Category Archives for "Everything Else"

4 donald trump, bill rancic and carolyn

Lessons From The Original Apprentice

You do remember the Apprentice, right?  It’s hard to believe that it was seven years ago season one aired on NBC. I remember being there with Traci during the filming of season three and walking by the Trump tower – thinking about the show and what it meant to entrepreneurs all over.

As they say – time flies – It seems like yesterday I remember Donald Trump choosing Bill Rancic, an internet entrepreneur from Chicago, to be his right hand man for a year.  It was the first time in a long time that I really got into prime time TV when The Apprentice aired.  donald trump, bill rancic and carolynThe Donald had seemingly leveraged his business acumen into show business, putting himself, his hair (is it real?) and the Trump organization into the homes of people all across America, if not the world.

Actually – truth be told, Mark Burnett, credited for creating the reality TV show genre and of Survivor fame, had approached the Donald to do the show at a party, and Trump agreed.

Season one was really the best season – and the recent stuff with Celebrity Apprentice isn’t worth watching.

However – I do remember watching Bill be selected on live TV and feeling the excitement of his opportunity.

Recently, I had the opportunity to meet  with and speak to Bill Rancic at a private business function, where he was also the keynote speaker.

bill rancic and brooks van normanBill’s talk was one of the best I’ve heard, so good in fact that I was compelled to take notes ( actually I think I was the only one taking notes!).  His message was disguised as entertaining story after story about his unlikely path to  fame and business success.

Here are some of the highlights of Bill’s message:

The first is to do what you fear – and the death of that fear is certain.  In fact, he reminded the audience that humans are born with only two fears – the fear of falling and the fear of loud noises – all other fears we learned along the way.

Bill’s first assignment with Mr. Trump was joining him in Florida to help judge the Miss Universe contest, which of course was a staple in the Trump Organization entertainment division.

Tough job!

However, things got more serious quickly as Bill’s main job was to oversee a large construction project.  He talked about how he faced his fears working in a domain that he knew little to nothing about, along side senior executives from HRH Construction – general contractors for the project in Chicago.

One of the notes that I thought was especially relevant to the managers in the audience from Bill’s construction experience with Trump, came from one of the HRH executives who intelligently coached Bill with the advice to “be the conductor”.

Of course this meant that Bill was to do his best managing what I call the “white space on the org chart”.  The message was clearly to let the experts do their jobs – or help them play in harmony to continue the analogy; the architects, electricians, HVAC specialists, etc.

Good message – good analogy.

The talk then progressed to Bill sharing his assessment of dinners he’d shared with Ted Turner and Mark Cuban; both clearly different personalities – and minds I like.  He talked about how his experience working with and getting to know about some of America’s business luminaries led him to three conclusions about their success in life, despite their radically different styles:

1. They are were good decision makers.  Bill said that Trump said to him during his time with the Trump Organization, “Ill  trust whatever decision you make, but I’ll fire you if you don’t make decisions.  The message is to take action and be action oriented – even if you aren’t 100% sure.

2. Be creative and agile. Bill talked about how his first challenge on the show was selling lemonade at the proverbial bill ranciclemonade stand in 95 degree heat on a hot summer day on 5th Avenue in New York – sporting a suit no less.

Simple enough – however, the tasks became progressively more challenging from there, requiring him to adjust his thinking and management style when project leader.  Bill reconciled his ability to win the Apprentice because his competition had only their text books or singular business experiences to draw upon.  Lesson:  everything you do or learn matters someday.

3. Never give up and think like an owner. I especially liked this one because of it’s value in my own life – whether things are really great or really bad – I try not to get too excited or too down either way – but just keep working towards the goal. Bill reminded the group that Trump didn’t always have it easy – and came from one of the biggest comebacks in corporate history.  Most people probably don’t know it, but Trump nearly lost it all in the late 80’s.  Lesson: adversity+persistence gets you through.

Bill’s just finished shooting a reality show for the A&E Network called We Mean Business where he goes into businesses and fixes them – I think it’s kind of like Gordon Ramsey’s Kitchen Nightmares or Tabatha’s Salon Makeover.

That format is proven on TV, as is Bill – so it should be a good fit…provided Omarosa isn’t in it.  Just kidding Omarosa.

No, actually, I’m not. 😉

Anyway Bill included a lot of other great content for both young entrepreneurs – as well as more seasoned ones.  From humble beginnings selling pancakes at five bucks a plate in his grandmothers house, to cigars online, to the Apprentice with Trump and now to expressing an attitude of gratitude on the speaking circuit – Bill has a good and worthwhile story to share.

What I also think makes Bill a good draw for the speaking circuit in addition to his new TV show is that he’s humble, funny, comfortable in his own skin and most importantly, has accumulated a wide range of experience in a number of key industries – therefore he’s got the breadth of expertise to speak to a wider audience, than say, someone who just hit it big with one play.

Oh – and let’s not forget that that he also has first hand evidence the Donald’s hair is real.  That’s got to be worth something too, right?

Background SWAT Officer in i-Robot

At the time, i-Robot was the largest made for film production ever filmed in Canada.   185 million USD was the total budget.  Will Smith got $20 million. I got $1,500 for a few scenes with the back of my head and a side profile over 7 days work.  But it was a blast.

My agent told me that I am well suited to military and cop-type role roles.  (I’m sure the Buzz Lightyear jaw line has something to do with that!).

Actually, there were so many special effects in this film that they were rumored to eat up most of the remaining budget.  The police station, where all of my scenes took place was so real looking.

I remember how impressed I was the first time I walked on set.

Anyway, when my agent told me that I was selected for this production, I was really excited.  The first thing that I did was head out to Vancouver Film Studios for measurement and fitting of a uniform that would be custom made for me.

The folks making my uniform advised me that the cost for my SWAT suit alone was in excess of $10,000.   It fit me like a glove when I came back 2 weeks later to try it on.   Damn was it cool.  Too bad it (and millions of dollars of other cool outfits) are sitting in a Fox Studio warehouse somewhere…

It would make the most fantastic Halloween costume – EVER.

i Robot SWAT Team

I learned so many things being a part of such a big production.  Most notably  – patience. You spend a lot of time waiting around on big productions like this.  All in, I was probably on set for a total of 5 hours out of the 7 days I was there.

I also learned how much goes into shooting sci-fi productions.  The planning and organization in insane. Most of the scenes for i-Robot were shot in sequence.i-Robot Sargeants

I also learned that Will Smith is a very funny, very hard working actor.  The man is totally on his game in every way. He and Jada have mastered Hollywood…possibly even the universe!

Recently I watched the Pursuit of Happyness and loved it.

During set up for one scene well into the production a bunch of us were killing time waiting to hear “camera up” (which means we’re rolling), just before a subsequent scene. This is common when producers want to maintain continuity where people are standing.  It also wasn’t long enough for Will to back to his trailer.

Myself and another background performer were sitting on a bench inside the police station you see in the movie.  She had fallen asleep as it was getting later at night.  Will Smith was standing right in front of us and decided to give my colleague a little laugh – big Willy style.

He got about two inches from her face while she was asleep.  Then I nudged her to wake her up and she saw Will RIGHT THERE in her face.

She let out a big scream and everyone nearby had a big laugh, including Smith’s bodyguard who rarely even cracked a smile.

It made me appreciate Will’s sense of moment and sense of humor.

Anyway, as a background performer on big budget productions, you need to bring books, music…whatever, to pass the time because it can get boring sitting around.

i-robot background performers waiting

We were asked not to sit in the direct sunlight because of the possibility of skin tones changing color, which would of course mess up continuity in the final production.  You have to think of these things!

Call times were early – 6 am.  Days ended around 8-11pm.  Long days.

The set for my scenes was an abandoned BC Hydro building out in the Fraser Valley, just outside of Vancouver.

i-robot SWAT Captain

My commitment to Fox was for 9 days.  However, I only made it 7 days as I sustained an injury on set at the end of the 7th day during the filming of a very chaotic scene when the robots are attacking the police station and I was dodging other background performers running around frantically.

I was paid for 9 days, however, as the contract you sign with Fox provides for this if you’re injured on set.

It wasn’t a major injury – I sprained my right ankle – but did have to be carried off set.  Alex Proyas (the director) personally checked on me right after my injury.  Proyas is an on-set safety nut who puts this as his highest priority.

You may recall that Bruce Lee’s son Brandon Lee died on set during a freak accident while filming another one of Proyas’ films – The Crow.  So when we got to set on day one – we had a very serious talk about security and safety from the first assistant director.

There were about 75 other background performers on set for the same scenes that were being shot.  The costumes were incredible.  Some of them cost more than $25,000 to make.  The details in these costumes defy logic.

i robot police badge

For example – every one of us who had law enforcement had a unique badge number.

Mine was 2124D.

You will NEVER see that on camera, but it was part of the screen play anyway. There are so many other details that would take up days to explain.

Another very unique element of the production was that custom guns were made especially for the production.  These were real guns that shot blanks and they were extremely loud and very high tech looking.

The guns were amazing.

Some of us with weapons skills on the resume had the potential to be upgraded on set to firing the guns at the robots during the attack scene.  Which was good, because we got more money.

When this happened, all the intended targets were holding up clear riot police Plexiglas to block any debris flying out of the guns.  Those Plexiglas guards were green-screened out in post production.

My uniform had a holster for the gun, which was a plastic replica for all scenes except for those when there is actual shooting. I also had a billy club and real Mag Flashlight. All of which had to be handed into the armourer before leaving set from each scene.

Being a background performer is not a career. You will not make much money.

i-robot SWAT Officer

However, it’s a good way to learn the business and see how things get done.

But I wouldn’t focus on it as a means to an end in acting if that’s what you want to do.

Participating in this production brought far more value that the very small amount of money I was paid. I now look at all movies differently and know how much goes into them.

There is always the chance that director likes your “look” or decides to change the script and have you speak, but those happenings are the exception, not the rule.

Will Smith carried most of i-Robot and I think it is a great movie, with a great story and some state of the art special effects.

The original storyline would allow for a sequel, which would be a bankable money-maker for Fox.

In the meantime, if I can just get my hands on that costume….