Name: Kathleen Messmer
Business: Anvil Springs Entertainment
Location: Albuquerque, New Mexico, U.S.
Industry: Arts & Entertainment
Reason for starting? I started in the film business as a script supervisor straight out of film school. After a decade of being the director’s “right hand man” I decided to start a production company that was run by women and that carried a message to the audience with each and every film we produce. Since the film industry is a good ‘ol boys club, this has been no easy task. We try to get as many women involved in the process as possible and welcome newbies with open arms so we can teach them how to work in a field that is demanding, but thoroughly rewarding.
How do you define success? My definition of success? That’s tough, but suffice it to say that if you’re doing what you love, you can’t go wrong. Everything falls into place exactly when it should and we learn and grow from that. I also believe that finding a balance between work and life is hugely important. I know many women who try to please everyone and you can’t. It’s that simple. You have to put boundaries in place so that work and life don’t encroach on each other. Our big thing at Anvil Springs is that family always comes first. Work will always be there and it will always get done, so relax. That’s not to say we don’t work hard. We do. Really hard. But we’re a team and teams pull together when things get crazy.
Because I have such a great team, our goals are to create a model where we can do everything in house and not involve the studio system at all. I know that sounds crazy, but I know we can do it better and more effectively, given the mess the studio system is in now. By growing our company in that way, we can produce our own projects and create a brand awareness that is new and different. We are also a green company, so we’re very aware of our carbon footprint and do everything we can to minimize it. Lastly, we give back to our community and charities we believe need support, primarily veterans, children and animals.
Biggest success: My biggest success has been surrounding myself with people that have the same mindset that I do. We’re all really positive (mostly!) and we hang together when things get tough. Especially when we’re in funding mode and trying to find money for our next project. That’s the toughest part of this business. I’ve built a really great team and that’s the whole pie. The other thing is we foster openness in the work environment, so if there’s an issue that needs resolving, we pull together and handle it. There’s no drama.
What is your top challenge and how you have addressed it? In the film industry, everyone wants your money before you even have it. That’s one thing you have to watch out for since there’s so many unscrupulous individuals in this business. I play it pretty tight to the vest with our funding because I want my investors to get their money back and maybe even a little bit more.
The other thing is, there’s rampant ageism and sexism in this industry. If you’re over 40, you’re history, and if you’re a woman, it’s even worse. That’s why we bring on as many women as possible for each project. Age, race and sexual discrimination have no place in my company. People are people. Period. If they do their job and do it well, they get to hang with us for as long as they want to. It’s a pretty sweet deal.
Everyone has issues when they’re starting a business. I tried to go it alone at first only to realize (duh!) that you can’t do it all and you can’t do it alone. I know it seems like a no brainer, but I was being stubborn and wanted to prove to myself I could do it all. Well, let’s just say that all I succeeded in doing was wearing myself out and getting completely frustrated. Once I began to bring people on board and delegating, it was like this huge weight was lifted off my shoulders and I could finally see the light at the end of the tunnel. Definitely a lesson I don’t recommend to anyone starting a new business.
Who is your most important role model? My mother. She was in the military and she was one tough cookie. She was all about picking yourself up by the bootstraps and moving on. There was no whining in our house. If you had a problem, she’d listen and then she’d ask…”so what are you going to do about it?” She always put it back on us to find the solution. It built our character, our ethic and our strength.
Edited by The Story Exchange