We had the good fortune of connecting with Anna Burns and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Anna, we’d love to hear about how you approach risk and risk-taking
I’ve spent over half my life as an extreme athlete – first as a Junior Olympic gymnast, and then as an NCAA Division 1 Springboard Diver, so taking risks is something I should be comfortable with by now. The way I think about risk taking and how I’ve approached it in my life is less about a random “full send” and more about being comfortable being scared, or ‘comfortable being uncomfortable’. Not a single day of my time as an athlete went by without some sort of level of fear – whether it be of physically getting hurt on a new skill, or the fear of failure, making mistakes, and letting people down. But each day, if I wanted improve, I had to get comfortable with being uncomfortable, take another step into the unknown. Often times when asked what sport I did, people would say “isn’t that scary?” and while you’d expect a frequent “risk taker” to say no, it’s not scary, my answer was always “Yes, but I’ve just gotten used to it.” I didn’t realize it at the time, but learning to overcome fear each day and be so comfortable with it was preparing me for my unpredictable and anxiety-inducing career as a creative. Risk taking as a creative comes, to me, in two forms – risk taking in terms of trying new techniques and ideas, and the overarching risk of pursuing a non-traditional career path. Creatively, I try to push myself to not get into a creative ‘rut’ and continue to take risks both out shooting and behind the computer editing. That form of risk taking isn’t as hard, and I would encourage everyone in a creative career to reflect on how often they feel they’re taking risks and trying something new – I did that recently and realized it wasn’t often enough! The worst thing that could happen is the client or your audience doesn’t like it – but in my opinion it is much better to take a creative risk and have people not like it than be stuck in a rut making content everyone has seen before. So push yourself to try that shot you think might be weird – the delete button exists for a reason! The risks I struggle with far more are those rooted in freelance life, which is the fear of not succeeding in a quantitative sense. Again, it’s been all about getting comfortable being uncomfortable. I’m only a little ways into this life as a freelancer, but I find myself often having the same conversation with friends as I used to as an athlete, just about a different topic. People will ask what I do, often followed by a “isn’t is scary not knowing what’s coming next?” and again, I’ll say yes, but “I’m getting used to it.” As someone who thrives whilst extremely busy (another side effect of the student-athlete life), moments where I’m not sure when my next project will be are hard to navigate, and I find myself quickly getting down on myself, similar fears creeping in that used to plague me in sport. But just as I did every time I had to throw myself across the beam, I try to remind myself that this is not the first, and it definitely isn’t the last time I’m going to be uncomfortable, and I’ve survived each time so far.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I am a Filmmaker and Photographer who specializes in impactful stories of athletes, adventurers, and activists. Always one of those kids that loved to play with cameras, I first picked up my own after being sidelined from competitive gymnastics, and began filming and editing highlight videos of my team. It just snowballed from there, and I ended up pursuing a Journalism degree while simultaneously competing as a D1 athlete and pursuing every opportunity to learn and grow as a storyteller. I interned, did summer programs, and just kept creating. After graduating in the pandemic Class of 2020, I was lucky to still be able to move out to LA and intern at a highly respected production/post studio where I learned a lot of valuable skills and met some amazing people, before setting out as a freelancer. Whether it be passion for a sport, a cause, or an adventure, helping people share their stories with the world is such a fun process! It definitely has not been easy – challenges include being a female in a male-dominated industry, self doubt, and tons of other bumps in the road that I still navigate every day. But so far, I think the most important lesson I’ve learned is no matter how many technical skills you have, just be a nice human and work hard and good things will come your way! And also, nobody has it all figured out, no matter how much it may seem! I’m most excited for what’s to come – the stories I have yet to tell, the people I have yet to meet. I hope I can just continue to create with passionate people and tell stories that inspire.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I’m an outdoorsy girl, growing up on the coast of Maine skiing, surfing, etc. So if a friend were visiting me in LA, we’d definitely be doing some fun things in nature! We’d hike and surf in Malibu, visit the Getty Museum, and definitely grab some of the amazing food LA has to offer! The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I’m extremely lucky to have both my parents support and cheer me on in everything I do, they’re my best friends and biggest supporters! I also am extremely grateful to my mentor Thomas Woodson, who was one of the first people to believe in me and open my eyes to pursuing this career, and has been an incredible resource and friend ever since! Lastly, each and every person who has ever let me point my camera at them has a role in where I am now, and I am so grateful for their vulnerability and willingness to share their stories.
Anna Wilder Burns