Michelle Tomlinson: “Everyone has a voice and deserves to be heard”

I would love to bring a movement of listening. The only reason we are so divided is that folks are interested in yelling and shaking their fists. How can we engage in forward movement if we are yelling and nobody is listening? What would happen if we simply listened to what others have to say? As […]

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I would love to bring a movement of listening. The only reason we are so divided is that folks are interested in yelling and shaking their fists. How can we engage in forward movement if we are yelling and nobody is listening? What would happen if we simply listened to what others have to say?

As a part of our series about Inspirational Women In Hollywood, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Michelle Tomlinson.

Originally from New Mexico, Michelle Tomlinson loves working behind and in front of the camera. An Authentic Human Outlier, Tomlinson thinks outside the box and inside her heart — even in the industry known as Hollywood.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?

My pleasure and thank you!

I grew up in Northern New Mexico, in the small town of Los Alamos. My parents and I were very close and we hung out a ton. We camped and hiked, and did what we called “river walking” — also known as we would lose the hiking trail by the river and just walk up the middle of the river, instead of turning around and heading back to the car. They gave me a sense of safety and adventure, family and fun, and a sense of being one with our earth.

Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?

I fell in love with acting when the Missoula Children’s Traveling Theatre would come to town in the summers. I think I was six when I landed my first role and was a dancing tree in Snow White. And I can’t really dance, so…

As much as I enjoyed the theatre in the summers as a small child, I fell into heaven with my Video Productions class in High School. My teacher was the fearless rockin’ woman named Leslie Doran. Affectionally known as Miz Diz. She was a pure force of inspiration for me during high school. Working and creating — writing, shooting, editing my own content was a great escape from my own beautiful teenage angst. We were even tied to the News 101 program that was centered in Albuquerque and my friend Kelby and I won an award for writing a really cool news piece about tobacco use in high school.

In college, at Eastern New Mexico University, I got my thirst for acting back and that’s ultimately what I got my degree in: BFA Theatre Performance.

Even all those years ago, I was inspired to work all facets in my favorite industry in all the world.

Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

I think it’s the transformative personal growth and dawning realizations I’ve had since I first began. I can fill hours of conversation with a million interesting moments of meeting iconic producers, A-List Actors, weird synchronicities between me and characters I’ve played, how a boyfriend and I once booked the same film, totally per coincidence..

What I find most interesting these days is our own personal evolution and what we can do to continue spreading lessons to those around us.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

I was so excited to get a film audition with a brand new manager when I first moved to L.A. that I got completely lost on my way to the actual audition. When I say lost, I mean LOST. I was supposed to be somewhere on South La Brea and I wound up on La Cienega and totally sideways. I had a massive meltdown and finally had to call my manager to let her know how badly I screwed up, because by this time I was LATE to my audition.

As it turns out, I was also a week early for the audition! The following week, since I had my initial trial run, I made it to the audition. I didn’t book the gig, but I did learn to slow my roll and pay attention to things like dates and times. (at least a little better!)

Anyone who knows me personally is not at all surprised by this admission. Sometimes, I can be late and early at the same exact time.

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?

There are many people.

If I were to really think about just one person, it would be Landall Goolsby. We have been friends since dirt hit the earth. It was him and his roommate Patrick, another ENMU connection, who let me sleep on their floor when I moved to L.A. And Landall introduced me to the best acting teachers in Los Angeles. My dear friend and mentor Carolyne Barry took me under her wing and taught me tons about navigating my journey as an actor and my dear friend Amy Lyndon taught me a ton about the business side of acting. Landall has always had my back — he, in fact, was with me at the doctor appointment in which I heard my babies heartbeat while I was pregnant for the very first time. We’ve been through everything together!

You have been blessed with great success in a career path that can be challenging. Do you have any words of advice for others who may want to embark on this career path, but seem daunted by the prospect of failure?

The idea of failing is exciting. It’s only when we land straight on our own faces that we realize what’s not working and we pick ourselves back up and begin again. If you think about it, failure doesn’t actually exist. We often base failure on what someone else’s perception of success is, and it’s not based in our own truth. Therefore, you can’t fail.

My words of advice: STAY THE COURSE. You will have a million people tell you that you have no chance at this gig. And a million people tell you it is possible. Listen to your instinct. Your spirit knows what you want. You have to have an insatiable thirst to want to work in the film industry and the intellect to not take anything personally when someone gives you what you view is negative feedback. Keep the faith that you are headed in the right direction and don’t blink towards your idea of failure.

What drives you to get up everyday and work in TV and Film? What change do you want to see in the industry going forward?

Every day is a brand new opportunity to create and execute visions. Isn’t that amazing! I love this industry. We have the opportunity to bring entertainment, be it narrative or documentary, to people and entertain them. We have the high honor to help audiences think, laugh, be inspired, get scared.

I would love us to continue creating quality content that is inclusive with not only just women, but human beings of all backgrounds, faiths and ethnicities. Let’s shake the snow globe and create something awesome together.

You have such impressive work. What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? Where do you see yourself heading from here?

I am in post production on a film I directed, called “Redemption.” The creator of the podcast that I cast in 2019 Frijoles y Arroz, James Charleston, and I got together and turned his one man show into a film that we shot via Zoom, during the first part of the covid lockdown. This film takes an intense look at sexual assault and sexual violence and asks huge questions of society. The three Actors we booked Rose Cordova, Jake Red, Joe Grisaffi did an incredible job with pages and pages of dialogue and the story is very strong. It’s in the editing bay now, with Catharine Jones doing some of the editing, adding a lot of special nuances.

It’s a very powerful piece and I look forward to sharing it with the world.

“Edge”, a documentary I am directing and co-producing with the brilliant Lori Bowen, is going through another pass of editing right now. “Edge” is about Native American Language Preservation and is one of the most inspiring projects I have ever created. We had gotten our past work-in-progress cut into a film festival in New Mexico in March, and the lockdown happened! We are taking this time and opportunity to create another cut of it and strategize for another couple days of shooting, once we are able to safely do so.

I am also excited about two feature films that I am attached to direct for 2021 that I look forward to unveiling when all the moving pieces are locked into place!

We are very interested in looking at diversity in the entertainment industry. Can you share three reasons with our readers about why you think it’s important to have diversity represented in film and television? How can that potentially affect our culture and our youth growing up today?

  1. Everyone has a voice and deserves to be heard.
  2. It is our job, as leaders, to show our next generations they can achieve their dreams-regardless of gender, religion, or race.
  3. One of the best ways to come together as one humanity is to learn more about one another — what better way to learn more about one another than to experience cultures through the medium of television and film.

I can tell you that my four year old daughter knows that women really CAN do anything. She goes on shoots and watches footage with me. She was in the audience when I was presented with a beautiful plaque at my alma mater, ENMU, when I was the special guest for their Drama Fest this past February and she screamed at the top of her lungs “I AM SO PROUD OF YOU, MOMMY!!!!!”

While this personal example is a microcosm, it really says something about the things we teach our children. They are ALWAYS watching how we present ourselves to the world and how we handle ourselves when the world falls around us.

By having women in leadership positions in the entertainment industry, we are teaching our youth that women CAN be effective mothers AND filmmakers/actors/editors/writers , etc. We are teaching our youth that we are all worth our dreams and we are equal.

By having diversity with humans of different ethnicities, genders, and religious backgrounds, we are leading by sheer example of inclusivity.

The ranks of old that led by showcasing power over women and humans of different ethnicities, gender, and religious backgrounds have saturated the industry with a false exclusivity that is now being erased.

And how glorious it is, to witness such a fine shift in our paradigm!

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

  1. Don’t take anything personally. At the beginning of my career in L.A., I took everything personally. I had no idea that feedback was an objective personal opinion of someone else. I took everything to heart and because I made that choice, it made for some emotionally rough times as an artist.

2. Allow yourself to be vulnerable. This is a huge lesson. For all of us, at all career and life levels. If we cannot allow ourselves the space to be vulnerable, we will never be fully engaged in what we believe in, what we are doing, what types of stories we want to tell and how to allow emotions be channeled through our instruments. We will forever play it safe, never fully tasting what life has to offer. Being vulnerable is uncomfortable. Being uncomfortable leads us to having breakthroughs.

3. The blocks you’re running into are in your mind, they are not real. My friend and mentor Carolyne Barry did try telling me this a couple times, but I didn’t get it at the time she was trying to tell me. The truth? The blocks we encounter are NOT real. They’re a truth we bought, somewhere along the way, from someone else’s point of view. Not real.

4. Working with people you love is not the same as loving the people you work with. When you mix personal relations with business decisions, it becomes sticky very quickly. My Dad used to try to tell me that, and of course I assumed he was wrong. Hahahahah Truth is, he was very right. When we work with our loved ones, we have to be very careful about who we enlist to do what. Egos get in the way, things are misheard, visions are blocked and I just don’t recommend it.

5. Your entire vision can be fulfilled, if you stay the course. YEARS ago, I really did want to start directing as well as acting. I was the actor who would watch what everyone else was doing on set, in between takes. I had jobs at post production sound facilities, worked PA gigs, worked casting assistant gigs, etc. I wanted to learn everything I could about filmmaking, acting, and business. I thrive on learning new information and tidbits that will make me stronger than I was yesterday. I have applied EVERYTHING I have ever learned from high school to the present day to the acting, casting, and directing jobs I have worked thus far. I look forward to taking those lessons and new lessons into future projects.

Can you share with our readers any self care routines, practices or treatments that you do to help your body, mind or heart to thrive? Please share a story for each one if you can.

I am passionate about practices that keep me connected to the present moment and to our Earth and I share each of these things with my little girl:

Hiking — we have the best conversations during our hikes. We sit in the dirt and eat our snacks and hang out.

Yoga & Meditation helps us stay present and find our centers.

We do a lot of gardening and bird watching in our backyard, as another way to continuously stay connected to our Earth and do our part in helping the pollinators.

Dance Parties — we love rock n roll! We will dance to Livin’ On A Prayer by Bon Jovi, Paradise City by Guns N Roses and get crazy with the song Apples and Bananas.

Hot Baths — the best way to end the day. A lot of times, I will listen to a guided meditation or read a book or watch an episode of a show I enjoy. It’s a soothing way to close it all out and seal another great day!

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“I’d rather be able to face myself in the bathroom than be rich and famous.”

-Ani DiFranco

This quote speaks to me of keeping integrity intact on our journey. I’ve experienced so many people willing to cut everyone around them down, in order to try to get themselves higher. I’ve made 9 million mistakes and bad decisions, and I can safely say stepping on someone else in order to get to my own next step is not one of them.

You are a person of huge 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?

I would love to bring a movement of listening. The only reason we are so divided is that folks are interested in yelling and shaking their fists. How can we engage in forward movement if we are yelling and nobody is listening? What would happen if we simply listened to what others have to say?

Is there a person in the world whom you would love to have lunch with, and why? Maybe we can tag them and see what happens!

Ani DiFranco! She’s a warrior for the good! She doesn’t take no for an answer. When she had a challenge in getting her music signed to a quality label, she said screw it and created Righteous Babe Records.

Are you on social media? How can our readers follow you online?

I am!

Instagram: its_michelle_tomlinson

Facebook: mightymct

Twitter: themightymct

This was so informative, thank you so much! We wish you continued success!

Thank you for the kindness and opportunity!

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