Ep145: [CASE STUDY] Navigating a Difficult Career Transition | with Sam Lavin

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Last year writer/director Sam Lavin came to me because she had never felt more scattered. Amidst unemployment and managing the pandemic she said to me: “I’m typically a very ambitious person, but I’m finding it hard to stay on projects and get things done. I’m not motivated because I don’t know what I should be doing.”

As an award-winning DGA director, assistant director, and writer who has worked on film and television projects including LuciferThe Mayor, and Criminal Minds, she came to me as a 2nd AD with hopes of transitioning to the directing chair. Like many hit with a generous dose of perspective when the pandemic hit, Sam realized she was stuck and didn’t want to be a 2nd AD anymore…but she had no idea what to do next – and that lack of certainty left her paralyzed. She was dreaming of making her next major career transition into becoming both a 1st AD on major tv shows as well as a writer & director (and she knew she was ready!), but she had no clear path or next steps to make her vision become her reality. This led to wasted days of scattered attention and feeling “busy” but not “productive.”

After joining the Optimizer coaching & mentorship program, Sam was able to design a plan that led her to firmly landing in the 1st AD position on a major streaming show for Apple, and she’s now poised to finally become a director. In today’s conversation we talk about the practical steps she took to work through the mental barriers that were stopping her from being productive and moving her career forwards, how she has become a focus machine getting more done in a few months than she had accomplished in years, and most importantly how you can apply the same principles to build momentum in your own career and life.

No matter the career transition you are hoping to make next, even if the rungs of the ladder you want to climb might be different than others, the path is almost universally the same for all of us. You first need clarity about your next steps so you don’t inadvertently waste years of effort climbing the wrong ladder. Then you need to develop and hone the skills necessary to do the job you want next. And thirdly you need to build the right network of people so you can leverage those skills and convince them you can do the job, even if you might not have the experience yet. Simple…but far from easy. Learn how Sam did it and how you can do it too.

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Here’s What You’ll Learn:

  • What brought Sam to the Optimizer community and her career leading up to now.
  • Sam’s daily routine before she became a student in the Focus Yourself program.
  • How we helped settle Sam’s scattered mind and anxiety about where her career was headed.
  • The obstacles Sam encountered when trying to find focus and clarity in her life.
  • The mindset change that helped Sam make the transition from 2nd AD to 1st AD.
  • How the Focus Gym helped her finish her pilot that she hadn’t been able to complete before.
  • The piece of feedback she received that changed her mindset about becoming a director.
  • How the cancellation of an AFI program she had applied for gave her confidence to network more.
  • KEY TAKEAWAY:  Your beliefs about yourself have the power to transform your life.
  • Networking saved Sam from doing unnecessary steps to transition her career to the next level.
  • Sam breaks down the skills necessary to become a director and what you can and can’t learn by being a 1st AD.
  • What positions most commonly get to the director’s chair from film and television crews.
  • The goal every 1st AD has to keep in mind when on set.
  • How the politics of being a woman as an AD has made it tricky to navigate her career.
  • Understanding the difference between confidence and arrogance and how to apply it to your career.
  • How applying logic to networking was the key to helping Sam shift her mindset to make it work for her.
  • What is the magic formula for networking and how it relieves the anxiety of reaching out.
  • Sam’s advice to anyone who feels like she did a year ago before she started the program.

Useful Resources Mentioned:

Work With Me | Optimize Yourself

Continue to Listen & Learn

I need help making a career transition | Optimize Yourself

Insider’s Guide to Writing Cold Outreach

How to Find the Right Type of Mentor For You (and When You Should Seek the Best)

How to Go From Cold Contact to Your Ideal Mentor In Seven Simple Steps

IMDbPro for Networking: The 10 Features That Will Take Your Outreach to a New Level

Ep80: How to Avoid Getting Pigeonholed, The ‘Concentric Circles of Networking’ & More | with Doc Crotzer, ACE

Ep104: How to Keep Working As An Editor (After You’ve Made the Transition From AE) | with Susan Vaill, ACE

Ep126: On the Importance of Building Relationships, Asking Questions, and Never Giving Up | with Andi Armaganian

Ep129: How to Cultivate a “Service-Centric” Mindset (and Why It Will Make You More Successful) | with Agustin Rexach

Ep127: Chasing After the Next Gig vs. Building Your Career | with Kabir Ahktar, 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 click 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. And now on to today's show, where for the month of April, the theme is redefining what the idea of productivity means to you. I'll say it before and I'll say it again. Productivity isn't about learning new apps and tricks that are just going to help you spin on the hamster wheel faster. It's about making sure that each action you take is moving you forwards towards a goal that is meaningful to you. If you miss my previous episode with productivity expert Tamara Taurus, I invite you to listen to that episode first, which is available and optimizeyourself.me/Episode144. It is a great introductory conversation that's going to warm you up for today's conversation. Last year writer director Sam Lavin came to me because she had never felt more scattered. Amidst unemployment and managing the pandemic. She said to me, I am typically a very ambitious person, but I'm finding it hard to stay on projects and get things done. I'm not motivated because I don't know what I should be doing. As an award winning DGA director, assistant director and writer who has worked on film and TV projects that include Lucifer, the mayor and criminal minds. She had come to me as a second ad with hopes of transitioning to the directing chair. And like many hit with a generous dose of perspective, when the pandemic hit, Sam realized that she was stuck and she didn't want to be a second ad anymore, but she had no idea what to do next. And that lack of certainty left her paralyzed. She was dreaming of making her next major career transition into becoming both a first ad on major TV shows, as well as a writer, director. And most importantly, she knew that she was ready. However, she had no clear path or next steps that were going to make her vision become a reality. And this ultimately led to wasted days of scattered attention and feeling busy but never really feeling productive. After she joined the optimizer coaching and mentorship program, Sam was able to design a plan that led to her firmly landing in the first ad chair on a major streaming show for Apple. And she is now poised to make the move to director. And in today's conversation, we talk about the practical steps that she took to work through all of the mental barriers that were stopping her from being productive, and moving her career forwards how she has now become a focus machine getting more done in a few months than she had accomplished in years. And most importantly, how you can apply the same principles to build momentum in your career and in your life. No matter the career transition that you hope to make next, even if the rungs of the ladder that you want to climb might be different than others, the path is almost universally the same for all of us. First, you need clarity about your next steps. So you don't inadvertently waste years of effort climbing the wrong ladder. And then you need to develop and hone the skills necessary to do the job that you want next. And thirdly, you have to build the right network of people so you can leverage those skills and convince others that you can do the job, even if you might not have the experience yet. All simple, but far from easy. And I want you to learn in today's conversation, how Sam did it and how you can do it too. If today's interview inspires you to take the first step towards designing a more fulfilling career path that not only aligns you with work you're passionate about but also includes some semblance of work life balance, and especially if you would like to support mentorship and the community that can help you turn your goals into a reality. I am excited to announce that the spring semester of my Optimizer Coaching and Mentorship Program will be opening soon to learn more about the program and all that it has to offer, and how we can help you achieve your most important goals. without sacrificing your sanity in the process. You can get on the waitlist and apply by simply visiting optimizeyourself.me/optimizer. Please keep in mind that I review applications in the order that I received them, and I fill slots accordingly. So the earlier that you apply, the better your chances of getting into the program. applications will be reviewed and accepted until Friday, April 23. All right. Without further ado, my conversation with first assistant director Sam Lavin made possible today by our amazing sponsors ever cast and arrow driven, who of course, as always will 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, visit optimizeyourself.me/podcast.

I'm here today with Sam Lavin and Sam is an award winning DGA director and assistant director and a writer who has worked on film and television projects, some of which include Lucifer, The Mayor, and Criminal Minds. And you are currently working on the Apple TV show Roar. As a first assistant director, we have so many things to talk about that brought you to the place where you are now Sam, you're also a member of the coaching and mentorship program, one of my finest hardest working students and official part time job now of being a gym manager, gym manager what does that mean you are you basically run what we call the Focus Gym. And we're going to talk a lot more about what that is and how it's helped and transform where you've gotten today. But you can now officially put that on your resume, part time assistant manager at the optimizer focus gym because you run that place better than I ever did. So I very much appreciate you for all that no problem. But I'm I'm excited to have you on the show today. And I appreciate you taking the time to honestly and candidly share your story about how you got to where you are now. So where I want to start is just making sure that the audience knows a little bit more about you and your journey. So what I would love to know is a little bit further description about where you were when you and I first met. And how you got to that point, because there was a very distinct reason that you came to me Initially, I don't even remember how you found me. So you can even talk about that. But I remember in our first conversation, you were in a very distinct spot where you were very stuck. So I want to talk about where that was and how you got there. Just to get a little bit more background about who you are and what you do.

Samantha Lavin 7:39

I was at a crossroads in my career, actually, I have been trying to make a film that I wrote, and I had financing in place. And we were gonna I was going to direct the feature film and you know, and something happened where which happens to a lot of people the financing, temporarily, permanently, we don't know, still fell through. And it was something that I put a lot of eggs in that basket. So when I kind of accepted that it was at least going to be a long time before I was going to make that film. And I didn't know when I realized that I'd let some of the other things go by the wayside. And I kind of got depressed and realize that, you know, I've left myself kind of vulnerable to next steps. And then I started looking at completely, like, maybe I don't belong in the entertainment industry anymore. Like maybe I should start a blog, maybe I should, you know, help other people because you know, do get become an assistant director and because maybe that's just what I'm going to be for, for my career. And that's fine, too. And that's kind of how I found you because I was looking, you know, these, these kind of master teachers about you know, how to use your skills and blogging and this and that. And somehow I don't remember exactly how it was Ramit, or if it was some other website. But somehow I found you. And I was like, well, you got to give us one last shot, he sort of entertainment, you know, in that field. And so I started looking up your stuff. And I was like, Well, what if I could just focus and figure out like, what's really next? And, you know, maybe it's maybe it's not time for the blog, maybe I just need to refocus in my industry. And that's kind of what drew me to you is where I was at, because at that point I was getting nothing done because I was just feeling really sorry for myself. That was fine. For

Zack Arnold 9:14

Yeah I probably talked you out of starting a blog, like in the first five minutes. I'm like, No, don't start a blog and a podcast. Oh my god, it's such a rabbit hole. Of course, that's, you know where I am now. And it's completely ruining my entire life and all the best ways possible. But it's a lot more of an undertaking, then a lot of people might think, but just for a little bit more clarity. You have been a writer, you've been a director, you've done shorts, and you've also been a lot up until recently. It was all second AD work correct? Hmm.

Samantha Lavin 9:44

Mostly Yeah, yeah, I was a full time second ad. I've done some first ad like separate units and things like that, but not ever as a full time for safety.

Zack Arnold 9:52

Right. And we're going to talk a little bit more about the mindset and the strategies that got you to now being a first ad instead of well trying to make Have you sort of become a first ad one day. And now currently already, and I know that this is even foreign to you at this moment, we've talked about this, but you're making the transition to becoming a full fledged director in television. But right now firmly feet planted in the first ad world on a huge show, having done many, many shows as a second AD, looking to make the transition to director. And I want to read you a quote from the first five minutes of one of our conversations. And I want to talk about this version of Sam Lavin and I want to go a little bit deeper into where you were. So you said, and I swear, this is first sentence out of the gate after Hi, how are you? It was I have just never been more scattered. I am typically very ambitious, but I'm finding it very hard to stay on projects and get anything done. I'm not motivated, because I don't know what I should be doing. Does this sound like the sand that I know now? That is the Assistant Manager the optimizer focus gym? No, so So talk to me about the sand that came to me that said, I am just never been more scattered? And I'm getting nothing done. What was going on there?

Samantha Lavin 11:05

Um, yeah, i was i was i was i was poor. I felt like I wasn't getting where I wanted to go. And I was starting to question what my goals were, I wasn't clear anymore about what my goals were, I wasn't clear about what my priorities should be. And so and I didn't know that that was the reason why I wasn't getting things done. Because I've always seen myself as a huge multitasker. And so why can't I do these 12 things? You know, and I'm, you know, I learned soon after, from joining with you is that that's the most important thing is to be motivated by knowing exactly what the next thing to do is. And that's what I did not have at the time.

Zack Arnold 11:41

Yeah. So I there are some people that just have made it a habit and almost an identity that I procrastinate, I just don't get stuff done. And I'm just kind of lazy, and I'm not motivated. But that wasn't you. You didn't have that identity. But all of a sudden, it was kind of an identity crisis, where it's like, why am I procrastinating? Why is none of this stuff getting done? And why am I not motivated to move forwards? Is that fairly accurate?

Samantha Lavin 12:02

Totally Accurate. Yes.

Zack Arnold 12:04

So what are some of the things that you were doing? When you were at that point, like, give me an example of either something you were trying to do that you couldn't get done, or the tasks that you were using just kind of fill up the space? And I guess I'm moving forwards, and I'm busy. But you know, in the back of your mind, like, should I be doing this? Like I don't know. So what what it what did your daily routine or your week or your month look like that time? And how are you keeping yourself quote unquote, busy?

Samantha Lavin 12:28

Well, that point was so bad that all I was doing was surfing the internet trying to figure out what what to do, because I, I basically would have had to start my whole project, which is called seven on 10, this feature film that I wrote and was supposed to dread, I would have had to start over, right. So I would have had to start finding a new producer finding new financing. So that's like a huge undertaking. And I was really feeling kicked in the gut by at that point. So I wasn't sure if that was even worth doing. And then I thought, Okay, well, the only way to get that started is to rewrite, I need to kind of do a polish on the script. And I just wasn't I didn't watch it. I just wasn't motivated to do that. And then the other thing I had was I had an unfinished television pilot that I also had been writing for, like 10 years and just didn't finish that. So that was sitting on a shelf. I thought maybe I needed more material for my reel for my directing reel, because I hadn't directed anything in a little bit. And I thought, well, maybe I should be doing that. You know. And so there were all these things, these projects that I just was like, they're all huge. How am I going to? I don't know what to start. So then that's why I thought, Oh, well, of course, I should just start a blog.

Zack Arnold 13:29

Why not? Let's just add one more thing onto the pile of things that I could be doing.

Samantha Lavin 13:34

No, I mean, I had so many, I've got so many different things. And in my life, if I had 12 that might be doing so it was really easy to like, come up with nine projects, line them up and go, Okay, I don't know what to do next, you know,

Zack Arnold 13:44

I would assume that the words analysis, paralysis would resonate, you're looking at everything, I could do some of this or I could do that. But until you have enough confidence to feel like you're going in the right direction for a lot of people, you just kind of lock up and end up doing nothing. And I'm a firm believer that that's why Facebook and Instagram and Twitter are multi billion dollar companies. Because so many people are craving that distraction because it fills the void of this lack of clarity. I don't really know what I should be doing right now. And I'm not engaged with it. So scrolling Instagram and scrolling and maybe somebody else will motivate me and we think it's going to be five minutes. And then it's an hour and a half. Right? Yeah. Right. So that that that's one of the areas where you and I began was we just need to get more clarity on what is it that you're actually connected to emotionally? What is the direction you really want to go if you stop worrying about all the things that you should be doing and where people say is supposed to be the next step? or What am I really afraid of? We started to strip all that away and we had some more clarity. So what are some of those things that we would consider the obstacles? This is one of the things that we worked through in the program where you had some pretty clear obstacles or limiting beliefs about whether or not you should either be pursuing first ad or directing or should it be writing or whatever it is, let's dig a little bit deeper into the psychology cuz of a lot of people assume it's all Trello, and calendars and all this all the cool shiny objects. And you know, I'm a giant nerd, and I love my shiny objects. But I make sure that we have some clarity first. So what are some of the things that that we worked through?

Samantha Lavin 15:13

Well, I thought it was too late to do the track of like, first AD to director, even though that's the track that I was on, it felt overwhelming, because I'm, you know, I felt like I was too old. I felt like I've been a second for too long. And by the time I finished all the first thing I need to do would be like, 2 million years from now, and, you know, making all these transitions. So I had that roadblock in my mind, you know, getting more stuff on my reel was another one, did I have enough to be, you know, to direct for TV to have enough on my reel? And the answer was, I didn't really know, I didn't realize that I didn't know. And so part of that was just finding out, you know, so that was a roadblock. I wasn't sure. It was worth starting over on my film again, you know, I'm putting effort into that. I didn't know for sure. Because I'd already done that I put in a tremendous amount of effort and focus. That was part of the reason why I got knocked off my, you know, my ambition. So those were some roadblocks time just feeling like maybe I didn't have enough time, just in general in my life. And also just in my, in my world, I have my family things going on. So there was that? Oh, yeah. And then there was a pandemic. So nothing that happened, there was that you couldn't make a short phone couldn't go to work? You couldn't, you know, so there was that?

Zack Arnold 15:43

And how did you feel? And I know that it was during a pandemic, but still knowing you had all of this quote, unquote, extra time because you couldn't be directing on set? How did you feel about the fact that you had to get out there and promote yourself and connect with people so you could start to make that transition and move up?

Samantha Lavin 16:42

Oh, yeah, no, I hated that.

Zack Arnold 16:45

By the way, hearing that from a director makes me feel so much better. Because we editors, it's part and parcel, we just want to do the work be shot in the darkroom. Don't bother me, don't make me network and go out and meet with people. I just want to be awesome at what I do. But to hear it from a director. I was like, Oh, good. It's not just us. So that was very encouraging for me.

Samantha Lavin 17:03

Yeah, no, I think more directors than you think, feel that way. So you know, we just want to do our thing, like we want to go to set on a gear thing we want to, you know, that's it, we don't really want to so but yeah, I've never been, I'm a very direct person, if I'm having a real conversation, like I can talk to you. But in terms of like, what I think networking is, and what I think a lot of people think it is, which is a bunch of schmoozing and small talk and crap, I can't I get nauseous out of it.

Zack Arnold 17:26

So and what we're going to redefine what the term networking means, because you, you have been through the trenches with me learning how to network for many, many, many weeks and spent, I think it's been almost two months just on identifying a single person and writing a message and building a relationship. So networking, I'm hoping, hoping is taken on a very different definition for you. And we'll get into that a little bit later, for sure. But what I'm curious about is if we go back to this point, where you at least had the awareness that I lacked clarity, I don't know what I want to pursue, and there are a lot of things I could be pursuing. And I now have a lot more clarity on all the crap in my head that's been stopping me, what was the thing that transitions you from being, I'm just so stuck, and I'm so scattered to all of a sudden taking some action,

Samantha Lavin 18:10

Working through the limiting beliefs that I had about what I could do, and which ones were real and which ones weren't? You know, talking about using that technique of like the domino effect, and being able to kind of line up which which thing is the most important thing that if I do it, then everything else will fall more into place and be easier to do and accomplish. Just organizing my, my thoughts, my goals in an order. And, you know, we're doing those worksheets that were very tedious, but important,

Zack Arnold 18:43

I appreciate you calling my worksheets tedious on the air, by the way, I really appreciate it.

Samantha Lavin 18:48

I'm just saying, you know,

Zack Arnold 18:49

they're they're they're made to be tedious and difficult. It's by design. So I take no offense whatsoever. Did I ever promise you when we started this, the process would be easy?

Samantha Lavin 18:58

Oh, no,

Zack Arnold 18:59

I never used the word easy. So you know, is it a little tedious? Is there some busy work? Do you have to do some digging? Do you wish you could just start doing cool stuff in Trello, of course. But that's not where the money is. So for you, you started to really work through these limiting beliefs. And you can, you can either agree with me or disagree with me. But as you know, you've seen a lot of my similar journey to yours. were becoming a first AD and now becoming a director. That's your version of Ninja Warrior if we're talking about the analogy, and for me working towards Ninja Warrior, one of the most important lessons, if not the most important lesson that I've learned is when I first started, I realized how much crap in my head I was telling myself that I wasn't capable of. And as I forced myself to start doing it, I realized most of that's actually been bulls***. And I've been lying to myself my whole life, but all the things I can't do. And you went through something relatively similar with these limiting beliefs about Oh, I'm too old or I'm a female in the industry. I'm just stuck being a second ad or whatever it is. So I'm curious Was there one specifically Where once it kind of hits you that, I don't know if this is really real that that was where you started to take off.

Samantha Lavin 20:06

I think part of it was just talking about being a first ad to everyone, I think I started, my mindset changed. So I started putting it out there in a different way. And that I've been to other people, it must be because people are starting to respond to me differently. Because I've been talking about being a first for a couple of years. But I got, I really didn't make any movement that I saw. And soon after I started focusing, I started talking to people, and they started recommending me, and they started really taking it more seriously. And then momentum started to happen. So I think that was a big shift. And then I started working on a script, my script and like, I hadn't been able to do that, like, I just had this pilot, specifically I started working on and I just, I think you even advised me, you were like, Well, you know, maybe you should work on the network. And first I'm not gonna work on the network. And first I'm gonna do this. And I did because I was angry at myself for it. I think part of the limiting beliefs was I had to prove to myself that I could do this thing before I could do anything else. And that thing was this pilot had been sitting on the shelf for years. And so when I broke when it cracked that code, and I started actually, time blocking, and do it, and I actually did finish it. That really helped me get that just that accomplishment showed me I could do it.

Zack Arnold 21:23

Yeah, I definitely remember that the whole period with the pilot scripts, because at the exact same time that you were coming to this conclusion that you know what, I think I just need something tangible to show that I can do it that I can follow through, because you were starting to have this identity as I'm just somebody that just doesn't do anything. And I'm scattered, and I'm a mess, and I'm getting nothing done. And yes, it was a short period. But as you continue to do that, it reinforces the belief that maybe I just have now maybe I am just somebody that doesn't get things done in the days of being productive or over. And I knew that wasn't the case. And I knew there was just some crap that was in your head. But having that very physical manifestation of watching the block in your brain disappear, as all of a sudden, same time as when I was developing the focus gym, and you've started calling you a squatter. It's like you just live there, like you've just taken over the thing. And you went from I've had this thing on the shelf for years, and there's just no progress whatsoever. And I don't remember the exact timeline, you can remind me, but wasn't it just like a month or a month and a half, and you posted in the group and you're like, Hey, guys finished my script. Moving on to the next thing. I'm like, Who is this person?

Samantha Lavin 22:25

Yeah, it was pretty fast. There was I yeah, I mean, it's faster than I ever thought it was gonna be, you know, so definitely done. But I was like, Oh, my God. So yeah, I mean, there was that. And then I was doing other things simultaneously, but they were all towards the same goal. And I was able to put those all together and prioritize them in such a way that I was able to get so much done. It was it was ridiculous. I mean, I just, I couldn't and one thing started to lead to another there was like this magical thing. I don't know if you remember, but there was this AFI application.

Zack Arnold 22:55

That's right. I do I forgotten all about that. I'm glad you bring it up. Tell me more.

Samantha Lavin 22:58

Yeah, that was a big one. Because I really, first of all, I didn't want to do and I was like, why am I going to AFI? Oh my god. I've been doing this for years. Why, but then I started to hear because I was starting to talk to people again, that it was a really couldn't be potentially game changing. So the application was huge. It was huge. It was um, you had to get to find a short film, you had to do look for it. You had to, you know, be something that you wanted to direct him to be seven minutes long, like you're at a million requirements, you had to get like letters of recommendation bow like 200 different things. So I went on a mission and I was like, like, can't write a short script while I'm also trying to do a pilot and rewrite my feature. So I went out I looked for one. And I found a short script I read about 100 of them and they use time blocking to like go through short Sprint's with the short scripts and found one. So I wound up submitting the package within about two weeks, got a letter of recommendation from a showrunner from a show that I had been on and did the whole application turn it in, but what and then they cancelled the AFI year as a COVID. Right. So I was like, You gotta be kidding. This is just unbelievably ridiculous. However, what came out of it was the showrunner saw my reel because she had to recommend me. And her comments about my directors reel made me realize that that's not a priority. Like she was like you're ready to direct right now. Now, this is a showrunner, who could potentially hire me tomorrow if you wanted to. So getting that feedback from her was like enormous and I wouldn't have gotten that if I didn't try to do the AFI thing. Also, the short film that I chose, wound up winning a grant for $5,000 from the City of West Hollywood to produce the film. So this this little way if I application that went nowhere, wound up being huge for me in other ways. So it's just like those all these things happened within this like period of time that I started working with you. We're talking about months, not years.

Zack Arnold 24:48

Yeah. And speaking of the domino effect, right, you just picked out one small Domino, you set it up first, you start to line them up in the right order. You knock the first one over, and it's almost like you lose control of all of it. And I remember more than one I'm getting a message from you either privately in one of our group channels like this is all your fault right now that I'm up for these three different jobs simultaneously. But I have to finish this thing. And I'm in the middle of that. And you you weather it at all? Well, but you created it all too

Samantha Lavin 25:14

keeps happening. I know that right? Then the first day jobs started coming in. And I got some interviews, I got one of the jobs I did a job as a first was fantastic experience was my first full real jobs first. And then I just had another one. So that's also huge, you know? So yeah, it's been, it's just rolling. It's unbelievable.

Zack Arnold 25:34

And one of the things that I want to go back to and dig into a little bit deeper is what I believe is the difference. If you were to look at before, when you were a second ad, thinking to yourself that I'm reaching out to people, and I'm talking to them, and I'm looking for first ag jobs and hoping that I can make the transition. If you think about tangibly, the people you were reaching out to the materials that you were sending them the conversations you were having, how different are they? Before you and I work together? And after?

Samantha Lavin 26:02

Yeah, very different. Very different. I have a level of confidence, not arrogance, just confidence in what where I'm at in my career, what I can bring to the table is very different, you know, partially because of networking, outreach, and what feedback I got from those people. And and part of it is just from, you know, working through the process and getting better jobs and creating better work getting feedback on the work that I did create. So it's been, it's been amazing,

Zack Arnold 26:31

same question, but slightly different. Looking back at what you're doing before, when you were a second ad, trying to make the transition to getting jobs as a first to now that you're doing that. Did you believe you were a first ad?

Samantha Lavin 26:46

No, no.

Zack Arnold 26:49

Do you believe that you're a first ad now? I do? And is your career that different? As far as your resume your experience all the things you've done in the past? I'm not talking 10 years ago versus now when you and I met and I don't remember the exact date, but I think it was a little bit less than a year ago, like maybe in May or June, you definitely did not believe that you are a first ad you would never have introduced yourself as a first ad. And there really was no real sense of confidence that that even made sense. Or I could do it because of all the limiting beliefs that we've talked about. But even before you landed this giant first ad job on an apple show, when you started to have similar conversations with similar people with similar levels of experience the same credits on IMDB, did you believe your first ad

Samantha Lavin 27:33


Zack Arnold 27:34

But now? It's no question, right?

Samantha Lavin 27:38

Yes, that's right.

Zack Arnold 27:39

So my belief is that I know that to you, it may seem like there's a whole lot of difference. But I think that if we look at last May, versus a few months ago, you're not showing them drastically different work. You're not coming to people saying look at all the amazing things that I have on my resume that I've done since last May. Very similar work, your approach is different. But I really believe in this is something that I talked about in podcasts, actually with a chess master. And we talk all about chess in the networking program. And it's actually one of the first key mindsets is that you have to play a game of chess with your career with your health, rather than a game of checkers. And before you sit down at the board, you have to already believe that you are going to win and have the strategy to get there. And I think you were struggling so much simply because you didn't believe that you were a first ad.

Samantha Lavin 28:25

Yeah, sure. That's very true.

Zack Arnold 28:27

And now I just I can't even imagine you not believing that like you You have such a level of confidence about Yeah, I'm just the first ad. It's who I am like, would you take a second ad job at this point?

Samantha Lavin 28:36


Zack Arnold 28:37

Would you take a second ad job on your dream show right now? No. Can you imagine saying that six months ago?

Samantha Lavin 28:44

No, there was a distinctive moment. Remember, I was on a job as a first I didn't. And it got pushed and pushed and pushed. And I was supposed to do a second ad job on my dream job. And I had to say no. So it was that it actually happened?

Zack Arnold 28:58

Yes. And I remember that happening. Because I could be wrong. But I feel like this is probably one of the the minority career programs where we actually celebrate people saying no, and turning down work and turning down paychecks more than we celebrate yeses. Because no takes a lot of courage. saying yes to a great opportunity is fantastic. But saying no to the wrong one takes a hell of a lot more courage. And it's one of my favorite moments of your entire path was this is the thing I've been working towards for years, and it was offered to me, it's no longer a good fit. So sorry, I'm gonna have to pass. Right? That's not an easy thing to do.

Samantha Lavin 29:32

No, no, we had assumption about it. I had to, you know, work through it, make sure that I wasn't crazy. But that was the right thing to do.

Zack Arnold 29:40

And then I remember having a couple of other sessions where you would come to me saying I have four different amazing opportunities, but I have no idea which one to choose. So what I'm curious about rather than just talking about all the awesome progress that you've had, I want to I want to work through one of these and I want to better understand how your mindset has shifted because of somebody else. is listening. And they're thinking, My God, I'm exactly where Sam was. And I have a really hard time understanding what's a good opportunity and what's not walk me through the last time. And I don't remember the exact details. So maybe you can remind me, but what are the steps that you've learned? Let's say that you couldn't schedule another session. And you had to figure out of all these various opportunities, whether self created, or have come from the outside world? What's the process you're going to go through to determine what's the right fit versus what isn't?

Samantha Lavin 30:27

Well, I think it's really important to be clear on what my endgame is, the checkmate is that was working backwards from there. But one of the things was, I was potentially going to do a directing shadowing opportunity. But that opportunity, which is great, it is definitely towards my checkmate goal, but that guy was giving me that opportunity got really busy, and it just wasn't happening wasn't happening wasn't happening. So it just didn't make sense to wait. So it's kind of a balance between this thing, very muted towards checkmate, but also what's happening right now, what's available to me. So I think it was weighing those two things, you know, also not making a decision out of fear, you know, being clear about where my finances are, what I can say no to just prioritizing those things. So that's, that's how that last decision got me.

Zack Arnold 31:18

So if I'm coming to you, let's say that I listen to this podcast, and I'm a fellow female director, maybe a second, second ad, or maybe I'm even a first ad. And one of my challenges is, I really don't know if I should be taking more jobs as a second or first or if I should just do my own thing. Should I be directing my own short and making my own way? Or is that just a waste of time because I need to be, quote, unquote, discovered. And I should be working my way into the system and in the machine as a second ad and a first ad, because I know similarly to the world of editing, that it's not like it's a foregone conclusion that you just spend three years as a second ad and then you become a first ad and then they just hand you the director's chair. Because you're you're owed it because you put an X number of years, help people better understand that are not so much familiar with this world, what the track looks like to director How do you traverse these different options? And how do you know which one is the best for you?

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Roger 32:36

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Zack Arnold 33:00

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

Brad 33:05

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Roger 33:32

What matters most to me is it makes the entire process more efficient, which then translates to us as creatives who spend 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 33:45

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

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Roger 34:07

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 34:21

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Samantha Lavin 34:45

Well, part of it is you know, I mean, it's a little of both because at least my belief was is that I can get to director from first ad. I maybe even get director to director from second ad but I have I also have to be a good director. Like it can't just be a first or second ad. And I think that's where the confusion can be. Because there are plenty of ADs who think, well, I'm the first I can direct. And that's not always the case, you do have to have the creative tools. So I just had to really assess how much work I already had how much work in life, you know how good my reel was, versus how much more credibility networking access, I needed, you know, and balance those two things. Because if I didn't have the reel, then it wouldn't be time to be focusing on firsting, I'd really need to make sure my reel was up to here. And you know, and I was ready. So if you're not ready, then the opportunity is not worth anything. So that was a big part of it. Also, just learning the world. And seeing as I went along how people responded to me just what feedback was coming to me from the world. And that was a big one was this showrunner that I said that I had worked for them when she said, You know, you're ready to dress, then I, that was the moment that I was like, I have to watch my reel and she thinks I'm ready to direct and making a short film is not my priority right now make becoming an ad meeting more people like her. That's the priority right now, and meeting other assistant directors, which is what I'm doing now who approached the TAs who were more like me, is really important to me right now and figuring out how to navigate because it is a political minefield, you know, navigating the ad versus the director. You know, it's not easy, but I think it's doable. And I think I have the right temperament to walk that line. So that's something that I discovered. So I would say it's a little different for everybody. But that's the basics of like balancing the creative versus your access. You know, if your dad, Steven Spielberg, then I think you can quit your second ad here. But if not, it's a really good way to continue to create access and opportunity while you're working on, you know,

Zack Arnold 36:50

If I'm someone that's on the outside looking in, and I'm frankly kind of one of those because I don't really understand set politics, and what are the actual day to day duties of a second versus a first, I have a pretty clear idea of what a director's duties are. But let's say somebody is a little bit earlier in their career. And they're learning the ropes about these different various positions. One thing that confuses me, is you saying, well, you also have to have the creative skills, why am I not getting the creative skills as a director, if I'm doing the second route to the first route to the director? That makes logical sense to me if I've never been in that world? So what creative skills Am I not getting? That I'm going to have to get on my own by just directing my own stuff,

Samantha Lavin 37:27

You can learn coverage of how to cover a scene basically. And you that'd be so as an editor, you know that and so you can learn that by an ad, I think, especially first ad not so much. Second thing. Second thing is a lot more scheduling and more behind the scenes. But as a first Yes, you can learn what covered what's basic coverage, you can learn some lighting, you can learn lenses, you can learn, you know, what makes something feel a certain way. But as far as the skill of having a vision, or a story, you can watch someone do that all day long. But until you go out and you say this is my vision, let me make it happen. You have to do that. You have to actually do that and see what works for you also talking to actors, finessing the language of getting the performances that you need, especially in television, which is also a political dance, you can learn a little bit from being an ad because a lot of directors just don't talk to actors as much as they probably should. So you do that. But still, when it's your baby, when it's your episode, or your short or your feature, you know, you have to have a connection with the actors, you have to have a trust that that you know that they trust you that they know that you're looking out for that. So to an extent Yeah, it's a great it's the best film school in the world. And I've said that since I was a DGA trainee. This is my film school. It's what I said when I got my first training assignment. And it's been, but I've always made films on the side. I've always done that since I started directing theater director films, I've directed TV, you know. So I keep myself in it.

Zack Arnold 38:59

So it sounds like the trajectory is actually a lot more similar than I thought to working in post production and wanting to go from the assistant route to the editing route, where it mostly needs to be a combination of both. Where there are people I would assume, and you would know better than I would especially being in the DGA, and with all of your amazing networking skills. I would guess that there are directors that go just the short route to the indie film route to bam, they're going to be directing an episode of TV or they get bigger budget features, and they've never been a first ad once is that fairly common?

Samantha Lavin 39:30

Oh, yeah. Yeah. That's not to be but it's much more common for men. But yes.

Zack Arnold 39:37

So for anybody that's listening, thinking, well, I just I need to start as a second. It sounds like just as far as math and probability you would say that's probably not going to be the the more likely route. Right? Right. So really, it's about getting out there and learning the craft and just being a director and upping the scale of the work that you're directing as opposed to climbing the proverbial ladder from the second at the first AD to the director position?

Samantha Lavin 40:02

Yeah, I mean, right? It's, it's, it's kind of happening at the same time if you're doing the ad route. And if you're not doing assistant directing route, then yes, it's definitely just scaling up your work.

Zack Arnold 40:11

And then how about the camera department, this is another area where I'm just completely and totally ignorant and naive. My understanding is that there are some people that end up in land in the directing chair through the camera department, because they spent so much time composing shots, and they're the ones that figure out the coverage, at least for the directors that don't understand coverage. So how often do you see somebody landing in either a first ad chair or a director's chair that came specifically from camera.

Samantha Lavin 40:35

Never in the first ad chair, that's not a route at all. And we'll think, because two different unions, so I've seen camera operators end up directing, and I've seen DPS, for sure end up directing DPS more, you know, I've seen DPS I've seen first, and I've seen editors, as far as crew go, those are the biggest three, sometimes script supervisors actually, also because they're, they're actually very similar to what the ad sees in terms of worrying about coverage. And really, you know, being very close to the director there, you know, we're like the left and right hands of the director, you know, and then the DP. So those are the that group of people are the people that get probably most likely promoted actors also, obviously, sometimes do. But those are the ones that I see, as far as crew would be dp, the first ad script supervisor, and I've seen the editor as well.

Zack Arnold 41:25

Now let's dive into the politics of it a little bit more. And I definitely want to get to the networking side of things we're going to get there shortly. But I want to talk a little bit more of the politics, just in general, first of all, managing the politics of showrunners, or executive producers versus writers versus directors, there's a whole world that you have to navigate to get in front of the right people. But the other elephant in the room is the politics of being a female that's trying to get into what at least right now is a very male driven industry. And thank God, they're starting to realize that there's some fallacy to that. And they're opening up these different programs and mentorship to make this happen. Well, let's talk about some of the politics that you've been navigating in the past that you continue to have to navigate to make this transition into the director's chair.

Samantha Lavin 42:05

Well, there's a couple things one of the things that there's a there's always been, for some reason, it's a very American belief that the assistant directors or managerial position that we are just we are, you know, logistics people. And maybe that was true at some point, you know, I've only been doing this as long as I've been doing it. But in my experience, that's just not the case. We work as a first especially not as a second so much, but as a first, you're always weighing in on, how do we finish this quicker, it just started reading, which thoughts are most important to your creative vision? We can't really answer those questions. If you're not involved in creative conversation, you have to know what coverages needed you have to understand the show you're working on. So that you know because the directors just to get straight in TV directors a guest. AD is there every other episode. So they really know the tone, the flow, how fast the DP shoots, you know, what you can count on what you can't count on what who's, you know, the strength. So, you're that person, you're the ally. So yeah, I think there's this common misconception that ADs are not creative. And so maybe these, maybe they're not, you know, there are abuses of art, they come, they're definitely their strengths are more of the logistical side. And that's fine, that can work. But there are a lot of ADs who are who are very creative, and who are very collaborative without stepping on the toes. And director, I mean, obviously, the goal is to accomplish the director's vision that you write for your television show. That's, that's the goal. And that's my goal when I'm assistant directing. So my goal is not to put my vision on it, it's to help the director, but at the same time, obviously, you're, you know how to do that. You do it all the time. So I think that ADs, who are also pursuing directing, and who are so out there in the trenches, doing the work and writing and directing and creating, it's a really great resource because they're always talking about how do we find female directors? Where are they, they can't find them, you know, oh, I just bumped into an ad excuse me.

Zack Arnold 44:02

And you're all this like, we're over here What's going on?

Samantha Lavin 44:05

And you know, it's happening more and more, but you know, it as with anything new especially, you know, women in positions of any sort of authority is always harder to get get those jobs right. So speaking as a first ad is a lot less women war now than ever, but you know, in directors just the next thing now, they're, they're talking about all over the place, we're gonna hire women, we want to hire women, but for some reason, they're creating all these programs, these shadowing programs and these like, you know, all these things to discover talent when you have women in the DGA standing next to you who have talent who would love you to watch the reel. Right there. So why is it political? Because you they need to believe and it should be true that your priority is the show and your priority is that you're needy at the moment that you're standing there and you're on set and doing the job, but after hours or whenever when we're not, you know focusing on that. Why why Can I say, you know, by the way, this is what I've done? And would you mind watching my reel? And would you consider me for this? I don't think that should be a thing. But it can be a thing. And there are producers who really don't, they don't want to look at it that way. They just don't want to see it, though I'm not sure why they don't know where it comes from in in. In the UK, particularly ADs get promoted director all the time. It's, it's a thing. So not sure what the block is. But that's the politics of it.

Zack Arnold 45:27

One thing that I want to get into a little bit deeper, that I think is really important to point out, is something that you mentioned, that most people don't do, which is, especially in America, maybe it's not this way in other countries, but in America, you're just a first ad. And I firmly believe the reason that's probably the way that it is, is CYA. If I'm a producer, if I'm an executive, if I'm a showrunner, I'm just going to cover my own ass, because I don't have the belief or the faith that I can take a chance. And I can let you make that transition. Because there's just not enough room in the budget. If something goes wrong, there's not enough room with the schedules in the day. So I don't believe that others don't want to give people the chance to make the transition or champion them. There's just so little room for error with the way that film and television is designed nowadays, I think it just comes down to people covering their own ass. But I think the key to making any transition and it sounds like it's just as much of the case for first ad to directors would be for assistant to editor or whatever that major transition is, you have to do your job really well first, and then you have to make it very clear you can be more valuable elsewhere, which is what you're doing now, where you're now firmly in the first ad position on a huge show. But you're already using the language. I'm transitioning to the director's chair. But if you suck as a first ad, and you've got a great real, do you think people are going to give you a shot at the director's chair?

Samantha Lavin 46:51

No, no, because that's part of what my credibility of it is, it's like you just said, the CYA element is that I am a first ad. So if I'm bad First AD then I'm going to be a pretty crappy director.

Zack Arnold 47:01

And that's a trap that I've seen so many assistant editors fall into, where they show up in their mind that I am so much better than this. And I'm already an editor, that's the wrong version of having the confidence that I can do the job. It's there. It's that fine line between confidence and arrogance. That's the arrogant version of I'm an editor. So therefore, I asked them to do things that are assistant editor duties. And the response is we I know that's not a big deal. But hey, can I cut scenes today? No, because you didn't do your job? Well, first, you demonstrate not that you're a great assistant editor, but demonstrate you're great at what you do. And you have amazing attention to detail and you follow through and you exceed expectations. I'm going to assume you can apply that to any job that you're going to do in the future. And I'm willing to take a shot, but you can't arrogantly believe you're an editor, you have to confidently believe you're an editor. And I think that's the the switch that you may not from the arrogance to the confidence, but you went from a lack of confidence that I'm a first ad or lack of confidence that I'm a director. And now you just know I am those things.

Samantha Lavin 48:02

That's right. Yeah. And I think you know, I think it's also just getting people's heads around it. It's such an old belief, you know, like anything, that those are two different that those two things can't be combined. Because imagine if you said to somebody will imagine combining an assistant director and your most creative director and putting them into one person, wouldn't it be great? Most people would say, yeah, so it's really just, you know, getting people to think differently.

Zack Arnold 48:25

So speaking of thinking differently, that's the perfect segue to talking about networking. Speaking of lack of confidence to confidence, let's talk about your approach to networking before you and I met. How did that go? How did that work? What was your process because you it's not like you came out of nowhere. And all of a sudden, I just made you when you're this thing, like you were already very successful, doing great. And what you were doing, you were just a little bit stuck. But networking is an area that was particularly painful for you. So talk to me a little bit more about your networking process, or lack thereof.

Samantha Lavin 48:57

I don't think there was any process, that's part of it. There was there was no process. It was like, you know, what, I would try to stay in touch with people that I felt like, you know, I either admired or, you know, be helpful in my career, obviously, I would feel like my, what I do well, is that I am authentic, I don't try to be somebody that I'm not and I don't try to pretend, you know, I don't have a talk, you know, I just don't have that. So that that works. What, it only gets me so far, because I didn't know how to continue those relationships or continue those conversations. And I didn't have the confidence. Like, I could ask somebody for a letter of recommendation, and they and they'd always do it, but that would sort of be the end of it for me, you know, and I wasn't using I was it wasn't a methodical outreach. It was just, you know, if I needed something, I would reach out to somebody and that was it. So it wasn't really advancing me in any way and I didn't understand how people cultivated those relationships that I saw people go championing other people, especially as directors, because that is a lot of how it happens. It was like the teacher that like no idea how that happened. Okay? Why not me? I understand. So that unlearning now.

Zack Arnold 50:15

What is it that you're learning what's changing?

Samantha Lavin 50:17

Targetting, the way you laid out sort of how to prioritize this very methodical I what I love about you is that you applied logic to a creative in a sort of amorphous thing, you know, and it gives me I'm like, Oh, so there's actually a method I can use. It's actually I like, being like, I can go through every time and you can work. So I made the list that you taught us how to make, which puts potential contacts in a priority order, in a way that I don't even have to do it myself, really. And then it started getting me thinking about what what do I really need to know from these people? Next, in order to advance my career, like, what do I really need, and I didn't know what I really needed next. So my next thing was, well, you got to find out. So that helped shift what the priorities were and who will do my next outreach people kinda like the way we did the career like, what is the next thing that you need to do that will move you forward and make everything else easier to move forward. So it's really just applying that to the networking thing?

Zack Arnold 51:20

It seems to be and it's not like we've reached out to Steven Spielberg, and he's gonna let you shadow on set, at least not yet. But you've had a couple of nice small little wins that have moved you forwards in the networking game. So talk a little bit more about those because I'm a really big believer that you can put all of your eggs in one basket, and say, I'm going to pick this one person, and I'm going to reach out, I'm going to share my life story. And everything's going to be in the email, and this is my one shot. And if they don't respond, that's it. I'm not worthy, and I don't belong, this business is the opposite. It's tiny wins. So talk about some of the tiny wins that we've accumulated, that have helped you move just a little bit further down this path.

Samantha Lavin 51:55

Well, in terms of taking this in the networking events, our thing now and it's, you know, even before I wrote the first email and sent it, there were a bunch of weeks, we're doing all this prioritizing, but very those weeks, I felt my mindset starts change, what started were things about the way that we could outreach and how it doesn't have to be annoying, and you know, how we can provide value to other people. So that was in my mind. So there were a couple of cases that came up just kind of randomly, where I was like, Oh, you know, maybe I'll just send a text to this person, and make their day better. And, you know, whatever, you know, so I started kind of using the technique even before I sent the first email. And I didn't really even mean to, one of the things that happened was that somebody told me, they recommended me for a show. And I was like, oh, wow, I didn't even know that. That's great. And of course, that came from prior show that I've gotten as a first. And so I was like, well, thank you so much. And that occurred to me, I was like, well, it's been a couple of weeks, like I could sit around and wait for that person to phone me. Or I could proactively reach out to that person who I don't know, at all. But they know me, because I've been recommended them and just say, Hey, I just wanted you to know that I really admire your work because I looked her up. And I love the shows that you worked on all completely true. And I'm available, and I would love to work with you if the opportunity presents itself. Well, she called me the next day. And that's got me on the job that I'm on now. And, you know, I could ended up bottom of the resume pile, you know, just because because people forget stuff. And instead of that, you know, she was like, Oh, don't try it and just reach out to that person. She called me the next day, we had a great conversation and eventually led to this job that I'm about to do now. So that was one huge shift. I wouldn't not.

Zack Arnold 53:35

So to boil it down to the tiniest component parts. if somebody were to ask you in a nutshell on a sentence, how did you get the job as a first ad, one of your first big first ad gigs and a huge Apple show the responses? I sent somebody a text message. Yeah, email pretty much boils down to that right or send him an email. But it started with the referral, finding out who the person was to target at the time. But the most important thing I want to put this in giant bold letters with Asterix, 72 point font, your mindset was, I'm going to provide value to this person. It wasn't Hey, look at me, I'm amazing. You should be choosing me. It was here's why you're amazing. And here's why I admire you and how your work is inspired me. And what I love about this, and we've talked about this a lot in our classes recently, because you've seen it happen to all the students the same as everybody else. They always want to reach out and set up the call or set up the meeting. And I'm like, Dear God, stop doing that. Ask for the littlest thing possible to start the conversation and what's been happening over and over is the other person is saying, you know what, let's just chat. Let's get on a call and removes all the burden. Same thing happened to you?

Samantha Lavin 54:42

Yeah, that was the next the first email I sent and was to some another assistant director who's a little bit ahead of me in terms of she's now directed, you know, at least like 10 episodes of television. She's really busy. And I've always sort of like we know, mutual people in common, but we've never had a conversation so I didn't know You remember my name, but I reached out to her provided value. I watched some of what she had directed, commented on what she directed, I just kind of followed exactly what you know, we discussed and reached out to her. And she, you know, within a few hours, wrote back to her, you know, I'm really busy. I'm editing like five different things right now. But how about, you know, not this weekend, but the following week, give me a call. I was like, I asked her for a call and just said, Can I ask you one or two questions about your so now we're having a call.

Zack Arnold 55:32

It's like matches,

Samantha Lavin 55:33

It kind of is then she followed up and said, You know what, let's not do this email thing. I'm not great at responding emails, here's my phone number that happened the other day, too. So

Zack Arnold 55:41

I love it. So in short, if you had been sitting around working on the pilot script, or doing this or that or just kind of waiting for an opportunity to happen, would you be on the apple show? Because sometimes that does just happen. You put yourself out into the world, you've worked with people in the past, and then randomly, you get a text message or a phone call. Because somebody heard about you six months ago or a year ago, your resume gets on a pile, you just magically get the apple show, would that have happened in this case?

Samantha Lavin 56:09

Uh no I don't think so.

Zack Arnold 56:10

So just to clarify, you created the opportunity that was handed to you. Yes. Do you feel confident that as soon as this job is over, you can create the next one? Yeah. And do you feel ready to take on that next opportunity, the one that you create that just happens to land in your lap one day?

Samantha Lavin 56:29

I do.

Zack Arnold 56:30

Good. That's the whole point of this process. It's an ugly process, digging into some really ugly, nasty stuff. And it's not fun. But you show up, you keep doing the work, you allow yourself to be pushed into that discomfort zone. And here we are. And the cool thing is, you and I are probably going to be doing a follow up to this in a year or two or three, when all of a sudden you're working on all the big shows is the the next big female director in television. I have no doubt about that whatsoever. The question is, do you have any doubt about that whatsoever?

Samantha Lavin 56:59

You know, I saw these a little bit of reservation, I'm not quite where I want the first ad thing, but I am going into it feeling like I'm not just the first ad on the first ad/director. So that's definitely a big improvement.

Zack Arnold 57:11

Excellent. Well, good for you. So the last question, last formal question that I want to ask is, I want you to assume that right now, there's another Sam Lavin in this listening, very similar position to where you were about a year ago. And they're thinking, Oh, my God, this is me. I'm dealing with all the same crap. And I just I thought I was never going to get out of it. And I believed all this bs that was in my head. What advice would you give that, Sam?

Samantha Lavin 57:35

That it's about your mindset, it's about really knowing what the next right thing to do is that's in front of you and really being clear and focused about that? Because that's what gives the confidence and it shifts your mindset. That's the biggest shift me not underselling myself. And really, you know, taking those steps to skate gave me a lot of confidence. And, you know, feeling like I was I was actually providing value and I wasn't just begging for a job. All of that in the focus gym, you're supposed to say, Oh, yeah, no, seriously. And of course, I promote the focus gym because I need the focus gym. And if I'm the only one on the focus gym, then it doesn't really you know, I do it. Believe me, I sit there sometimes by myself in the focus gym.

Zack Arnold 58:16

I have to it's funny, even that even works. When you know that somebody might it's just like going to the library, even if you're all by yourself in this giant room. You know, somebody might come in and see you not working or studying. So I might as well study

Samantha Lavin 58:29

Yeah, oh yeah.

Zack Arnold 58:30

Focus gym has the same effect. I used to do it all the time. And the bummer for me Is it because of all the legalities and security issues with Sony and Cobra Kai, I've kind of had to just remove myself from the gym. But you and I used to be in it all the time. Before I was on the show. And even if somebody cancelled, I would just have the little window in the corner like, Oh, they might show up and they can't see that I'm secretly really lazy and unmotivated. So I gotta be working on stuff.

Samantha Lavin 58:54

Right, right, right. No, I know. I do it like today. I was like, I'm in the gym today. And I laughs it out. So what am I gonna do like not be in the gym? Today? I have to be in the gym

Zack Arnold 59:03

All about accountability. I love it. So is there anything else that I haven't asked you, that you would like me to ask or that you'd want to talk about about this whole journey before we wrap it up?

Samantha Lavin 59:12

Um, no, I mean, just that. I mean, it's not about like, I'm just I'm excited to tell people about it because I've told several of my friends about it. And I think it can work for any industry and I think it's really is all about the mindset focus, you know, putting these certain pieces into place and you know, it's just it's it's unbelievable the amount of focus and clarity that I have now. So yeah, I don't think today to ask that I would that's I just you know, I sometimes I feel like I'm talking about some weird cult I was talking to one of the other one like, I just watched this cult show recently that was on I forget what it's called but ever. And I'm like I keep talking about this thing like this focus gym and like, like, you know, doing these things in focus and clarity and joy sound like a weird but honestly, like there's nothing there's no selling. There's nothing to do. It's just literally something that's made my life a lot better. And so I just want to tell people, this, it's moved my life tremendously in the past year, or however long it's been.

Zack Arnold 1:00:08

Well, it's been an exciting journey. And I can tell you with a high level of confidence that the first time you and I talked, and we had our little 30 minute introductory, meet and greet call, like, yeah, I think she's gonna get a lot out of this, I have, I have a pretty good sense of character. And I'm not always right. And every once in a while, I get really excited about a student and they kind of peter out and not show up and not really get something out of it. But I would say the vast majority do. But then I also think to myself, is this gonna be a podcast? I think, I think this might be a podcast eventually. And I just I had that feeling with you. But I kept waiting for the post, when you said, just landed the big giant first ad gig. And as soon as I saw it, I'm like, yep, there it is. Alright, now it's time to schedule. So I'm glad that we're here. And like I said, I'm looking forward to a follow up. year, two years, three years, you know, weed, nobody knows what the timeline is. And as soon as you release, control the timeline, and you focus on putting in the effort becomes becomes a little bit easier, and you just have to be patient. And that time will come. And I think we'll be having that follow up conversation at some point.

Samantha Lavin 1:01:10

I'm looking forward to it for sure.

Zack Arnold 1:01:11

On that note, if anybody is listening today that is super inspired by what you've accomplished, where you are, what you're doing and where you're going, and they want to connect with you directly. And of course, provide you value when they connect with you. How can they do that? What's the easiest way to reach you?

Samantha Lavin 1:01:25

Absolutely. I would say email, my email address is fair fight FA IR F I GHT, just like the two words Fairfight@mac.com. So yeah, feel free,

Zack Arnold 1:01:36

Easy enough. So it's, they don't have to spend all the time like going on the web and figuring out Well, let me go to LinkedIn. And like none of that crap. Like, let's just have conversations like human beings. But again, I want anybody that wants to do it, learn how to provide some value. So you can build a relationship and not just ask, ask, ask. That's something you've learned how to do well. So on that note, really excited about this conversation today. I'm glad that I've been able to, to provide a little bit of guidance and support at the end of the day, like I tell everybody else first call the first video, the whole program, there's two people on this call, only one person can help you. And spoiler alert, it's not me. So you're here because of you, I just kind of helped guide you along the path. And maybe maybe shorten the learning curve a step or two, but you're here because of you. So I want to make sure that you get you get the credits, and you should be very proud of what you've accomplished so far.

Samantha Lavin 1:02:24

Thank you I appreciate it.

Zack Arnold 1:02:25

On that note, I appreciate your time. And I thank you so much for being here.

Samantha Lavin 1:02:28

Thank you Zack.

Zack Arnold 1:02:31

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 1:02:55

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 1:03:15

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 1:03:21

So a 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 everyday 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, when 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% pasture raised cows. And then the second thing if you're actually going to do it every day, it needs to be simple. It tastes good.

Zack Arnold 1:03:55

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 1:04:13

And even better for your listeners with code optimize on either a one time purchase for that first, Subscribe and Save order 50% off so if you do that, Subscribe and Save that's 20% off and 50% off with code optimize. It's a fantastic deal.

Zack Arnold 1:04:27

If you're looking for a simple and affordable way to stay energetic focused and alleviate the chronic aches and pains that come from living at your computer. I recommend new standard whole protein because it's sourced from high quality ingredients that I trust and it tastes great. to place your first order visit optimizeyourself.me/newstandard and use the code optimize for 50% off your first order.

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. Don't forget to visit optimizeyourself.me/podcast. As a quick reminder if you're interested in learning more about working with me as your coach and mentor to become more productive and design a clear path towards your goals, enrollment opens soon for the spring semester of my optimizer program. To learn more, get your name on the waitlist and apply visit optimizeyourself.me/optimizer. Applications will be reviewed and accepted until Friday, April 23. 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 the 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 am 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:


Sam Lavin

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Sam Lavin is an award winning DGA director, assistant director and writer who has worked on film and television projects including “Lucifer”, “The Mayor” and “Criminal Minds”.

Samantha adapted and directed the British play “Key Change” in its West Coast premiere. It received an LA Times 99 Seat Beat Critic’s Pick for its innovation and raw staging of a story highlighting women in prison.

Samantha wrote and directed the film, “In Memory of Me” which screened at over 40 festivals worldwide, winning awards including Panavision’s New Filmmaker Grant. She also created a television show called “Out of the Frying Pan” which was optioned by NBC/Comcast.

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).”