With children I believe quantity is equally as important as quality — with kids you need to “be there” when it happens in order to experience it with them. My wife and I made some big changes when we decided to have a child. My wife crafted a business to work from home and I had to find new clients that required less travel. All these decisions were not looked upon as sacrifices, they were strategic moves that allowed us to be the parents we wanted to be. We had to make room for the “parenting job” we wanted in our lives. Additionally, when my son was little, I would get up early everyday to spend time with him — so we had this great, regular time together that we both counted on and looked forward to — even though some mornings I was absolutely exhausted. We made a point of having a family dinner together every night… well, almost every night. That sacred time together allowed for lots of laughs, nonsense and as he got older, deeper conversations that just naturally occurred.
Harry is an award-winning TV and film producer, Television Academy member and President of NiteLite Pictures in Los Angeles. He has produced content from network reality series and three hour music concerts to theatrical documentaries and Super Bowl commercials for some of the world’s top networks, studios and advertising clients. He founded NiteLite Pictures in Los Angeles which develops and produces original content including documentaries, television series, live musical events and feature films. Harry has worked with network and studio clients including Disney, Discovery Channel, Syfy, Pixar, History Channel, truTV, Bravo, Knowledge Channel, ESPN and Lionsgate. He has won numerous awards and produced multiple TOP 10 Super Bowl ads, including the #1 Super Bowl ad in 2016 starring Kevin Hart. Harry has filmed all over the world and worked with numerous celebrities from the TV, film, music and sports worlds. A Chicago native and hockey fan, Harry has been a frequent speaker and featured guest on many podcasts, radio programs and news outlets, including Variety and Good Morning America. Most recently, he spoke at the Marché du Film in Cannes, Digital Hollywood and the Maui Film Festival.
Thank you so much for joining us Harry! Can you tell us your “childhood backstory”?
Iwas raised outside of Chicago in a very blue collar neighborhood. Rough weather, especially winters, forces you to be very resourceful and resilient. Growing up, while we didn’t have a ton, we enjoyed a very encouraging, fun and loving household with a lot of laughter and creativity. But we knew we had to fight and work hard for what we wanted. Being humble, starting from the bottom and working your way up is a very Chicago-style mentality that becomes part of your DNA.
Can you tell us a bit more about what your day to day schedule looks like?
Weekdays I’m up between 5:30 and 6am in a quiet household and jump into the projects that excite me. By 10am Los Angeles is awake and from then on, it’s constant conference calls, Zoom meetings, putting out fires… and trying to squeeze in some actual work. I typically send some funny texts to my son to see how school is going — and wrap up early on days he has basketball practice or games. I love taking him home after practice or a game — that time in the car is the best, where I don’t force the conversation and just see where it goes.
Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the core of our discussion. This is probably intuitive to many, but it would be beneficial to spell it out. Based on your experience or research, can you flesh out why not spending time with your children can be detrimental to their development?
My “research” consists of growing up with involved and available parents, a focus group of one (my son) and my personal observations. From my experience, kids without the gift of receiving consistent time from their parent(s) can have trouble sharing emotions, seek more attention or lack confidence in themselves.
On the flip side, can you give a few reasons or examples about why it is so important to make time to spend with your children?
I believe you, the parent, have the greatest impact on your child and their social and emotional development. Being present to help your child navigate, understand or respond to a situation, good or bad, is critical in defining how they will respond in the future. Your involvement and reactions as a parent to their failures, success, disappointments will give them confidence, support and a solid base. In my opinion, being there, in the moment as often as possible, is important. Real life is lived between the big events, vacations and recitals. Make time and show your family they matter.
According to this study cited in the Washington Post, the quality of time spent with children is more important than the quantity of time. Can you give a 3–5 stories or examples from your own life about what you do to spend quality time with your children?
I don’t 100% agree. Unlike adults who can get together on a weekend to fully recap and share deep, meaningful stories of the past week, children do not have that capability. They live in the moment. Being there for our child means being around when things happen. Good things, scary things, funny things, sad things. You cannot sit down on Saturday and ask a child of any age “how was your week” and expect a heartfelt connection and meaningful discussion. You are either there or you’re not when these things happen or when they are prepared to share those feelings and stories with you. I believe you need to be around consistently so when things happen, or especially later, when a thought or feeling bubbles to the top of their mind, you are there to LISTEN and SHARE. In my experience, you cannot decide on this day and between these times I will spend a quality moment with my child. You need to be available to talk, listen and share when the moment is right — on their timeline — if you want to truly connect.
Statistics and numbers do not hold a candle to looking at your child and seeing in their eyes when they are sad, happy, frightened or disappointed. So I use “being in the moment” as my barometer. I got involved with my son’s passions. My son loves sports — especially basketball. I have given up my hockey obsession, and now regularly watch the Hornets play the Clippers and check the sports apps to share basketball news with my son. It shows that he is on my mind and makes for some nice non-parenting dialogue… and sometimes it even sparks bigger conversations or thoughts. I’ll take him to an NBA or MLB game — those long hours in the car and at the stadium inevitably lead to great dialogue and fun times.
We all live in a world with many deadlines and incessant demands for our time and attention. That inevitably makes us feel rushed and we may feel that we can’t spare the time to be “fully present” with our children. Can you share with our readers 5 strategies about how we can create more space in our lives in order to give our children more quality attention?
This is the big question. With children I believe quantity is equally as important as quality — with kids you need to “be there” when it happens in order to experience it with them. My wife and I made some big changes when we decided to have a child. My wife crafted a business to work from home and I had to find new clients that required less travel. All these decisions were not looked upon as sacrifices, they were strategic moves that allowed us to be the parents we wanted to be. We had to make room for the “parenting job” we wanted in our lives. Additionally, when my son was little, I would get up early everyday to spend time with him — so we had this great, regular time together that we both counted on and looked forward to — even though some mornings I was absolutely exhausted. We made a point of having a family dinner together every night… well, almost every night. That sacred time together allowed for lots of laughs, nonsense and as he got older, deeper conversations that just naturally occurred.
How do you define a “good parent”? Can you give an example or story?
In my opinion, a “good parent” is someone who has prioritized raising their children and is making the effort to be there to share the good times, the bad times, the trying times and most important, willing to do the hard stuff (i.e. set rules, attend the same recital day after day, be available and present even though work is pressing).
How do you inspire your child to “dream big”? Can you give an example or story?
It starts with you. If you are living your best life, which means you are winning and failing and stumbling and getting back up and going at it again… then via osmosis your kids will see “dreaming big” come to life in front of them. “Dreaming big” is not just the award or end result, it’s the love and passion you put into that dream, the hard work, the jumping obstacle after obstacle in pursuit of something you believe in. I think it’s important that children see that the journey you are on when “dreaming big” IS the reward. And all children are different — boys different than girls — and talking about “dreaming big” can come across as stressful and piling on “high expectations” — and I wanted my son to be aware of our dreams as parents and show him not just the success, but the failure. If we are “perfect” and hide the struggle and disappointment aspect of us, then our children will think they need to be perfect. And that’s not doable or sustainable. We are humans. We will experience all of it in our pursuit of a “big dream,” but the positives of why we are striving to dream should outweigh the negatives of making it happen. For me, I share the victories proudly and humbly and with thanks — we all should. I also don’t shy away from answering the question “How was your day?” and respond with the standard “good.” I use that as a moment to share a piece of me with my son: today I killed it, won an award, was sad, frustrated, messed up… I share with him my experiences on the path to “dreaming big.”
How do you, a person who masterfully straddles the worlds of career and family, define “success”?
I believe success is a moving target that changes constantly based on where you are in your life. Success in my 20’s (which was defined completely by my work) meant something very different than when I was in my 30’s and I had married my best friend and we decided to have kids. I’ve always tried to be “in the moment’ and evaluate my life and the elements that were important for me to be satisfied / successful. And rather than hold onto definitions of “success” I had set when I was 18 or 25 or 32, I constantly adjust the parameters of success for where I am right now. Also, success at different times included random things: second home where we could get away and recharge from the hectic work pace, world travel, filming extensively outside the U.S., less travel so I could be home for dinners with our little family of 3 (meaning selling the 2nd home and finding all new clients and projects). Success for me is prioritizing the things and people that matter to me, today. Right now, success for me looks like; loving home for our family and our teenage son, time and money for many family mini-trips (Big Bear, NBA game, etc.), freedom of my time to attend my son’s 3pm basketball games, unique TV projects that involve new producing challenges.
What are your favorite books, podcasts, or resources that inspire you to be a better parent? Can you explain why you like them?
The Sleep Easy Solution– Jill Spivack. That’s legit research on the developing mind of a young child.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. Twenty-six times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” — Michael Jordan
This to me, is the key to life. Love what you do, keep at it, learn from your mistakes/losses and aim for the top (whatever that means to you). Each victory is that much sweeter when you have to work for it.
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 was very proud to produce, along with my co-production partner Ari Wilhelm, the award-winning short film #WeLaGente, currently on the festival circuit. The powerful short documentary was commissioned by Comcast, and takes a non-political, positive, human look at real Hispanic immigration stories… putting a face to the diversity that adds to the fabric of America. With the upcoming 2020 U.S. election, the divisive, political immigration discussions and the heart-breaking situation at the U.S. / Mexico border, this tiny, quiet film, and its big, human message, continues to gain momentum and interest by audiences in the United States and internationally. #WeLaGente is a movement in which I am honored to be involved.