I met Lyn at Ford‘s three day Forward with Ford event. Shout to them for sponsoring me to go and meet some amazing people while checking out the latest of what Ford has to offer. Lyn was a great networker, always had his camera going and got along with everyone. I wanted to catch up with him on I know smart people as he’s got an interesting job and a great way of describing it. 

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Sarah:Lyn, can you tell us about what you do for a living?

Lyn:I film entrepreneurs as a Director and/or Producer. Meaning I create and produce content that centers around profiling entrepreneurs to share their stories of how they came up with the ideas for their companies, built them into businesses and the lessons they have learned along the way. The content can be in the form of TV shows (e.g CNBC’s American Made), online videos (Microsoft Small Business Web Site, Dell Women Entrepreneur Network) and/or web channels (e.g. Sweet Leaf TV, On the Road with iV). 

Sarah: When we met at Forward with Ford, I loved how you described yourself as being a storyteller. What did you mean by that?

Lyn:Entrepreneurship and starting a company is an extremely challenging process and often times is a very personal journey. The beauty of that from a producers perspective is that makes for great story in that you have someone that is trying to accomplish something great, yet they are confronted with many obstacles along the way and must overcome them in order to be successful. This, at its core is storytelling, and as a director and producer filming entrepreneurs, I’m constantly looking for ways to tell their stories on camera in a compelling and entertaining manner. One of my favorite entrepreneurs that I have filmed is the founder of Starbucks as he shares a powerful story about his parents-in-law coming to visit during the holidays in the very early stages of the company and how is father-in-law asked Howard to take a walk with him. At the time, Howard was not bringing in a salary and Howard’s wife was pregnant and providing income for the family so the father-in-law suggested that Howard quit this crazy entrepreneurial thing, get a job and properly provide for his family. Howard goes on to share how this was one of many moments on a entrepreneur’s journey that he calls the ‘gray area of perseverance’ that is all about our desire and to will to get through the tough times and believe in something strongly enough to make it happen no matter what the odds. I found that one of things I have been called to do is be an entrepreneurial storyteller and bring stories like this to life so others can learn from and be inspired by them.

Note: you can read more of this story and watch a clip of Howard sharing this story from a TV show I produced here:

http://www.lyngraft.com/producers/the-gray-area-of-perseverance/

Sarah: What’s your favorite part of your job?

Lyn: A. Causing goose bumps and inspiring entrepreneurs – Many times over the years I have been told either by the people that have watched my content or even by the people that I have filmed that it was truly an inspiring piece or that this is just what they needed to hear based on where they were at in their life or that it was the best profile ever done on them. It’s simply one of those things that feeds the soul because it feels like I am giving back to the world putting smiles on peoples faces, causing eyes to well up with tears and giving people hope during difficult times.

B. Being Inspired – A side benefit from filming entrepreneurs is that you are constantly in front of people that have creating amazing companies and overcome incredible obstacles – I thought this might get a little monotonous filming entrepreneur after entrepreneur for years, but quite the opposite happens because you are continuously filled with infectious energy and optimism from some of the most driven people on the planet.

Sarah: Who is the most interesting person you’ve interviewed/worked with?

Lyn: Interviewed = Billy Joe ‘Red’ McCombs – Founder of Clear Channel and a Forbes 400 Billionaire. Red is Texas born and bred and talks with a deep TX accent at a very slow pace, but is smart as a whip and has hundreds of successful businesses under his belt. When I first met Red, we brought him some cookies from his favorite bakery near his office, but he passed on them and told us he had what one would call an ‘addictive personality’ and could not stop at just one. He then went on to share how he was an alcoholic and how it almost ruined his marriage, business and came very close to kill him. He then went on to talk everything from why he had to sell the Minnesota Vikings, to why they had to get rid of Howard Stern at Clear Channel to being the number one used car dealer in the world to his how his prized Championship winning Longhorn bull called ‘Superbowl’ was sowing up to 200 calves per year. This was even before the interview started. And Red is simply someone you want to call Grandpa and hug every time you see him and cherish every moment you get to spend with him. 

Worked With on a Crew Set = Joel Dobzewitz – Started out as PA for me on Microsoft shoots and now works as a producer manager on the ‘Hell’s Kitchen’ TV show. This cat was a one-man-production machine that was willing to do anything and be anything to make a shoot happen. I’ve worked with a number of people like that over the years, but few brought the energy, enthusiasm and quirky sense of humor that Joel did. He use to always carry a finger puppet with him just in case we needed an emergency laugh and always seemed to have the funniest commentary to bring levity during a challenging shoot or simply when it was time to wrap a shoot.  

Sarah: If you had an intern that did everything perfectly, what would you never want to have to deal with again?
Lyn:
Business – Billing. Invoicing. Check Writing. Basically paperwork. This is one of the areas I see very little value add to the process. I enjoy coming up with budgets and crafting strategies as it pertains to the financial aspects of producing and filming, but I do not enjoy in any form the paper trail (physical or electronic) that comes with it. Production – wrapping a shoot (As long as I still get to do the wrap production crew photo).

Sarah: What’s the best way for someone to follow in your footsteps? School or practical experience?

Lyn: Combination of both – First get 6-12 months of formal or information education about production (either through school or research). Then go work for someone in the production field for 6-12 months doing whatever – just make sure and be a sponge and try to get exposure to all elements of the process. It’s important to surround yourself with people in the business of production and find ways to immerse yourself in the business either by researching it and/or by working with production companies (or ad agencies). I started my career as an electrical engineer and then got my MBA when I started down the road of entrepreneurship for 7 years before I got into producing so I started cold-turkey and learned by trial and error. This dramatically extended my learning curve because I not only had to learn the craft – the art and the science of it, but I also had to manage the business side of the equation as any startup owner would. I learned some valuable lessons in this process, but I would have greatly benefited by working part-time in production or getting educated about it before I opened my own production company.

Thanks for taking the time to answer all these questions Lyn! Lyn Graft is a Director, Producer, Storyteller and Founder LG Pictures. He has produced 450 videos including CNBC’s first primetime TV series “American Made”, 35 videos for the Microsoft, 14 videos for Dell Corporation, 25 videos for SXSW Interactive, 60 videos for Sweet Leaf Tea and 30 videos for RISE Global. Filmed 300 entrepreneurs including founders of Whole Foods, Paul Mitchell, Playboy, Baby Einstein, Clear Channel, Craigslist, BET Television, The Knot and Tom’s Shoes. He’s founded 8 companies and spent time as a ski instructor! He’s also best friend of Fitty G (who appears with him in his photo)