GMS Career Day Panel
On Feb. 20, 2020, five hardworking women came together at Cleveland to share their experiences and careers. All of them possess jobs in the entertainment industry, which is notoriously difficult to succeed in.
Donna Ross-Jones has earned the title of Entrepreneur of Excellence by Essence Magazine and “Inspiration of the Year” by the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO).
Jones is the founder and current CEO of the Transition Music Corporation, which is one of the top 100 music production companies in America. She has represented many artists, such as Eddie Murphy and Anita Baker.
Jones created the TMC when she was 21 years old. As for how she got there, she said, “Every bit of it was a mistake.”
Jones originally majored in psychology in college. However, after a very depressing and gloomy internship, she quit and was later hired at an employment agency as a job counselor, despite not yet having a job herself.
Three months later, she was one of the best employees in the agency. Then, she got a job offer in West Hollywood in one of the top music management firms in the business.
But she was fired because her boss’s wife believed that he liked Jones better than her. Although she was crushed, she marched on, firmly believing in hard work and ambition. Years later, she founded Transition Music Corp.
“Make sure you show up and you are your best person,” Jones advised students at the panel, adding, “I hire great people, amazing people. I drive them to be phenomenal.”
Marlene Sharp has been everywhere and anywhere when it comes to her employment.
“I’ve done every job… in the show business,” Sharp said. She was a Production Director at LEVEL-5 abby Inc., the homeland of YO-KAI WATCH and other video game-based franchises. She also worked on the infamous Sonic the Hedgehog movie.
However, originally she wanted to be an Oscar-winning actress… which did not work out. Even though she still has a glimmer of hope left, she has been pursuing other careers.
Sharp is from New Orleans, Louisiana. Her educational background consists of performance and broadcasting, as well as fine arts and musical theatre. This left her with the skills of a singer, dancer, and actress.
She ended up working at a talent production company for a year, then at a temporary agency, and finally at the company that produced Power Rangers. From there, she fell into a metaphorical wonderland of merchandise-driven children- and family-targeted TV shows.
“I really love toys,” Sharp said. … when I fell into the kids’ business… it was a rude awakening,” Sharp commented about the companies that control the industry.
But, the greed of corporations never diminished her love for toys and children’s TV shows. Now, Sharp runs her own company, Pink Poodle Productions, and also works as an independent consultant for Rainshine and Kinsane Entertainment in India. She scouts for books, video games, and toys that would make great TV shows.
“It’s good to keep an open mind,” said Sharp, adding, “Put yourself out there.”
Rita Street is the founder of Women in Animation. She is an independent executive producer of cartoons under her business, Radar Cartoons. She is the co-producer of Space Chickens in Space under Disney and is currently working on an upcoming movie, 100% Wolf.
100% Wolf is a movie about Freddy, a boy from a long line of strong werewolves. However, instead of turning into a wolf, he transforms into a pink poodle.
“I can’t get animation out of my blood,” Street said. “If I see a really cool character design, I have to turn it into a cartoon.”
The animation maven is always searching for books that can be turned into TV shows. Then, she sells her ideas and works on them for other animation studios.
Essentially, Street works behind the scenes to create new shows, which she often finds in books. If a story is from outside of the US, it can be an international co-production. This was the case of 100% Wolf.
More often than not, Street has to pitch her ideas multiple times, editing and mixing them up, until a company agrees to hire her.
“Everything is a no until you turn it into a yes,” Street told the audience. “If you swim in the impossible pond…then there’s less competition.”
She advised students to advertise themselves and their skills, no matter how daunting the task may be.
Yvonne DePatis-Kupka works as a freelance hair stylist and makeup artist.
However, before her career in the film industry took off, she avoided it like the plague. She moved to Latin America, where she imported fabrics to make money, but later returned to America for a family business.
“Everything that I did came back into play later,” she said. “I’m a singer, a dancer, and an actor. But the hair thing kept coming back.”
For three whole years, she picked up odd jobs for money, serving coffee and cleaning up trash. While she did, she observed other makeup artists.
Eventually, she quit scooping up trash and started working as a hair stylist and makeup artist. She worked on the Blues Brothers movies and more, such as Little Women, Marvel’s Thor, and the horror movie, Us. She also worked on HBO’s Westworld.
“I did things I didn’t know how to do,” she quips. Once, a crime show she was working on needed dog bite makeup. She taught herself how to get the job done.
“Do things that make you happy, even if it’s hard,” DePatis-Kupka said. “Enjoy every moment of it. Keep on plotting. If you’re a writer, write. If you’re a makeup person, do makeup.”
The Career Day Panel was a great opportunity to meet experts in their own fields. It was a success and an awesome way for students to begin envisioning their own future careers.