We had the good fortune of connecting with Jessie Holder Tourtellotte and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Jessie, how do you think about risk?
I think that risk taking is the single most important reality you have to accept when making life decision in general, and certainly in business, particularly as a startup entrepreneur, artist, or freelancer of any kind. There’s a tenacity of belief required in order to take certain risks, and a deep understanding of a couple of things. First, it’s actually impossible to avoid all risks because even by avoiding risk, you’re taking a risk. Second, that if you don’t take certain risks, that’s fine, but you are absolutely taking certain rewards off the table. So many people will tell you that entrepreneurship or artistry or anything like this is a “gamble”, and to an extent, that’s true. The exact outcome, measurable results is only partially predictable. But the thing is, you can absolutely stack the deck in your favor. Be relentlessly prepared, understand the value of full commitment, and understand how essential belief is. If you half commit, you’re guaranteeing failure and by trying to “protect” yourself in so doing, guaranteeing your own loss. If you’re unprepared, you’re making it impossible for good luck to be utilized when it comes your way. And if you waver in your belief, there are a million little voices and other people waiting to take you down in an instant. I vividly remember a really lame educational video I was shown in early elementary school on “Opportunity Cost” that featured some performers who probably shouldn’t have been allowed to rap in public doing exactly that. Rapping. In public. It was very bad. BUT, the core concept stuck. Everything has a price. You can have ANYTHING, but you can’t have everything. You can have more things at once than you think if you’re willing to work harder for them. But think about achieving dreams, you don’t get to complain about not achieving your dreams if you look back at the track record on the way there and over and over when given the choice to put in the work and do the brave thing, you didn’t. Understanding opportunity cost sounds like it cautions against risk, but I think of it as clarifying the reality that life is a series of choices. Another example would be being the member of the family that moved away from home to do the big scary thing. It gets treated like that person is the only one who made choices that have costs, but the ones who chose to stay in their hometown are making a choice too, and it has costs. Risk in the past couple of years has been a byword. Starting a production company, investing in a writing partnership, raising money for an independent feature film, committing publicly to this huge big thing. Risk in the nature of the content being made and the stories being told, dealing with subjects that do full ballets on and in taboos instead of avoiding them, writing and producing work that asks questions about sexuality and marriage and love and friendship and violence and grief. Committing to that startup through a global pandemic while voices all around said to slow down, rest, not push ahead, not believe, give up, do something more practical. Losing a business and creative partner during that season and taking the risk of refusing to fold and committing even more deeply to making this thing go, to making movies and writing daring stories and running a business I’d planned to fund and support and work at equally with another person but all on my back and under that pressure. Getting pregnant during a pandemic and committing to raising a child while doing the big brave artistic things at work and setting that example! People love to talk about bravery and courage, and risk definitely factors into that. But where people fall down is when doing that brave thing actually requires them to BE brave- to stare in to the flame and see specifically WHAT they are risking- what they stand to lose. Courage is born not when fear and risk go away, courage is born specifically in the facing of that fear and daring to take that risk. Courage is a fundamental commitment to authenticity and honesty and to doing *the thing* in the face of whatever you have on the line and whatever anyone else thinks. To be clear, that goes for people who might have to find their courage to do the opposite of what it take courage for me or you to do! But I think that no matter what *the thing* is that you’re trying to do in life, understanding that risk is real and that it’s impossible to avoid, but can be harnessed to create really powerful and important things in your life is the key to actually doing them.

Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I’ve never not been an artist in some form, and while I think the idea that I would end up professionally living the way that I do remains shocking and surprising and not what anyone expected in my fairly traditional background, I will say that a few key components in my upbringing are absolutely to blame for me turning out like this. I started studying ballet when I was three and it got serious fast, embedding me in a serious discipline dedicated throughout its history to passionate, dramatic storytelling brought to life by disciplined, dedicated artists committing impossible feats. I was dip dyed in classical music in all its contradictions and stimulations early, and my household brimmed from as early as I can remember with books upon books upon books. It turned me into such a hungry little reader that my earliest memory of getting in trouble at school was for reading Dickens’ Great Expectations under the desk during a second grade math class. Rebel nerd is the best way I can describe that behavior. In terms of what sets me and my work apart from others, at Inherent Films especially, it’s a willingness to be painfully truthful in the work and stand behind it. There’s something strange that happens when artists tell stories that deal in taboo or might be construed as provocative- at a certain level of their work, among artists who also delve into those spaces, it’s lauded for its courage. But as I mentioned when speaking about risk, courage actually does have a price and require you to be brave and that’s in a couple of places. During the creative process itself when it takes bravery to expose and to pull back the layers and deal with your own thoughts. Knowing your opinion, asking difficult questions, means being willing to go into the spaces those questions require. The second place is at the level one sits at when one starts a big brave artistic adventure, socially. It’s among the peers and collaborators who have been around, among those who think they “know” you, among those who haven’t eliminated their own self loathing or self judgment enough to face those dark areas or misty/shadowy areas and delve into those taboos without shame. It leads to a lot of projection onto those doing the brave thing, a lot of attack. But if you can withstand it, you learn a lot. I’ve learned a LOT. In fact, to that question about credit- give credit to the naysayers, they’ve taught me a LOT. I also think that what sets my work at Inherent apart is an ability and excitement to keep the main thing the main thing and do a lot with a little. I love solving problems and using logic to get to the heart of things, and having spent a million years in marching band and independent theatre and other areas where you do things like move 250 teenagers up a hill in step or build the facade of a house out of the cardboard boxes that a refrigerator was shipped in, there’s a great perspective and lens that I bring to the physical *make it happen* side of production and creative work that allows me to not miss opportunities, to not lose sight of the goal and keep my eye and my team’s eyes on the prize. I love questions about whether or not getting here was easy because NO, NO IT WAS NOT. Also what is getting here? Because I’ve gotten to this overlook on the hike and that’s definitely an accomplishment, but it’s not a summit, and just a hint, if you’re an artist or an entrepreneur, there is no summit. That summit you’re looking at is the next overlook. Enjoy. It’s not easy to brave loss and hustle harder than many around you and choose to continue believing that what you’re doing will be worth it. It is not easy to be an actor in general, as half of Los Angeles knows. It’s not easy to cultivate a dozen streams of income in order to allow yourself to be an artist and certainly not easy to watch them evaporate in a financial crisis and still not give up faith. It’s not easy to write nine feature films in a year and a half and to crowdfund and to develop work while also teaching actors and coaching. It is not easy to survive in the world and make it meaningful by deciding to thrive and NOT just survive. BUT, what I think helps with that is to recognize that if it was easy, everyone would be doing it. Then to realize that doing hard things not only gives you access to rewards those doing hard things don’t get access to. Then, and perhaps most importantly, to recognize that there actually isn’t an easy way. Easy is an illusion. Those who are taking the easy way out are going to pay a really hard, difficult price. Nothing will ever feel like fulfillment, feel earned. They will wonder “what if”. They will question their mettle, their abilities. They will lose things anyway after giving up things because they were afraid of what they would lose. And they won’t get to know what was possible. That doesn’t actually sound easy after all. In terms of overcoming challenges- if you can possibly find a way to get therapy, get therapy. Therapy, therapy, therapy. Therapy is essential. Everyone should be in therapy. Now therapy should definitely be more accessible and that’s part of the problem, but part of it is also shame and fear and hesitation for a million reasons. Therapy. Get therapy. Similarly, read and get training. Whatever you want to do, however you want to work, go find a way to learn more. Take a class, read a book, practice, do the thing, make the crappy version of the thing then make a better one, read again, learn, ask questions, google it, go learn. Never stop learning. If you stop being curious or reading or trying to actually learn new things from the bottom and admit what you don’t know and putting in the work to learn it instead of waiting for someone to come along and give it to you and rocket you to the top you will never never never never get where you wanted to go and will mysteriously not understand how that happened. Learn then learn more. You’re not done. You do not know it all. Overcoming challenges is also nearly impossible without learning how to just decide you’re going to. The power of absolute decision cannot be overstated. If you’re not sure, you’re going to have a hard time committing hard enough to overcome the thing. There’s a principle in acting that applies to life of using different actions on your way to accomplishing an objective, over the course of which you’re trying to overcome an obstacle. The thing is, the obstacle isn’t going anywhere. The objective isn’t getting less important. So you can keep changing actions or tactics as needed, and you should. But you won’t keep doing that, won’t keep making the shifts if you haven’t actually made accomplishing that objective a necessity- fully committed to it, decided you’re going to. Some lessons that are essential especially in this strange season of the world, and are essential to the Inherent Films brand- tell the truth, stay authentic, believe in something greater and do the thing for something greater, and don’t just do well, do good. Help. Tell the truth in your art, but also in your life. Speak up when you see things so that your conscience can be clear when you’re being supportive or doing what you need to do- knowing that you’ve told the truth. Stay authentic to the kind of work you want to do and to your goals and dreams, refusing to let yourself be convinced that it isn’t possible or plausible or good or right or that you don’t deserve it or that by compromising yourself you’re doing any good for anyone. You’re not. The world and those around you deserve your fullest self and you do the world a disservice by limiting that. Believing in something greater might be a faith, a religion, an ethos, a creed. Believing in the power of your art or business or service to make a difference and to uplift others. For me that’s a little of all of it. I do have faith and I also believe that good art changes the world AND I believe success is a path to uplift others and create opportunity for them. Do the thing for that something greater. And help. Do good, not just well. Pay it forward. Give more of yourself and your time than you think is possible. Answer the call when you can. Help another artist or worker solve a problem. Assist. Coach. Volunteer. Take the call. Be a good friend. Pick up the phone. Check on people. Be supportive. Be generous. Give an excellent gift. Think ahead and think about others and their circumstances. Be available to offer your feedback or expertise, to help someone learn, to teach them something, to help with their job search or house search or resume. Recommend people you respect. Hold your friends when they cry. Fight for the right to love your friends hard and throw up giant middle fingers at the notion that you’re doing anything wrong. Give of your time. Spend more money or effort on that gift or party or support than you thought you needed to. Send a surprise note. Call your friends and collaborators and coworkers and make sure they’re ok, REGULARLY. Show up. CHEER LOUDLY. Louder than anyone in the room. Commit. Be your best self. Number one because it just matters. Number two because how you do anything is how you’ll do everything. You cannot want to be successful at your art or your business that requires your commitment and generosity if you’re half-assing and stingy in your life. The brand at Inherent is one of integrity. Being fully integrated with the truth. Living and working in alignment with that truth and value. With commitment. With service. My brand as an artist is in boldness, bravery, vulnerability. I try to offer the same when I teach and coach. I think what I’d want the world to know is that it’s hard won. That you don’t get brave on accident and you don’t learn to be honest without getting brave. That thing that you think comes easy to me or the next person or the next doesn’t. Surviving things and choosing to stand up, one foot in front of the other, makes all the difference in the world.

Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
There are too many! Some of my favorite things though, when there’s a world again (people- wear a mask, get the vaccine when you can, I want the world back!!): Go see an independent and surprising show. I work with the amazing Michael Hoag and James Ferrero to produce unrehearsed Shakespeare with The Riot of the Tipsy Bacchanals, a collective that does wildly irreverent Shakespeare in a bar. Catch a show, have a drink, find four other surprising shows to go see! The summer season of the LA Phil at the Hollywood Bowl is not to be missed. There is magic in that place and that music. Go to the end of the Santa Monica pier, but do it at the crack of dawn when it’s quiet. I’ve never not had an inspirational moment down there when I’ve done that. Eat an insanely indulgent and delicious meal with glorious ambience somewhere like Firefly or Castaway. I live in the Valley so I can’t not recommend popping up at some of the local haunts for a bite or a drink at some of the spots with a great staff and where you feel like people know each other in the middle of the bustle- Idle Hour, The Local Peasant, coffee at Republic of Pie, wine and insane truffle tots at The Augustine. Do something touristy that you’re afraid to admit you want to do. Take a studio tour and reconnect with movie magic. Go put your feet in a concrete impression outside the Chinese Theatre. Find great bars- they’re everywhere. Check out Sassafrass or the Know Where Bar or pop down to Clifton’s downtown (0n a weeknight). Go to a screening. Hike somewhere gorgeous. Drive around and get a sense of how massive this interconnected beast is.

Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
Oh, goodness. That’s a difficult one to answer. There are so many things that deserve credit and recognition in all of our stories, and certainly in mine. I’ll start with the company itself, Inherent Films, that I run because it has a life of its own as an entity and everyone who has been involved with its growth thus far is a huge part of that. I started Inherent Films with one of my very best friends in the world, Dan Gallun, and without that relationship and partnership this company and my artistry wouldn’t be headed where it’s headed. While I lost a partner this year during the pandemic, I’ll never lose my immense gratitude to him for being a huge part of how all this started and shaping the company I now run. The company has had dozens of artists join us for readings of scripts while in development, donating their time, collaborators who have worked so hard on our projects that have made all the difference, and has brought us together with other companies and organizations doing the same thing I’m trying to do with this one- make work we’re proud of that addresses some of the intense questions facing our world and do so on the backs of and with support for independent artists, so often overlooked. Without Neil Gaiman’s “Make Good Art” speech, the simple instruction to make good art no matter what and move toward the mountain wouldn’t have become such an important part of everything I’m doing as an independent artist. Glennon Doyle’s immaculate book Untamed, Steven Pressfield’s War of Art, Brene Brown’s Daring Greatly, every single line of Tolkein’s The Lord of the Rings, studying Shakespeare, and more. No artist gets their clarity and no leader their center without the written or spoken words of those smarter than us that go before. I have to give some real credit to the artists in the trenches with me sharing feedback back and forth and yelling loudly for one another’s projects and for the fearlessness it takes to do this in the middle of uncertain times. There are many, but at the moment Tyee Tilghman of T2the2nd, Nicole Starrett at Jubilee Productions, Andrew Nowak at Tame Little Fox, Adam Stokes, and Liz Lanier get the gold stars for always reading the next thing, always showing up with an idea or feedback, screaming loud, taking the needy artist text message or call, and always pushing ahead. I’m also participating with some other filmmakers in the From Script to Pre Production (FS2P) Lab with Elizabeth Page and owe the women in that lab a great debt already as comrades in arms. Tribes matter and the one I’m building gets a lot of credit for where this company is going. And, I know this is getting long, but I’ve gotta yell that if you’re out here trying to do anything brave with your life you need to have a partner who is on board fully and supportive and fierce for you (and you deserve no less) or get your partner to see they need to shape UP and get there, or be single as hell with no partner. I’m married to this guy named John Tourtellotte who is the loudest cheerleader of them all and believes ferociously in my business and what I’m doing and it makes a ton of difference. Your partner becomes the loudest voice in your ear, the loudest voice in your life and if that voice doesn’t get on board with your bravery it’s the hardest drain on the tail of your trajectory to get past. I’m lucky in John, but if you’re an artist or entrepreneur who doesn’t have this down yet or doesn’t know how to get there, it’s not all or nothing and impossible- you can get there with some work and clarity and bravery in your relationship if you’re with a good person for you who has your best interests at heart. So big credit to John, too.

Instagram: @inherent_films

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/inherentfilms1

Other: development.inherentfilms@gmail.com wilderthemovie@gmail.com jessieholdertourtellotte@gmail.com

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