Dr. Tyrha M. Lindsey-Warren is the Founder of the Waco Family & Faith International Film Festival in Waco, Texas. Dr. Lindsey-Warren also has over fifteen years of experience working in marketing and public relations in Corporate America, the Performing Arts, Entertainment and non-profit arenas for such firms as Quincy Jones-David Salzman Entertainment, NBC, Creative Artists Agency, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, and UniWorld Group. She is also a Clinical Assistant Professor of Marketing at the Hankamer School of Business at Baylor University. At Baylor, Dr. Lindsey-Warren teaches Advertising, Digital Marketing and is the Founder of the Baylor Business Advertising Summit.
What made you pursue filmmaking? I grew up in the performing arts in Cincinnati, Ohio. My mother had me in ballet lessons at 3 years, piano lessons at 6 years old and voice lessons at 8 years old. I even attended the School for Creative and Performing Arts (SCPA) in Cincinnati, from age 8 to high school, and where I was a Musical Theater major. After graduation, I attended film school at Northwestern University in Evanston, IL. Early on, I have always loved storytelling in musicals, plays, TV and film. While at Northwestern, I knew that I always wanted to produce for film, TV and the theatre. Once I left NU and started my career in Hollywood, by way of the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences prestigious Internship Program, I landed at NBC in Children’s Programming and Development. I next went on to work as a Motion Picture Literary Assistant at Creative Artists Agency (CAA) and then spent the bulk of my time working in the film and TV departments for Quincy Jones-David Salzman Entertainment, when they had their deal at Warner Bros. During that entire time, I honed my abilities to develop good screenplays for film and TV as well as finetuned my “eye” for recognizing good talent, whether it be actors, directors, or screenwriters. As a film producer, you have to work with so many different personalities, how are you able to create a bond for the whole team to function? My ability to be a good producer and working with so many personalities, whether from the talent side or the business side, comes from my unique experiences of actually “being” and “living” in both shoes, so to speak. Having grown up in the arts as a performer in high school, college and afterwards (I also have a Music Theater degree from Northwestern University), I definitely know what it is like to be Talent and in front of the camera. At the same time, I definitely know what it is like working in Production as well as in Marketing, Public Relations, and Finance from my business background. Hence, having that understanding of the various roles gives me an inherent empathy, and more, when I am dealing with all of the people that I interact with in producing an international film festival. In your experience, what’s the most important quality you think a producer should have? The most important quality a Producer should have is “vision.” This means, that a Producer should be able to “see” as well as understand and “envision” how all of the pieces of the production must come together to make the final product (of the highest quality possible). When programming an international film festival, I often can see (when others cannot) how everything must work together to create a film festival experience that will empower and entertain our attendees.
How do you stay inspired and constantly train yourself to be excellent at what you do? I love the work! I adore our filmmakers and respect their artistry. It makes me so proud and honored to have the opportunity to present them and their work to our attendees. I also love our attendees and seeing them experience a new film. Plus, I believe in “life-long learning.” Hence, I am always reading and teaching myself more as well as making sure I stay on top of industry trends, both domestically and internationally. How do you get funding for your projects? For the Waco Family & Faith International Film Festival, our funding comes from a combination of corporate sponsorships, grants, and donors. Funding for creative projects is both an “art” and a “science.” Producers have to be able to effectively and masterfully articulate their projects to funders in a manner that makes an emotional connection and a sound business case. Producers have to be able to “eye” their potential funding audience and depending on who it is, you have to figure out for that audience, which part of the project to emphasize (i.e., the emotional connection or the business case) during your pitch meetings. Fundraising for creative projects is not easy, nor can you do it alone. It definitely takes a team of “believers” in you and in the project to get it fully funded. Plus, perseverance and lots of prayers! What’s your advice to a young producer on funding their projects? My advice to young producers is to fine-tune your business acumen, from marketing to finance, as well as know your numbers as it pertains to your project (i.e., budget and more). Many producers do not understand the market for their project and what “need” their project will meet with their target consumers. Do your market research and be able to understand the full business picture for your creative project. Are there any competitions young producers can get into? I am not aware of any competitions, but the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences Internship Program is excellent for young producers and executives. Being an Alum of the program, it was a tremendous and wonderful entrée into Hollywood for me. Also, the Peter F. Stark Producers Program at the University of Southern California (USC) in Los Angeles is another wonderful and extremely beneficial program for young producers. I have a few friends and colleagues who have graduated from that program. How do you source for your team? In building my team, I not only look for the best professionals in the business, but I also look to have the best “human beings” on my team. It is one thing to be a fabulous professional, yet, be a jerk to work with. I have found in my career that there is a very narrow lane that is filled with those who are good human beings as well as talented professionals. That is who I choose to surround myself with on my team, especially when you so often work very long hours on productions and events. Hence, I just always want to work with good people with excellent character. That is why I am so incredibly blessed to have a core team of wonderfully talent, educated, and high-quality professionals from all around the world that have been with me for many, many years. How do you delegate duties to your team and ensure production is on schedule? In running a production, I delegate duties to my team according to expertise, even though all of my colleagues are extremely multi-talented. And, as a team, we follow our production schedules as well as Run of Show documents and all of these tools working together help ensure that our film festival (or whatever production we are working on) is produced well and on time. How do you resolve conflicts between staff? If my team has issues or conflicts, we resolve them by having regular communication and leaving nothing inside. I think because my team and I enjoy each other’s company and laugh a lot when disagreement does arise, the issues get resolved rather quickly. How do you motivate your actors to produce their best dramatic performance? I deal with a lot of Talent on a regular basis in many different environments. What I have found that keeps Talent motivated and doing their best, is to always empower as well as keep them encouraged. In doing so, you have to be an excellent listener and “cheerleader.” Do you follow the script strictly during production? Mostly... I am also always open to give Talent room for interpretation.
What’s the most challenging situation you have had to deal with as a producer, and how did you deal with it? Bringing the Waco Family & Faith International Film Festival to the finish line was an extremely challenging situation. I had a vision for the festival and knew my team and I could bring a very high-quality festival product to Waco. Nevertheless, when I started the journey, I was funding the festival with my personal monies. I received many closed doors too. It was not until last September that sponsor monies began coming in. By November, I had all of my funding in place. Yet, the process was extremely stressful. I dealt with the stress and a very challenging process by going inward and believing in myself as well as persevering at all times.
Would like to share with us some of your awards?
I have received numerous awards including the American Marketing Association’s Valuing Diversity Scholarship, Network Journal Magazine’s 40 Under Forty, YWCA’s People To Watch and Cincinnati Herald’s Nefertiti Award,
Asides filmmaking what else do you do?
I speak nationally on the topics of cross-cultural marketing and communications, multicultural fundraising, effective communications and leadership. I also have research streams rooted in empowered storytelling, multicultural media and advertising, “health edu-tainment,” emotional contagion (Word-of-Mouth) and movies. I am a published Consumer Behavior Scholar with academic articles that have appeared in the Journal of Advertising Research, the Journal of Cultural and Marketing Strategy, the Journal of Academic Marketing Education, and in the book, “Entertainment Values,” published by Palgrave UK. In my spare time, I sing jazz professionally and I have opened for GRAMMY award-winning jazz musicians, Kirk Whalum, Jonathan Butler and Pieces of a Dream, to name a few.