How My Role as Film Producer Trained Me for Motherhood

I was 36 years old when I had my son. I always knew I wanted children, ideally, lots of them. I babysat at a young age, taught at camps and felt energetic and excited whenever I had the chance to be in the presence of children.

I spent my twenties and thirties building my career. I love my work and I always have. I am driven and passionate about being a filmmaker. I have been lucky enough to have worked on incredible projects, with talented, inspiring people.

By the time I was 36 I had been on the team of four narrative, theatrical films and I had produced documentaries for PBS, MSNBC, Ovation TV, Court TV, IFC and other networks. I had won a producing fellowship at Sundance, had produced countless corporate videos and commercials and had several big projects in development.

I was so invested in my work that I took on the production of a documentary, Close-Up Photographers at Work, 8 weeks before my son was due and it aired 4 days before his due date. I loved that project and thankfully, my son was patient.  He arrived two days late, so I had a couple days of downtime before he arrived. I think he and I were always in sync - even then.

newborn baby lessons motherhood and family documentary filmmaking

As all parents know, once my son was born, my world got turned upside-down. I fell madly, deeply in love with him and at the same time, I felt incredibly panicked about how out of control my life seemed.

I wanted to be with him all the time, yet I felt pulled back to my work. Ultimately, I found an amazing balance and it worked out beautifully for both of us.

And as both my son and I grew, I realized that being a producer is excellent training for becoming a parent. As a producer you need to do the following things, all of which prepare you for the challenges and responsibilities of parenting:

You plan everything   

A well thought out schedule is the backbone of any good production. As a parent, planning and structure are important. Children thrive when there is a rhythm and a familiarity to their lives.

You expect change and are able to roll with it when it happens

Things change in production all the time. People change their involvement with the project. Things get started and then halted. Even weather can change a shoot unexpectedly. 

It is the same with children; they have their own ideas, needs and intentions. And sometimes, as parents, we have to be ok with throwing our plans to the wind.

You encourage them to be their best selves

Producing is about collaboration. Once you have hired the best team possible, you have to do everything you can to support them in bringing all they are to the work they do.

The role of mother is exactly the same. You learn what your child needs, what makes them tick and how to encourage the most authentic manifestation of who they are.

You listen

Whether I am in conversation with a director, client, crew member or my son, I listen with my full attention.  I want them to be heard and to know their voices and opinions are important. 

Lilah tells us at she loves out her mom as we kick off our Mother's Day celebration.

It is in collecting thoughts and creating an environment of trust that the best films and the best parenting happens.

You trust that they will have the life meant for them

Films and children have their own paths. It is not my job to define what that path is, but to gently support and suggest things along the way. It is not up to me, entirely, when a film gets released or what my son’s interests are.

I can listen to what the film tells me and heed the cues my son gives me.

You create space with love

With films it is the director’s responsibility to dig deep and tell the truest story possible. With parenting, our responsibility is to accept and love our children exactly as they are. In both cases, it is critical that a platform is created for this acceptance and love. 

I work hard to do this every day with my son and with Portraits That Move.

Since having my son, I have made some of my best work, On Mediation, Kings Point, Boomtown and many more.  Now, with the work we do here at Portraits that Move, creating documentaries for families, I am so thankful to get to do this every day, to get to be a mother to my son and to have both of these worlds so intertwined, informed and strengthened by each other.