Relationships are vital for growth, be that personally or business-wise. This episode’s guest, Megan Gutman, knows this to be true. An LA-based producer and owner of the production company, Mega G Productions, Megan knows too well how her industry is curated and rooted in relationships—anchoring very much on who you know. Sitting down to be interviewed by Michelle McGlade, Megan expands our knowledge on relationship-building, sharing her techniques on building a connection quickly in a very authentic way. Coming from an industry where looks, for the most part, matter, she then talks about women’s appearance in the workplace as well as the good ole boy network in business. Join in on Megan and Michelle’s courageous conversations and find out how they handle their lives day in and day out.
Relationships, Appearances, And The Good Ole Boy Network In The Film Business With Megan Gutman
Ms. Megan Gutman is in the house. I was on the edge of my seat to meet Megan and to get under the hood and learn more about what she’s up to. She’s a non-traditional woman in leadership because she comes from outside the corporate channels that I’ve been following for the show. Megan Gutman is an LA-based producer who has had the pleasure of working all over the world. She’s been producing for many years. Totally self-made, does everything from commercials, digital content, documentaries, live events and music videos. She’s done narrative film, photography and television. There’s going to be no name dropping in the show that I can recall, but she works with award-winning actors, chart-topping artists, and world-class brands. That is no joke. Go to her website and check it out.
She has owned her own production company called Mega G Productions since 2008 and still produces freelance on the side. Throughout her career, she has sold a reality TV show to TLC and Grammy-nominated for a music video. She revamped a TV series for FX that’s still active and in its sixth season and a documentary she worked on got into the Sundance Film Festival. Her future outlook is to continue to build her brand and produce a feature film that she has written on her own. I pushed her on that a little bit at the end of the interview.
I have ideas, thoughts, and seeds I want to plant for you because this was a little bit different in a good way. I found it refreshing to talk to Megan because of the industry she’s in and the way that that industry has been curated, which is rooted in relationships. I believe all business is rooted in relationships, but it’s a little bit more out in the open in the film industry that she’s working in. It’s very much who you know, family and friends, that thing. If you are somebody who struggles in this area. When she started, we were talking about this and this is what I want to draw your attention to. She talks about exactly how and why she does what she does when she meets somebody so that she can build a connection quickly with them in a very authentic way. If that’s not your natural ability, one, be rest assured that’s a skill set you can develop. Two, pay attention to how Megan explains what she does and why she does it.
I haven’t had this conversation with anyone else. The one thing I loved about this as Megan wore it on her sleeve, no big deal. Acknowledging that looks matter and why looks matter at work specifically for her. We dig into that a little bit. Being vulnerable about some of our own hang-ups for ourselves. I know you’ll be able to relate to that because all women do and it’s refreshing to be able to put it out there in the open. Because when we put it out there, it makes it less of a big deal. The last thing hadn’t come up in this way, but you’re going to find it very interesting to know Megan’s take on what we’ll call the boys club. The good old boys’ network that you think is happening or not happening. It depends on where you work. It’s a part of the environment that Megan lives day in and day out. Find out how she’s handling it and what she thinks. You will be surprised.
You’re working on a big project?
Yes, we will shoot it. I have my team here and we’re planning the whole thing.
What I wanted to ask you is how you got into this. This is not a career that I wouldn’t even think it was possible.
I have a weird way that I got into this.
Tell me about that.
I was a pre-law and business at Loyola Marymount University. I was dating a big music video director in my junior and senior years. I graduated a semester early in my senior year and I got into law school for the fall. I had that whole last semester off and the whole summer off. I worked with him on his sets and stuff and I decided I liked it. I told my parents I wasn’t going to go to law school and they had a major meltdown about that. I broke up with him shortly after that decision. That was a very scary moment. I stuck with it and I had gotten to know enough people at that time to be a production assistant on sets. I did that and then I worked my way up. It takes most people quite a few years to work the ranks up and I did it fast because I am controlling.
That’s a lighthearted way to say it, but what do you think it was that you can look back?
I do think it is because I’m controlling. I like to be the boss and I’m hands-on and organized that I stuck it in my mind that like, “I’m not going to law school. There’s no backup option. I can’t let my family down because I made this scary decision when law school is much safer.” I knew I had to make it and do it. I knew I loved it so it wasn’t hard. I quickly learned what I had to learn and didn’t mess around. I made the right relationships quickly. When I was a PA, people would say, “Megan, can you coordinate? Have you coordinated before?” I’m like, “Yes.” I never coordinated before because I knew I could do it. You have to fake it until you make it to get up those ranks. That’s what I did and I taught myself quickly.
What I’m getting is you made a hard decision. This was the only path forward. You weren’t sitting back hanging out and going, “I’m going to wait to see how it all works out.” You’re like, “This is what I’m doing. I’m not doing this. I told my parents,” and you figured it out. It let it open as it came, you said yes constantly.
It was a bit forceful too because my parents cut me off right then like, “We’re not paying your credit card bill and your rent if you want to do this.” I’m like, “I’m on it.” I set my self up for not being able to fail. I wanted to do it though too. I had fun and knew that this as my career so I stuck with it.
I’m into the woo-wee side of stuff and why you found this boyfriend and why you had this time off.
I feel everything in life happens for a reason. I had a friend who got fired and he thinks it’s the end of the world, and I’m like, “Think about it. You’ve been wanting to do this forever and you haven’t been happy here. This is all for a reason. It’s going to take you on this new path.” That happened in my career the whole way through. The lessons I’ve learned and the reasons why I don’t get certain jobs. It’s all luckily has worked out for the best.
It never works if I’m not in charge. Let’s talk about that. Where does that come from? Why do you like to be in charge?
My mother’s the same way, so I’m sure it’s a personality trait. Also if in charge, there’s no one else to blame. I know I’m responsible to cross all the T’s and dot all the I’s. I feel more comfortable when I’m the boss. I trust myself and I trust the people I work with and surround myself with. If something weird on a job happens, I don’t want to sound cocky, but it’s not me because of me. I always set myself up to succeed.
That’s what people want to know. How do you do that?
I work hard with every project, even things I’ve never done before. I try to think about what I don’t know about something. I research it and talk to people who have done it before. I do my homework and try to set myself up.
That is a piece of it that I see for you. It’s the researching, which would have made a great attorney as well. It’s perfect when you want to be in charge and make sure all the pieces are there that you need, that you’re not afraid to dig in and figure it out. One of the things that you said that was of interest, a hot topic or a button for you is making what you’re worth. What’s behind that?
I know my value in this business and I think that takes a long time and it takes a lot of strength. I know I’m worth what I’m paid, and it’s because I know what I put into it. I know that I spent all day long, every hour, every minute of the day, focusing on the project and making sure my team’s focused on it. I don’t hire people that have to run out and do an errand unless it’s crucial. I make sure that I put 100% into everything and I truly care about it. Even if it’s a simple commercial about a silly product that’s simple, I care about that simplicity and I want it to be the most amazing and best. It’s hard to not name brands because I don’t want to name them, but something that you wouldn’t normally care about.
Maybe your dental floss brand or some people they’re like, “I’m passionate about my dental floss brand.”
That’s a perfect example because I haven’t done a dental floss commercial where it’s like “We’ve done this as an example.” If someone is flossing their teeth, “I will care about those teeth, that smile, the dental floss and how it looks.” There are a lot of other producers out there that do the bare minimum to get the job done and cut corners. I don’t do that, that’s why I know what I’m worth and I fight for it as much as I can on every job. There are some jobs that you want to do. In my business, you do for a reduced rate, but it’s not because you’re doing it to be nice. It’s for a reason. The budget’s low and you want to work with the new director, you love the creative or you love the artist. There’s always a reason if you’re going to lower your rating for something.
You’re like maybe most women that took a while for you to land there.
When I first started out, I would do anything for free. In this business, you have to do that at the beginning because you’ve got to make those connections in this business. You’ve got to make the relationships. Once you do that and everybody values you, then you can start saying your worth. It’s hard to do that at the beginning. I have a lot of people and friends that are getting into this business and they’re like, “I’m not making this.” I’m like, “Yes because there are many people who want to be in the film industry.” There are many cousins, nephews, uncles and people that have relationships. There’s a lot of that going on. They’re hiring family and friends over people that are better. You have to prove your worth at the beginning and you have to be willing to take a few jobs that are a little bit less just to make those contracts.
I hadn’t thought about it like that, but it’s probably a little bit more climbing your way up feeling.
It’s hard because when you start out, at least for my position, you’re freelance. It’s not like you have a 9:00 to 5:00 secure job with benefits. You have to make as many friends and relationships as you can. If that person who you’ve been working with for six months all of a sudden isn’t working for a reason, you have other contacts that will call you still. Spreading yourself wide and getting as many people as you can that will call you.
Going back to where we started chatting about how you built your career quickly, but you didn’t mention this part. Do you think that are you a natural connector?
I am a social person. I’m good at making friends with people fast and I learned how to do that. I learned how to meet someone for the first time, remember their name, shake their hand strong, look them in the eye and then quickly pick up on who they are as a person. What are the personality traits? What are they like? What are they wearing, so that you can try to connect with them quickly, whether it’s like, “I love your necklace?” I wouldn’t say that if we didn’t or, “You played soccer in college?” Whatever you can connect with someone makes it easier to start that relationship and make it natural and cool so that it’s more comfortable.
Where did you learn?
I think I learned it in doing it so much. I got better at it and learned. These jobs are fun and they’re exciting that what makes it more fun is to be friends with the people on set. You can spot a fake or phony person quickly. You don’t want that because people know that in this business. It’s fun to make friends on set and have commonalities, stories and banter because it makes everyone connect in a better way, it makes it more fun and then it makes the project better.
If we’re going to go out there and do that and create together, we might as well have a good time. Nobody wants to hire people if you’re a jerk.
When I first started out, I worked with a bunch of different personality producers. Some were very mean, crazy and hardcore. Some of them were very more shy, quiet and minimal. Some of them were very bossy, but they didn’t know what they were doing. It was interesting to see all these personalities because you pick up on it quickly. The client does as well. It’s about being yourself and being natural but also making it fun.
It evolved over there from how you started and growing, but it feels like it’s your industry, but what I’ve learned at the end of the day, it always goes back to relationships. That’s how I found you. We value trust for most people and that feels safe when there’s a foundation of trust there.
That’s why you should be nice to most people unless you don’t have to be because you never know in this industry too. If someone is working for you, for example, a PA or it could be your director, they could be calling you for a job. You have to be mindful of that. Because even though there are a lot of people in this industry, it’s still a very small world.
One of the reasons I wanted to talk to you about some of these things is because you do work with big teams, but always you’re shifting teams as you’re shifting projects. I think I made a connection in my mind that’s why the relationship is so foundational. Because maybe you pick me for your team this time around, but you have to pick me again and again. We always have to be building the relationship, showing up and doing our best work as our most authentic self. I might fool you once, I might fool you twice, but figure it out if I’m a jerk. I bet that that pool gets smaller and smaller the longer you’re at round.
You have to do A-plus work on every single job because I don’t want to say you’re only as good as your last job, but people tend to think that way. If you mess up on something and it’s even someone you’ve been working with for years, they love you and it’s great. If you messed up, they’re like, “Megan messed up. I’m going to hire someone else next time.” It’s that quick. You have to stay on top of the ball always.
That must be difficult because if I think about my entrepreneurial journey, it doesn’t even actually matter if it’s an entrepreneur or working in corporate or in your industry. We have bad times in our lives. We have things happen to us. We have ups and downs. It’s being a human. I know that that can impact your work. How do you manage that?
If you have a bad time on something, you have to be honest with the person. You can’t shove it under the rug and hope that it goes away or they ignore that something weird happened or bad happened. You have to address it. You have to quickly be like, “I was depressed because of this, this and this.” Because people are humans and then they’ll quickly go, “Okay,” and they’ll understand and forgive you for it. If you don’t address it, it’s hard for them to understand why.
I remember when I was a younger lady in my career. When I was struggling, I would hide it. I wouldn’t ask for help or I wouldn’t bring it forward because at that time. I felt like it wasn’t okay to show weakness in any way shape or form, even okay to show that I’m human in a way.
I love this topic because I learned that over the years for sure. Nobody’s perfect and things happen. If someone is for me messes up and comes and talks to me about it, it doesn’t need to go into detail. It’s just simple like, “I know I wasn’t prepared for this and I messed up on this.” It’s instant forgiveness. I learned to do that too. Everybody messes up and you have to own it, fix it for the next time and apologize or let them know you learned your lesson. It’s more powerful to do it that way than to ignore it because they don’t respect that.
I’ve absorbed that and learned that the hard way. Also, it’s more about the environment that you’re in and you create as a leader for your project. For example, you’ve got 100 people for your team and it’s the way and the openness. You have an openness about you. I can already feel that, but you’re creating that for them, I’m sure.
It’s taken time to do and become that person.
You didn’t pop out and know how to do like a leader right away.
It took years and years. It’s fun to talk about this because I’d never thought about that and it’s true, so I value that.
That goes back to relationships too. If you think about it being a very open leader and saying, “I wasn’t perfect or I screwed up.” It allows and creates a space for your team to do that.
You have to set by example.
You said something to me about the boys’ club. I don’t know the atmosphere in your industry, but where we’re most up around that.
We were talking about what are some issues in my workplace because my workplace is very different than a corporate world, but I’m sure this happens in the corporate world as well. I’ve noticed through the years that there can be a boys’ club that can form in different situations. It alienates the female. That’s something I learned in the last couple of years, but instead of worrying, being offended or annoyed by it, I decided the best way to handle it was to become part of the boys’ club.
Tell us more about that.
In my business, you have to become friends with these people. Obviously, you’re not going to be friends with someone you don’t like. I’m not saying forcefully do something to be fake and be in a weird position that you don’t naturally feel comfortable in. These are cool people that I enjoy hanging out with. You’d have to sometimes do things to become part of that so they respect you. I’ve gone to strip clubs with the boys and had a fun night out because then the next day, there’s this bond that’s fun, they respect you and it’s cool.
It’s like, “She’s a cool chic. She went and hung out with us while we wanted to hang out.”
I would never put myself in an uncomfortable or weird position that I didn’t feel I belong in. It wasn’t a weird, awkward experience. It was fun. On set when they’re talking about fantasy football, I know nothing about fantasy football. I don’t like it. I don’t want to do it, but I still take an interest to ask them and to try to understand it and be like, “Why does it work like this? Why are you so into it?” Because it engages a conversation that includes you, otherwise you’d be excluded.
I know exactly what you’re talking about because I did a lot in strategic partnerships, so it was all about relationships for me. It was a lot of men and I feel like that’s how they bond. It’s not like you’re having to shift yourself. It’s just you’re putting yourself in the situation where they’re bonding. You need to bond how they do it, which is over topics like sports, going to strip clubs or it depends on the group, even golfing and more sports.
If it’s something like fantasy football that I have no interest in doing, I did join and I did do it to give it a go and give it a try. It was a bonding experience because even though my team lost horribly. I didn’t even know how to keep up on it. I didn’t know what I was doing. I didn’t care. It’s like, “Megan, your team sucks.” It still brings you into the boys’ club and the fun of it. It’s fun to do stuff like that sometimes.
Is there a girl’s club in your industry?
Yes, there are many different groups. There are total cliques and groups. It’s like high school. It’s like any situation, so it relates to all things. If you’re working in this situation and you want to succeed, you want to feel you’re a part of the team. It doesn’t matter if it’s a boys’ club or a girls’ club.
That was my point. We lead with that, but there’s the other side of it too. There are all kinds of people clique-ing and matching up and you’re saying, “I see that group over there. I want in.”
There’s always a glam clique in my industry because they sit in glam and they get to talk to those glam people for hours and then they come out on set. It’s like they’d had this whole bonding experience and then they come out and it’s like, “You haven’t had that.” I make an effort to go into the gland room and say hi to everybody. I enjoy that and it makes it more fun. You befriend people and then it gets better.
When you say glam room, not everybody’s going to know what you mean by that.
Hair and makeup wardrobe room for the artist or the star of the show.
You’re probably around some famous people. I perused your work.
It’s different if Beyoncé is in the glam room because she’s not going to go in there. That’s a music video that’s a one-time thing. I’m talking more about the longer-term shows or things for you to make an effort to be a part of the team. The one-day shoots and things don’t matter to me who your friends are from those as much.
You’re in an industry where how you look matters. I’ll just put myself out there. Getting older for a woman is hard and difficult because you see the changes and you don’t want to see the changes. It’s like a confidence thing, but then we’re surrounded by the inundation of beauty, being young and youthful. Is this a challenge in your industry? Is this something on your mind?
Yes, this is very much on my mind. As a woman in general, you’re right, it’s hard. In my industry, it’s hard because I think people want to work around people that look good and feel good naturally. In the past couple of years, I have gained weight and I haven’t felt as great as I normally would feel. It affected me. I have reminded myself, which I need to get on this better, that you need to take the time for yourself to make yourself feel good. Because if you don’t take care of yourself, you’re not going to take care of other people. You’re not going to do your job as well. Take care of your kids or whatever it is. You got to put yourself first. No matter how busy you are, you got to take the time to go work out, to remind your brain to eat clean. This is something I need to work on better because I think it helps overall if you feel good about yourself.
We naturally do it when we’re young because we don’t have responsibilities. There’s no family. Maybe you got a boyfriend but you have a lot of time to focus on you. It happens naturally then over time, the level of responsibilities increase, whether that’s aging parents and kids. Commitments you’re making work usually get more stressful as you grow and hustling. Somewhere it falls away. I don’t know where exactly that happens, but I’ve seen it for myself and talking with all kinds of women. You’re like, “What happened?”
It bugs me because I’ll get on a conference call in the morning and miss my workout. It’s 8:00 at night. I’ve eaten crap all day because I don’t care. I’m not thinking and I feel horrible because I’m like, “I should have taken that one hour out in the morning as I had planned and pushed the conference call.” You got to take the time. It’s something that I’ve dealt with that I need to work on.
We’ll see the changes on the outside because maybe you’re not sleeping as good or eating as well. You said something that starts chipping away at your confidence somehow because you’re like, “I don’t feel as good. I’m achier.” Something’s off, but it was a slow burn in a way to get there.
When I’m not working, I go to the spa. I get my hair done. I go shopping for a cute new outfit that I feel good. I do Botox. Whatever it is to make yourself feel good is good. I’m proud of whatever decisions women make to do that because it makes them feel more confident and it makes them get through everything more positively and stronger, so I’m all for that stuff.
I would look at maybe older women or women ahead of me and I would see them. It wasn’t because they were getting older, I didn’t think. I would say, “She gets her nails done or she gets Botox or she gets whatever,” and I would make a judgment. This is interesting. I will never do that again for the exact reason which you have hit my heart on. Whatever it is for you, do it. What I’ve realized is that if that’s what that woman feels most confident doing, then have at it.
I’m all for that. My parents are in their late 60s and they look amazing. They’re in shape, they do whatever it takes to feel great and look great. It shows that they do not look like they’re in their late 60s. They have energy and they have confidence. It comes from that, but it takes work and it takes consciousness to be like, “I got to take the time to do this. It’s okay if I send the money on this and it’s okay if I get judged for this because it doesn’t matter.” It’s how you feel to get yourself through what you need to get through. This is a topic that I need to work on because I feel like I’m not cared as much and it’s great to voice it because it goes to show that it affects things.
I feel like as soon as you start voicing things, that’s when the energy starts shifting. You’re on the path. Do you have a family?
No, I do not have kids, but I have an awesome, amazing loving husband who I’ve been with me for several years. We have two French bulldogs. My parents, and then I have a very successful younger sister who lives in New York. She works with some amazing bridal gown designer.
I was thinking, “Megan’s great at putting somebody’s story out there into a beautiful visual way.” I’m thinking the one thing that I would love to know is if you were producing your own video, show or documentary, what would Megan’s voice have to say? What would you want to put out into the world? It might not be your life’s work.
I like the motto of, “You only live once,” and “Things happen for a reason,” like we were discussing. I think it’s some theme like that where everyone gets so stressed out all the time. There’s so much going on in the world, things you can get angry at, things you can get upset at or depressed with. There are many negative things that you can let come into your life. Remember that you only live once and use it to your advantage to make smart decisions. Go on that vacation. Redo your place, save up money for some reward. Take care of your body and your health. Treat people with kindness, work your butt off, feel good about yourself and what you do and the decisions you make. I’ve made horrible decisions sometimes and I’ve been depressed. All of that stuff has happened many times to me and it doesn’t feel good. It doesn’t feel right and it doesn’t feel like you’re utilizing your time properly when those things happen. Of course, there are unavoidable things that will do that to you and that’s enough as is. Don’t put undue pressure on yourself to create other problems. That’s a fun outlook that I feel I’ve learned and working on.
I get these little intuitive hits as people are talking. It was like this headline that was like, “Go big or go home. Get all the juice out of the lemon.”
I think you do only have one life, so why not go for it?
That’s what I get from you.
In years, I’ve worked on some personal projects where it takes some of my own money and time. It’s hard to make that decision, but it’s like, “If you think the idea’s good, cool and you want to go for it, spend that money and do it.” It could have a huge reward or it could have none, but you won’t know until you try.
I need to know what you’ve thought about this episode. Megan and I start going into some topics that are maybe this is my paradigm. I feel a little bit more in opinions, different sides of the coin, and different sides of the fence. Don’t be shy. Let me know your thoughts. I’m curious. Are you still experiencing and living in an environment in the workplace where looks matter? Is there something on your mind? Is the good old boys’ network still happening at your workplace? Reach out, share your comments, share your feedback and share your thoughts. The last thing I want to say is did you get that last part where we start digging into what Megan’s life work might be about?
I love that she put it right out there, “You only live once. Things happen for a reason.” We let it all down until we get all the juice out of the lemon. If you’re paying close attention, you’re going to know that theme. This is a theme amongst successful women. You know this from Shirley Bloomfield and her interview. If you haven’t read that, check it out. You know it from Genna Garver in her interview. It’s a theme that is weaved throughout these women just like Megan, they’re going for it. My question to you is where are you going all in, squeezing every little bit of juice out of that lemon? Where are you holding yourself back?
About Megan Gutman
Megan Gutman is an LA-based producer who has had the pleasure working all over the world. She’s been producing for 12 years. She produces everything from commercials, digital content, documentaries, live events, music videos, narrative film, photography, television, etc. She works with award-winning actors, chart-topping artists, and world-class brands. She has owned her production company Mega G Productions since 2008 and she still produces freelance on the side.
In the course of her career, she has sold a reality TV show to TLC, been Grammy-nominated for a music video, revamped a TV series for FX that is in it’s 6th season and just had a documentary she worked on get into Sundance. Her future outlook is to continue to build her brand and produce a feature film that she has written on her own