Don’t be afraid to do hard things. Making a low budget movie with two movie stars on a small budget is really hard. Building a start up with a remote staff and an unproven pipeline is super challenging. Making 12 minutes of animation in 8 weeks (yes we just did that here at Mindshow) is practically impossible. But the wins are SO much bigger when you do cool and unexpected things.
As a part of our series about cutting edge technological breakthroughs, I had the pleasure of interviewing Sharon Bordas.
Sharon Bordas is a strategic and entrepreneurial entertainment executive, known for leading teams in the creation of high quality product with strong commercial appeal. In her current role as President of Mindshow she is building a cutting edge CG animation studio based on proprietary tech that is transforming transforms the traditional animation pipeline. Since joining the company in 2019, Bordas has led Mindshow into the content business, producing animated and mixed media series for Mattel, Netflix and Viacom.
In her previous role as Vice President of Scripted Series Programming at Lifetime, Bordas had the privilege of working on the Netflix original series YOU from Executive Producers Greg Berlanti and Sera Gamble and the Peabody award winning series UNREAL from Sarah Gertrude Shapiro and Stacy Rukeyser.
Prior to joining Lifetime, Bordas served as Executive Vice President, Production and& Development at VC backed independent content studio Mar Vista Entertainment. As a founding member of the senior executive team, she was responsible for building a pipeline to support the development, financing, production, delivery and worldwide distribution of a slate of over thirtyforty film and television projects per year.
Television clients included Lifetime, Hallmark, Syfy, TF1, Disney, Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu. Feature films produced during her tenure at Mar Vista premiered at Sundance, SXSW, Bentonville and the LA Film Festival. Her most unique creative achievement during her time at Mar Vista was ultimate Lifetime movie and cultural phenomenon A Deadly Adoption starring Will Ferrell and Kristin Wiig.
Bordas is a produced and published writer who graduated from the USC Master of Professional Writing Program.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Although I’ve been a fan of CG animation since the day I saw the first Toy Story movie, I never could have imagined that I would end up in the animation business. I didn’t even know it was possible. But that’s the magic of Mindshow.
I began my career as a writer of episodic television, which through a surprising turn of events led to me producing movies and building a VC backed independent content studio called Mar Vista Entertainment. I had been a storyteller for a long time, but what I didn’t realize until I got the opportunity at Mar Vista was that I was also an entrepreneur. I liked the business side of the business. I liked learning new things and taking on impossible challenges. And I really liked leading a team of smart people and figuring out how to do things no one had ever done before.
When it was time for me to leave Mar Vista, I decided to take an opportunity to go work in a more corporate environment at A&E Networks as a series executive for Lifetime. I made amazing shows and worked with some really fantastic people, but I quickly realized that I had landed in the wrong room. The institutional challenges were confusing to me and the culture wasn’t a match. I missed being a part of a small nimble team who said yes to change. So when my contract at Lifetime came to an end, I knew I needed a change. That’s when I met Gil Baron, CEO of Mindshow.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
I am a person with a lot of fantastic stories, but that first meeting at Mindshow might be the most impactful on my career. A showrunner I had worked with at Lifetime knew I was looking for my next adventure and asked me to do her a favor and a take a meeting with a friend who was running a VR based improv comedy company and looking for a creative executive to help build out a studio. I don’t really understand what they are doing, she said, but they are smart and sound like you.
Now I will admit, working in VR based improv comedy sounded fairly painful to me at the time, but I decided to go check it out. When the guys at Mindshow showed me a demo of the technology, I felt like I had been struck by lightning, and realized this was way beyond VR. I immediately saw the potential to do something completely new and use the tools they had built for the consumer facing product to make an entirely new kind of series production pipeline. for major studios. I brought in a couple friends I knew from the animation business to check it out, and they verified for me that what I was looking at was magic. If I got it right, it just might revolutionize the industry.
So I said yes to Mindshow.
Can you tell us about the cutting edge technological breakthroughs that you are working on? How do you think that will help people?
The technology at Mindshow is built on the organizing principle that the process of making animation should be fun, fast and accessibleaffordable. We want to focus on the fun stuff and leave the tedium behind. We use VR, AR, real time engines and our super flexible pipeline to get to a cut faster than anyone else in the business quickly and make good creative decisions fast. We jump into mocap suits and act out our characters. We use cameras in new and interesting ways. We systematize things to be more efficient. We bring people from live action into the space. And our long terms goal is to push the technology forward so not only can we use it to make professional content, we can also bring users directly into the experience and create life changing, brain melting, interactive moments.
How do you think this might change the world?
The technology we are building is super joyful for users. I see people experience that joy every day when they step into Mindshow. I see a future where we bring that experience of interaction with characters and worlds to consumers in a really powerful way. I’m also a big believer in the power of entertainment and storytelling. In these trying times with so much uncertainty and loss, laughter is like oxygen. Any joy we can create in the making and consuming of our content is a meaningful thing to be doing for the world.
Keeping “Black Mirror” in mind can you see any potential drawbacks about this technology that people should think more deeply about?
I honestly don’t watch “Black Mirror” but I can imagine a world where people get lost in the metaverse. Especially when there is so much isolation and fear in the real world. Technological solutions always have an impact on labor, but I think can also create new opportunities. But I tend to be an optimist when it comes to technological advancement.
Was there a “tipping point” that led you to this breakthrough? Can you tell us that story?
The moment I understood that Mindshow allowed that the concept of time for character performances could exist independently of what the cameras captured and when the cameras ‘recorded’ the scenes was something I’ll never forget. It challenged my view of content creation and really leveraging the concept of a recordable metaverse in a way I’d never experienced before. The idea that I could walk back onto a ‘hot set’ at any time and reshoot with as many cameras as I could load into a scene was mind-blowing. That’s what I held on to as I navigated fundraising and building a very complicated pipeline; that moment where I saw and understood something powerful and transformational.
What do you need to lead this technology to widespread adoption?
VR is an amazing tool and experience and once headsets are as lightweight as a pair of glasses, everyone will want to use it for a variety of purposes. But wWhat we are building goeswill eventually go beyond linear content creation. A VR and really is t the core it’s about building newfaster and smarteasier ways to make and interact with and control characters and worlds. I think with the right IP, everyone with a phone could and would want to pick up what we are putting down.
What have you been doing to publicize this idea? Have you been using any innovative marketing strategies?
We are a B to B business right now, so my job is to make my clients happy. It’s a pretty targeted marketing campaign at present. When we go consumer, that will be an entirely new strategy that I can’t wait to attack. Because I know once Once content makers and industry professionals people experience thiswhat this tech and this team can do, they don’t want to leave. Like, I have to kick people out of the demos all the time. It’s just too much fun.
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?
The current board at Mindshow is hands down the most supportive group of dudes I have ever, ever, ever had the privilege of knowing. The teams at SWaN & Legend and Knollwood(KWI) in particular know just where to point me at just the right moment to keep supporting my growth. It’s been life changing for me, quite honestly, to have their support through these last couple very challenging years of building a start up while navigating a pandemic.
I’ve also been lucky to have a group of female executives who have supported my move into thanimationis entirely new medium. Carrie LeGrand at Mattel and Meghan Hooper White at Viacom come to mind specifically; both knew me from live action and trusted me to deliver what I said I could deliver, even though I was working in an entirely new medium. We all need people who believe in our abilities and are willing to take a calculated risk.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
I hire amazing people, trust them to do their jobs and treat them well. I also have hired quite a few up and coming directors, actors, producers and writers over the years. A lot of them female. Watching them ascend and build their careers is super gratifying to me.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)
- No one is coming. Everyone who has ever worked for me knows that I often quote Hermione Granger with this particular phrase. We all have a tendency to think that someone will come along to save us or help us or tell us what to do. My career started to really take off when my boss at the time said she was going to hire someone above me and instead of feeling defensive that she wasn’t trying to help me I said “no, that’s my job.” And it was. I realized I had been waiting to be chosen and that was a mistake.
- No one knows what they are doing. Every time I’ve started a new chapter in my career, I’ve assumed that the grown ups know what they are doing. I assumed when I joined A&E Networks that they had the data to know what the audience wanted to watch and when they wanted to watch it. But there was a lot of gut decision making going on, even at the highest levels. I’ve realized that business is more of an art than a science and that experience was admirable, but not necessarily an indicator of future performance.
- You don’t need to know exactly what you want to do when you grow up. I used to worry that I didn’t have a plan. Now I think that’s a strength. I didn’t know I was going to be a producer, but I got the chance to do it and I loved it. This is my first time producing animation and I love it. I had never raised VC money before I joined Mindshow, but I dug in and read everything I could and met really smart people and found it fascinating. If I’d said no because this job wasn’t part of the plan, or I didn’t know what I was doing, I would have missed out. Like, I wouldn’t ever have thought I’d do an interview like this, but here I am!
- Don’t be afraid to do hard things. Making a low budget movie with two movie stars on a small budget is really hard. Building a start up with a remote staff and an unproven pipeline is super challenging. Making 12 minutes of animation in 8 weeks (yes we just did that here at Mindshow) is practically impossible. But the wins are SO much bigger when you do cool and unexpected things.
- Hydrate. Seriously. It’s helpful.
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 honestly think my gift is hiring people with little to no actual experience to do something they have never done and have it change their lives. My movement would be one against literal prior qualifications. I’m the anti resume! Look for smart, interesting people and don’t be afraid of failure. Just because you haven’t done it, doesn’t mean shouldn’t do it. I’ve seen that over and over again and think it’s magical to see people who are hungry to learn do the unexpected and thrive.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
I’m going to quote my kid Georgiana Bordas Hill who once said to me: “Mommy, life is like a Rrubik’s Ccube with no algorithm.” And she’s right. We solve one side and then we just keep turning and turning, trying to solve the puzzle, and then we start all over again. I think about it all the time. And how somehow she is smarter than I am already at 12 years old. This whole girls in STEM education thing is working out!
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 🙂
Well, from what I’ve seen from VC’s so far is that most of them want what they can’t have, so I’d like to say that this round is closed and you can’t come in! But I’d also like to say that you should keep an eye on Mindshow infor our next round because we are wicked smart, movinglightning fast and using a solid business case of experts at using our tech to solve problems and make creating content in a big, big industry that is pulling in some very excitingattractive valuations. as a means to build unique tech that will be mission aligned with the metaverse and unicorn everyone’s faces off! And I’ll also say this… honestly, we are having a good time doing it,building the future so, like like… you know…, call me. Also IP, Metaverse, Frontier Tech, NFT’s, SPAC, IPO, Unicorn, Pony.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
I’m on Linkedin for my professional interactions.
Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.
Thanks for asking!