A while ago, I shot my second TV sizzle reel (the topic is top secret, but I’m sure with a little prodding you could persuade me to spill the beans).  If you are like I was before all this TV stuff, you probably have no idea what a “sizzle reel” is.  In short, a sizzle reel is a long commercial for a potential TV show.  Typically between 3-5 minutes in length, sizzle reels are used to pitch TV show concepts to networks.  If the networks like it, they commission a pilot and you’re off to the races.  You’re invited to the dance.  You’ve punched your ticket.  You’re playing in the big game.  You get the picture…

After 8+ exhausting hours of cameras following me around, I realized some stuff about me and this TV thing.  While my realizations are useful for anyone who may one day find him or herself front of a camera, I think they translate well to leadership and life.  Or maybe I’m just kidding myself.  You be the judge.

Ignore the cameras, but don’t forget that they are there

To be good on camera, you have to pretend that there isn’t a dude with a camera about 4 feet from your face as you go about your business (or in my case, workplace therapy).   And ignore the fact that in the other room are four people with headsets on listening to your every word to make sure it “sounds good.”  And yet, you can’t forget that you are being watched and listened to, particularly if you want to keep everyone’s attention and focus.  It sounds like leadership to me.  Like leadership, you can’t spend all of your time worrying about what others think, but at the same time you need to make sure you have their attention and are keeping their interests and concerns in mind if you want them to follow you.  And let me tell you, it’s exhausting.

Don’t try to put on your dad’s suit

Be you and only you.  I noticed that as soon as the following thought would cross my mind, “the proper way I should do this or say this would be X,” I would be sunk.  This is what happened when I shot sizzle reel numero uno.  That production company attempted to have me memorize lines.  Epic.  Fail.

I realized then that I can only say it my way, not the way my dad would say it or want me to say it (or my mom, or my mentor, or some expert, etc…).

I had to be me and not hold back. When you truly let go and be fully you, the camera will fall in love with you.  They call that being “telegenic” in the biz.  I don’t know if I’ve got it, but I sure tried hard enough… or didn’t try… err, you get the idea.

Focus on the garter belt

If you’ve ever seen the movie “Bull Durham,” you’ll know what I’m talking about (if you haven’t, you have your Netflix prescription for the weekend).  In the movie, there is a young fireball-throwing pitcher named “Nuke” LaLoosh who, as they say in the movie, has “a million-dollar arm and a five-cent head.”  Annie, his pseudo coach and love interest convinces him to wear her garter belt while he pitches to keep his mind off of what he is doing.  Reluctantly, Nuke complies.  As a result, he stops worrying about his mechanics and allows his natural instincts to take over.  Movie happiness ensues.

On the day of my sizzle reel shoot, I started out of the gate slow.  I was spending too much time thinking about what I was doing and focusing too much on mechanics.  I would think to myself stuff like “O.k.  First I need to say this.  Then she’ll say that.  Then I’ll come back with this.  Etc…” It felt awkward, forced and choppy.  At some point I stopped thinking about what I was doing and I just was.  I just did.  Then it felt right.

You can’t think about mechanics when its performance time.  Be fully present in the moment and trust your instincts.

If you just read the list and find yourself nodding in agreement, congratulate yourself.  You are ready to film your own sizzle reel.  Now all you need is a good topic.  Maybe “Cake Whisperer” or “Dog Makeover.”  Catchy.  I can see ‘em now.  Dudes talking to cakes and dogs getting their nails done.  People will watch anything.

I just hope it happens to be a show starring yours truly.