setting boundaries advocating for yourself asking for help janace tashjian

Ep113: The Importance of Setting Boundaries, Advocating For Yourself, and Asking For Help | with Janace Tashjian

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“It’s important not only to empower ourselves, but to empower each other. We are 200% stronger together than we are as an individual in our common endeavors.”

Imagine a Post Department where you feel a sense of community and mutual respect.

Imagine a Post Department where you are consulted about schedule changes and asked for your input in solving problems.

Imagine a Post Producer who allows for flexibility to balance both work and life responsibilities.

Imagine a Post Producer who believes you should get paid for every hour you work (yes…even nights and weekends!) and wants you to go home when your work is complete…even if it’s before your twelve hours are up.

This is the world that Producer Janace Tashjian has created one show after another during her 30+ year career in the film and television industry, having worked in the past on big name movies such as Avatar and TV shows like Entourage, Shooter, From the Earth to the Moon, Dark Angel, and Ballers (to name just a few).

I’ve spent multiple seasons editing shows alongside Janace, so I can say first hand that she runs her departments in a way that allows for everyone to do their best work while also having a life. In fact, every person I meet who has worked with Janace says the same thing: BEST show I have ever worked on.

So it’s no surprise that when Janace read my article, Dear Hollywood: We Don’t Want to “Go Back to Normal” she struggled to relate to some of the complaints about long hours, people being taken advantage of, and having no work life balance. In today’s conversation we discuss these issues as well as the ways that Janace creates the positive working environments that so many editors appreciate and love.

I hope what you hear today provides a new perspective and a refreshing look at what is possible when we come together and work as a team.

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Here’s What You’ll Learn:

  • The limiting beliefs we work up in our mind are sometimes inflated to what’s happening in the real world.
  • Becoming your own self advocate is necessary to setting boundaries and for finding the people willing to listen and want to help.
  • The way to release the pressure of saying yes and the fear of being the difficult one to ensure that everyone’s needs are being met and proper expectations are set from the start.
  • The importance of planning contingencies in creating schedules so people aren’t getting burned out.
  • KEY TAKEAWAY: The quality of the questions you ask determines the quality of your life.
  • The core question Janace asks at the start of each project and throughout the process: “What do I need to do to make sure that everyone on my team has what they need to succeed?”
  • Why she sees the Post department (Post coordinator, Post supervisor, PA) and the editors and their assistants as one entity and builds the team to work as one cohesive unit.
  • She expects that everyone on the team supports each other and works towards one common goal to make the best product possible.
  • Her thoughts on the 60 hour work week on call editor classification
  • She believes that there should be communication about the work that is being asked and that flexibility is important for both sides so that life and work demands are met for everyone involved.
  • When it comes to tight deadlines and working overtime, Janace’s motto is: “How can we help each other figure this situation out?”
  • The importance of recognizing and addressing self talk that can be inhibiting your ability to set boundaries.
  • Asking for help is not a sign of personal failure.
  • We now have the opportunity to share concerns and find interventions that will benefit the whole without compromising the results


Useful Resources Mentioned:

Dear Hollywood: We Don’t Want to “Go Back to Normal.” Normal Wasn’t Working.

Ep111: Parenting In a Post-Pandemic Hollywood | with Natalie Boschan, Bari Winter, Yvette Amirian ACE, and Monica Daniel

Ep112: On Signing COVID Waivers, Kit Rental Fees, and Working Humane Hours | with Cathy Repola, MPEG National Executive Director

Dear Hollywood: It’s Time For An Intervention About The Hours We Work [Change.org Petition Inside]

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 obsessive Lee 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 were 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 Oh gee, welcome back. Whether you're brand new or you're seasoned vet, 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 onto today's show.

Imagine

a post apartment where you feel a sense of community and mutual respect. Imagine a post apartment where you are consulted about schedule changes and asked for your input in solving problems. Imagine a post producer who allows for flexibility to balance both work and life responsibilities. Imagine a post producer who believes that you should get paid for every hour you work yes, even nights and weekends and wants you to go home when your work is complete. Even if it's before your 12 hours are up. Well this is the world the producer Janice tashjian has created one show after another during her 30 plus year career in the film and television industry, having worked in the past on some big name movies and shows, such as avatar entourage shooter from the Earth to the Moon, Dark Angel and ballers to name just a few. I have spent multiple seasons editing shows alongside Janice. So I can say firsthand that she runs her departments in a way that allows for everyone to do their best work, while also having a life. Imagine that. In fact, every person that I meet who has worked with Janice always says the same thing. Best show I've ever worked on. So it's probably no surprise that when Janice read my article, dear Hollywood, we don't want to go back to normal normal wasn't working, which by the way you can find and optimize yourself.me slash normal. She struggled to relate to some of the complaints about long hours people being taken advantage of and having no work life balance. Well In today's conversation, Janice and I discussed these issues, as well as all the ways that she creates the positive work environments that so many editors and assistant editors appreciate and love. I hope that what you hear today provides a new perspective and a refreshing look at what is actually possible when all of us come together and work as a team. Now very quickly before we get to the interview, in case you missed it, I recently released a follow up article that it's titled dear Hollywood, it is time for an intervention about the hours where you work. And this article goes into excruciating detail about all the reasons that we should no longer accept working ridiculous, inhumane hours, whether we are on set or in offices, union and non union alike. This isn't just a union issue. This is a human issue. Now if you haven't had the chance or the opportunity yet, I would love it. If you would read that article, share it to the group or social channel of your choice. And more importantly, I want you to take action. I have created a petition and I would love if you signed it. It On change.org it's all about making a 45 hour week, the new standard in Hollywood, and frankly is an aside how absurd is it that we have to fight for a 45 Hour Workweek. If you want to learn more and sign the petition, you can visit optimize yourself.me slash hours. That's h o u Rs. Alright, without further ado, my conversation with producer Janice tashjian to access the show notes for this and all previous episodes, as well as to subscribe so you do not miss the next inspirational interview. Please visit optimize yourself.me slash podcast. I'm here today with Janice tashjian, who is a film and television producer whose primary focus is in post production you have worked on such projects as hbos, ballers and entourage. Other shows such as shooter from the Earth to the Moon, avatar Dark Angel, and you recently completed Apple TV's defending Jacob and before I allow you to say a single word I want to also say something else. You and I have been Good close friends for years, and you are literally one of the very first people that ever heard my idea for all of the madness that I've created Six years later. And I can't say enough what a pleasure it is for you and I to be able to chat today, talk through stuff and be able to share all of the wonderful things that you have brought to both my life and the lives of many people that work in our industry

Janace Tashjian 5:23

here. Thanks for having,

Zack Arnold 5:24

we've got a lot of stuff that we can dive into the thing that precipitated our conversation today. It all started with an article that I wrote a few weeks ago about the fact that Hollywood really shouldn't be going back to normal because normal wasn't working. You would called me after that article was released. And you and I chatted a little bit off the record about the way that things look, from my perspective, about how things look from your perspective. And as always, you and I are usually in agreement, but there's a little bit of disagreement. And I don't think there's anybody on the planet I love to disagree with more than you because we always have, like respectful conversations where we can actually learn from each other as opposed to To attack each other. But before we get into the topics, I just want to start very briefly to better understand your path in Hollywood, not every single little benchmark over a 30 year career because we could talk about that for hours. But I have a lot of respect for the path that you took. Because you, you started out just getting right into the business, you didn't have like a master's degree from USC, and you found your way on to very, very big projects, working with very big people at a relatively early age. And you've kind of forged your own path to where you are now today. And I think people need to know at least a little tiny bit about how awesome you really are before we go into the topic. So let's let's just talk a little bit about the the brief elevator pitch version of your story to get where you are today.

Janace Tashjian 6:41

Well, I appreciate that. As you know, I didn't go to university didn't really have any, any college to speak of. But I did get lucky and I started you know, I managed to to get a job at Universal Studios when I was 19. And that is what kicked my career off post production came into my life. Because I was hired as a clerical assistant for two producers who were sharing the responsibilities of a post production department and they were really great to me there was a lot of opportunity to, to learn and and step outside my comfort zone. And they pushed me to do so, as have many of my colleagues and mentors over the years, and I'm really grateful for that. I had a boss who once said to me, probably more than once, but that it's good to do things that scare the crap out of us on a daily basis. When feeling afraid to take that next step. I was fortunate enough to have people in my life that encouraged me to to challenge myself even if that meant making mistakes. And trust me, I made a lot a lot of mistakes over the years. But being in in various environments, where I wasn't living in fi Fear of making mistakes is what makes that a healthy place to be. because nobody's nobody's perfect. And so I think that ties in nicely to the conversation we want to have about creating positive working environments, such that it allows everyone to, to grow and learn and and become good partners.

Zack Arnold 8:24

Well, I think what what I want the audience to understand about one of the things that precipitated our conversation is, you know, a lot of people in the industry, and a lot of people have worked with you. And what inevitably happens is, I've seen this happen over and over and over and over again, I meet somebody, we look on IMDB or we have a conversation, and we say, Oh, you've worked with Janis too. I get the same reaction every single time. Best show I've ever worked on. I've never had a better experience in post production than when I was on one of Janice's shows. I'm a member of that club. Thanks, sir. So a lot it's so this isn't just my opinion. This is a lot of people's opinions. And the important takeaway that I want for people to have from this conversation today, is that yes, things we don't want things to go back to normal. But normal is different for a lot of different people. So one of the things that you mentioned when you read my article as well, I didn't realize it was this way for some people, or it certainly doesn't have to be or maybe even the perspective that I or other people were taking on all the things that we were saying were wrong that we want to fix. It's different in different places. So I want to better understand your perspective on how to build the department. Because it's very different than the way that most people build apartments. And I want editors, assistant editors, post supervisors, studio executives, to realize that if there ever was a model that we could look at going forwards, I think the way that you do it is the best model that I've ever seen. But I want to deconstruct it so people know that it can be done even now today, not in some dream unicorn world. 20 years from now, so

Janace Tashjian 9:58

well. Team, you're right in that part of the response that we discussed in what I was reading and, and, and hearing people's concern. It's not that I don't understand that those environments probably do exist. But the reaction that I was having is that it was very much outside my own experiences. And maybe that's because I build it a different way or because I've been fortunate

or or both of those things.

And I do think that there is some counter perspective to some of the issues that that were brought up. Because I do think that some of those concerns and environmental negatives if you will, simply need to be discussed. I know that I've personally over the course of my career I wasn't always proactive in self advocacy, sometimes you don't speak up because you don't want to sound like a complainer, or you don't want to be perceived as problematic, etc. And those are the kind of things we worked up in our minds that are more profound in our head than they actually are out in the world. Because by and large, everybody is thinking about, you know, their immediate responsibilities and what's in front of them in the emergency detour, etc, etc. Whereas our own personal situations or what we're going through, are very heightened and elevated in our in our own minds as they should be. And that when I finally figured out that I simply needed to ask, I was pleasantly surprised. At the responses to the point where I was wondering, what took me so long to speak up or to, to ask for this, because there are a tremendous amount of thoughtful, caring, compassionate leaders in our industry that are available to hear us. And I know that's not the case all the time. And sometimes it's not, sometimes our issues or our problems, it might not be possible to solve them on any given job. And if that's information that we have going in, we can make better decisions on what jobs we take, or how we structure our time, etc, etc. Does that make sense?

Zack Arnold 12:44

It does. And I agree with everything that you said I of course, I'm going to have counterpoint because that's when I that's what you and I are so good at. That's why we're here is any of these conversations in a dark edit bay over the years. So the first thing I want to do is I'm going to agree with you that I'm going to disagree with With you, I'm going to agree with you in the sense that I think a lot of the complaints or the things that people are so fed up with start from a place of, I'm not willing to speak up for myself, I don't know how to set boundaries. And a lot of that comes from the fear of quote unquote, I don't want to be the difficult one. Absolutely. Right. So I think that there's a lot of that however, the counterpoint to that is I don't think it's just in people's heads. I think a lot of times it is, sometimes it's very, very real. And that's the thing that you and I have talked about, where in your world, you want people to come to you and advocate for themselves and you want to find a balance. There are a lot of producers that are the polar opposite of you. And I'll give you an example. I have a student in my coaching and mentorship program, who's an editor and a director and a writer. And he was working at a job where he was taking his lunch break outside, like not going somewhere else just like sitting on a bench outside in the common area. And he was getting all these weird looks and he's like something just it doesn't feel All right, right that could have been in his head. He kept doing it because he wanted to make sure that he was taking care of himself. And he knew that 30 minutes out of the edit bay was gonna make him better for the rest of the afternoon. Then other people would start to say to him, like, not really sure you should be going out for lunch, like you're making us all look bad, that kind of mentality. I've been in that position before like, what the when I kind of the the joke that I make is when I came out of the health closet, was when I was working with you, where I realized somebody is actually going to foster my need for wanting to sit and eat lunch and not spend every single hour in the room. And on the first TV show that you and I did. It was actually, you know, kind of a crazy mess of a schedule and there was a lot of long hours, but we did our best under the circumstances. But it was it was a really warm and welcoming environment where we sat down for both lunch and dinner as a group, we got to know the team. And I realized that that was that was a possibility. So I now advocate for myself, no matter what the show, when I say I want to eat lunch, this person was doing the same thing. However, what ended up happening is as supervisors came in And they're like, I hear you've been taking half an hour for lunch and leaving your desk. Yes, I have. I've been doing it for XYZ reason, and was basically blatantly told, if you do that you're going to be fired. You need to stay at your desk. That's the reality of a lot of the producers that are out in the world today where I agree, we need to advocate for ourselves. I agree, we need to set boundaries. But it's also very much a reality where people are just gonna say, No, I don't care what your union contract is. I can find 100 other people that will take your job tomorrow, if you won't do it as is. I know editors and assistants that have been told flat out, I've got a pile of resumes on my desk of all the people that can replace you tomorrow.

Janace Tashjian 15:37

So I just want to be clear,

that I am not suggesting it's all in our heads. I think that that can happen to us with certain things, but that doesn't replace the reality of very tangible, real workplaces. issues. I absolutely know that exists that is real, and in many cases is of concern. I just wanted to shine a little light on self advocacy, and how powerful that is not just from a personal perspective of what we should be doing for ourselves. But I also think that there there is a voice for that. And there are ears that are willing to listen and want to listen or may or may not have any idea that you're having that experience a very real experience. So that is that's my my counterpoint to your counterpoint is that I completely get that. And I don't disagree that those conditions probably do exist. But I think one of the things that you and I want to talk about today is how to identify ways of improving how these partnerships are. built, that includes self advocacy that includes open door policy that includes all of this relationship building, that that certainly you and I have been very successful at doing over the years, and hopefully encourage others to know and understand that it is possible. Those relationships are possible. They're powerful, and, and they're beneficial.

Zack Arnold 17:25

And I think a big theme that you and I have talked about many, many times over the years in relation to both this conversation in others when it just comes to the nuts and bolts of meeting schedules and deadlines and whatnot. You and I are big on the idea of taking responsibility. And I think if we're using the same conversation about advocating for yourself and whether or not I'm kind of building this up in my mind, and it's not real or it is very real, no matter where you are on the spectrum, if you don't choose to address it and ask the question and say, listen, is it okay for me to take my lunch or I feel like I need to to leave on Friday too. Go see my son's recital. Right? You can't build it up in your head, say, Oh, they would never say yes, we're too busy. Like you have to at least take responsibility for the fact that I have to reach out and I need to communicate it, then if they're a total douchebag about it, well, then you know the situation they're in, but you've taken responsibility, and you've communicated it. So I think responsibility is a big part of this conversation. But also just accepting and understanding that there there are a lot of different scenarios where either it kind of was something I was worried about, and oh, wait, they were actually totally cool about this versus Whoa, I had no idea that kind of person I was really working with here. But that responsibility is the one thing we can control.

Janace Tashjian 18:38

Absolutely. And, you know, we've also talked about, we can deal with problems that we know about, but if you don't know about them, you can't be proactive in fixing them. So the silence piece is something that I think could bear improvement in general. It's what we're talking about here, where As a manager of people, if I don't know, you're struggling with something, then I have no chance of helping. Some things can't be fixed. You know, we may go into a project and we've been there before, where we know we have a rigorous road ahead. And when I am building a department and setting out on a given project, certainly at the interview stage, or at the hiring stage, I very much like to make sure all the cards are on the table and that everyone understands. Here's what we're looking at, here's what we can expect. Maybe this isn't great, or maybe this will be challenging, but knowing that we're going into it with everyone informed and onboard and looking for ways to support each other, through that gives people the ability to really weigh whether Whether or not it's it's a job that they want to take on. So I think full disclosure is is an important component to possibly solving some of these misunderstandings, where you might find yourself in a situation of Wow, I had no idea this was going to be this way, or what this expectation was going to be. And the same in reverse. For just as an example, if we're going into a project together, and you come to me and say, I'm down for all of this, but I've had this vacation planned for a year, and I absolutely must be gone. These dates. So disclosure on both sides, and setting expectations and discussing expectations, I think is an important part of, of the interviewing and hiring process.

Zack Arnold 20:56

And I think that that can cut down on on misunderstandings. Yeah, I agree with that wholeheartedly. And I think it's not, it's not one of the things, it's maybe the thing is making sure that everybody understands expectations. And again, I think this is an area where you're extremely good at setting expectations and making sure that we all understand them. And we also meet them. I've been on other shows where there were no expectations at all, because people really didn't even know how to manage a calendar or schedule. And everybody's chasing their tails four times a day, because there is no set expectation. So one of the things that I've learned how to become very good at is not just going into an interview hoping that they pick me and I get the gig. I interview them. So I understand their expectations of me and whether or not I even want to meet those. So I've turned down several jobs that would have been great credits, but horrible lifestyles, because I've learned it the wrong way. And you and I have had those conversations three seasons in a row you and I worked on shooter and creatively shooter probably not my favorite show I've ever worked on but by far the best lifestyle job ever like what a wonderful experience great people, great scheduling, some of it sucked. I mean, some of it, it's just tough and you've got crunch time and you just deal with it, you have a Saturday or whatever. And you know it's coming in. That's part of the process. That's what you signed up for. But in general, I feel like going back to where you said, Well, sometimes there are problems that can't be fixed. I think for a lot of people, that would have been the mindset on shooter, I'm running the show. It's not the best budget in the world, the schedule is crazy. It's just gonna suck for three seasons. But because of certain core decisions and questions that you asked at the outset, shooter was monumentally a better lifestyle experience than it ever should have been. So I think that there's there's more control than maybe some people feel there is. And I really want to understand what are some of the core questions that you're asking yourself when you're building a department, because I think the vast majority of producers would have organized that as a three editor rotation and would have run people into the ground and you chose Not to do that that was a fundamental decision from the first day you were hired on that show?

Janace Tashjian 23:05

Well, to me, that's, that's easy, because I'm experienced enough to know what the workload is. I mean, we, you know, many of us have been doing this for a really long time. And and we understand what it takes, especially at least with season one, when you're establishing a new show. I think we might all fall prey from time to time to that pressure to say yes. Whether that be simply because you need a job, or it happens to fit your schedule, or you feel beholden to either filmmakers or studio for various reasons or what have you. And you want to say yes, to fill in the blank. The harder part is being able to say no Unless we die, the reason we're all all here is because someone is relying on our expertise to fill our role successfully. And so part of my job, at least as far as I'm concerned, is not to just say yes, to every demand, but to take control of the answers in a way that is positive, productive, and efficient. And they're relying on me for that. So whether they love the answer or not, my job is to give them a real picture of what can be accomplished and in what time frame and the what you're talking about specifically with with shooter was that a lot had changed in our production and delivery paradigm. And the question before we were ever going to receive that pickup was can we make this To date, so it was an if then question which led to and if so, how are we going to do that? And when I'm evaluating what is possible, to me, it's, it's a no brainer, I have to consider the human impact of the workload and make sure that we're taking care of everyone. That doesn't mean you know, three hour lunches and like, you know, a six hour work day. That's not what I'm talking about. We're all going to work hard. But but there is there's still, there's a tipping point where it simply becomes non productive. You have to understand, you have to be able to understand what that tipping point is, and take into account not just Episode Two episode, but an entire season an entire group of people An entire workload that's parceled out in a certain way, and what can truly be accomplished, and also be spectacular work. So that's always the imperative for me. And I'll ask for the moon first. So that's the approach that I take. And I also make it a top priority to understand that workload from your point of view and I say you're meaning an editor or an assistant editor, or even in every trade, a sound supervisor, the mixing team, the colorist, the visual effects folks having a working understanding of how much time each task takes and then adding more time for iterative processes and things that you know may or may not go wrong which there always has to be contingency and and wrapping up all of those things together. To create a schedule, that's not going to burn the house down.

Zack Arnold 27:06

When it comes to schedules, I've seen two very different ends of the spectrum. The spectrum that I've seen with you, which I still think is a miracle to this day is you and I can sit down before the first day of shooting, you say, here's the calendar, what do you think. And then for the most part, we hit every single day for the next five months. There might be a little bit of shuffling here or there because it's something that nobody saw coming. But there's no shuffling because of poor pre production planning. Then there are other shows where by the second day of shooting, the entire seasons calendar is completely wrecked because of one little tiny Domino that knocked over another one that knocked over another one. And to me, that's very, very preventable. And I think it's important for anybody that's in a post production department to understand. You can think through all this, like you said, thinking logically about how much time Do people really Need, as opposed to how much time am I willing to give them based on the directives that I've been given? Well, this is the money. This is the schedule, it is what it is. We're just gonna have to burn everybody out and get through it versus what you said, which is, well, actually, no, we can't do that unless we were to do X, Y, or Z. And I think for a lot of producers, that's just, this is the situation that I'm in. It's either yes or no, but there, I think there's a lot more iteration to the process and teamwork, like, as opposed to me being on a show and saying, here's the calendar. It's, here's the calendar, like, what do you think of this? Where are the bottlenecks? Where can we fix this? What are you concerned about?

Janace Tashjian 28:40

And I want to add one thing to what you just said, because there's, there's an important facet that I want to focus on. So yes, sometimes there is like, Hey, here's your budget, here's your schedule. How do we make this most efficient. What I wanted to add to Is you saying the question of, well, how much time does each person need to hit this benchmark. But I take that another step further, which is, we don't want to just meet the benchmark. We want everybody to have the opportunity to put their best foot forward when we hit that benchmark, because in many ways, you can get almost anything, quote unquote, done on a deadline. The question is, can you put your best foot forward by that moment in time, and we have to be interested in that for each other. I want that for you. As an editor, I want that for assistance. I want that for people who are working in other support roles in whatever it is They're doing, it's important for people to feel like they have the opportunity to be their best selves in that role. Now, we don't always have extravagant amounts of time. That's just how it is sometimes. And we have to accept that if we want to accept that job and move forward. And so sometimes we can't solve all those problems. But if the intent by all parties is to solve as many of those problems together, then there's no way we won't have a good result. Even if we're stressed or a little tired from time to time, or we're just living large and loving life because, you know, we've got we wound up with plenty of time and we're hitting our deadlines, etc, etc. But I think so much comes back to our intent to support each other in our best efforts as a team, because when we're all doing

well, then we're all doing well.

Zack Arnold 31:05

One of the things that I talk about with members of my coaching and mentorship program is that the quality of your job, the quality of your relationships, the quality of your life is dictated by the quality of the questions that you ask yourself and others. And the fundamental question and I'm now even though we've worked together for years, I'm starting to understand even better, why things are different with you than with other people. Because the core fundamental question that you ask yourself is not what is it going to take to make sure that people don't fail? The question you're asking is, what do I need to do to make sure that everybody else on my team, including myself, has everything they need to succeed? And it really feels like the the core vibe on so many shows, movies, even outside of the world of scripted, unscripted otherwise? What is it going to take for us to just not spectacularly fail and drag this corpse across the finish line, and that that's what breeds the culture. that we've created for ourselves. But just asking one question differently from day one changes everything. It's all about the quality of the questions. And now I understand the question that you asked yourself, that makes life so different for so many people.

Janace Tashjian 32:13

And I'll say that intention plays a very large role to our personal intentions, going into any situation, but particularly into, into our professional situations. I eat I want to partner with, with people that want to be my partner, and also support the other partnerships that are in the department. That makes sense.

Zack Arnold 32:41

They have a lot of partners and partnerships and departments. But yes, I definitely definitely get it. So where I would like to go next, and I'm not even sure you have the answer. I have the answer. I just want to talk through this. You've talked a lot about teamwork and together and communication. But I've never fundamentally understood the way that posts production is structured as a department, because it's almost like you have all these little islands, where you have editor, system editor, another editor, another assistant editor, and so on and so forth. And then on a totally different team altogether, is the post department, the producer, the post production supervisor, like it. And I know again, this is probably something you don't see much of, but they're often at odds with each other, where it's almost like there's conflict. And it's like one side is working for the studio. One side is working for the directors and producers. I see so much divisiveness in the same hallway, where we feel like we're battling against each other versus we all have a common goal. So I've never fundamentally understood just the way that the departments are structured, why a producer or a post supervisor doesn't have the protection of a union, the way that somebody that they're sharing a wall with does like, Can you just give me and everyone else a little insight into like, how do we even put these departments together because I'm all big on logic and common sense. And I just kind of hit a wall. When I see this is just the way we do things doesn't make a whole lot of sense to me.

Janace Tashjian 34:03

Um, well, these are good questions. Your your perception of it is a little bit outside my experience because within my own projects and my own departments, I haven't much faced that division. And from my perspective, it is all one. And it's built to be one yes, there has to be a certain hierarchy decisions have to get made, someone has to take responsibility for setting priorities of daily tasks, etc, etc. As far as the editor assistant editor relationship is concerned, by enlarge, I feel like that's a really sacred relationship that has to be mostly dictated between the editor and the assistant, under the umbrella of knowing a certain amount of work has to be accomplished each day, and how you guys work it out amongst yourselves. Doesn't really matter to me, as long as it's Working happily and efficiently. Now at some point, I have to be able to make certain demands when when something changes, or a priority gets pulled up or something unforeseen happens. And so, I do need to be able to shift priorities as necessary. But by and large, you as an editor, need to be free to develop a workflow with your assistant editor, that that works for your team, as long as what we're delivering at the end of the day is thorough, consistent and timely, in terms of the post department. I'm so sorry, I'm not being contrary in any way. But I don't see that as a as a separate entity. It's it's simply no different than everyone exercising a different skill that supports the whole, you know, you're you're responsible for editing the dailies, but it is not your responsibility to make sure that they've traveled from point A to point B to point C to wind up on your desk. That's somebody else's job, but it's all part of the same mechanism. So, for me and my sensibilities, that is all one, not not an island unto itself. And frankly, I expect

us all to be supporting each other.

So if I have, you know, two or three or four editors, and we're all working on the same project,

if I find we're running out of time,

on one thing or someone gets sick, or someone needs to take a day off or the shooting schedules changed or what have you, I fully expect that folks will happily share their responsibilities with others to maintain the common goal which whether that be preparing for a director's cut an editor's cut, a producer's cut, a lot of turnover, whatever, you know, we are all there to support each other. So, when things change, if circumstances change, if the timeline changes, or whatever the reason it doesn't matter, I do expect that we're all going to jump in wherever necessary and possible to to support each other to backstop each other and not be proprietary about it.

Zack Arnold 37:48

Well, the best follow up that I can give to that is, have you seen the television show survivor? Yes, because because that's how it works in most post production departments where the The individual editors are trying their best to get the attention of the show runners and the directors and you're not wanting to help share dailies. Well, that's not my episode. That's not my time or like, well, I don't care if the producer wants to this day. I mean, it's, it's basically survivor. It's every little tiny team or tribe for themselves. And I've seen that more often than I haven't seen it. And I don't think I've seen the worst of it, because I've heard a lot of horror stories from people that have either reached out just in the last two weeks, but over the last six years, and I don't want to make a blanket statement, but it seems more common than it isn't. And I've never understood why, why it needs to be that way. But it's more prevalent than you might suspect.

Janace Tashjian 38:40

And I'm sorry to hear that. And I'm sure you're right. And it's a shame because because it's so much fun the other way. Right. And I agree. I mean, you know, I might be one of the few people in your world right now. I look I know. This is This is a very charged issue and it's a very real issue. And the things that folks are talking about that have potentially been intolerable for them in their workplaces is all very real. But I might be one of the few people in your life right now who are saying, I can't wait to go back I'm, I'm missing that. I'm missing my teams and my families, my my work families, and, and those shared goals. I missed that a lot. And I hope at some point that that's something we can all experience going back to, or getting back to or creating or recreating future forward because, one, it's so much more enjoyable to it produces something that much more elevated. You know, creatively Personally interpersonally, professionally, all of the above. And I've

Zack Arnold 40:06

clearly you and iron are in agreement. And I've I've seen the positive effects of all of that. And I want to make sure before we're done, I want to talk some about this idea of what can we do. Once we go back to work, like, what should we expect? How can we bring this closer to where it is that we, we really want it to be. But the one other thing that I want to address first, and maybe this will kind of help us segue and dovetail into this conversation anyway. But an area that I'm very passionate about are the hours. I feel like there. If you look underneath the surface of so many of the stories and the complaints and the fears and the gripes that people have. They're not all driven by the hours because we have to be very clear that people are dealing with ageism, and racism and discrimination and those things are not about the hours. That's there are other issues of play. But I feel like if we were to talk about the notes underneath the note that's driving so many of the issues, it's the hours There's a lot of confusion around our specifically for editors, I think for just teams in general, but specifically for editors, I know that I, when I even when I talked to the head of the editors union, and I mentioned the standard 60 hour week, and she's like, it's not 60 hours. It's not even written in the contract. That's just what your pension contribution is. And you and I talked about this a little bit, right, where you and I are on the camp of when the job gets done. You go, right, but there are a lot of other people that are doing this. And I've realized people aren't watching this, but they're, they're looking at their watches. You haven't put in your 12 today, right? I've heard this thing many, many times. Well, as long as you put in your 60, it's like, but that's not really how it works. And it doesn't even work that way for assistance, where they have a guaranteed amount of time. But there are a lot of producers that now hold them to that expectation when that's not really the way that it's structured. But that can also go both ways and there's multiple perspectives to look at it from and you and I have talked about this quite a bit. So let's talk about this expectation of hours because this is if there's one area that I feel needs a massive overhaul This is it.

Janace Tashjian 42:07

Well, let's definitely talk about it and and you may need to guide or redirect me, I want to make sure that I'm hitting the points that you feel are important. I'll start by saying that obviously we work in a sort of supercharged industry, and we've all made that choice because hopefully we we love what we're doing. But we've all chosen the industry and and we do know that sometimes it's a little feast or famine, you know, shooting crews, work, work longer hours, etc, etc. But I think what we're talking about right now is expectations, people's expectations. So let me just break it down based on my understanding,

yes.

For an editor There's a classification. And you'll have to forgive me because my where with all with union rules is is not that in depth. I probably shouldn't be admitting that as producer. But there are so many tiers, right? There's so many tiers, different agreements, etc, etc. So when I hear the term like a 60 hour on call editor, right, my understanding of what that term means is one you might be expected to be on call for that number of hours during any given week, but there needs to be some consideration. If you go beyond that. However, at least in my world, and my perspective and my expectations, that doesn't necessarily mean you have to be added for 60 hours. My feeling is that you have to order Organize your time

as a professional,

you have a certain amount of material showing up each day. We have various benchmarks in terms of due dates for cuts, or if there are directors or producers coming in to to join us in editorial and so unless otherwise discussed, once we set forth the schedule, it's your responsibility to either meet those deadlines, or come to me and say, Hey, I think we might get hung up here or here, or I'm having a little trouble XYZ or, hey, instead of, you know, two hours of dailies, today I got 10 hours because there was a four camera setup. And you know, they shot a 16 hour day. So I would expect to hear from you. If you feel like there is a deadline

that you can't meet

or if it's going to take you additional Time. And I guess the same same goes for the assistant editors. And as far as I know, for the assistant editors, they're one of the few who are sort of guaranteed a certain amount of overtime, beyond a certain number of hours per week,

Unknown Speaker 45:18

right?

Zack Arnold 45:18

I believe so. Yeah, I don't know, all the machinations but I think you're you're not far off.

Janace Tashjian 45:22

Right. So, look, I'm a firm believer of if if you're working, then you should be getting paid for the hours that you're working. That's the cornerstone is that as a manager myself, certainly I don't want people working and giving of their time and not being properly compensated. The reverse of that is, I do believe that it's important for us to be open and flexible with each other. Whereas if you come to me and you say, Hey, you know, I need to to duck out for a couple hours, because, you know, my kids graduation ceremony is happening on Thursday or, you know, I need to get on a plane on Friday to go to my grandmother's birthday. All of those things are fine. We all have lives. We all have families, and we need to be flexible and supportive of each other.

And as a human being,

of course, I want to provide that flexibility. In return, I expect the same thing where I don't want to see you know, 20 minutes of ot on Thursday. When the day before, you know, you came in late or

left early, you know, it has to just it has to be

equitable and understanding within reason. And I would expect that you would come to me if you're experiencing something that might equate to Feeling burned out or overwhelmed, or there being any unrealistic expectations on the timeline. By the same token, I know that I, I personally, I will put a lot of work into creating a timeline and a schedule, that makes sense that's reasonable, and that is also humane. And if that changes, it's my responsibility to come to you.

and problem solve together as a team.

Whether that be a change in the production schedule, a change in the delivery schedule, etc, etc. It comes back to what you and I were talking about at the beginning, which is the the communication and the partnership coming together to to solve issues. I'm not sure if I'm hitting on what what you wanted to get to in terms of the hours so please, please guide me. If you want to be looking at other details.

Zack Arnold 47:58

I think I think this is a great place to start the two things that I want to point out. Again, I'm really trying to dig into the fundamental mindset that's different. It's not about the little details, the hours is a big one. But the the fundamental difference that I see there are two of them. The first of which is let's talk about the hypothetical scenario where things go crazy on set, and you have to shut down for two days or extra wires here, whatever it is all outside of everybody's control your approaches walking into the room, here's what's going on. We need to figure this out. Right? Mm hmm. I think the more common approach and again, this is the stuff that you may not see as often because this isn't a world that you create. Here's the situation, here's what you need to do. Here's your new reality. It's not let's problem solve together. It's, well, you're going to be here all weekend because of this other thing, not a matter of how can we solve this as a team and work through it? Here's your new reality. Figure it out. I've had that conversation more than once, where it's like, really that's the position that we're being Put in like, I don't know if that's so cool. And then I think that the other thing that I want to point out and we can go into both of these, I don't think you realize how rare this phrase was the you said I have a feeling that as soon as you said this, half of the people listening said, Oh my god, I didn't know other people thought this and you said if you're working, you should get paid for the hours you're working. That's much rarer than you think. Because the the ongoing mentality is the job just needs to get done. We don't have it in the budget, but you're gonna have to stay three extra hours because that's what the calendar says sorry, guys. I just I can't pay you for it because they're not giving me the budget. The studio won't allow it. But this is just the way this is the way it needs to get done. Which goes back to got 100 resumes on my desk waiting.

Janace Tashjian 49:46

Yeah, I don't know how to answer that because of course,

that's really unfortunate. And and it saddens me to hear that. It's not that I don't understand that happens and things go sideways.

Unknown Speaker 49:59

Pay

Janace Tashjian 50:02

and have to change accordingly. That's legitimate. It's hard not to go back to this concept of intention where my expectation of you as not only a colleague, but a friend and a partner would make that very difficult for me to want to ever communicate with you in that way. that's a that's a bit foreign to me but that's not to say it doesn't exist I'm sure I'm absolutely sure it exists. And of course that you know part of that is why you have a hopefully have a union that is protecting you. And here

Zack Arnold 50:46

I will interrupt you right there because what you said is so key. We have a union protecting us they're already protecting all of these things. The lack of the lunch breaks, the lack of not getting paid overtime for the extra two hours during the We are being asked to come in on the weekends, it comes back to the very first thing we talked about advocacy. This isn't just about blaming the studios and the producers, and it's all them and their rules. How can we expect anything to change if we don't start to advocate for ourselves and stand up and say, Hey, guys, it's not cool that you're asking me to work on Saturday without getting paid. I blatantly was told flat out by a producer and I kind of call the person out. Not gonna mention the show. But I was told, listen, I realized that we're behind this is when we have to deliver the cut, you're gonna have to work over the weekend. No problem. I'm assuming I'm getting paid, right? No, overtime. It's not in the budget. Cool. See you Monday. Figure it out.

Janace Tashjian 51:40

Right? Or I've been in that position myself, you know, look, there's other real estate in between, okay. And and we've been there, there are sometimes legitimate circumstances, which by the way isn't necessarily your problem, but it is our problem if we're being partners, right. So certainly, it's it's It's legitimate to come to a point where maybe you're at toward the end of a project and you have spent all your chips and you're in a bad situation, right? There must be other ways to solve these issues if we're interested in solving issues for and with each other. So if I've run out of OT, and the next phone call I make to the studio means, you know, I'm, again, going to take a flogging in the streets. I might say to you, look, I'm jammed this time. But pick a day off. You know, where are you looking for a long weekend? Somewhere, you know, can we trade today? Those are other ways that those issues can be solved, but they won't be solved. If they're challenged. Right. So sometimes the answer just may have to be no. As you said, If I'm not gonna pay I can't, I can't come in on Saturday. Or I'm more than happy to be there for you. But of course, I need to be compensated. So some of that is, is the self advocacy piece for sure. But, of course, it all works better. When you have support on both sides. How can we help each other? figure this situation out, which is the perfect segue

Zack Arnold 53:31

to the storm reality that we are all living in right now. So I already know what your answer is personally to this question, because it's really, really simple. How do we deal with all of this, knowing that we're going into the circumstances where if we're lucky enough that we start going back to work, that we are protecting people's livelihoods, their health, their immune system, they're not sleep deprived? Your answer is I'm just going to keep doing what I've been doing because this is what I do is I protect my my workers. My team and I take care of them. But for other people that are realizing the acute nature of if we don't figure this out now, before it was, well, people might get sick or they might die Sunday. We don't figure this out this time, and we're still working people 80 to 90 hours a week, and they're massively sleep deprived and their immune systems are compromised, people are going to start dropping like flies. So we have to figure it out, given the present circumstances. Do you have any suggestions or thoughts for how do we deal with the reality that we are now getting thrust upon?

Janace Tashjian 54:31

Well, I want to say one thing before we get in into that. I'm not sure if I have an answer. But I want to clarify one thing is I'm not so Cavalier as to say, hey, if it doesn't work for you just say no, that's a that's a that's a great concept. And on paper, it seems academic. Um, but there are so many factors that we must all face when we're Going into any personal or professional situation, there are a lot of things to weigh on our income, our livelihood, our mortgages, our kids, our resumes, our personal preferences, aesthetic, you know, creative sensibilities, all of those things are things that we are likely taking into account. When we are presented with new opportunities. We do have a choice, of course we have choices.

Unknown Speaker 55:40

And

Janace Tashjian 55:42

of course, the most surefire way to avoid a situation that you know might be compromising for you, or for us or for anyone is to say no

Unknown Speaker 55:56

or

Janace Tashjian 55:58

go in with open eyes. Knowing that certain parts of that situation may be challenging, I know it's not that easy to just say no, because sometimes we just need to be working or we feel beholden to a certain project for some other reason whether it has to do with a relationship or it being a resume builder or, you know, there there are a million reasons why we we, we enter into certain situations, and all of that is okay. I think that one thing that may need to change a little bit for all of us and it's an ongoing practice is the self talk. And how we speak to ourselves in our, in our inner thinking about any given situation. It's very easy to go down this path of Feeling like

everything from,

you know, I'm either too demanding or why aren't I speaking up for myself or it's very easy to amplify those, those issues that that might be causing us distress. And I think that our self talk needs some looking at and some consideration. It's okay to take on a job that might be less than perfect. If it's serving other needs for you, for whatever reason, that's okay. What that means, though, is if we've said yes, then our job from there is to manage better any stress or distress that might come up as a result of entering into something that you knew was going to be challenging and trying to redirect it out in a positive manner instead of living in this like, sort of internal complaint loop because I can tell you firsthand that eating all of that stress and having that negative self talk or just general talk, it takes a toll on you. It takes a toll on on your mind and your body. And and that's the kind of time when you really need to call on others who love and support you positively let some of that stress out without it, you know, breaking the emotional bank. So I I hope that

that It becomes part of the conversation as well.

Because it goes beyond just straight up self self advocacy. I think it also touches on the situations where it is something we want to take on that we know is going to be challenging, and how we manage those challenges in a positive way, versus a toxic way. So back to your question. Can you repeat your question? Because I kind of went off on a little thing there.

Zack Arnold 59:30

Well, the question was, and I think you actually answered it beautifully, and I had that the perfect wrap up for it, but I will just to repeat to make sure that the there might not be anything else. For those that are going back into the workforce, hopefully, eventually, soon. Fingers crossed, maybe sorta, who knows? Right? What is it that we collectively can do to endure this new reality of making sure that we do prioritize ourselves and our health whether it's the producers prioritizing for their team, editors prioritizing for their assistance, like all of us realizing that this is Now a core common goal is opposed to well, it just it is what it is. It can't be any more because the stakes are too high. I frankly thought you answered the question perfectly, but maybe there was something else you wanted to add. I thought it's perfect. So I'm just the way that I wanted to wrap it up is that my belief has been for years and years and years, and you and I've had this conversation ad nauseum since the day that I went into your office, I'm like, I got this crazy idea. What if we got some editors together, and people in post and we like went hiking, and we called it fitness and post, and we'll record a podcast about us like taking these 12 weeks like the that's where the madness began. And you and I have had this conversation many times over the years. And it's my belief that in order for this to change, that we have to empower people, one person at a time from the ground up. I don't think that if Netflix or the studios all of a sudden just change the hours of the rules. I don't think yes, do I think that needs to happen. Of course. I don't think that's what makes the real systemic. Change. I think it has to come from each individual from the ground up, believing themselves having the confidence to know they're worth it. They can advocate and they have that confidence. That to me is what that's what I'm trying to provide is that empowerment from the ground up one person at a time?

Janace Tashjian 1:01:16

I agree with that. But what I would add is that I think it's important not only to empower ourselves, but to empower each other. Because you're not an island. None of this gets done singularly. I'll go back to this every time in that I firmly believe we are

200% stronger together

than we are as individuals in our common endeavors. So we must take an interest not only in our own success, advocacy, but the success and the advocacy of those around us, our partners, our colleagues, and I feel like that's a very important nuance to the conversation. I hope that that makes sense.

Zack Arnold 1:02:16

Had I scripted that last phrase and spent months rewriting in and revising it I couldn't have done as well as what you just said right there. Perfect. Nailed it. I think you're so right, that it is about empowering one person at a time but making sure that we're helping others to feel empowered to absolutely right. So that that's why I wanted to talk with you. I want people to understand that there is an alternative where we can work through this together, rather than feeling like and it's so prevalent in post by myself for walls, no windows, it's just me and I have to figure it out. I hear this so often from people open the door and talk to the other people that are there and a lot of them may feel the same way. You open your door to them and all of a sudden, your department coming together rather than the island. That's inside the four walled, windowless room trying to figure out how to meet those deadlines by yourself. I was that person for a long time, really just thought, it's all on me and I got to figure it out until I realized I may need to ask for help, I may need to advocate for myself. So I take better care of myself. And because of that, I'm better at what I do not despite the fact that I prioritize my health and my well being

Janace Tashjian 1:03:23

asking for help is challenging for most people. Um, because I think we associate asking for help. As some kind of personal failure. That's not the case. I love the idea of collaboration. Obviously, as as as a manager again, you know, someone has to set the rules and the boundaries and the priorities. But we're working in a in a creative industry. were amazing and wonderful ideas come from many different quarters. And I don't just mean what winds up on the screen. I'm talking about everything from, you know, workflow, efficiencies and protocols. And all of those things are a wonderful little Rubik's cube that many people can join in on improving

and

making more enjoyable for everybody. And creating consistencies and boundaries that people can rely on. Not just to follow but to actually rely on where you're not trying to reinvent the wheel, every time. Those things are all all all super important. And we are going into a time where we will have to change what we're accustomed to, just given all the givens of how, how our communities are going to be dealing With COVID and personal protections, and fortunately for post production, I do think that we are one of very few departments that will be able to operate at a very high level, even given the logistical issues that we'll be facing. So I think that we have, we have a really great opportunity to be having this conversation in a very in a very workable and manageable way, because we will be able to continue to operate even with distance strategies. And part of that is really just one

identifying,

not just identifying concerns. But But sharing the concerns. And, you know, think tanking. Potential interventions that will will benefit the whole, without without compromising the results. And I'm super happy to be part of that conversation.

Zack Arnold 1:06:14

So I'm glad you're a part of that conversation. I'm glad that we were able to bring up all the things that we did today, ironically, with as good as you and I usually are about meeting schedules. We've gotten like 15 minutes over, so but totally worth it. Totally worth it. But this has been absolutely fantastic. I've wanted to have this conversation on the record for years, every time you and I talk about this, and I think I even said it last week. It's like, why didn't I just hit the record button. Finally, finally, this conversation that you and I have been having for so long, is going to get out in front of the right people, and I think at the exact right time, and I think I think it has the potential to make a real difference. So I really appreciate the fact that you've you've taken the time to chat with me today, given all the present circumstances, and I look forward to the day when you and I can actually have these things. conversations in a dark windowless edit room in person again, no, Dan thank you enough for being here.

Janace Tashjian 1:07:05

My pleasure

Zack Arnold 1:07:11

thank you for listening to this episode of The optimize yourself podcast 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 optimize yourself.me slash podcast. In case you missed it. I recently released a follow up article that it's titled The dear Hollywood It is time for an intervention about the hours where you work. And this article goes into excruciating detail about all the reasons that we should no longer accept working ridiculous, inhumane hours, whether we are on set or in offices, union and non union alike. This isn't just a union issue. This is a human issue. Now if you haven't had the chance or the opportunity yet, I would love it. If you would read that article, share it to the group or social channel of your choice. And then more importantly, I want you to Take action. I have created a petition and I would love if you signed it. It's on change.org and it's all about making a 45 hour week the new standard in Hollywood, and frankly is an aside how absurd is it that we have to fight for a 45 Hour Workweek. If you want to learn more and sign the petition, you can visit optimize yourself.me slash ours. That's h o u Rs. Thank you for listening. Stay safe,

healthy and sane and be well

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Guest Bio:

Janace Tashjian photo

Janace Tashjian is a producer and production manager, known for Avatar (2009), Ballers (2016 – (2018), Shooter (2017) – (2018), 2 Guns(2013) and From the Earth to the Moon (1998).

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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Zack Arnold (ACE) is an award-winning Hollywood film editor (Cobra Kai, Empire, Burn Notice, Unsolved, Glee), a documentary director, father of 2, and the creator of the Optimize Yourself program. He helps ambitious creative professionals and entrepreneurs DO better and BE better. “Doing” better means learning how to more effectively manage your time, your energy, and your creativity so you can produce higher quality work in less time (and ultimately become a productivity ninja). “Being” better means doing all of the above while still prioritizing the most important people, things, and passions in your life…all without sacrificing your health (or sanity) in the process. Click to download Zack’s “Ultimate Guide to Optimizing Your Creativity (And Avoiding Burnout).”