We had the good fortune of connecting with Rebecca Totman and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Rebecca, what role has risk played in your life or career?
To be honest, making this career jump was a huge risk. The Simpsons afforded me stability: I was paid well, had good benefits, and worked with amazingly talented and kind people, on an outstanding series. This, along with general security, buffered me from the perceived perils of being an independent contractor.

Then the pandemic hit – and it solidified a realization that in order to move forward and live how I wanted, I had to take a step into the unknown. Working from home only expedited this, further boxing me into this reality.

This meant a year of paradigm-busting vision work, declaring to the universe over and over again I have every right to live a life well-loved. It took devoted determination for change, and a rock-solid vision to manifest this; looking back, I can see this ‘inside work’ diminished the risk of change, as I was not only fortifying my vision but myself.

Then, I made the leap.

My new gig with The Jim Henson Company is a contracted position, lasting a bit over a year, with no guarantees for steady employment beyond this arrangement – where I’m an Associate Producer with the creative team developing a 2D animated series adaptation of Harriet the Spy (ft. Beanie Feldstein and Jane Lynch) for Apple TV+.

During my first weeks on the job, it felt risky to insert myself into a new, established group – especially via Zoom. There were uncomfortable interruptions to be sure; however, I quickly realized the risk of temporary awkwardness was nothing compared to what stood to be gained: success at a dream job and playing a vital role in a meaningful project.

Another risk I faced during this transition was pitching ideas for solutions. I mitigated this by approaching the process with a sense of confident humility, asserting my position and opening my ears for feedback. The possibility of missing the mark completely is nothing compared to suffocating my ideas/voice, and it’s taken years of personal development work and daily meditation to learn to be both declarative and a good listener – even still, I’m no expert!

Today, I remain committed to living a life I love. And I am unwilling to sacrifice my daily happiness to remain comfortable.

Risk was the universe pushing me to the cliff’s edge of personal growth. And it continues to play a healthy role in my life, showing me I’m on the precipice of something great. As Carrie Fisher said, “Stay afraid, but do it anyway.”

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.
After graduating from Metropolitan State University of Denver with a degree in fine art/emphasis in sculpture, I decided to pursue a career in filmmaking as it seemed like a logical way to put my skills to use and earn a living. I worked on several films, mostly during the summertime, and a few car commercials during the winter, only to realize the industry in Denver at the time wasn’t big enough to provide year-round income.

Moving to Los Angeles in 2006 was another big risk, but thankfully I had some friends in the industry and a (perhaps foolish) willingness to work for free for networking. My first few years out here were rough, but eventually I got my foothold – just in time for the Writers’ Strike! Rather than joining the Set Decorators union, I pivoted to animation, taking a drastic pay cut but continuing to pay the rent.

My first animated show was Wow! Wow! Wubbzy!, where I fell in love with the people and the process of bringing drawings to life. The Simpsons animation team was on the same floor of the four-story Burbank office building, and I was able to transition from one show to the other seamlessly.

I joined The Simpsons during a time of great change in the production, learning quickly and growing as a leader. Over the next 12 years, I went from Production Coordinator to Supervisor, then on to Manager, and finally Associate Producer of Animation.

Meanwhile, the artist inside me was ever-present. I started curating and producing pop-up art shows in 2010 under the name Love/Hate Los Angeles. This afforded me to fulfill a calling to create while enabling others to do the same.

In 2019, I brought my first large scale built-to-burn sculpture to Burning Man. JoyCat 2019 was truly art for art’s sake, leading a team from concept to execution on a wild project, while also bringing a little joy and healing into this world from a giant kitten playing with a ball of yarn.

Aside from my new role with the Jim Henson Company, I’m also writing a leadership book for sensitive people like myself, teaching yoga occasionally through the City of Burbank, and have a couple of large-scale sculptures in various stages of development.

If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Some of my favorite aspects of living in Los Angeles are abundant cultural opportunities and close proximity to Nature. I love the ALOUD series through the LA Library. The Greek Theater, The Troubadour, The Roxy, and The Mayan are a few of my favorite music venues. I look forward to visiting Largo at The Coronet, sitting in their uncomfortable seats, and laughing my face off.

Going to the beach pretty much anywhere is always nice, as long as there’s no hurry to get there or home. On the way, I might stop at the Self Realization Lake Shrine or have lunch at Inn of the Seventh Ray.

The Melrose Trading Post is always a treat. And the Brewery Art Walk is a must.

I also love back to the community. TreePeople and the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank make volunteering easy and fun.

These are just a few ideas – there’s so much more!

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 want to give a big shout out to my boss Sidney Clifton for being a partner on the path and an excellent mentor. Thanks to Lisa and The Jim Henson Company for believing in me.

Huge hugs to everyone who helped with JoyCat 2019! Stay tuned for JoyCat 2022.

Thanks to my yoga teacher, Shiva Rea, for stoking my heart fire and showing me the daily householder path of yoga and meditation.

To my coach, Beth Beurkens, for being my partner in believing and sharing your wisdom.

And to my alma mater, Metropolitan State University of Denver, for providing an excellent education at an affordable price, top-notch facilities, and an amazingly supportive and hardworking student body.

Instagram: @lovehatelosangeles

Linkedin: rebecca.totman

Twitter: @rtots

Other: https://red.msudenver.edu/2018/the-zigzaggy-road-to-springfield.html https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/episode-2-joy-cat/id1482824790?i=1000454569152

Image Credits
Credit to Brooks Stonestreet = RT_GreyWall_HeroImage; RT_VoyageLA_Ivy_PostPandemic; DSCF5115.jpg Credit to Alex Medina = AlexMedinaPhoto_0001.jpg Credit to Sam Saldivar = JoyCat Build Team Pic1.jpg Credit to Kenna Takahashi = JoyCat Kenna Burn Pic1.jpg Credit to Tommy Tejeda = Ignus.jpg

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