The Biggest Lie I Never Told
In 2006, while working full-time in multi-line insurance, I made the craziest prospecting call of my career. It was particularly strange because, on the off-chance I got what I wanted, I wouldn't sell a thing. And I knew it.
I often tell agents that I work with who are new to a career in insurance (and usually new in sales) that looking back, one of the keys to success I experienced early in my career came from nothing but my sheer curiosity. My nosiness, if you will. I'm the kind of person who wants to know how things work. I like to take things apart, dissect them, pick at them and then see if I can put them back together again... I see connections and story in every facet of life, and I am genuinely interested in what other people think, what they believe, what they do, and more importantly why. My husband has often jokingly poked at me for being a rubber-necker... whenever I come across something that feels like a 'scene', I have an insatiable urge to know what's going on. Whether that's good or bad, I don't know... but I feel like it's always been part of the reason I'm good at what I do. That need-to-know is often the catalyst that gets me past the fear of making a call- especially to people who in general aren't super-excited to talk about insurance or retirement plans... but I'd never really made a call like this one.
When I found out that Transformers (Dreamworks, 2007) was filming on Holloman Air Force Base back in 2006, I decided that I wanted to see for myself what was going on.
As you might imagine, it's not easy to get on the set of a Michael Bay movie. It's also not easy to get on an Air Force Base when you no longer have a military ID card or any base privileges, and it's after 9/11.
At the time, I was writing freelance for the local newspaper as well as a publication called New Mexico Woman Magazine. On what can only be described as a calculated whim, I made a phone call to a gentleman I had known for years as a liaison between Holloman Air Force Base and the town we lived in, Alamogordo. He gave me the name of the officer in charge of the support of the production. I called base information and asked to speak with this woman, and introduced myself as a local business owner and freelance writer. I said I was interested in writing a piece for the magazine about the women who worked behind the scenes in the movie industry.
I did not have a press pass, a degree in journalism, or an impressive portfolio of published work. What I did have, I guess, was enthusiasm for the 'ask'. Maybe it was because I fully expected to be declined in my request that the call went so well...
The officer gave me the name of the Hollywood executive who ran things on their side, and said that if she would agree to my visit that I'd be granted access to the base; everything set-related would be up to them.
Once again, my expectations were low. I mean, really low. I was used to being rejected for far less glamorous reasons. But I called this lady, this PR person, and to my surprise, she thought an article about the women who were really doing the work was a fabulous idea. She wanted to know if I could come out the next day, because it was one of the last days they would have a full crew before they were sending people to the Hoover Dam.
And that's how I got myself onto the set of Transformers.
I chronicled the work of several women in a two-month spread in the magazine. I interviewed Allegra Clegg, the Unit Production Manager. That role, like many in movies (as well as in insurance) is heavily male-dominated. I met the Department Head of Hair, the Script Supervisor, the Head of Transpo, and one of the post-production engineers in charge of all things cool that are added by a computer at Lucasfilm.... all of them women. All of them super-cool and willing to show me what they do for a living and talk about how they got into it. It was a red-letter day, and the conversations I had with these women far outshined a handshake and introduction to Michael Bay and Ian Bryce.
The articles were never going to be worthy of any kind of an award- hell, I can't even find online archived copies- but I often think about them. I wonder where all those ladies are today, what they've worked on since, what kind of adventures they've had. I wonder if I could have made their stories more inspiring and sold them to larger publications. Sometimes, I wonder what it's like to be those women and how fabulous it must be to have your name associated with something special, no matter how large or small your part, when people like me sit on their couches and watch what you helped create.
And then I remember that, had I not reached out and made one kind-of-crazy phone call, I would never have found myself on the set of a blockbuster movie. Isn't that the way most adventures start, anyway? A passing idea, a whim... and an impulse to act on it?
If you don't ask, the answer is always 'no'. Be curious. Find your angle. Make your move. The best days of your life are the ones you didn't plan for. The Universe awaits.