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  • Writer's pictureNicholas Buggs

267 - Director Traci Hays - Going From Crew To Director, Finding A Mentor, and Proving Yourself

MAKE IT Podcast, Traci Hays

In this episode, we have a conversation with Director Traci Hays. We talk about her latest feature film ‘Tangled’ streaming on Passionflix now, how she overcame childhood health and learning issues to pursue filmmaking, the benefits of career coaching, overcoming barriers as a female in the film industry, the role women play in holding other women back, how to find a mentor, and so much more.


About Traci

Traci Hays is a DGA nominated director. Her work has earned multiple awards, including Best Director and Best Picture, along with being an award-winning Production Designer.

Hays recently directed Disconnected, a short film thriller, as part of the Women's Weekend Film Challenge. With a diverse all-female cast and crew, she lead the film to garner a win for Best Director at the Independent Short Awards and Best Thriller at the Top Short Film Festival.

Before this, Traci directed the short film 'Frederick' starring James Morrison (Fox's 24). The film premiered at Dances with Films at the TCL Chinese Theatre in Los Angeles. The film has won 20 awards, including Best Director at the LA Film Awards and Best Picture at the New York Film Awards.

With her proven track record, Hays secured a partnership with Tosca Musk's production company, Passionflix, where she directed the film Dry Spell, written by New York Times Bestselling Author Vi Keeland.

Hays graduated cum laude from Chapman University, earning her BFA in Film Production. She was awarded a coveted apprenticeship with legendary director Randal Kleiser (Grease) to oversee her senior thesis, an 1800s-period film Lions Among Men, starring Dayo Okeniyi (NBC's Shades of Blue). The film was recognized by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences as a finalist for the DGA Student Film Awards. She continued to develop her directing sensibilities under the mentorship of John Badham (Saturday Night Fever), Martha Coolidge (Real Genius), and Lawrence Paull (Back to the Future).

Hays is also an accomplished production designer, having worked on various feature films, television, and commercials with companies such as Universal Studios, Hulu, BET, and many more.


Quotes and Listener Reflections

"If I wasn't ready to go on that journey and take that risk on myself, then no one else would have."
  • Think about the roles that you want and the obstacles in your way. Are you ready to face those obstacles head on? If not, what is holding you back.

"[As a Director] it's important to understand and value the work that all of your department heads are doing."

  • If you aspire to be a Director, take a moment to reflect on your knowledge of the various departments that support a film production. Have you spent time with those departments? Do you understand their work?


Continued Learning

Tim Ferriss, the number-one New York Times best-selling author of The 4-Hour Workweek, shares the ultimate choose-your-own-adventure book - a compilation of tools, tactics, and habits from 130+ of the world's top performers. From iconic entrepreneurs to elite athletes, from artists to billionaire investors, their short profiles can help you answer life's most challenging questions, achieve extraordinary results, and transform your life.

Mentors: How to Help and Be Helped describes the impact that a series of significant people have had on the author - from the wayward youths he tried to emulate growing up in Essex, through the first ex-junkie sage, to the people he turns to today to help him be a better father. It explores how we all - consciously and unconsciously - choose guides, mentors, and heroes throughout our lives and examines the new perspectives they can bring.

Calling on his unique perspective as playwright, screenwriter, and director of his own critically acclaimed movies like House of Games, State and Main, and Things Change, David Mamet illuminates how a film comes to be. He looks at every aspect of directing—from script to cutting room—to show the many tasks directors undertake in reaching their prime objective: presenting a story that will be understood by the audience and has the power to be both surprising and inevitable at the same time. Based on a series of classes Mamet taught at Columbia University's film school, On Directing Film will be indispensible not only to students but to anyone interested in an overview of the craft of filmmaking.




About the MAKE IT Podcast

The MAKE IT podcast is a platform for the voice of independent filmmaker. We offer a variety of educational, aspirational, and entertaining content that promotes the success of creatives across the filmmaking community and the film industry. Our Filmmaker Conversations with filmmaking professionals are dedicated to sharing the advice, knowledge, and insights of experienced filmmakers while exploring what it truly means to be an independent creative in the highly competitive world of filmmaking. Each filmmaker conversation is backed by thoughtful research that allows us to uncover the raw, authentic truths behind each filmmaker's journey. Through our Indie Talks, we share our thoughts and perspectives on navigating independent film from the perspective of Advisory and Executive Producers. We discuss topics that are relevant to filmmakers across a wide spectrum of filmmaking perspectives, and we do our best to uncover hidden truths and new developments in the film industry. Our goal is to help filmmakers avoid the pitfalls and obstacles on the business side of film so that their filmmaking creativity can thrive. Our Industry Insights provide bite-sized actionable advice that filmmaking professionals and creatives of all kinds can use to keep their heads up as they continue their filmmaking journeys. With advice sourced from the filmmaking community, we build upon the wisdom of our filmmaking guests to provide our audience with truly aspirational and inspirational content. The Mistakes in the Making series gives our filmmaking friends an opportunity to speak directly to our filmmaking audience to share a specific lesson they've learned through a mistake they've made. We are firm believers that mistakes can be the gateway to success when we open our hearts and minds to learning from them, sharing them, and using them to Be Better. The Film Investment series is a conversational series of 52 episodes geared towards the would-be film investor. Each episode, facilitated via a friendly conversation between hosts and friends Christopher Barkley and Jason McConnell, highlights a unique aspect of the film investment process. In addition to being a great resource for film investors, it serves as a reference for filmmakers regarding the many considerations that must be made when seeking film investment.


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