy everything that he writes, I enjoy working with them and projects that we do together. So then that's another level where it's a little bit better. So I can do the long run. But I kind of just knew from being away from home was going to take a toll on me, being away from Brandon was going to always take a toll. Although we seem to manage, you know, we do that every month, we try to see each other or travel to see each other say he but I also just think physically, like, it's also, you know, you hold all the stress in so you're ultimately going to do that. Yeah, I just I think mentally I was I, I just knew I was gonna, it was gonna be hard for me because I had already not taken a lot of time off. Because before that I did Ballers prior to that i i did When They See Us. And then prior to that, I think I took like two months or three months, and then I was doing On the Basis of Sex. And for some reason, I felt like I haven't taken the time. I don't know, I don't know what it is. This is something I'm still trying to figure out, actually, because I always feel tired. And you know, my my best friend Sarah said, the same thing we're talking about. You know, I just caught up with her. She's not in business at all. I think I had mentioned to her months ago. Yeah, we I really want to take a break. And we're I was telling her about whatever next project I'm doing. And she goes, Oh, sorry. Are you really not taking a break? are you? I'm like, she really knows. I mean, I don't know what it is. I just think, you know, some again, it's the no thing.

Zack Arnold 16:51

It all comes back to now. That's right. So let me ask you this. What I love to do is dig a little bit deeper. probably no surprise there. But what I'm really interested in is if there were one area, looking at the way that you manage your day, your week, your habits, if we could get you out of the mindset of Oh, I'm going to take care of all that when that next hiatus comes. But as soon as the hiatus comes, I say yes to the next thing. And I fill the space. And there's no longer any hiatus. Right, I'm gonna do something. It's called putting somebody on the hot seat. Ever heard of that concept before?

Michelle Tesoro 17:27

Oh, gosh, yes,

Zack Arnold 17:28

Yes. So I have I've been releasing some of these sessions, I call it hot seat Fridays, to give people a glimpse into the process of when a student comes in, they say I've got this thing that I can't figure out. And as soon as you said, I can't put my finger on what it is, and like, Oh, this could be a good opportunity to to figure this out. Given how talented you are, and how in demand you are. What are the odds that the time is going to come? When you have a long gap of several months where you get to recover? Focus on your health, and nobody's going to bring a project to you, that's almost impossible to say no to what are the odds of that?

Michelle Tesoro 18:03

They're very, very well, they're either higher or low I the odds of somebody bringing projects to me, and I'm on say, a sabbatical. They're, they're always happy because every time I try to take break, it's it's hard to

Zack Arnold 18:18

Yes, in most of my point is the odds are extremely low, that you're going to have a several month hiatus where you don't get an amazing offer that you have to say yes to.

Michelle Tesoro 18:27

Right. Right.

Zack Arnold 18:28

So the chances of that are slim, because you're really, really good at what you do. And you're now in high demand. And especially after the Queen's gambit, I would imagine you get offers probably if not on a daily, at least a weekly basis. Oh, we've got to have the Queen's gambit editor, we're doing another show about chess got to have the Queen's gambit editor, I would imagine you have a lot of people reaching out to see if you're available. So if we're talking about chess rather than checkers, let's say that we want to play chess with the way that you manage your lifestyle is a very highly successful in demand editor. We have to start with mindset. And if the mindset is, I'll figure this out. And I'll start to see the family and the friends in the next hiatus that realistically is probably not going to come for you for a long time. If we look at the way that you're pacing out your time and your energy now, what are a couple of things off the top of your mind that come that kind of come to you like, Oh, this is an area that I struggle with,

Michelle Tesoro 19:23

In terms of pacing out my time?

Zack Arnold 19:25

In terms of anything What if we're talking about any major repeated behavior or habit that's leading to this pattern of I finished the project and my tank is on empty, and I need to recover time that I never give myself what what components might lead to that and you don't need to get super personal. But at the same time, I have a feeling you're not the only person that deals with these struggles, especially at the level that you're at right now.

Michelle Tesoro 19:52

Right? Well, I think I it's the saying no. It's maybe it's being afraid it's like the FOMO thing, fear of missing out on something cool. Fear of never getting that call again. You know, I think we all feel that way. Because it's, you know, I've seen it happen to people. And it makes me feel like I can't get I have to maybe think that the Queen's gambit or such as has never happened, because the light goes out like that. So there is a little bit of fear about that. Yeah, it's sort of the taking care of myself, I guess.

Zack Arnold 20:28

Alright, so now now we're getting somewhere where the, the because there's this FOMO. And I think it's really important for people to hear somebody at your level that still has the mindset, I might never get another phone call again, I am never going to work in this town, and nobody wants to work with me. Because for if somebody that's a lot lower on the ladder or a lot younger, they're going to think, well, that's absurd. I feel that way. But there's no way that somebody like Michelle could feel that way. And guess what, we all have that fear, this is going to be the last show, and then that's it, they're all gonna find out, I'm a fraud, and I have no idea what I'm actually doing. I just pretend to know how to do this stuff. And they're going to figure me out. So if we know that you're going to have a lot of amazing opportunities that are going to come up, some of them might be once in a generation or once in a career chance. Right? I think a lot of the shows you done are really, really great shows. But the Queen's gambit is something really special and unique. And there's not a lot of those. Had you said no to that for the sake of exercising or seeing more friends or family? I'm assuming you would agree you would look back and see the finished product and say, how would they How could I have said no to that? I can't believe I did that. And I missed this opportunity. Because what a unique career opportunity agreed?

Michelle Tesoro 21:41

Sure, hindsight always 2020.

Zack Arnold 21:44

Always 2020. So if we know that at least right now that the odds of having a long hiatus and overcoming the FOMO of missing a really great opportunity is slim, then you alluded to, well, maybe it's some of the lifestyle choices or lifestyle struggles of working on these big shows over a long period of time. So getting a little bit deeper into those What are one or two of the lifestyle struggles off the top of your head that you think are leading to this empty tank by the end of the show.

Michelle Tesoro 22:15

I mean, I think that you kind of can't get around the amount of time you need, you know, to get through the day to days a bit, you know, like the dailies doing the cut, satisfying whatever puzzle solving problem you have in your head, and you got to work through it. Then when you're done, you're done. And that's not done in an hour. That's done when you're done. So I think there's a mode during when I'm doing this, if I'm not keeping up, it's a little bit easier when I'm doing dailies, which I think I was better at this, this last time around in terms of a healthy diet, sleep, doing the yoga routine. And then at some point, when things are a little bit more crazy. I those things start to fall by the wayside. You know, so if I don't have all the things, I used to call them my lists, you know, the chiropractor, therapist, acupuncturist, massage therapist, you know, that basically fix the broken body over the weekend in order to restore for the coming week, it gets hard. And I think I was trying to figure out a way because I wasn't home, getting those things that I know were at home, like how do I get them where I am. So you kind of have to take these rest or, you know, I think it's it's always like a process for me to figure out how I'm going to restore during a project, you know, constantly restoring. So that is something that I kind of that I struggle with. I don't know what else

Zack Arnold 23:57

I think I think you've hit upon one that's important. And I'm going to argue maybe not the opposite point. But I'm going to maybe give you a slightly different perspective. Given the the breadth of your 20 plus year career and knowing your work ethic. Is there a world in which you believe realistically you can work harder than you already do?

Michelle Tesoro 24:20

I don't think I could do that.

Zack Arnold 24:21

I don't think that either from what I'm hearing, I don't think you could work harder. So you could just get more done and power through.

Michelle Tesoro 24:28


Zack Arnold 24:28

But what if instead of thinking, well, you just takes as much time as it takes to get the job done. That's really what kills me is that I got to get through the dailies I got to cut the scenes, I got to think of the ideas and it just takes as long as it takes. That's where that I used to work as well. Essentially, I was editing 24 seven. I'm sure you've had the same scenario where you're in your sleep and you're editing in your sleep apps or putting the scenes together. You see the timeline. It's just you're playing Tetris all night long in your sleep. So your brain never shuts off. But what if you were to compress the time that you're allowed to be in that mindset where you're burning all that creative energy, one of the one of the biggest revelations that I had that really started this whole movement of me, learning how to work smarter, not harder, is that our brain is roughly 3% of our body weight, but it consumes 20% of our calories. And I was like, that's why I feel like I get hit by a Mack truck at the end of the day. Because one of the things that everybody says is, I don't understand why I feel like this, I just sit all day long. It's not like I'm doing anything. But it's because our brains are constantly going. And the big change for me was when I realized that if I actually allow myself less time, and I give myself limits, I get more done in that time. And the big thing for me was realizing that if I can become a master of this tool, just like I am with avid, this would change the game and that tool was my calendar. Once I learned how to better manage my calendar in compress the amount of time I allowed myself to be creative. There were less distractions, there were less random breaks, there is less procrastination. But I also found that I can pace myself more like a marathon runner. So give me a picture of a general day for you. Is it a 10 hour day a 12 hour day a 16 hour day is it in front of the computer the whole time or their breaks? Like what's a day in the life of Michelle while she's editing one of these huge tentpole TV shows or movies,

Michelle Tesoro 26:26

I think It's usually a 1010 to 12, depending upon how much came in. And generally how I like to structure the day when I'm in dailies, let's just say, for example, is I like to do, I guess this goes for when I'm out to do is to. So I like to do the more complicated cutting in the morning, when I'm fresh. And then I generally want do my selects and watch dailies in the afternoon after lunch. So I know that my blood sugar's probably less, and I'm probably a little tired after the morning. So, you know, I generally get up. And if I'm in New York, I'm doing the walk. So to me like that's, you know, get a little exercise, I get there, and I get right into whatever the hardest thing, or whatever, I think is the hardest thing to do at first thing. And then I get into the more kind of watching dailies a little later. And then maybe after that I may get into trying to cut something for the first time we're doing some easier things because by the end of day, I'm tired, right? And then go home. So and then I totally veg out in front of passive TV, like 90 day fiance or something. Okay, I don't I don't think for HGTV.

Zack Arnold 27:47

You you do something similar to me, which is I call them my palate cleansers. I need to watch something that's the polar opposite of what I'm working on. So if I'm working on a Comedy, Action drama, I need to watch the the polar opposite. And I'll change and choose whatever that show is to be as different pacing, music, character performance, it's got to be completely different from whatever I'm working on at the time, just to cleanse the palate. But let's think about between all the time that you're working and the time that you're vegging out in front of the TV. How much are you passively, or actively looking at a screen? In your waking hours?

Michelle Tesoro 28:24

Oh, gosh, almost almost all of them.

Zack Arnold 28:27

Pretty much every minute that you're awake and conscious. You're staring at a screen?

Michelle Tesoro 28:32


Zack Arnold 28:34

During that time

Michelle Tesoro 28:34

I got 1234 of them in front of me now,

Zack Arnold 28:38

As any good editor would write. I've got four years. Well, I'm right there with you.

My sincerest apologies for the interruption in the middle of this interview. But if you are a content creator, or you work in the entertainment industry, not only is the following promo, not an interruption, but listening has the potential to change your life. Because collaborating with Evercast is that powerful. Here's a brief excerpt from a recent interview that I did with ever cast co founders, Brad Thomas and award winning editor Roger Barton,

Roger 29:06

Living this lifestyle of a feature film editor has really had an impact on me. So I was really looking for something to push back against all of these lifestyle infringement that are imposed on us both by schedules and expectations. When you guys demoed Evercast for me that first time my jaw hit the floor. I'm like, Oh my god, this is what I have been waiting for. for a decade.

Zack Arnold 29:29

I also had the same reaction when I first saw overcast, two words came to mind game changer.

Brad 29:35

Our goal, honestly, is to become the zoom for creatives, whatever it is, you're streaming, whether it's editorial, visual effects, Pro Tools for music composition, LIVE SHOT cameras, it's consistent audio and video. Lip Sync, always stays in sync, whether you're in a live session where you're getting that feedback immediately or you can't get it immediately. So you record the session and you can share those clips with people on the production team where there's no room for any confusion. It's like this is exactly What the director wants this is exactly what the producer wants.

Roger 30:02

What matters most to me is it makes the entire process more efficient, which then translates to us. As creatives who spent way too much time in front of computers, we get to shut it down, and we get to go spend time with our friends and family.

Zack Arnold 30:15

The biggest complaint and I'm sure you guys have heard this many, many times, this looks amazing. I just can't afford it.

Brad 30:20

Tesla had to release the Model S before they released the model three. So by the end of the year, we are going to be releasing a sub $200 version a month of efficacy for the freelancer, indie creatives. Anyone who is a professional video creator outside of Hollywood,

Roger 30:36

I think what we've learned over the last few months is that this technology can translate to better lives for all of us that give us more flexibility and control while still maintaining the creativity, the creative momentum and the quality of work.

Zack Arnold 30:51

I cannot stress this enough Evercast is changing the way that we collaborate. If you value your craft, your well being and spending quality time with the ones you love, Evercast now makes that possible for you and me to listen to the full interview and learn about the amazing potential that Evercast has to change the way that you work and live, visit optimizeyourself.me/evercast. Now back to today's interview.

If we look at the pattern that you have throughout the day, from the moment that you finish your walk, you plopped yourself in front of the computer and you're set, What's the hardest thing I have to work out I'm going to do while I'm fresh from that moment until you leave the cutting room. And then you go back to being in front of another screen, how much of that time is spent away from the computer,

Michelle Tesoro 31:35

Including breaks where I go and I chat up the assistant or my post supervisor or somebody? Well, I got the two hours of the walking right before getting there. And going back, showering, that's important. Not really, maybe about three to four hours.

Zack Arnold 31:54

So that's not too bad looking. But if we're looking at the time you sit down to start doing the editing to the time you leave the edit suite, are you one that just gets into it for hours at a time and the world disappears and you don't talk to anybody. And I forget that I have colleagues and I forget to eat lunch and I don't go to the bathroom or water or you getting up and moving around.

Michelle Tesoro 32:16

I'm getting up and moving around. We have a very leisurely lunch, you know on on the Queen's gambit. What was fun about it is I mean the assistants were awesome. So like, you know when they and I had two of them. So when they did the dailies, the dailies prep was was already done. So basically we could have lunch and then after dailies we would or after lunch, we would watch the daily sequences together. So that felt it was social. So it wasn't me by myself. And I didn't have to sit in my chair because at the time I was in this big room and I bought I bought a projector. So I would sit in one of the other chairs in the room like we had like the arm chairs to arm chairs and the couch was in there. So I would sit in one of the armchair so not at the desk. And I would just look at the projector while one of the assistants was marking selects on the avid. So it gave me a different prefer. So that was a little bit more fun. You know, but yeah, I mean, you know, then I'm sure there was maybe two, twice during the day where I would go in and talk to Mick and chat him up and talk about dogs or whatever we were talking about at the time. And I did a lot. I would get up. Okay. Yeah, chat somebody up go somewhere. Yeah. So there, there is a lot of up and down. And I think you know, when I and I also like I guess I didn't mention like when I get up, before we go to walk, I would do like yoga in the morning, or something, I did have a good practice of 30 minutes of something before I would leave for work.

Zack Arnold 33:54

30 minutes to 30 minutes of yoga, two hours of walking, you're getting up and moving around all day long, you're taking a leisurely lunch. So it seems to me that that can't be with leading to the empty tank at the end of the show. Because those are all the things that I would prescribe and say, you're doing pretty well. Now, what else can we tap into? Because that sounds pretty good to me.

Michelle Tesoro 34:16

Yeah, I mean, I really tried to maximize it. Well, I should say, I really tried to pace out my time because, you know, I can't just sit there and do and I also know that when I'm not actually actively working, that's when I can solve some problems. Like in the shower, or, you know, when I wake up and I'm like, oh, there's that thing. I could do this, whatever. So, you know, I don't want to be working all the time. But

Zack Arnold 34:46

And I love how I point that out, by the way, because so many people with our culture, fear that if I'm not at my computer, I'm not earning my paycheck and I had this conversation with Kevin Tent recently who's now the newly anointed president of Ace and he talked to About how he gets his best ideas in the shower or going for a run or riding his bike, right? And he even talks about, oh my god, he takes naps, like, the horror, how dare you write. But ultimately, we're paid to generate ideas. We're not paid to punch a clock, we're paid to generate ideas and solve problems. And I find the less I'm in front of my computer, the better I am at solving problems. But when I'm at the computer, I am just getting through that stuff as quickly and effectively as possible.

Michelle Tesoro 35:27

Right. Yeah, I mean, I've thought this and you know, now I'm going to put myself in a pickle, because it'll make it hard for me to say no to certain things. But the idea of a sabbatical is really, very, is really something I want to do. I don't know if financially I was, I'm prepared to do that. Right now. Because we have certain goals, my husband and I, for this year. But it is something that, that I think I need to make more important because the thing that I you know, it's funny, we do these these interviews, like sometimes they ask, so, you know, what shows are you watching, like, Who has time to watch. I'm watching this show. Like, I watched it, like 12 hours a day. The last thing I want to do is like, watch another show that's like, you know, that's like mine. I mean, you know, we talked, I want to cleanse the palate a little bit. But like, I mean, there, there used to be times where I'd come I'd come home and I wouldn't I wouldn't turn on TV at all, it would just it might be sports, that's the other thing I like to watch is tennis or something like that. Yeah, I just, you know, I, I feel like, I've sort of lost the things that maybe were there in the beginning in terms of, you know, like, I used to watch like directors stuff like I would, you know, watch Sidney Lumet movies in order of when he made them or something like that. And I just haven't done that really since film school. So I, I wish I could do that. I wish I could read a, you know, a book every three days, I'm so jealous of my mother, I keep buying my mother books. And she's she's 80 she turned 80. In September, she gets to these books, like, every every other day. She's like, Alright, I know the book. You know, I'm like, Oh, damn, I gotta get you another one. But it's like, I'm kind of jealous of that. I now know that doing something like that, hey, would give me a break from the screen. Probably better for my neck right now. If you notice, I'm like, doing this a lot. Because like, it's super tight. But I could do something else with my body. And my mind. And I could be like, kind of filling it up. I think it's like, it's more like filling it up with other influences. So that when I go back into the trenches, that is you know, what we do? It's, there's other ideas, and they're not informed by TV. And then I mean, maybe I love watching movies. So I want to, you know, I think recently, I bought one of those tickets to the Sundance Film Festival. And that's it. And I loved watching that, because there's all these different kinds of films that you're not seeing on Netflix, or Amazon or what we know, whatever. So they just sort of different ideas of how people do things. And I, I want to kind of have that joy again.

Zack Arnold 38:26

All right now, and now we're really digging in. Well, we've identified you, you can correct me if I'm wrong. But I don't think the reason you feel empty at the end of a project is because you're sitting at the computer for too long of hours, and you're not taking care of yourself and you never exercise, it seems to me, do you have the lifestyle habits of a healthy editor pretty wired? It seems to me that you've just been doing it so consistently for so long, that there are a lot of other parts of you that are not being nourished because you're so busy working on the next show. So let me let me posit a question talking about this idea of very specific goals. Let me posit this question that you can ask, that might help. What if when the next opportunity comes, let's hypothetically assume that you've just begun your next hiatus, you're like two weeks into it at the most. You're still kind of what Walter Murch and I called the hiatus flu, where it's like, you're seasick. Like the first week or two. You're like, what is real life? Like, again? Like, oh, the sun? Yeah, you we all kind of go through that period of massive decompression, it's almost it's really just feels like the flu. So let's assume you're just getting over that. And you see all this possibility and bam, the phone rings. And it's another amazing opportunity. And you're worried about missing out there's this FOMO What if we flip the script, and instead of saying no to the job, you're saying yes, to the book, reading and catching up on all of the movies, and all of the relationships that you're going to rekindle. If you reframe it that Could you create a goal towards? I'm going to make the sabbatical rock solid? This is going to be surrounded by concrete walls on my calendar, knowing all the things I get to say yes to at the expense of quote unquote, another credit or another job.

Michelle Tesoro 40:17

Right? You know, it's like, I know I need to do this. And yet there's this thing that's like, I've already told this person I've already met with this person.

Zack Arnold 40:29

Have you committed signed the dotted line and said, Yes, I'm absolutely showing?

Michelle Tesoro 40:34

Absolutely not. I have not I don't even I don't even have offers on that. Well, actually, I am, I have signed that that one and on the immediate thing, but the immediate thing is only really is a two month, two month or so it's not, it's not a lot, because that's what I've been doing since we scan. But I've just been signing on to these little things that are short commitments, because I am not ready to commit. So literally, since the Queen Gambit ended, I have not been able to commit to like a long project at all. I that's not what I want to do. But there is this idea, because I even know that Scott wants to do something else next year. This time, April, you know, even saying, Okay, I'll do this thing that I've already signed on the dotted line. And even if I do that, and then I don't do anything after that, because I still don't have anything lined up after that. So there's still this opportunity, like I've been, I'm basically giving myself this opportunity to do the thing I actually want to do, but it's like, I'm not ready to jump in the water yet.

Zack Arnold 41:40

And that's fine. You don't need to be ready. But are you getting a little bit more clarity around this idea that I think in my gut, my gut already knows the answer, because my gut does not want to commit to anything more than two months. My gut knows I really need to take a longer break. And it sounds to me and it seems like it'd be pretty nuts to say no to Scott Frank right now. Right? Sure, given everything that's going on, given what just happened with the Queen's gambit and where he's going next, I wouldn't advise you to say no, I prefer to stay home and read books for the next nine months, probably not the best career choice. But if you know that's already there. And you know, that's going to happen, and there's a date associated with it. Is there a world where you can just rearrange some of your plans, whether it's financially or otherwise, to put yourself in the position where this is the time that you get that true sabbatical?

Michelle Tesoro 42:32

It's possible. I'll have to think about that.

Zack Arnold 42:36

Alright, I'm going to throw in one more question. And then we're going to wrap it up, because this has gotten massively longer than we thought it was. But no, don't apologize at all. You kidding, I'm having so much fun. I could go for another hour love this. But I'm gonna ask one more question as an exercise that, that I run people through, it's a mental exercise, I want you to imagine that you get to jump in a time machine. And you get to meet with yourself on morning one of the neck this next show. So I think you said it was April of next year that you would start this next show, Scott? Yeah. And I'm assuming it's going to be similar situation where it's episodic bunch of episodes a year, the person we don't know. Oh, you don't know for sure. But it's gonna be probably another one of these totally immersive, big project thing, right? When I know you probably can't give anything away, I wouldn't expect you to, but just in general, we're going to assume at the very least, it's another Queen's gambit, potentially even bigger in scope and more responsibility. Potentially, who do you want Michelle to be? The first morning she sits in the chair? Because you specifically said, I don't even feel like I was recovered? When I started the Queen's gambit. Is that a pattern you want to repeat? Or do you want to show up to this next show on day one saying, Oh, my God, am I ready to cut again, I am so refreshed and rejuvenated. And I just ingested all this new knowledge from these films, and these books and all these experiences that I've had during the sabbatical. I'm going to kick the crap out of this versus Why did I just take that job? I'm exhausted. I've had like two weeks off, and I gotta do this again for another year, like, which Michelle, do you want to be on morning one?

Michelle Tesoro 44:12

Michelle, a,

Zack Arnold 44:15

knowing that that's where you could be missing out on? Is that fear greater than the fear of filling the gap?

Michelle Tesoro 44:23

This is true. Hmm. Yeah. That is probably what I need. You know, it's hard. I mean, I know it's easy. And if it were just me, maybe it would be different, but I, yeah, well, maybe it can be talked about with the spouse.

Zack Arnold 44:43

I don't know any of the circumstances in your life. I can't see your bank accounts. I'm going to make no judgments about whether or not you should be or you have to be doing this. But I think there's a part of your gut that saying this might be the time and maybe I at least need to have a few discussions and do some problem solving has You as a storyteller, to see maybe this is the time to make it happen because it certainly doesn't sound like it's gonna happen next year.

Michelle Tesoro 45:06

That is true. That's true.

Zack Arnold 45:08

So they we don't call it the hot seat for nothing.

Michelle Tesoro 45:15

Oh, Zack, I feel like I've gotten one of those, you know, energy sessions. I forgot what they call it. It's like Reiki, right? Where they really get into you. And you're like going, you're like screaming or something. But it's true. It's just one of these things that you know, deep inside. That's what you're what I think about. And a lot of people think about these things. Because at some point, if you don't choose to do something about it, it will do it for you.

Zack Arnold 45:46

Oh, absolutely. Yeah, it's some point, you're going to have a sabbatical. The question is, is it going to be on your terms?

Michelle Tesoro 45:53

Right, exactly.

Zack Arnold 45:54

So on that lighthearted note, I would just like to tell you what immense pleasure this evening has been for me, I'm going to be brutally honest, I hate doing podcasts at night. nights are my that's my time I recover. Like I started my morning at seven o'clock this morning, full day of editing. And then I'm like, God, I gotta get on the microphone with somebody, oh, my God, this is so much fun. I'm so glad that we were able to make this happen. I have so much respect for the work that you do, how you do it. All the information and knowledge and inspiration that you're putting out into the world and all the podcasts and the articles and everything else that you're doing. And I really appreciate how brutally honest you're willing to be in our conversation tonight. So I can't thank you enough.

Michelle Tesoro 46:42

I mean, thank you for making it an experience for me instead of this thing of Okay, what what am I gonna say about the show? What are we gonna say about this or that? But, you know, this is very important. I mean, I feel like I've had a conversation, like a real conversation about like, real things. You know,

Zack Arnold 47:01

I'm glad I'm glad that you feel that way. And that was what I promised in the beginning. And I'm glad that I was able to deliver that. My hope is that by the end of a podcast interview, if I don't know somebody, personally, I feel like we could be friends. By the time we're done talking. I certainly feel that way tonight. So yes, yeah, this stupid pandemic is over and we can actually see each other in person at some event again, it will be a pleasure to actually meet like real human beings.

Michelle Tesoro 47:25

Oh, yes, I think definitely. And I'm sure I mean, we'll we'll keep in touch. I mean, I, you know, you have my email.

Zack Arnold 47:32

I do indeed. So before we go, yes. One last thing for anybody that's been listening to this, and I'm going to assume it's going to be a lot of people they're going to say, Man, Michelle really inspired me. I want to learn more about her. I want to follow her. Maybe I want to connect with her. What's the best way for people to find you? Is it social media? Is it email? Is it LinkedIn? Like, where can people connect with you the best way possible?

Michelle Tesoro 47:54

I mean, I think I I am on the Twitter's and I am on Instagram, so they can reach me there. Or email? actually. Yeah.

Zack Arnold 48:08

So are you okay with us then providing your email address to anybody that reaches out and asks for it?

Michelle Tesoro 48:13

Sure. That's fine. Excellent.

Zack Arnold 48:15

I promise. It's not going to be hordes and hordes and tons and tons of people out there cuz most of them are saying, Oh, I got a, there's no way I'm going to bother her item will could never ask them to scare but there are a few that are courageous enough. That may reach out. So I want to make sure that it's okay to do so.

Michelle Tesoro 48:30

Yeah, that's okay. Excellent.

Zack Arnold 48:32

So on that note, I want to thank you again, so much for being here. This has been a tremendous pleasure. And I cannot wait to share this interview in this conversation with the world.

Michelle Tesoro 48:40

Great. Thank you, Zack, thank you so much.

Zack Arnold 48:43

Before closing up today's show, I would love to ask for just a couple additional minutes of your time and attention to introduce you to one of my new favorite products created by my good friend Kit Perkins, who you may recognize as creator of the Topo Mat, here's a brief excerpt from a recent interview that I did with Ergodriven co founder and CEO Kit Perkins, talking about his latest product, new standard whole protein,

Kit Perkins 49:07

I'm into health and fitness generally, but I want it to be simple and straightforward. bout a year, year and a half ago, I started adding collagen into my protein shakes. And man, the benefits were like more dramatic than any supplement I've ever seen. So I thought, if I can just get this down to coming out of one jar, and it's ingredients that I know I can trust, and you just put it in water and you don't have to think about it.

Zack Arnold 49:27

When people think of protein powders. They think well I don't want to get big and bulky. And that's not what this is about. to me. This is about repair.

Kit Perkins 49:33

So big part of what we're talking about here is you are what you eat. Your body's constantly repairing and rebuilding and the only stuff it can use to repair and rebuild is what you've been eating. Unfortunately, as the years have gone by every day getting out of bed, it's like you know two or three creeks and pops in the first couple steps and that I thought you just sort of live with now but yeah, once starting the collagen daily or near daily, it's just gone. So for us job one A here was make sure it's high quality and that's grass fed. 100 per pasture raised cows. And then the second thing if you're actually going to do it every day, it needs to be simple, it needs to taste good.

Zack Arnold 50:07

Well my goal is that for anybody that is a creative professional like myself that's stuck in front of a computer. Number one, they're doing it standing on a table mat. Number two, they've got a glass of new standard protein next to them so they can just fuel their body fuel their brain. So you and I, my friend, one edit station at a time are going to change the world

Kit Perkins 50:25

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Zack Arnold 50:39

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Thank you for listening to part two of my interview with Michelle Tesoro to access the show notes for this and all previous episodes, as well as to subscribe so you don't miss future interviews just like this one, please visit optimizeyourself.me/podcast. And as a quick reminder, if you would like 50 plus pages of my best strategies to optimize your creativity and fit in even just a little bit more life into your work life balance. You can download my Ultimate Guide to Optimizing Your Creativity 100% free at optimizeyourself.me/UltimateGuide. And a special thanks to our sponsors Evercast and Ergodriven for making today's interview possible. To learn more about how to collaborate remotely without missing a frame. And to get your real time demo of Evercast an action visit optimizeyourself.me/evercast and to learn more about Ergodriven and my favorite product for standing workstations to topo mat visit optimizeyourself.me/topo that's t o p o and to learn more about Ergodriven and their brand new product that I'm super excited about new standard whole protein visit optimizeyourself.me/newstandard. Thank you for listening, stay safe, healthy and sane and be well.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

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Guest Bio:


Michelle Tesoro

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Cutting-edge film and television picture editor Michelle Tesoro is an industry rising star, known for seamlessly weaving narrative through the artful and elegant editing of a visual story.

Her most recent works include Netflix’s Emmy-nominated series “When They See Us” directed and produced by Ava Duvernay, and Netflix’s hit limited series “The Queen’s Gambit” directed by Oscar-nominated Scott Frank.

Tesoro’s versatile slate also includes Focus Features’ biography of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg “On the Basis of Sex” starring Felicity Jones, Bold Films and Participant Media’s “Shot Caller” starring Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Netflix’s Emmy-nominated series “Godless,” directed by Scott Frank, and starring Emmy-winner Jeff Daniels, Michelle Dockery, and Merritt Weaver, Golden Globe-nominated show “House of Cards,” and the HBO’s series “The Newsroom”.

The Cinema Guild’s SXSW Grand Jury Prize-winning feature film “Natural Selection,” earned Tesoro the 2011 SXSW Award for Best Editing.

Tesoro’s unique perspective and refined expertise in composing striking narratives began early, growing up in Chicago, Illinois. She graduated from Whitney M. Young High School, studied at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and graduated from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts.

Tesoro currently resides in Los Angeles, California.

Show Credits:

This episode was edited by Curtis Fritsch, and the show notes were prepared by Debby Germino and published by Glen McNiel.

The original music in the opening and closing of the show is courtesy of Joe Trapanese (who is quite possibly one of the most talented composers on the face of the planet).

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Note: I believe in 100% transparency, so please note that I receive a small commission if you purchase products from some of the links on this page (at no additional cost to you). Your support is what helps keep this program alive. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

Zack Arnold (ACE) is an award-winning Hollywood film editor & producer (Cobra Kai, Empire, Burn Notice, Unsolved, Glee), a documentary director, father of 2, an American Ninja Warrior, and the creator of Optimize Yourself. He believes we all deserve to love what we do for a living...but not at the expense of our health, our relationships, or our sanity. He provides the education, motivation, and inspiration to help ambitious creative professionals DO better and BE better. “Doing” better means learning how to more effectively manage your time and creative energy so you can produce higher quality work in less time. “Being” better means doing all of the above while still prioritizing the most important people and passions in your life…all without burning out in the process. Click to download Zack’s “Ultimate Guide to Optimizing Your Creativity (And Avoiding Burnout).”