My journey as a female film maker started 15 years ago and ended 15 years ago. I was going to school in Australia (I’m and Aussie born and raised) for film and was told that I ultimately couldn’t become a director because I “can’t lift heavy camera equipment” as a woman. Deterred, I went into costume design, as this was a way to keep my foot in the door in the film industry. 15 years into fashion brought me major success: I became a celebrity stylist for A-list celebs such as Priyanka Chopra, Shay Mitchell and Bradley Cooper. I went on to start my own clothing line, “Whitley Kros” which became a well known high-end fashion line. I had achieved what I believe many women would have been ecstatic with. I however could not shake the desire to pursue my true passion: film making. I decided to finally overcome the notion that I “couldn’t” be the next major female film maker (or film-maker in general for that matter) and I switched gears career-wise. I went back to school at major universities such as USC’s School of Cinematic Arts, UCLA and The American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York. I shortly after started to get to work and moved forward with my new voice as a director. When I initially started in the film industry I saw myself as a stand-alone Director. I quickly realized that in order to really succeed I needed to become a jack-of-all-trades so to speak. I found myself in development, writing, producing and post production for many of my projects when traditionally this is not necessarily the work of a Director. However, I found success in all of these various activities and found that when I had full control of not only the creative but the production, my clients were happy and I was happy with the products that I was getting out. I decided the best solution was to found Banks Films, my production company, and started to add team members into my organization who were like minded: those that saw my vision and could back it up.
What were the biggest initial hurdles to building your business and how did you overcome them?
The biggest hurdle I think in starting any company is “where do I start?”. But I found that the less I asked that question and the more that I just “started” I saw more success. For instance, in the beginning of my career as a film maker I had NO work to back up my name. So what to do? Just start to get your name on every possible person that you know has a tie in that industry of your interest and do every project (well, almost every project) that does come your way. Be willing to take that project that may not be your first choice and realize that will get you to your next step in the ladder of success.
What books are you currently reading? And your recommendation for entrepreneurs to read?
I like to read quite a bit so I am currently reading “Children of the New World”, “Mega Tech” and “In the Distance”. I would recommend to any entrepreneur to learn from other successful entrepreneurs like Grant Cardone - download his audiobooks to listen to in the car such as “10X” and “Be Obsessed or Be Average”. There are some really practical tools that you can actually USE to boost your success in any business.
Did you ever deal with contention from your family and friends concerning your entrepreneurial pursuits? How did you handle it? What would you do differently in hindsight?
I never experienced contention from family or friends, I think I am lucky in that fact. My father, Andrew Banks, is an entrepreneur himself and always encouraged me and is much of my inspiration for attacking my career rather than sitting idly by. I did however experience the prejudice as a woman that did initially stop me from pursuing my career as a film maker. Later in life, after I had achieved success in the fashion industry, a close friend of mine confronted me about my dream as a director. She pointed out that there was nothing really that could get in my way if I decided to go for it. I did and it was the best decision that I could have made.
What would you say was the single most influential factor in your business success?
Persistence. That is a key factor to success. It is important to know that you might experience rejection and that one person, brand or company, may not like your work or creative direction while others will find you are the perfect fit. The attitude with that is: “okay I am not for you? Moving on to the next” despite your natural reaction - which is to avoid or run away - that keeps you moving towards your goals in the film industry.
What do you know today that you wish you would have known when you first got started as an entrepreneur?
I think that I know a lot from all of my experiences through fashion and now film. Of course I wish I would have known EVERYTHING that I know now: about personalities, how-to’s and the like. It is impossible however to truly impart every little thing that makes up who I am now and how I have precisely achieved success-which is what everyone wants to know “how did you do it?”. The piece of advice, with that being said, is to (much like a Nike commercial) just DO it. You cannot contemplate about what is the correct way to do it. Just get into motion, meet everyone that you can in your line of interest and industry, start working on whatever projects that will pay you, network and learn what you can. It is about getting known in the world in which you wish to be and then strengthening that through hard work and persistence.
What advice would you give to an upcoming entrepreneur locally and internationally?
Learn and network. More specifically: learn from SUCCESSFUL individuals. There are a lot of pretenders out there so be cautious of that. When you seek advice, look for individuals or companies with a background of success ie., what have they actually achieved themselves? In Networking, get on the radar of everyone in the industry that you can. Even if that individual you do connect with is not someone that will directly assist you they perhaps know someone who can. Above all else maintain an objective and professional attitude about your goals - it can commonly occur that you might start to take losses or even gains too “personal”. Realize that at the end of the day your business is your livelihood but it’s not your entire life.