Always be willing to give those “enemy/frenemies” or difficult people in your career path a second chance. Example: My grandmother once told me, “there is always one in every office so just smile and kill with kindness”. She said that when referring to those difficult people you will have work with or cross paths with in your professional life. Most of the time it is easy to ignore or forget this little bit of advice, but it really comes in handy. I have had people who I was always nice to and helpful to and then BAM in an instant you get the sharp knife to the back…anything to help them look good even it means they step on you or betray your trust. I have then just smiled and walked away. This happened to me once, I had been working extra tasks and was up for a promotion and then a colleague of mine who I always got along with decided she wanted to go for the position because she kept passing up opportunities so she started looking for reasons to “rat me out” to our supervisors and by rat me out, it was silly. I have always been an on-time employee, I did my work, didn’t call in sick or take a lot of time off and went the extra mile. However, she would look for little nuances to bring against me or setup me up to fail. I finally had my last straw; I was about to get my degree and I was offered a starting position at a company in my chosen field that I counted my losses and put in my notice. Later I found out she got the job I was going to go for and years later I kind a got a casual conversation through email as if we were still acquaintances as if nothing ever happened. I had already moved way beyond, and it was no big deal. Bottom line always smile, take the higher ground and be humble…even to those who have wronged you in some way. You never know what that person is going through in their lives and maybe that promotion was better for them because in the end I wouldn’t have been happy in that job in the long run.
As a part of my series about pop culture’s rising stars, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Miranda Spigener-Sapon. Miranda is an award-winning filmmaker. Miranda’s first scripted series for television, Marisa Romanov Is being developed for Amazon. The series is inspired by the 2001 Venice and Berlin Festival Audience Choice winning short. Additionally, Miranda has a 4-book deal with Winterwolf Press which is the prequel to Marisa Romanov. The first novel, Charles: A Marisa Romanov Story, is to debut November 2019 in stores nationwide. In 1997, Miranda presented her dual city tour of her play, The Flame, which ran at the Off-Broadway Bleecker Street Theatre in New York City as well as at the NY Deli Theatre in Houston, Texas, which she directed. The play received critical acclaim from the Houston Press and The Village Voice during its original run. In 2017, Miranda directed the 20th anniversary run of The Flame in Los Angeles, gaining praise from The Los Angeles Times and several bloggers, including Laura Medina of The Arriviste. In 2018, Miranda directed the stage adaptation of her award-winning, time-travel/sci-fi/romance short story, Coffee with John, which received a glowing mention in The Los Angeles Times. Spigener-Sapon was a past producer with Discovery Networks, Spigener-Sapon worked on many television projects at TLC and Discovery, including as a writer/director for her film, Walk On, about equine/hippotherapy for the disabled that aired on TLC and Discovery. Most recently, Miranda directed the documentary feature, Masculinity That Inspires Change, written by Gunter Swoboda, now available on Amazon Prime. A Texas native, Miranda Spigener-Sapon lives in Los Angeles with her husband, Felipe. Miranda is repped by literary agents Karen Patmas and Paula Allen of National Talent LA and is managed by Will McPherson of M3 Artists.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?
I grew up in Pasadena, Texas which is part of the Greater Houston area. From the time I was very young, about 5 years old or so, I knew I wanted to be writer. I would constantly roundup, guide and “direct” my friends in little stories I would write up or create on the fly during playtime! It seems natural that I became a writer/director because there are many artists in my family: My aunt Amy is an award-winning director, my mom used to paint, my dad plays some guitar, my stepmom Jackie is not just an entrepreneur who help me shape my business sense, but she is a gifted clarinet player and won many awards in band during high school. My sister Aubrey is a gifted singer/songwriter along with my brother Michael. My great grandmother, whom I was very close to played piano and would always encourage my artistic pursuits. Every summer I was enrolled in painting and sculpting and early creative writing classes. My dad and stepmom helped me realize my interest in music when they bought my first violin and I started symphony orchestra at 13. I embrace all the arts…music, painting as an outlet to creativity, but my passion was always as a writer. I published my first professional story at 15 in a young women’s New York City publication called New Girl Times. A short skit I wrote and starred in during my junior year in high school for the University Interscholastic League (UIL) nomination ended up being my entry and acceptance into the National Radio Institute, Washington DC in a partnership program at University of Texas, Austin Film School Studies. Just recently that skit I adapted to a screenplay and was optioned by a Los Angeles production company in which I’m directing this fall. The film is called Lifelines and is a psychological dramatic Lynchian/Thriller dealing with bipolar disorder and depression.
Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?
I think I touched on it in the previous question, but I can’t say there is a specific story as like I mentioned. I always knew I wanted to pursue a career as a writer. My writing career did pause a bit and like most artists due to financial reasons. Using my business sense, during film school I worked full time in documentation for a NASA contractor and then after college graduation I took a position working for film and television editor and later moved to Los Angeles in 2000 to run an independent film distribution company as the Director of Acquisitions. I later returned to Houston, Texas to work on various independent film projects. I was Development Director for Ancestral Films and then I received the opportunity to direct a neo-noir short film I wrote called Marisa Romanov that screened in 2001 at Venice International and Berlin Film Festivals. Of course, over 20 years later this project inspired the Amazon series that is in development now and the major book deal on the prequels to the story. After that I produced a horror project with a cinematographer, I was collaborating with. That horror film starred Leslie Easterbrook (Callahan from the Police Academy movies) and veteran character actor Andrew Prine. I was always active with writers and the creative community. I started the Southeast Writers Conference, which I ran for 3 years. It was branded as an intimate conference for writers to work, learn, create and pitch their work to agents, editors, producers and publishers. Later, I accepted a position as Director of PR for a New York City mid-size publishing house which let to me starting my own entertainment PR firm MS Film PR Literary. In 2010 and moved it to Los Angeles in 2011. The PR firm was started out of frustrations I observed in the PR field, so I decided to start my own with the focus on PR for Artists by Artists. I still own the PR firm, but in 2017 I took a back seat as founder/consultant so that I can focus on Noirtainment Productions as a producer, director and full-time writer.
Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
So many interesting stories, but I guess one is back when I was Director of PR at the publishing house. I had the opportunity to really see the potential in the power of PR and networking. I got the opportunity to travel to NYC for Book Expo America, an international trade-show conference for the literary world. I have always known that trade shows were great to be at for your career. I first learned this when I was Business Manager of USA Operations for an international oil services company and I’d attend the Oil Technology Conference (OTC) every year. Trade shows are an opportunity to not just meet and greet with the “powers at be” in your industry and in my case as an up and coming writer, I got to get to know through all the meetings, the parties (always fun part) and just walking the show, I got to meet and make life-changing connections with editors, publishers, press, etc. Since I was attending as the company’s PR executive, I also got to meet face to face with the authors we published and in this business, a book festival or conference trade show is the only time you get to meet the people that you work for and with on a daily basis. In this day and age of everything digital, I cannot help but to urge my colleagues, friends and the next generations to savor the in-person connection. There is something organic about just shaking a client or colleagues’ hand that normally all your communications are done via email, phone or video conference. Just sitting down for lunch, dinner or just a cup of coffee with that individual is what inspires and motivates me. I am still friends or associate in some way with most of the connections I have made at my first Book Expo and even the oil show. You never know who you will meet in this journey of life…so always hold strong to every human connection that you get.
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 am not sure if this qualifies as overly funny or a mistake, but it takes me back to that embrace of the human connection. When I was Director of PR at the publisher, I was over teams that were based all over the USA. Our main office was NYC, while our president and some of the book marketing team was in Florida. My office was in Houston and I only traveled to New York for things like Book Expo week. Well, my boss, I reported directly to the President of company said I had a new publicist joining my team. Now, first I need to tell you that as big as this publisher was, there was so much mis-communiqué going on, mostly because the heads of the company were always changing things or “flying by the seat of their pants”. I would get incompetent or inexperienced staff thrown into my department and if you know anything about PR, you know that its high-octane go-go-go all the time, 24/7. I was excited to learn this latest publicist was a true professional and she was from Houston! I thought great someone I don’t have to babysit or constantly train and re-train to even write simple press copy! She was assigned to start on a certain project, but after a few weeks of monotone responses, no answer to her phone extension, which always went to voicemail and she hadn’t even customized her voicemail greeting. So, I was back to just focusing on what I do best by working with our authors and their PR campaigns and my local team in my office to get things done. It was that feeling you get when exciting about working with someone and then they let you down and its back to the same as before. Well, about a year after I resigned from the company, I had the opportunity to attend an event that was again great networking and I looked at the invitation and the name looked familiar. It was the girl that was hired to be a senior publicist in my department at the publisher! She ran her own PR firm and was doing an event in which I was invited too. Now this was the first time we met in person because back when we were at the publisher we only had that one email introduction and then after that it was just auto-response style answers which turns out, she had left the company after a week because the company president never completed her contract for hire, but rather than tell me that, they just used her email and first name and assigned it to an inexperienced “marketing assistant” (this was common at this company, but I thought this time was different, I always have hope). So, before the date of her event, we met for coffee and that is where I found out all that happened when she was hired. She too was excited to work with me and under my direction, but they stuck her doing some robotic marketing form tasks, which was not what she signed up for and she really didn’t agree with. I too didn’t like the robo-marketing program either and I never used it. She left after a week of trying to do that. So the funny part is I had completely blew her off because I thought she was another incompetent person put in my department only to find out she was a lot like me! To this day we are still friends and have shared contacts and opportunities in the business. Again, this is why I stress the power of the human connection.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
Currently, besides working with Amazon Prime on my sci-fi/neo-noir series Marisa Romanov, I’m directing this fall the feature Lifelines and I’m also producing and directing a series of commercials, promos and also a radio show on iHeartRadio for international, Australian Psychologist/Author and Speaker Gunter Swoboda. I just directed a documentary he created titled Masculinity That Inspires Change based on his Making Good Men Great movement that got us on Oprah’s radar in 2015 during a publisher’s party at Book Expo America. The documentary is streaming now on Amazon Prime. This year I started producing a broadcast: Inspire Change with Gunter for iHeartRadio and Studio 3 Hollywood. By the way, I met Gunter back when I was at that publishing house and he was one of the ones I kept in contact with after I left.
We are very interested in 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?
Good questions! Yes, diversity and inclusion are important. We live in an age of #MeToo and #TimesUp and its important to cover stories that include a global and cultural message. One of reasons I love working on Gunter’s project is it’s about helping men and women as equals; it teaches inclusion and positivity. In the world of film, television, theatre, music or anything in the arts and entertainment, we have a chance to give a voice to the voiceless and set a good example for society and humanity. I promote balance and I encourage my colleagues, associates and friends to stay as close to your center as possible. It is when we get to far off-center is when are in danger of falling or losing sight of the things that matter. Truth is found in fiction, so whether I’m writing, producing or directing an unscripted or scripted project, it is important to include and cover things where anyone can relate. My film coming up is fiction, but it deals with mental health and the family, my Amazon series is science fiction, but it’s a strong female driven with a diverse and inclusive cast. By applying these simple little steps to be as inclusive as you can, organically in life…you will impact our culture and society in huge ways of progress in the long run. Sometimes your effort is just baby steps, but the impact in the long run benefits 10-fold. Every step we take makes a difference! I believe that.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
I always had pretty good mentors, but I guess that would be:
1 — If you need a backup plan when pursuing your dream career, make sure it’s somewhat related to your goals and dreams. Fortunately, even in the times I worked a “normal” job to pay bills, I always manage to have creative side projects to keep me satisfied and focused or I made sure to somehow mention to my bosses at those jobs that I was a writer and really good at PR so then I ended up getting tasked with creative assignments. Example: The Oil and Gas industry is more corporate than entertainment, but as the Business Manager of a small USA office, I got to wear the hat of the PR and Marketing person and also got opportunities to write press copy for media relations for the company. When I was in Film School and working for the NASA contractor full time, everyone knew I was a writer and eventually would be in the film/television business, but I got tasked with editing and writing copy. Yes, some of that can seem boring, but if you keep a positive outlook it can hone your skills in ways you’d never imagine it would.
2 — Always be willing to give those “enemy/frenemies” or difficult people in your career path a second chance. Example: My grandmother once told me, “there is always one in every office so just smile and kill with kindness”. She said that when referring to those difficult people you will have work with or cross paths with in your professional life. Most of the time it is easy to ignore or forget this little bit of advice, but it really comes in handy. I have had people who I was always nice to and helpful to and then BAM in an instant you get the sharp knife to the back…anything to help them look good even it means they step on you or betray your trust. I have then just smiled and walked away. This happened to me once, I had been working extra tasks and was up for a promotion and then a colleague of mine who I always got along with decided she wanted to go for the position because she kept passing up opportunities so she started looking for reasons to “rat me out” to our supervisors and by rat me out, it was silly. I have always been an on-time employee, I did my work, didn’t call in sick or take a lot of time off and went the extra mile. However, she would look for little nuances to bring against me or setup me up to fail. I finally had my last straw; I was about to get my degree and I was offered a starting position at a company in my chosen field that I counted my losses and put in my notice. Later I found out she got the job I was going to go for and years later I kind a got a casual conversation through email as if we were still acquaintances as if nothing ever happened. I had already moved way beyond, and it was no big deal. Bottom line always smile, take the higher ground and be humble…even to those who have wronged you in some way. You never know what that person is going through in their lives and maybe that promotion was better for them because in the end I wouldn’t have been happy in that job in the long run.
3- Don’t participate in office gossip or bullying. Now, nobody really needed to give me advice in this as when gossip happens, I just turn the other way. Unfortunately, like junior high or high school gossip follows in every environment! I had been part of a project, back when I was running my PR company. I never had a passion to be on the project as I was transitioning out of the PR world, but I attached myself in a key part of the project for a client, however once the person started networking and meeting big contacts through my endeavors, their loyalty turned sour and then used an incident that turned sour as an excuse to blame me. So I walked away and resigned and after a little hurt and anger, I later wished them well. I don’t talk with many of those people to date and that is fine, but I have no more ill feelings and I look at it as a growth experience. It was time for me to detach from the toxic environment. This leads me to #4.
4 — When a once productive environment plateaus, unproductive or worse becomes very toxic to just cut your losses and walk away. The last example mentioned was just that. I had did a lot of very good things for the client and then the environment plateaued, became very toxic with mentally unhealthy talk and gossip, much untrue and was the breeding ground of half-truths, lies, just unproductive behavior. It was hard to just walk away because so much time and energy had been given, but at the end of the day and after some advice from good friends and soul searching, I did the right thing and it forced me to pay attention to my projects rather than putting all my energy in someone else’s.
Lastly #5 is related to the above — You can be a people pleaser but accept that you can’t always make everyone happy. I crave balance and unity; I am loyal to the end as most people know and I’m told that is an amazing quality. I’m proud to be highly sensitive and loyal, but the caveat is sometimes you just can’t please everyone. When I was a publicist for an international author that had very high and unrealistic expectations of being an overnight sensation. This author lived overseas in a tiny island country and she wanted to do speaking events on her book. I had told her it was take time because she didn’t have any past speaking experience and where she was there were few opportunities. I told her we need to start small and then use that as part of her speaker reel. So, an opportunity at a local bookstore in her community came up where many authors would be a part of. The speaking opportunity was mainly an Open Mic style, however after talking to the Program Coordinator of the event I mentioned if she could be a special guest speaker and I present her with my clients press kit and bio that I prepared and they got back to me and confirmed her as a special guest speaker. While at the Open Mic it was first come first serve and they only got a less than 2-minute talk. My client got 30 minutes. The event team loved having her. However, my client proceeded to complain that it was an Open Mic environment, not a booking and that she didn’t get any time or a green room access. I had told my client in the beginning that I had an Open Mic opportunity for her to speak in her community at a big event and that as her PR I’d try to get as much time for her to tell her story and speak and I accomplished this. SO then to make right on her unhappiness, I called the Event Coordinator to “Complain” that my client was unhappy and was treated like an open mic guest. The event coordinator then proceeded to inform me that they were shocked she was unhappy, they said they thought she enjoyed it. They said she was a guest speaker that told her story, talked about her book, and introduced the Open-Mic segment that followed! She also told me they had a small “greenroom” backstage area with cold water and coffee for her to wait and she even got almost an hour speaking because everyone was inspired by her story! So, realizing the client was just looking for an excuse to maybe break her contract so she’d didn’t have to pay, I chose to terminate for her. I went above and beyond, and the client still chose to believe what she wanted and that her expectations were not met. I just smiled and wished her the best and left the door open if way down the road she ever wanted to reconnect. The brings me back always to…savoring the human connection.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
You will always thrive and never burn out if you continue to keep an open mind. Realize that you are never too experienced to learn something new. Also, a positive and balanced attitude and outlook will get you further than you could ever imagine! Persevere and be a warrior and a survivor. The latter, meaning if you get knocked down or become a victim of gossip, don’t let it hinder you. Never let anything or anyone steal your joy…onward and upward.
You are a person of enormous 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 feel truly blessed because I am part of a growing movement that I mentioned earlier that brings joy, peace and balance to humanity. When I first started working again with Gunter Swoboda and the GoodMenGreat.com movement, I knew that we could go far and while we are growing, we have accomplished great strides: A film streaming on Amazon Prime, an interactive website and newsletter, a social media presence and relationships/deals with major networks like the new Inspire Change with Gunter that I produce for Studio 3 and iHeartRadio. I just want to see this grow even bigger and reach many, many people all over the planet!
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?
It is so hard to single out one person because I’m influenced by many, but to keep simple let me shout out a few: My stepmom Jackie Spigener and my dad Gary who instilled my creative endeavors early on, but gave me great business and entrepreneur advice that has help me with structure, my late great-grandmother, whom started me in arts classes every chance she could, my friend and now VP of Production at Noirtainment, Pete Freeland. He started out as a client under the PR firm and has grown to be just a genuine good friend with a heart of gold. I also want to shout out my manager Will McPherson who believed in me at the beginning and when he was an agent at a major power agency he signed me without question and then when he made a move to open his own management firm, I stayed with him as a client and finally, my husband Felipe Sapon who is my biggest cheerleader, but offer constructive criticism when I need it most and now works with me in my production company to help with operations and that extra eye for detail that he’s so good at. I can’t’ pick one because these folks have my back and I have theirs and it so important, especially in the entertainment business to surround yourself with good, honest people and a solid foundation. With that, you will go far!
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Okay, I’m going to use my own which is the motto of my company: “Find the light in the darkness.” Noirtainment is a production company that produces content that is neo-noir, which is dark in content, nothing is what it seems, but in the dark, there is light if you strive to find it. Just like in life: nothing really is what it seems and sometimes even with the best laid out plans you can fail or fall short of expectation but be resilient and keep searching for the light and even making your own light when the world or situation seems grim. When you apply this little bit common sense, the rewards will be more plentiful and beneficial to you in all parts of your life!
Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
David Lynch. Lynch is not just a brilliant director/writer, but a true artist. He by no means is perfect or a hero of sorts, but he inspires through creativity. His art can be hard to grasp or interpret for some, but there is such beauty that each time you watch his films or look at his art, paintings etc. you get a different perception. He never over discusses what his films and his art means because it’s really up to the viewers interpretation. I know Lynch loves coffee, so as he would say I would love to sit down with him and just talk art, life, film, writing…repeat over a “damn good cup of coffee…and pie.”
How can our readers follow you on social media?
I am on Instagram: @TenaciousMiranda
Facebook.com/noirtainment or facebook.com/mirandasapon