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EP 213: Jeff Leisawitz – Author of NOT F*ING AROUND & Award Winning PRODUCER, MUSICIAN, and FILMMAKER (autogenerated)
Dane Reis: You booked it. Episode 213. All right. Let’s kick today’s episode off. I am excited to introduce to you my guest today. Jeff lies away. It’s Jeff, are you ready for.
Jeff Leisawitz: I’m totally ready for this
Dane Reis: Jeff is the author of not effing around the no BS guide for getting your creative dreams off the ground. Jeff Burns with a mission to inspire songwriters authors and screenwriters to amp up their creativity and shine in the world.
As an award winning musician producer college songwriting professor critically acclaimed author. Filmmaker and internationally in demand coach for creatives, , Jeff has devoted his life to creativity. Jeff, that is a very concise and quick intro of who you are and what you’ve done. But why don’t you tell us a little bit more about yourself, fill in the gaps and a little bit more about what you do as a professional in the entertainment industry.
Jeff Leisawitz: Sure. so I, as you can see, from the, bio there, I’ve been at this for quite a while, really? Since I’ve been a teenager, songwriting playing in bands, doing music for film and TV, stuff like that. I also I’m a writer. So as a music journalist, I got into that sort of in college and ended up writing the website for the.
radio station that broke grunge to the world and the nineties, which was really cool.
in the mid nineties, no one really even heard of a website. but I got this amazing job to interview these bands and go to these shows and get a million free CDs, all that kind of stuff. So that was fantastic. Like I said, or like you said, I teach.
So I’m writing. So I got that going on also screenwriting,
poetry, photography, all kinds of stuff. And then on the other side, or, or, uh, you know, sort of parallel to that. I’m a life coach for creatives. I’ve always been really big on empowering people, empowering myself and helping people,get ahead both in the world.
And pass their own stuff because often we are sort of our own worst enemy. I’ve studied and practiced something called NLP neuro-linguistic repatterning, which I use, that, which helps people untangle their subconscious blocks, about their beliefs and identities about the world.
if you don’t believe that you can do something or if you. I believe that the world, is out to get you all that kind of stuff. Subconsciously, you’re never going to get past that. So we deal with that. And,like you said, I wrote the book, not effing around, the no BS guide for getting your creative dreams off the ground.
Jeff Leisawitz: And that was really just helping. I wanted to write a book to help people bang their head against the wall less than I did. So there it is in a hundred pages or
Dane Reis: so good. I’m looking forward to digging into this and exploring a little bit more through the interview, but first let. Getting to this section here and Jeff, I am a sucker for a good quote. What is your favorite quote? You’d like to share with everyone?
I don’t know if this is fair, but I’d like to quote myself,
Dane Reis: Yeah, go on. Go
Jeff Leisawitz: don’t often do, but you know,here it’s the perfect time. So here’s the. At its best. I believe that creativity helps us to be seen, expressed, healed, and connected. So what am I really talking? About that. What does that really mean?
So to be seen out there in the world, I believe we are not often seen fully, You’ve got the internet and walking down the street where, you’re barely seeing, you’re mostly anonymous, then you’ve got your next level where, you know, Maybe at work or your acquaintances, people like that. And they know you, they kind ofget you, but they don’t really, and they probably don’t really care all that much either.
And then you’ve got your close people, right? That’s your good friends, your family, your partners, that kind of stuff. And hopefully they get you. But in my experience, they don’t always get all of you. So that’s the scene part then? What’s the express part? my definition of that is simply, going from the.
potential to the actual, So think of like a dancer who knows all the moves and is sitting in the corner on the Saturday night when the disco ball spin and the beat is slumping in that moment, she’s not expressed as soon as she gets out there on the dance floor, she’s expressed same thing for an actor, same thing for a poet, Having a bunch of poems on. the desk, doesn’t make you express as. writing the poem does. So that’s that. So what’s the heels part? I think everyone who’s created from a deep, authentic place performed, created whatever they know that something really special happens there. There’s just something that’s healing and it doesn’t have to come from a deep dark place, although it often does.
We can also be healed, in singing. Right. What’swhat’s the healing in that I would say, maybe it’s, letting Go of all the pain and loneliness that came before. So when we are seen, expressed and healed through our creativity, we give our creativity to the world. And when I say the world, I’m not talking about the top of the charts and all that, although I suppose that’s nice, right?
Jeff Leisawitz: It could be just a couple of people. It could be a small performance, whatever you give your gift to the world, this is where it gets really cool. You show others that they can be. The gift and they can be seen, expressed and healed. And that’s what connects us. That’s why creativity of all kinds is so important to humanity because it helps us understand each other.
It helps us connect
to each other.
Dane Reis: I really liked that. And you’re so right in so many ways, we seek some kind of permission, even if it’s subconscious to, to do the thing. Cause it’s, it can be scary. Put yourself out there, right? Like you said, you could know all the things and know all the moves or have all the right words, but to actually give it and share it, is another step.
Right.And to see other people doing that, gives you the permission and can enable you to. motivate you to take that next step and inspire you to take the next step. And something that it’s not something that necessarily happens overnight. Right?You have to, maybe you got to see it a lot of times again and again, you’re like, you know what, here we go.
I’m doing this now.
Jeff Leisawitz: Totally.
Dane Reis: very cool. let’s get into this section here. And Jeff, look, you are an entertainment professional, I’m an entertainment professional. And I think that you would agree that this industry can be one of the most subjective, brutally, honest and personally emotional industries in existence.
And you know,as well as I, that in order to create and have a successful career in this industry, like you’re having now takes a. Of dedication and hard work and while, yeah, for sure. There is an outrageous amount of fun and excitement doing what we do. There are also our fair share of obstacles, challenges, and failures.
We are going to experience and we’re going to have to move forward through. So tell us, what is one challenge, obstacle or failure you’ve experienced in your career and how did you come out the other side better because of it.
Jeff Leisawitz: Sure. first of all, Dan, let me say you are right, This is a tough game. And I think, I really think it’s. At every level, from just starting to, the people who are at the top of the heap, it’s very difficult there too. It’s just different kind of difficult if that
Jeff Leisawitz: Okay. So what is one thing that I’ve experienced, and a failure and came out better? The other side. Wellyears ago, I had been working for decades really in getting a record deal, To really take, you know,really get this thing going. Finally, I got three at the same time.
International record deals. Okay. Fan freaking tastic. Overjoyed. When was this? This was, I think the spring, I would say of 2008. What a significant about that? six months later, the world economy crashed. Thus destroying two out of the three record companies that had just signed me. Oh my God. So basically I went from this high of wow, my dream has come true to complete disaster.
I then had to, get the rights to my music back. And so that’s a time and money, the lawyer and all this. However, I managed to take this and put it out onto, the streaming services and downloads and all that. And it’s done really well over a million place
since that time. So.
Dane Reis: Yeah, very
Jeff Leisawitz: You know,it was just another lesson in you.
Can’t, you know,you don’t know what’s going on in the world. You can’t know the various changes, both in the positive and negative and, uh, you know,center your power. That’s a huge thing we talked about as, as a life coach, are you giving your power away? Because lots of people do a whole lot of the time.
we need to know what we can control. And then, motivate
Jeff Leisawitz: and execute.
Dane Reis: so good. Yeah. That’s crazy. amazing that you got three all at once and then yeah, that, oh, 8 0 9. Not a good time. hopefully we don’t see history repeat itself, but. History tends to repeat itself. So I guess we’ll see what happens, in the coming years. but very cool. And I agree that you just have to, like you said, giving your energy away.
Jeff Leisawitz: Is that what you said? So giving your energy and Centering your control.
Dane Reis: Centering your control. That’s what it was. Yeah. I really like that image as well, that, that creates, and I think you are so right, because it’s so easy for us to give, especially as artists, as creatives, that we are here to share. It’s also, a big reason why I’m in general. I tend to not be a big fan of unions, but I think that unions for the arts are very important.
Of that very reason that we tend to over-give, and it can be taken advantage of very easily and you’re right. Artists in, I guess,reigning it back and having a looking at, okay, where is my energy going? is super
Jeff Leisawitz: So I can just give a
two second, a little monologue here on this, on the center of your power. So we can influence our world in a whole bunch of ways, but we can really only have power or center our power in three things. And that is, how we perceive the world. How we act on the world and how we react to the world.
Okay. So just think about that, how we act in the world, how we react to the world and how we perceive the world. That’s the only place we really have true personal power. So an example that kind of expresses this is, somebody who’s working the date. And they’re like, I, my boss never gives me a raise.
My boss never gives me a raise. So that’s externalizing and giving away your power. You can’t make the boss do the thing. However, what can you do? What is under your control? you can stay later. You could learn more skills. You could figure out better ways to get those companies’ systems going and make more money, stuff like that.
Guess what, if you do that, you’re either going to get a raise or get a job somewhere. And that centering your power. It’s not waiting for the boss to give you the
Dane Reis: a hundred percent. that is true. So you have, what can you control? Because in this industry, I mean,it applies, I think, to all of life, But especially in the creative world, in the arts world, the theater world music world, there are so many factors that are always out of our control and we, that comes up a lot in.
Interviews on this podcast that look, you just got to go and do what you do control what you can control, because there’s so many factors that just are out of your control and to put energy there is doing you a disservice.
Jeff Leisawitz: Absolutely.
Dane Reis: Yeah. let’s move on to a time that I like to call your spotlight moment.
That one moment in time you realized that. I am going to be an entertainer for a living or maybe it was, yes, this is what I need to be doing in the entertainment industry. Tell us about
Jeff Leisawitz: Yeah, absolutely. The origin story. I grew up in Pennsylvania and as a little kid, Way back in the seventies. Yes,
I’m that old? I went to summer camp sleep-away camp and I love this thing. Every night after dinner, they would have something called free play, which was an hour or so where the kids could just run a muck.
Okay. So this is in the late seventies. there was an empty cabin one summer. So this counselor guy who was like maybe 20 or something, brought his drum. Big old 70 stereo and a couple milk creates a vinyl records. And this was when classic rock was being born. This is Tom petty and Bowie and Zeplin and Billy Joel and like all this awesome stuff.
So every night he would go to this cabin, turn on that stereo and play drums. To the songs. And I, as a little kid, maybe a seven or eight year old would sit maybe 20 or 30 feet away under this tree. And I would just listen. And, the sun was going down. The fireflies were coming out and I was just mesmerized by the, by the music one day, this guy comes out onto the porch. Let me see, use me there. It’s Hey kid, come here. I’m like, okay. It’s you want to come in and check this out? Like, uh,yeah.
I go into this little empty cabin. It’s like a cabin with a drum kit and a stereo. And this guy puts on the who song. Won’t get fooled again. And if you know that one, it’s a major rocker and this guy just bangs these drums in such a huge.
Jeff Leisawitz: And my little heart explodes. I’m like, oh my God, I want to rock.
And that was the big,
Dane Reis: uh,so cool.
Jeff Leisawitz: Yeah.
Dane Reis: Love that. let’s piggyback on that real quick and talk about your number one, booked it moment that, you’ve had, so walk us through that day. What was going on in your life and what makes it your favorite book? Did
Jeff Leisawitz: Right. Well, you know,I am not as much of a performer, especially these days, as maybe a lot of people on your show, but. A, a similar concept here. So I wrote a song. I wrote a screenplay maybe 15 years ago and I go down to Hollywood and I’m pitching it to producers and agents and all this kind of stuff.
And,like it’s not going anywhere. I’m like, okay. Geez. What am I going to do? What am I going to do? So I come from also punk rock spirit, which is partially about DIY do it yourself. Okay. So I’m like, None of these, movie studios or people want to make my movie, I’m going to write a short film.
So I wrote directed and produced a short film. I haven’t gone to film school. What the hell do I know about doing that? But I make this thing it’s called mystic coffee. It’s about a wise and magical barista. Okay. In the land of coffee over here in Seattle. So what you do as many of your listeners know is you put the filter.
To film festivals. So I did this, did dozens of film festivals, and I got shot down by every single one. I’m like, oh my God, maybe I’m really not good at this. Maybe I should give them. And then a couple of weeks later out of the clear blue sky, I got a phone call. Hi, this is so-and-sofrom an international streaming service like Netflix.
And she’s like a friend of mine turned me on to your movie. We want to license it for international distribution, which is essentially skipping. All of the pieces, like that’s the end goal, Is to get your movie out, get it made, get it out. I skipped the film festival. They skip the, skip, the agent, skip the managers, skip the studios.
Jeff Leisawitz: So that, that was my book. That moment
which, just tells me. You know,once again, center your power, do it yourself. where can you go? What can you do? And just do?
Jeff Leisawitz: it.
Dane Reis: that’s so good. What a crazy story.
Jeff Leisawitz: No.
I love that as well because in your because that is the end goal, To get distribution. And. It’s so funny because I think a lot of people lose track of that. People are like, oh, look at all these awards that we got it, all these different festivals.
Dane Reis: You’re like, what did that amount to as well, you know,and got to keep the end in sight. What are you actually trying to accomplish? And if you, it doesn’t really matter how you get there. If you get there, you win.
Jeff Leisawitz: Exactly. And I would also like to state that, although that is, that’s essentially the product that is the end goal and right. Keep your eye on the prize and all that. Another hugely important part that creatives often forget, including myself, is the process and loving what you’re doing. There’s really no reason.
To do the things we do if you don’t love it. Maybe not all of it, but most of it, because it’s simply too hard and too risky. Like you, you can’t possibly be doing this for the money. Right?Like get a job. If you need to remember that you love acting, you love singing. You love juggling, whatever.
The thing is, and that is what drives you. So as a life coach, we always want to go down and really drill down into what is truly at the core of your mission. What are you really trying to do and do. And if you know that’s something
that you love automatically in that
Dane Reis: Yeah, for sure. I’m really glad that you brought that up and you made that note and that, distinction, because it’s also something that comes up, in various interviews as well on the podcast, is, booking that big thing, whether whatever that might be for whatever it is that you do.
my experience personally is whenever. Yeah, whenever I’ve gotten like a peak moment, A big resume line or something. You’re super jacked up about it because yeah, you did it. You got what you were going for. You achieved, you did the thing, but every single time I’ve ever done that, as soon as I’ve done it yet, I have that moment of elation going, oh, this is amazing.
Dane Reis: But then that moment doesn’t last that long. And you’re like, oh right.Now what you know, now I want let’s do the next project. Let’s keep going. And how do you do that? you got to do it by doing what you did to get to the first one or improve your skills, right? Like it’s, it goes back to the process.
Jeff Leisawitz: So the bottom line of what you’re saying there, I think is achieving the goal was not going to make you
happy for long
Dane Reis: yeah. You’re I mean, you want
Jeff Leisawitz: right. You, you want it for sure. And I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with that, but what I’m saying is the truth of your happiness in your life is in your pursuit of the goal. it’s, not actually in the goal.
Dane Reis: Yeah. it’s the, uh, yeah, exactly. I love
Jeff Leisawitz: Yeah.
Dane Reis: Well,let’s take a moment to talk about the present. What projects are you working on now? What are you looking forward to? And Hey. Quite a few months later, we’re still kind ofemits this global pandemic things are happening. How do you see the entertainment industry moving forward in the next couple of years?
the entertainment industry, like every industry is doing what it can with what it’s got and what people are willing to tolerate, in terms of the pandemics. So,it’s gonna go how it goes and, some people are not going to want to tour or perform live until it’s safer.
Jeff Leisawitz: And you know, and some fans are not. Go to shows until it’s safer and some are right. It just depends. Just depends. And it depends how the whole pandemic sort of swings I suppose. And that’s out of our control. So again, what can we do? I have, no, I have no idea. Everybody wants to do their thing. And everyone’s got different risk tolerance, right?
and, financial needs. So people are going to do what they’re going to do.
Jeff Leisawitz: everyone makes their choices.
Dane Reis: And what are you working on at the time?
I am working on sync music, music for film and TV. I, yeah, I’ve done actually had quite a career without, we didn’t even talk about that, but I’ve had thousands of songs on film and TV over the years. I unfortunately made a not great deal with my music catalog a few years ago, which kind of put me in the hole for awhile, but I got my music back and.
Jeff Leisawitz: Creating a bunch of new stuff and
just all that. So I’m pretty psyched.
Dane Reis: Great. And for our listeners who might not know what sync music is, can you give a little pitch on
Jeff Leisawitz: Sure. sync music is essentially music that is synchronized to a video source and that video sources. Generally, a TV or TV show or video or film, video games, various internet content. It can even be apps and things like that. but it’s basically filming TV and video games. So all that music that goes on there. Uh, it needs to be licensed. And some of it, it doesn’t matter that?
much what it is, but some of it does especially songs with, they want this kind of vibe and this kind of feel, and these kinds of lyrics that speaks to the story. So there’s a whole industry
essentially around that.
Dane Reis: very cool. it is time to move on to one of my favorite sections in the interview. I call it the grease lightening round. I am going to ask you a handful of questions. I want you to answer them as quickly and concisely as possible one after another. Are you.
Jeff Leisawitz: Yeah.
Dane Reis: All right. First question. What was the one thing holding you back from committing to a career in the entertainment?
nothing except myself really. I was naive to what the whole thing was. And I was such an idealist as a young person that I committed without really even understanding what I was getting into. I just assumed I was going to be immediately successful. One of my colleagues. professors who was my advisor said to me that as an artist, if you’re going to be an artist, get ready for 97% pain and rejection, I was like, damn, it couldn’t be that much.
Jeff Leisawitz: But as we all know, it’s that much. but we still do it
Dane Reis: Here we go. Second question. What is the best piece of advice you have ever received?
Jeff Leisawitz: The best piece of advice I’ve ever received is a sneaker tagline. Just do it.
Dane Reis: Yeah, Third question. What is something that is working for you right now? Or if you’d like to go pre COVID, what was working for you before our industry took a pause?
Jeff Leisawitz: Something that is working for me. I found some new. Software and web services and things like that. I’m always amazed at what’s going on the web. If you have a problem, someone out there probably solved it on a computer, so you just have to look for it. Yeah.
Dane Reis: Fourth question. What is your best resource? Whether that’s a book, a movie, a YouTube video, maybe a podcast or a piece of technology you found is helping you right now?
Jeff Leisawitz: Yeah, I would say it’s pandemic zooms because they have actually. Opened up connections between so many professionals, simply because everyone’s forced to do this. Nobody wants to have a meeting really right now at four for the past year and a half. And who knows for how much longer,zoom existed, but everyone migrated to it.
So now you can talk
to pretty much anybody.
Dane Reis: Yeah, for sure. It’s so good. I do a lot of zooming. Hey, we’re on zoom right now. So there you go. And the fifth question, if you had to start your career from scratch, but you still had all the knowledge and experience you’ve collected from your career in this industry, what would you do or not do? Would you do anything differently or would you keep it.
Jeff Leisawitz: I would do one thing differently. And that is I would go on tour as a rock musician, as a bass player, a guitar player in a rock bands, even if the band wasn’t that great, even if it.
was going to, either barely lose money or, not be prop profitable, even if I had to sleep on the floor or in the band.
And it’s something that I wish I did when I was younger that I’m not willing to do at this
Dane Reis: Yeah, very cool. And the last question, what is the golden nugget knowledge drop you’ve learned from your successful career in this industry? You’d like to leave with our list.
Jeff Leisawitz: Yeah, someone actually did tell me this golden nugget. And that is, and this was the same teacher in college. She said, focus on one thing, one pursuit. However, I can’t, I’ve never been able to do that. I love too many things. However, over the years I’ve had solid success in a lot of different things and music, coaching, film, photography, all that stuff.
But no. Like major grand slams what I would consider a major grand slam. And I think that is simply because I haven’t focused just on one thing all the
Dane Reis: And to wrap up this interview, Jeff, it is time to give yourself a plug. Where can we find you? How do our listeners connect with you? Is there anything you want to
Jeff Leisawitz: Right. Well,hopefully they can find me on your show notes and stuff like that. if they can spell my last name or even get close, they’ll find it. Jeff once again, find my website. That is, and yeah, what am I offering? I would love to do a short. Online, zoom coaching session with you guys to see how I can help you both in your career and your marketing and your strategy, all that kind of stuff, but also in what I call the internal world, what might be keeping you back from moving forward, whether it says beliefs or identity.
You know that we talked about before, or, understanding your priorities, understanding what really makes you tick all those kinds of things. So yeah, just go there and you can sign on up And I’ll see on the zoo.
Dane Reis: Brilliant. And for everyone listening out there, I have indeed put all the links. To everything that Jeff just said. So you can easily connect with him and also be sure to share this podcast with your fellow entertainers, coaches, teachers, arts, and entertainment educators, and anyone, you know,aspiring to create a career in the entertainment industry.
You booked. It is the number one resource of expertise on how to actually create a successful entertainment career case in point, everything Jeff gave us today. In this episode, if you enjoyed this one, make sure you hit that subscribe button. So you don’t miss the next one. Jeff, thank you so much for coming on and having a chat
Jeff Leisawitz: Absolutely. It was great. Thanks, Dan. It was really cool being