Boss Lady is a series that shares personal insights from creative women in business. This week, we’re so excited to chat with Nikki Weiss-Goldstein, the founder of Nikki Weiss & Co, who represents the film industry’s leading directors in both the commercial and feature world. Nikki discusses overcoming personal and career obstacles to find success in the industry she loves.
1. Tell us a little about yourself and your career.
Born and raised in Philadelphia, I consider Los Angles home. I’m the founder of Nikki Weiss & Co, a firm I started in 1994 at age 21. I represent leading directors in the commercial, music video, episodic and feature world to advertising agencies. I’ve successfully launched the commercial careers of renowned film directors and still photographers.
I’m most proud of an Expedia campaign in which I participated entitled Find Your Understanding. It tells the story of of my father-in-law’s acceptance of my marriage to his daughter. The film won numerous awards and was honored by TED as one of the Ten Best Ads of The Year.
My reach in the entertainment business goes beyond the advertising world. I’ve been a consultant on ABC’s Grey’s Anatomy, I received a GLAAD award for my appearance on The Oprah Winfrey Show and my wife Jill and I starred in Showtime’s The Real L Word, using that platform to help in the fight for marriage equality. However, my greatest production to date is our son Adler. Baby boy number two is due to arrive in December.
A breast cancer survivor, I am an inaugural board member of The Pink Lotus Foundation, the only non profit organization of its kind that offers free screenings, surgery, chemotherapy, reconstruction and follow up care for any underinsured, underprivileged woman diagnosed with breast cancer.
2. After living and working in three majors cities across the US, what has the transition been like coming from Philly?
I left Philadelphia when I was 20, right after college, so I only grew up there. I do have fond childhood memories. I moved to Chicago after school, which was very similar to Philly; a hustle and bustle city, just colder! Because my career took me back and forth to Los Angeles, I eventually relocated. I’m a California girl at heart so living and working here most of my adult life has been wonderful. I definitely do appreciate the weather a bit more having grown up on the east coast and having lived in the Windy City,
3. What inspired your passion to be apart of the filmmaking industry?
I was a theater major in college, but realized very early on that I didn’t want to struggle to try to “make it.” I knew that I wanted to be involved in the entertainment business in some way and honestly I was lucky enough to land my first job as an assistant to a director’s agent. That job made me appreciate the filmmaking process and the director’s craft. It was inspiring. [pullquote]I can truly say that after 22 years in this business I am still passionate about my career.[/pullquote]
4. When did you know it was time to start Nikki Weiss & Co.?
I was so young when I started my company. At the time I really had nothing to lose and I was too naive to think I’d fail. I knew it was time to hang my own shingle when I started booking really big jobs for my roster of directors and making my boss a lot of money. I thought, I could do this for myself, but I must leave his firm with just as good if not better talent and try to make a name for myself. Wanting to stand out, I took on renown still photographer Albert Watson and helped cross him over from print to film. I signed composer Hans Zimmer and launched his commercial music company, Cyberia. I took on “A” list feature filmmakers and crossed them over into the ad world. I became known for representing this type of talent and that’s how I successfully launched my firm.
5. Describe a typical day.
My day usually starts at 6:00 am because I’m dealing with East and Midwest time zones. I physically get into my office around 9:00 am where I answer a ton of emails and phone calls, or maybe I’ll have a morning meeting with a director in my office.
I’m the liaison between my roster of directors and Midwest ad agencies so I’m constantly speaking with agency producers and creatives about their upcoming round of commercial production and their director needs. Once they send me approved storyboards to review, I custom build reels of the director’s work in a clickable emailed link and submit my top contenders for consideration on their campaign.
When my director is engaged in the bidding process on a commercial project, it means conference calls with the ad agency producer, creatives and my director and Executive Producer. I review my director’s treatment and make suggestions if need be before it is presented back to the agency. And then you cross your fingers for an awarded production as they are usually bidding two other competitors.
On production days you can usually find me on my client’s set.
6. Do you have a personal favorite aspect or part of the production process? [pullquote]To be candid, I faked it a little until I made it.[/pullquote]
To me, the magic happens in the editing room. I do enjoy watching a story come together in an edit. But I also like casting and wardrobe, set design and art direction. It’s a good thing I do what I do because I love the entire process so much.
7. In the collaboration of your dreams, who would it be with and why?
I would love to work on more projects with strong female directors. Angelina Jolie inspires me for different reasons; her brave health choices, being a writer/director/producer/actress and wearing all of those hats so well. There’s a specific film project in which I’m fortunate enough to be involved with actor/director Justin Baldoni that I hope sees the light of day; a true story that I think Angelina Jolie would really respond to… If she would adapt it to a screenplay and direct it, it would be my ultimate dream. I just need to get it to her first.
8. How has social media impacted your career?
[pullquote]Social Media is one of the most powerful tools of the trade. It’s the quickest way to get new talent seen, new campaigns and content viewed. [/pullquote]A commercial campaign can receive millions of hits which is an an amazing way to track a brands success. The impact that it’s had on my career is in the vast audience I can now reach in a matter of seconds.
9. Are there any boss ladies you look up to?
I greatly admire the empires that Arianna Huffington and Oprah Winfrey have each created. I also admire women who have had success and longevity in the entertainment industry like Sheila Nevins at HBO, power agent Beth Swofford at CAA, Danielle Gelber Executive Producer at Dick Wolf Films. Of course my director list includes Angelina Jolie, Debbie Allen, Kathryn Bigelow, Jill Soloway.
10. Do you have any advice for women looking to start their own business?
To be successful you’re going to have to live and breathe your work, so love what you do!
More on Nikki Weiss-Goldstein:
Images courtesy of Spencer Skelly