Hitting Reset: Overcoming The Fear Of Starting Over As A Creative Professional

What happens when the thing you originally loved most about your job has changed?

Starting over can seem daunting, especially when you’re established in your career. 

But sometimes there is no other way.

Though they were on separate paths, and before they had even met, Leah Nelson and Michael Milardo decided to take make ambitious career changes.

Stepping back gave them the perspective needed to make a difficult decision, and one that would reinvent their place in the creative industry. Together, they formed Kiddo Films, a creative production studio specializing in commercials and branded video content.

With this new mission, the duo rediscovered how it feels to be inspired to try something new, even if the risk of failure is very real. 

In this talk, Leah and Michael will share the biggest lessons they have learned on their journey of creative reinvention and entrepreneurship.

Filmmakers, freelancers and agency leaders will discover:

  • The power of finding your ‘white space’ 
  • How fear is actually an incredible motivator
  • When saying ‘no’ to work is the right thing to do 

Watch This Talk:


Michael Milardo (00:00):
Thank you so much for coming tonight. We’re going to take you on a bit of a journey with us. That, is very much not a roadmap. This is sort of the lens. This is our personal lens and our experience that we’ve gone through separately and how we kind of came together and ended up standing here in front of you now. But we’ve, which only happened two years ago, which only happened two years ago. And and we’ve, we’ve sort of framed it through the universal a lens of fear because I think that’s something we can all relate to for the tear for scary things. So what we wanted to do is yeah, just talk you through 10 things that are scary take it from our list that’s much, much longer and and connect them back to sort of our journey.

Leah Nelson (01:03):
First one is getting lost. So like Ami mentioned I think that, you know, most of the people in this room are creative people on some level or another. And you get into that business, this business, because you’re driven by a passion to create. At a certain point though, you know, I think probably a lot of people in the room can relate. You, you start to not recognize the surroundings of where you are. You start to go, how did I get here? Is this where I want to be? Is this a safe place to be? Is this was why I got out of bed in the morning. So if you ever feel like or have ever felt like that passion sort of has vanished from the things that you were doing or you know, in other cases, sometimes the job itself has changed where, you know the advertising industry for example, has changed a lot from, you know, when I started to, to where it is now. So sometimes the job changes and your passions aren’t being met in the same way. So, you know, for me personally, and I I was working in advertising, so I did 15 years in advertising starting as kind of a copywriter up to creative director. But really I wanted to work in film and advertising seemed like a really smart parallel career path where you could be near big commercials and be part of the commercials and write them and oversee them. And that was the language of advertising when I started, it seemed to make sense and it would run in parallel and one day I’d leave and go be a film guy. And you know, 15 years later is a, it was a such an amazing job and I met so many amazing people and did a lot of amazing things, but I felt unfulfilled and realized I needed to leave. And I think if you get to that point and you’ve really, if it really is truly that personal feeling and it’s different for everybody, but if you realize that you’re at that point that’s the first step is acknowledging, being honest with yourself that you might not be fulfilled in the way that you need. It’s not just a blip. It, it is true. It is truly not feeding the way that it needs to. And Leah story was different than mine. But

Leah Nelson (03:00):
Yeah, my, my experience was almost the flip of that where as I had a job that I had sort of built and I was loving it and it was going great. And then I went on maternity leave and kind of felt like what I imagined, maybe forced retirement might feel like, like I sort of turned around for, you know, what ultimately was kind of a short time and turned back and went, Oh shit, my job’s totally gone. Like it’s gone and my department is gone. And so I had this sort of like come to Jesus sort of moment with myself where I was like, I’m ready to work again and want to work again. And you know, I hadn’t thought about it at all for that time when I was turning around to do the maternity thing cause it’s like, just want to be clear. I wanted to do that. That wasn’t forced upon me. But I had two babies at the same time. So that like added a little bit of pressure to that whole scene. So when I, yeah. So you know, coming back and kind of going like, you know, I thought I knew where I was, but, but that thing that I’d created had sort of disappeared, but for nobody’s fault, it just did. So so yeah, that moment for me was was really like, okay, I need to yeah, be honest about what, where it is at and make a business decision to like, recreate that somehow and, and get get back into it. So that’s what I’m trying to do.OK. Talking to strangers. So this at this point in the, in the process is when you know, you’ve kind of gone through the internal stuff, like Michael’s feedback a little bit. The, the sort of internal struggle where you’re kind of going like, is this real? Am I lost? Let’s slow, who am I? Where am I, what am I doing? And then start to externalize it. So this means that you’re actually talking about it with people and you know, most of us will go to people that we trust or closest friends and closest colleagues and family or whatever. Which is great. Certainly do that. But we’ve also sort of noticed that if you’re in an industry or in a tight team and you want to talk about you know, jumping ship or making a change or whatever, you might not want to do that with that team. So so getting outside of that industry a little bit too. Yeah, take the temperature on your feelings and your idea. Maybe you have the sort of the kernel of an idea for what you want to do next. And just kinda start talking about that a lot out loud to other people. And I had a little anecdotal story I wanted to tell about this friend of mine who worked in tech and I, I won’t say any more about them specifically, but they had, they called me to come and have coffee with them. And we were in different industries completely. Almost, and and she said to me that she wanted, I’m not going to use the actual, what, I’m not going to use the actual thing that she did, but let’s just say she made like knit hacky sacks or, yeah, like hacky sacks. And so she had me for a coffee to tell me about the hacky sack idea and she was like, I think I’m going to quit my job and like, just sort of leave tech and you know, make nit hacky sacks and like, I didn’t know her well enough to be like, don’t do it. Like, do not do it. Do not do it. That is such a bad idea. This is going to fail. But that’s what I was thinking. And and I think I just said like, cool. And and now her hacky sacks are like all over the country and like in going into the U S and, and she’s created like an incredible business that makes like more than just knit hacky sack. So the moral of that little story is just also like, don’t listen to what people say to you. And do it anyway,

Michael Milardo (06:50):
So you can just sit on that one for a second. So I think, you know, at this stage you sort of have reflected and you’re like, okay, maybe I’m not feeling it and I need to do something. And you start externalizing, start talking to people. This is normally the stage you get where you’re just like a lot of people. It’s this debilitating point where you start thinking about we’re using disappointed parents as a, as a framing device, specifically disappointed Jason Bateman. Cause there’s no one more disappointed than him. But, but at this point, this is the point when you start thinking about, Oh, but like failure, essentially failing in front of the people that you love, like your peer groups and your parents and your friends. Just that, that idea, that nebulous idea of like, if I do a thing, it’s going to burn out, then it’s going to work. It’s just going to be like, it’s going fail for, you know. And often the reason I think we do that is because it’s nebulous. So you know, this exercise or something we’ve talked about was this idea of playing the worst case scenario game where you actually start to, when you start to name these things and you start to actually go down the path, well if this happens, well what does that actually mean? Well then that would happen. Well what does that actually mean? Well then this might happen. What does it actually mean? And if you go down that road and at the very worst place you can get to is still not that bad, then maybe you’re in better shape than you thought. And the people that you love are going to stand by you even if it does burn up. However, if you get to the very worst place and it’s really bad, then that’s also a sign that if the worst case scenario ends really poorly, that’s assigned to. So I think it’s just a good exercise to to play

Leah Nelson (08:27):
And, and also just know that like most people stop there, like that’s like such a debilitating barrier to doing, making a big change in your career or starting something. You are trying something different. So it’s real and like it’s not, you know, like it’s, it’s something to really take some time with cause it is, yeah. Scary.

Leah Nelson (08:47):
Making new friends. Michael put the slide in and like immediately had this like anxiety, like high school anxiety. I was just like, Oh God, that hallway, just like it’s terrifying. Anybody else feel that? Look at that. Okay, cool. So yeah, so this is sort of you know, especially for Michael and I, the point when you’ve talked to some strangers, which we both did and in our you know, before we met each other we were strangers to each other. But we decided to talk about this crazy idea together and see if we were, we were going to be friends.

Leah Nelson (09:23):
So that was our experience. And so, so, you know, for, for you guys or for someone, you know, it’s like, I’m thinking about do I want to just be so low? Do I want a partner? Do I need to go and like try to find that partner in a haystack? Or is this something I can figure out within the team I’m already on where I’m going to sort of realign myself with different people that challenge me or that I trust or whatever it is. So it, it, it’s, it can sort of happen in a lot of different ways. From Michael and I, we despite being in reasonably close in the industry, we had never worked together. So when we met it was really like a year of sort of dating each other and like going to breakfast and asking each other all the questions and trying to figure out, you know, if our moral campuses were pointing in the same direction and what kind of work did we want to do, would we never do?

Leah Nelson (10:15):
You know, we went to we went to movies together cause that’s kind of like the industry that we’re in. And I remember this one, like indie film, we went to it at the film festival and it was sort of over in the lights came on and I kind of like looked at, I hate it movie. So I like looked at my phone and I was like, this was like waiting for him to stay and what he was going to say. And then he was like, yeah, I don’t know. That was really bad. I was like, Oh, thank God God. I was like, my God, you hated that too. And then we can to other movies where we were like, that was so awesome. And like we’re like, yes. Okay. We both like, like the same movies. So we did a lot of that. And that’s sort of an important still testing the waters step. The question we never asked each other was, what is your birthday? And because why does that matter at all? But as it turned out, we have the same birthday. So when we’ve discovered that we were like, you know, we were like, okay, let’s do it. Let’s do it. Let’s do it. That’s launched this company. Anyway. Yeah. That was our experience.

Michael Milardo (11:11):
So at this point it’s the jumping off point. So you kind of have done this foundational work whether it’s, you know, yeah. The internal work that you need to do to get to this point. At this point, you jump off. And that’s amazing. And we, we sort of identify that everyone’s at different stages. And this is again, very personal to everyone in the room if you’re even thinking about this stuff. But we identified three, I’m sure there’s more types of jumping offs in this case. So one would be this change from within this idea that, you know you’re working with what you’ve already built and adapting it to work better for you. So if you’re a freelancer and 90% of your clients are, are you’re doing work that you don’t want to do, then you need to flip that number.

Leah Nelson (11:53):
If you’re working at a company and you really actually believe in the company, but it’s the kind of work on your desk is just not what you want, you can make change within that organization. It might be worth salvaging. Or if you built a company like Leah had how, you know, but the job had changed, how do you make it work in a new way? Which in this case was like spinning off a sister company, which is what, what our company is. So that’s one which is working from within. The other one is the parallel jumps. So to me that’s like you know what I did jumping from advertising to production, you see a lot of people in, in advertising the jump from a agency to brand side. So what it is is there’s like a shared Rolodex. There’s a lot of actually commonalities between the industries.

Leah Nelson (12:37):
Even though you have limited, actually limited vantage into both sides, there’s still like a decent amount of groundwork. So I knew, I thought I knew a lot about production because I worked with production people. But actually jumping into the other side you know, there was still some stuff we brought over, but it was definitely a steep learning curve is a steep learning curve. And then the third one is the nuclear option. And this is when you leave your job in tech to start a hacky sack company. So that is very commendable and so terrifying. My wife Emily left advertising before, before I had left my job, she left advertising to start a hip bridal boutique with a partner that she found randomly. And I saw her do that and I was floored at A) how scary it was and B) sort of blown away that how, how happy she was and how, how high and low the job can be. So, you know, I’d, I’d sort of hit like a like a, an autopilot to a certain degree of, you know, trucking along and still having, enjoying what I was doing, but seeing how intense that was and how brave that was like was a real fire for me. So those were the three that we identified moving on to.

Leah Nelson (13:59):
Not everyone feels this way about crowds, but what we mean here is well actually this, originally this slide was called and I named this slide and then Michael told me to change it. It was called feeling old and irrelevant. And I, I’m not, I’m not done. I’m not done hearing old and irrelevant in a crowded market of savvy influencers who always know who, what the cool shit is. And that was real fear, man. But yeah, but crab, but ultimately crowds and, and, and really like coming into an industry where you’ve kind of been gone for a bit is, is scary. Or an industry that you’ve never been in before is also scary. And and, and, and trying to you know, essentially enter that with some curiosity and humility and try to find your your white space within that is sort of what we’re, you know, we aspire to do.

Leah Nelson (15:00):
And then also like hire those influencers and like bring them in. That’s something I’ve learned sort of over the years is like, keep those smart people around you always. But yeah, for kiddo you know, finding our white space was, was, was definitely something that we knew we needed to do. And because we felt that crowds were scary, we sort of went to a place where there wasn’t much of a crowd. And and, and hung our hat on the type of company that in certainly in this industry, in Vancouver you know, a creative base, raw creative roster based production company. Thankfully there’s more happening, but there, there aren’t that many. So that was sort of like our decision to occupy that space. And then once we got into that little corner that that wasn’t too crowded, you know, try to really start telling our story within that and making it personal and making it about what we, what we wanted to sort of change within that.

Leah Nelson (15:57):
On that note, I wanted to share, like if you, if you are going to be the new kid in town, it gives, it gives you a really great position to go into an industry that maybe has some sort of calcified or archaic processes that are happening because they’ve just been done that way for a long time. Certainly our industry has that in spades. And, and, and being the new kid is a great position to be in to come into those industries and, and change those things or come in and say like, Hey, why, why do you guys do it this way? Can we not do it this way anymore? Can we change that? Like so I think that it’s difficult to do those things, but it’s also like, I believe an opportunity to do that. So we should all do that. Yeah.

Michael Milardo (16:43):
What’s next? What scary thing is next? Oh, the dark. Yeah, so you’ve, you’ve, you know, you’ve jumped out there, you’ve defined your mission, you found your white space, whatever it is, and you’re like, yeah, I’m going to do this new thing. And then suddenly you realize that you’re not equipped and you’re back in the dark again. Your skill sets don’t match your ambition. So I think this is a point where it’s really important to just be patient with yourself and give yourself the room to let your skills catch up to your taste. So I think, you know, people talk about the taste gap. You guys are familiar with that expression. The idea that your taste is better than your skills, in other words. And there’s usually, it’s like a five year gap on average to catch up to, you know, what’s good. But it takes a long time too. It takes at least five years to get to that point.

Leah Nelson (17:32):
We can create work that’s to the level of your taste. And a lot of people give up at the beginning, especially young people because they’re like, I guess I’m not good at drawing. And then they stop versus like grinding through. And that’s, you know, again, one thing advertising was good for is grinding you. But you know, eh, I think it’s important that you, you give yourself the space to be in the dark but to push through. And one trick I think, and again, this isn’t, sorry, this isn’t, I’m sorry, this isn’t rocket science. And I’m sure you guys have heard this lots of times, but the idea of, of goal setting in a very real way, one year in five year goals that are also way bigger than you think you can achieve shooting really high because you most likely you’re not going to hit it, but you’ll get farther than if you set these kind of mediocre, subpar, like just surviving goals, set insane goals, and then try to grind after it. Maybe you’ll get there.

Leah Nelson (18:26):
Do you remember this scene from bridesmaids where she’s sick but then she gets offered like a candied almond and then she’s like, no, I’m, I’m hungry on, you know, I, I want to have this, you know, I’m talking about girl, come on anyway saying no, she should’ve said no. Saying no is hard as certainly when you’re working for yourself or, or you know, a small team or a small company because you need to feed yourselves and you need to feed other people often. So it is, it is a, it is a certainly a hard thing. However, saying yes to that work that isn’t the work that you want to do is, is the quickest way back to that job that you wanted to leave and that work that you wanted to leave. So continuing to say yes to it is how you’re going to get back there super fast and people will ask you to do that work because that’s sort of what they remember you for.

Leah Nelson (19:17):
Especially if you were, if you were good at it, this bite, whether you liked it or not. So so just remembering how important it is to choose the right things. And it is difficult to know how to do that, especially when you’re trying to keep the lights on. So what I, one thing I’ve learned through through giant ant and sort of kiddo has adopted this is to design just like a really easy filter to put those projects or those people through. But you typically projects for us in the creative industry. And for us it’s just a three sorta three-step thing. So, number one, what our moms be proud which is that the top of the list, cause it’s the most important. Number two, is this a creative opportunity? And number three, is this a financial opportunity? And it has to be two of those. Otherwise it’s, it’s, you know, it’s a no. So that’s the, that’s been, you know, taken something that’s sort of difficult to do and helped find a way to make that easier. So

Michael Milardo (20:18):
Missing out, missing out. So stepping through doors inevitably means some will close. And I think that this is a point of frustration for a lot of people too, where if you do start to make a move in one direction, you need to make peace with the fact that there’s going to be things happening always that you can’t do now because you’re doing this and it’s never been, you know, more in our faces with social media and with everything else where you’re always seeing people that are farther ahead and are having more fun and are more whatever I’m seeing more put together. Like it’s, it’s a pretty debilitating time if you let it be. If you let it get to you. So I think it’s this idea again of just like giving yourself space and being kind and letting, letting those letting those doors be closed, you know, deleting Instagram and just letting that stuff wash by you. There’s no missing out. There was no wasted time. I think that’s another thing is if you’re, if you’re mid career or late career and you’re thinking about doing something new, the idea that all that and you’re like, Oh, all that wasted time. Like I’ll be missing. That’s, that’s like time I wasted. There is no, I really believe there’s no waste of time that, that, that stuff will come with you in ways you can’t even imagine when you go and transfer to something else. So don’t feel like you’re missing out cause you’re not

Leah Nelson (21:37):
Zombies. Yeah. Number 10 is zombies. So yeah, like this one is really about like the world is going to shit and where like apocalypse is imminent. So we should be working for and with good people as much as we can in the time that we still have. So I, I just like can’t stress that enough because you know, you make a decision to engage with people, you make a decision to hire people or take projects that represent certain things and and, and you should always put you know, working with good people that you respect above talent and above influence and you will never regret that. And also when shit does go down, you want to be with those good people, probably I’m on your team. So yeah, I would say that’s just something to remember always. Yeah. Surround yourself with good people and partner with good people also that challenge you and respect you. Yeah. No zombies.

Michael Milardo (22:56):
That’s it! Thanks

Audience (22:56):
You said when you first started talking to one another, you got on the same page about what you’d never want to do. I’m curious what kind of stuff fell under that category for you?

Leah Nelson (23:15):
Defence, oil and gas, fast foods are real tricky one, but we have a big conversation about it first and then, yeah. And then we kind of decide that that’s a tricky one. It’s like when you have so much influence in the thing that will go out and have influence when you’re creating that content, it’s, that’s powerful. And it’s sort of got a feel good to put something out there that’s going to be very, not manipulative but like influential when you, when you watch it for people. So, so yeah, those are like the ones that come to mind. But you know, and historically we these, and these are ones that sort of, we’ve had conversations about or like, you know, Michael through his experience and my, my experience at giant ant that have come through that you’ve kind of gone like, Oh, that, you know, and we would also on the dinette side, we would also talk to the team and like, not necessarily do a vote, but kind of like if anyone was really opposed to the thing or the brand or the thing that we were going to be sort of selling by association, we would sell, we would, you know, ask our team and then we would say no if anyone was uncomfortable with that. So, and then the, the other thing that the other thing that we have done is if we weren’t sure we’d done a little bit of research into that brand and kinda gone back a little bit to see you know, if they’re good people and who they’re owned by and if those people are good people, like you can kind of do a little quick research to make those decisions. Did that answer your question? Do you want to add anything to that?

Michael Milardo (24:57):
Maybe a little bit. So the, I mean there’s, I think it was less about, it’s initially less about what we don’t want to do and more about what we do. So being really clear about the kind of work that we’re after. And then when other things come in and we’re like, huh, that’s not what we’re after, let’s discuss it. And that can be, whether it’s the sort of ethics of the brand, which can now be a discussion in a way that I didn’t, I never had that autonomy when I worked in corporate. So, you know, I w I worked on McDonald’s for years. That was my main client and cassette. And you know, I had, I had issues with it but I worked on it and, you know, so I’m not like I’m a, you know, ad Saint, I’m not, but now we have an opportunity you know, to, to unpack stuff. And then beyond that, it’s also just like, is it gonna build our company? Is it work we’re going to show? So then there’s just like the logistics of that where you’re like, well, again, if it doesn’t answer the kind of checklist that we talked about earlier than it, you know, that that helps. It helps to have a, a guiding point.

Audience (25:56):
What’d you guys consider yourself more of a, an ad agency or more of a production company? And how do you see kiddo fitting in that balance?

Michael Milardo (26:04):
Neither and both were, we’re a production company, first and foremost. We’re a talent agency because we rep directors and we’re, we’re a creative agency because we creative direct, right? And direct concepts for brands. So we’re, we’re all of these things and we’re, none of those things were. And what we’re not though is a full service agency, so we don’t do anything except for video. So that helps to define lines. So you know, we’ll have clients that have come to us that are like, okay, we want you to do an integrated campaign. And we’re like, we don’t do that stuff. Well, can you do our, our, our, our display ads are like now, like, do you know, can you build a, but I don’t know how, you know we, we just make videos. So we’ve just been very clear about not this, not what we want to grow into.

Michael Milardo (26:51):
If we’re going to expand our offering, it’s going to be in narrative. So that would be the other divisions that we’d want to make would be, you know, editorial narrative and stuff. We’re going to start in commercial and that’s where we maybe want to go down the road. But I think, you know, I think there’s something to be said for being a discipline specialist, just focusing on what you’re really great at. You know, not, not a knock on the full service corner, but I think that that’s one game and then the other game is being really clear and singular. And I think getting in the middle of this kind of complicated kind of a little bit of this, a little bit of that. And you’re constantly trying to be a generalist. It’s exhausting out that.

Audience (27:33):
Just to kinda, I guess, expand on that, how do you feel or how do you guys navigate the relationship between other agencies that might be representing brands that you also want to represent? Creatively? And so how do you ensure that your creative is coming forward if you’re working in kind of like a, you know, a complicated space?

Michael Milardo (27:51):
We don’t step on toes locally. I mean, we don’t step on toes, but we certainly don’t step on toes locally. So if, you know, we have lots of friends that work at agencies, run agencies here that may have a piece of business, we would never go after that piece of business just wouldn’t happen. So, you know, we’ll work directly with brands that don’t work with agencies. On a regular basis or we look out of market. So we just, it’s just a respect thing.

Audience (28:16):
Right. So you don’t typically get hired, you guys are,

Michael Milardo (28:21):
We, we know we mostly get hired by agencies, so we work with agencies and brands and try to do it in a way that isn’t stepping on anyone’s toes. It’s a dance.

Audience (28:29):
Oh, I should have a good follow up question to that too. When you guys talk about finding your white space, what was that conversation that led to the current model that you run out of your company? Maybe you could talk about that model first and then go into why you chose that model. Cause you said that you took again a year to date each other and go through and then figure out on what you wanted to do. What were some of the conversations that led to that and goals?

Leah Nelson (28:50):
Yeah, and I’ll let Michael start this one because coming from being an ECD at an agency, he was looking all the time at companies like Kiddo, That, you know, we’re mostly in other cities, I suppose different from me. So,

Michael Milardo (29:05):
Sure. So not wanting to talk too long. And that’s a big question because what’s interesting is, again, as so many media channels have evolved and full service agencies are trying to keep up with that, they’ve started building in house division. So what they’ve, you know, Lulu has like the biggest creative department in the city and they’re chopping on everything right now. Advert advertising agencies are bringing in editorial rethink does work directly with directors where they essentially scale their own production company per shoot. So, so agencies were making plays in every other space because they needed to because it too expensive to outsource. So on the flip side of that was I was seeing creatives noticing, especially over like in, in the UK, I saw a number of times this was happening. Now it’s happening more, but where you’d see sort of creative directors leaving agencies and going to production companies to essentially just focus on the video product, which has now become like a really necessary channel highest engagement rate and all that marketing talk which helps the case, right?

Michael Milardo (30:07):
So the idea of creating sort of a hybrid you know, video focused consultancy, whatever, creative a shop, I don’t, I don’t know where we are, whatever we are you know, was attractive. And the idea that we could do that with one foot in the traditional model, which is repping directors. So again, we have a roster of directors that we represent, but that we could still be creative people and take on the occasional project was really appealing. And I think that was it. It was just like, you know, and I got very lucky, but by connecting with somebody that had a similar kind of interest I guess, did I sum it up?

Leah Nelson (30:40):
Yeah, totally. And I think as far as like, you know, coming up with the model, like you said, of what kiddo is going to be, I think that also sort of cascaded out of that where we wanted to access the kind of work that that, you know, we knew was happening. And sort of branching out and having a roster of directors who was in, that was one way to get into that play. I guess, but you know, for me, coming from giant ant like giant was sort of created, not in a vacuum, but like my partner Jay and I had never worked in any other industries. We started that company kind of not knowing what, what, what, like how the other ones worked ever. So we just didn’t. So we just built it up in that way. And so like we kind of adopted that with kiddo that we also always had worked with agencies and brands directly. And there’s never been any problem with that. So we sort of could just invent the thing

Ami Sanyal (31:33):
You talked for a year. Was that conversation like, listen, I think we can start this company. Let’s talk for a year. Or like how finite were you about this decision on and how did that go? Where was it more organic where you’re like, maybe we should talk about this and then when you feel ready, we’ll start.

Leah Nelson (31:53):
Yeah, we had, we had a timeline because I mean mostly Michael was gainfully employed and I was still like, where are my job go? You know, I mean, I was working on some other stuff, but but yeah, we did have a timeline because because you know, he needs to figure out how to, to exit the role and make sure that his team was going to be fine and all of that was sort of in place. And so it was, it was testing the waters, but it was also just that it took that time, I think for us to kind of lay the track to then kind of come out and say what it was. So I

Michael Milardo (32:30):
Would, I would also say that you know, I, I am very humbled to be able to partner with with this one and and her, her hubby, J these guys are phenomenal talents who built this thing in a vacuum, which again, is even that much more impressive Jina and is like if you, if you don’t know the company, look it up, they just do phenomenal, incredible, like some of the best, you know, animated brand work in the world here in Vancouver. Like, it’s no big thing, you know, I mean I know it’s a big thing. I mean I know it was a big thing to get there, but it’s, you know, again so so it was it was, I think there was a, there was a, a F a fair amount of due diligence that these guys were doing to partner with an external force was also in, in fairness like deserved a long conversation when they had done everything together. So, you know I think that was a big part of it too.

Audience (33:21):
Oh, why the name and how did you decide on a name? Cause that must be amazing.

Michael Milardo (33:25):
Oh, okay.

Leah Nelson (33:26):
That’s also another reason why I took a year. It’s, yeah, like coming up with the name is so hard. I really had no idea because Jina was like an accidental name and then we were like, we should call this something and then we couldn’t change it cause it’d been around for too long. This was so intentional and such a different process where we were like, who are we? What does the name mean? What does it say about us? And and also the other thing is that there’s a lot of production companies in the world that are like actively making work. So there’s a lot of names that are really rad and are already taken. Like we had, we went through several and I remember in the process that we’d get on one and we were like this, yeah, this feels good. This feels good.

Leah Nelson (34:05):
I never heard of any, you know, and you’d look it up, but it’d be like a company in London who’s like doing like sick commercials and like, dude, like doing like lots of, and we were just like, damn it. So it, yeah. So it was hard to get to one that we both loved, but also the process of like, what does it mean? And you know, we wanted to have a name that spoke to a youthful energy and also just friendliness and likability and a name that was sort of approachable as well and, and fun. Cause we, you know, we being kind of a mid career decision to do this company, like we, it needs to be fun for us. Like we’re, you know, so we wanted to make sure that that was something that the name said. And also dislike when finding a name that like you can say out loud.

Leah Nelson (34:53):
Like I remember this friend of mine said like, you have to test out your, the name that you’re going to call your child by shouting it across a park. And that’s like a good way to figure out if like it’s, it sounds good when you say it like that. So just kind of saying it out loud a lot. And, and then, and then I guess sort of coming up with something that they sort of got this giant app cause we are sister companies and we wanted the, you know, we had to think about all these, the names and we have a third, we have a triplet company as well called playdate, which is the music and sound company. And so, you know, just envisioning those on a, on a door to am I,

Michael Milardo (35:27):
And we’re all, we’re also all parents with young kids. And I think that was another sort of point was like, that’s, that’s a driving force as well. And you know, so that was also part of it was just like, that’s why we’re getting up in the morning. A big part of it is our kids.

Ami Sanyal (35:42):
Michael. I know I said, final question but, I’m still going to take the final question. You and I spoke before you know, we put this talk together and you talked about this framework that you had for evaluating your work.

Michael Milardo (35:57):
We walked through that a little bit. Sure. This was, I don’t know if this is a good rule or a bad rule and I don’t know where I got it from. Maybe I heard it and co-opted it likely. But the idea that it’s sort of my, my metric of job happiness for a lot of years was the 60% rule where I was like, you know, if I’m happy on average 60% of the time at my job, that’s pretty good numbers considering it’s a job. Like the name is job, right? It’s called a job. So if you’re happy 60% obviously that you’d have higher days and lower days, but if it evens out to around 60%, that’s pretty good. And I think that it was, it was a little bit like when I had, you know, a year of kinda the mid forties or whatever, when, when, when everything was going really well, that was a signifier for me that it was like, nah, this just isn’t like, there’s no way you can, you can’t rationalize yourself out of it. You can’t rationalize your way out of it when you realize it’s just not happening. So in retrospect though, like, you know, now I’m operating at like 90 sevens and fours, so the highs and lows are like way more stressful. So the 60s, I reflect on it with sort of kind memories like at how I was like, Oh, that was like a casual 60, and now everything is just like, like live or die at every second. Anyway, that’s, does that make, does that answer? Yeah, of course.

Leah Nelson (37:20):
Our first job together was like this, it was for a an insurance company and we were working, we were going to shoot it in LA. Never done that before with a director. We didn’t know cause he was new and we were new and like everything went wrong and like the union came and sh sh like showed up at the set. We had to pay them off. I almost didn’t make it to the border. I got in big trouble. We got in a fight with like the directors, other agent and it just like kind of everything possible went wrong. And I remember this moment where Michael was just, “Oh man, this is, this one is a hard one to start on.” And in my head I was going, “They’re kinda all like this…should I tell him that this is normal?”

Ami Sanyal (38:25):
All right guys. So one of the fundamental principles of Creative Pulse, we want you to think about how this information, this, this conversation is going to reflect back into your life. How are you going to take action from something you heard here tonight? What’s one small or large thing that you can do? Because if any of this story resonates and you are feeling a little bit stuck living a creative life on the sunk cost fallacy is a ridiculous way to go, right? Just because you’ve sunk a lot of time or money or information in, that’s not enough. You have to push yourself, right?

So these guys have very little kids, and I, as a parent myself, I just reflecting on the journey just on that one variable, it’s huge. The stakes are high, but it doesn’t mean you don’t live. Don’t turn into a zombie. Basically.

One last round of applause for our wonderful speakers.

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