Generally speaking, hard work = better results, but not always. Sometimes, less is more. The real trick is to know when to flip the switch.
I had the pleasure to interview actress and filmmaker Jenny Paul, who is the Executive Producer of Adulting with Jane. Adulting with Jane is a new short DIY Comedy series — think sitcom meets how-to video with a different expert/influencer appearing in each episode to teach Jane how to adult. In addition to being a palatable way to learn new skills, Adulting with Jane will be the first narrative series ever to feature shoppable video technology. When you see and like a featured product in the show, you can click on it, buy it on the spot, and easily return to the episode.
Thank you so much for joining us Jenny! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
When I was 9 years old, I entered and won a contest that was sponsored by Microsoft. It was called the “Imagine the Magic” contest where they asked kids ages 9–11 “What could the coolest computer do?” My response was “The coolest computer could take moments of time from the memory in my brain so I could replay the fun and happy times of my life.” Myself and 5 other winners out of 18,000 were flown to Seattle to meet Bill Gates and ‘pitch’ our ideas. I’ve always had a knack for seeing the potential in (and occasionally for coming up with) good ideas — even far-fetched ones. At some point in my life, I realized that it was in my power to make some of them actually happen, whether my own or other people’s ideas, if I was resourceful and worked hard enough. So that’s what I did. And continue to do.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
I’m not sure if this is the most interesting, but it is definitely on the top of the list somewhere! My first professional job after moving to New York was as an actor playing the mother of a woman that won a Tony Award the year I was born. I still can’t believe that happened. Crazy business!
Can you tell us about the “Bleeding edge” technological breakthroughs that you are working on? How do you think that will help people?
We’re working with a new interactive technology that is being coined “shoppable video.” Our team didn’t come up with it — but we heard about it a couple years ago through one of our associate producers and immediately started doing research on what it was, who was developing it, and how far along it was in development. We wanted to know if the experience was user friendly enough to keep the tiny attention spans of its potential audience (in my eyes) — millennials and Gen-Z’ers that are accustomed to buying their products online already and prefer curated content and unobtrusive advertising. It wasn’t. Since we didn’t have the money or resources to program a version ourselves, we waited patiently for the quality of the tech to catch up to the idea. We already had show idea in development that would be a perfect fit for the tech, so the minute the tech proved consumer ready, we greenlit the project.
How do you think this might change the world?
It will continue to change the world In the ways that direct to consumer content is already starting to shift the zeitgeist. People, especially young people, want to see the content that they want to see when they want to see it. They want to watch when they want, shop when they want, and are very slow to engage with anything that is not packaged to their personal preferences. So much so that a lot of times basic life and functional needs get overlooked for the many things to do and see in the world that are more interesting. “One stop shop” entertainment and curated shopping is the clear logical next step for content providers and brands that are trying to reach audiences that are harder and harder to nail down.
Keeping “Black Mirror” in mind can you see any potential drawbacks about this technology that people should think more deeply about?
Yes. Our team has spent two full years grappling with the ins and outs of this technology and how it will best be adopted by consumers. OTT (Over-The-Top) platforms such as Netflix, Hulu, and even some of the one’s we’re premiering on — ROKU, Apple TV, Chromecast and Amazon Fire — are not currently user friendly when it comes to a potential shopping function. Think about the last time you needed to put an email address or password into your smart TV device. How long did it take you? Was it seamless or easy? If you have a system like mine, the answer is a resounding ‘no’. Now think about what you would need to do to successfully pay for an item. Click on the shoppable item (this pauses the video), get out of your chair, walk to your wallet, get your credit card, sit back down, input the credit card numbers one by one, then expiration date, then CVC code, then billing address, then shipping address. You would have lost me at ‘get out of you chair.’ The technology (and more so the OTT platforms themselves) still have some major work to do to get this functionality to be as user friendly as the internet based versions are ready to be now. Our show, while we wait for the OTT interfaces to catch up with us, will be using easy links and QR codes to direct television watcher traffic seamlessly to the items available for purchase.
Was there a “tipping point” that led you to this breakthrough? Can you tell us that story?
Our tight knit team has been producing indie content for years. At some point we realized that there is an ever widening gap between television audiences and quality products and brands trying to reach those audiences. Advertisers are working furiously to reach the audiences they used to reach so easily, but commercials and direct advertising are becoming more and more a thing of the past. People are relying more on word of mouth and crowdsourcing than ever when it comes to purchasing decisions. If an advertiser still wants to capture members of a younger audience during their highly coveted time in front of a screen (which, let’s face it, is where the average young American spends most of his or her free time), he or she needs to share that time. What better way to get to a consumer than by seamlessly integrating product and buying potential into the entertainment that he/she’s already watching. I can’t count how many times I’ve watched a show and thought “I love that shirt” but couldn’t purchase the shirt even if I wanted to as I would have no clue what brand it was or where to even start looking for it.
What do you need to lead this technology to widespread adoption?
Word of mouth and a good megaphone oughta do. The tech itself is a really strong development all on its own. We’re just heralding it into the television entertainment realm where the audiences already are. When it takes off, all of the OTT platforms will catch up soon enough, and then you’ll be deciding whether you want to own every cool prop, set piece, or costume from your favorite television show. Show designers — get ready!
What have you been doing to publicize this idea? Have you been using any innovative marketing strategies?
We are in the “let’s throw everything we can think of at the wall and see what sticks” phase. Our favorite strategy right now is something I actually came up with personally that we’re calling our “Clickstarter” Campaign. I can’t take credit for the name, but it’s basically a “Kickstarter” Campaign to promote Adulting with Jane social media interaction, series subscriptions, and word of mouth with no money involved. A “Clickstarter Backer” earns 1 point for every social media “like,” 2 points for every ‘comment’, 5 points for recruiting a new follower, 25 points for a new series subscriber, etc… Their points accumulate to earn free prizes: anything from access to a private email group with special offers and giveaways from our sponsors to branded show swag to a designer messenger bag. Backers can even earn a walk-on role on the show or an Associate Producer credit. We currently have a small but mighty group of “Clickstarter Backers” that grows everyday!
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
So many… and thus the Oscar speech begins and the Orchestra looms… but I’ve got to give this one to my parents: Craig Paul and Julie Chapman Paul. Their support for me and my career and personal endeavors over the years has been unequivocal. Not only do they support me on the level of “we’re your biggest fans,” they also are willing to be critical and honest. They tell me hard truths, but only when I need to hear them (not just because they want their opinions heard) and remind me to ‘keep driving’ when I personally can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. They’re willing to brainstorm with me when I need inspiration or help solving a problem, be excited with me when something great happens, and listen non-judgmentally when I just need an outlet. They treat me as an equal, and they’ve made it clear over the years that they respect me for my dedication to fight to create something I believe in, ability and willingness to think outside of the box, and for my continued choice to be resilient instead of defeated when and if shit starts to fall apart. I chose a hard path. They could have picked me apart for it. Instead they said, in their actions, we respect you. And, in their words, “Go for it! How can we help?”
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
I try to bring good with me every day — whether it’s a smile to someone on the street, a thank you to the grocery clerk, or something much more tangible. With Adulting with Jane specifically, our goal is to demystify could-be scary skills and concepts and instill viewers with a sense of confidence about the skill that is covered in the episode — whether it’s learning to change a tire, how to use an instant pot, or helping a friend manage a particularly bad moment in his or her life without fear of making it worse. I think that’s by and large what I do in my real life as well. I seek out and use creative and empathetic tactics to help people all around me feel comfortable creating positive change for themselves.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started”?
- Learning how to lead effectively takes countless and varied group and personal successes & failures on every level day in and day out for years and years — along with a truck-load of empathy. And you will always have more to learn. Even more time necessary to learn to really inspire a team and properly support positive group morale.
- The goal isn’t perfection, it’s doing the best you can do with what you have in the time you’re given.
- A successful collaboration is just that. A collaboration. You can’t and shouldn’t do it alone. Each collaborator is equally important to the success of the venture, if not for their expertise and/or for their tangible work done, then for their personality and the way their personality adds to the chemistry of the team. If you cannot be a team player, don’t play a team sport.
- Generally speaking, hard work = better results, but not always. Sometimes, less is more. The real trick is to know when to flip the switch.
- You’re going to have a few meltdowns. Doing something new is stressful. Forgive yourself now for the meltdown you’re inevitably going to have later, but don’t let it stop you from forging ahead.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I would give everyone the peace of mind and confidence to trust-in and act on their own considered choices without regret (within reason). We have billions of people in the world walking around each day on proverbial eggshells not to disappoint, shame, dishonor, embarrass themselves or others, guilty that they’ve made a wrong decision or so afraid of what other people might think that they never make one in the first place. We need some worldwide self-esteem back.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
I don’t know if this is already a quote, but if not, I’m making it one right now. “Make your own quotes.” ~Jenny Paul (or someone else probably)
I guess the thought there is, develop and learn to love and articulate your own viewpoint! There’s only one you, and I’m interested in being inspired by that person and that person’s contributions.
Some very well known VCs read this column. If you had 60 seconds to make a pitch to a VC, what would you say? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂
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