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WIFVNE Member Spotlight: Shannon Vossler

28 Sep 2020 12:30 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

This Member Spotlight interview was conducted by Rosemary Owens. Rosemary Owen is a non-profit administrative professional with a passion for film and the visual arts. Along with five years of experience in fundraising, event planning, and cultivating community relationships, Rosemary has recently received a graduate degree in Arts Administration from Boston University. She is looking to bring her expertise to nonprofit arts and culture organizations needing assistance in development and communications.

Shannon Vossler has been working in media since infancy (literally) and has traversed a number of roles in non-fiction production. And on top of it all, Shannon's also a former WIFVNE Board Member! Check out her story below, and visit her website here.

Meet WIFVNE Member Shannon Vossler!

How did you get started?
Media has always been in my blood:  my father was a communications professor, and my mother was a producer who gave up her public broadcasting career to raise me! I made my TV debut at 3 months old, co-authored my first book at age 4, and produced my first “documentary” at age 15. While I wasn’t fully sure if I wanted to pursue television or psychology after college, my first internship at Scout Productions in Boston sealed the deal -- I fell in love with non-fiction television!

After several years working my way from Scout to Powderhouse to my own production company, FOA Entertainment (with a few other pit-stops in between), I had developed and sold television shows that ranged from a ridiculous Animal Planet series about cats to an emotional documentary series for PBS about veterans’ issues. Wanting to explore the nonprofit world for a while, I chucked it all and moved to Memphis, Tennessee to work at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital for four years before returning to the Northeast and joining Green Buzz Agency in DC.

Still from This Old House Homes for Our Troops Project

What do you love about the work that you do?
On the best days at the job, I am entrusted to authentically tell the stories of some incredible people: whether they’re cancer patients, investment bankers, HR professionals, or scientists. These people are strangers when we first meet, and they trust me to share their thoughts, feelings and their livelihoods with the world. That’s an awesome responsibility to have: to hold someone’s heart, soul, and professional reputations in my hands… and the onus is on me to get it RIGHT!

What can you tell us about Green Buzz Agency? 
Green Buzz Agency is a full-service video production company that partners with major brands and Fortune 100 companies to share their stories and messaging through documentary content, motion graphics, live-action video, or live-streaming events. We are a nimble in-house group that has team members with expertise across television, digital and social media, and we always put creative storytelling at the heart of everything we do.  

What has your experience as a woman in the industry been like?
I’ve been very very lucky in my career. I’ve been able to work on a wide range of teams, across reality TV, documentary, in-house nonprofit, and now corporate/agency. Sometimes I’ve been the only woman in the room, and sometimes there’s only been one man in the room. I haven’t (to my knowledge) been specifically excluded from any opportunity based on my gender, and have always felt at home among inclusive teams. I do fully recognize that the women who came in the decades before me didn’t have as smooth sailing as I did, and fought hard so that I'm able to have these experiences, so I consider myself very lucky indeed!

What has been your experience working with Green Buzz Agency?
I joined GBA in April 2019 -- so my first year here was pre-COVID, but this year, of course, things are much, much different! I am incredibly proud of our team, who’ve been able to pivot from traveling around the country filming on location and in studio, to mastering a fully remote model of production and post. If you told me a year ago that my docket would be filled with creative directing animations, or remote directing shoots or figuring out new ways to zhuzh up recorded zoom calls, I woulda told you you were crazy. But hey, welcome to COVID-times!

Do you have a mentor?
I’ve had some absolutely extraordinary mentors throughout my life and career: Whether in high school, college, or beyond, they all encouraged me to explore ideas I hadn’t thought of previously, highlighted strengths I didn’t know I had, pushed me to always do more and be more. Above all, I always had their support, and often they helped me right the ship when I inevitably made a wrong creative decision. They’ve all been incredible models of leadership that I look to often when managing my own teams -- I even have a charm bracelet that I wear daily that reminds me to think “how would THEY handle this?”

Were you told or did you learn a piece of wisdom or advice you now tell others in the beginning of their career? 
If you’re in the beginning of your career, you have to decide what you really want out of this business:  Do you see this as a fun hobby? Or is it a potentially life-long career? If it’s a hobby, you can make your art when it is convenient for you, call in favors from friends and pay them in pizza, shoot on random weekends in borrowed locations til you pass out… the level of risk and commitment is relatively low.

But if this is your career, you have to recognize that the TV/Film/Video industry is just that: an INDUSTRY. Industries run on money. (A mentor used to say: “It’s not called show FRIENDS, it’s called show BUSINESS.”) People in this industry (yourself included) need to make money, they need to pay rent, they need to eat. And for most of us, that means a lot of hard work to prove yourself, hustling a bit extra to make connections and earn your way up the chain of command. Very rarely does someone get “discovered” right out of the gate and given millions of dollars to write/produce/direct their masterpiece just because they had an idea for a good logline, or they did this one thing back in college. You have to build your credibility and personal marketability brick by brick, so that when a network/distributor/sponsor looks at you and your multi-million-dollar series pitch, they can say to themselves, “Yup, this person has proven that they know what they are doing and by golly, I think this is a sound investment for me/my company.”

What are some things you wish could change/would help if more women were in the industry?
I think women have made tremendous strides in the industry, but there is plenty of work left to be done. To me, it all comes down to point of view. Everyone brings their own life experience, worldview, and preconceived notions to the table -- no matter who they are -- and unless you have a truly diverse team with members who have true equity at the table, it can easily become one giant echo chamber. By having more women, non-binary persons, people of color, Asian-Americans, indigenous people, immigrants and/or other underrepresented communities at every level of production, you’re able to get a broader perspective. This creates richer narratives, more creative engagement, and ultimately a more authentic and inclusive representation in the final product.

Where would you like to go in your work? 
I’m excited to continue telling nonfiction stories that matter -- stories that have a level of emotional weight to them, or an important takeaway, or are just so darn entertaining that people actually want to go home and watch them after a hard day’s work. I love new creative challenges: ideas and concepts that haven’t been done before, or different takes on traditional storytelling… or simply good, genuine, and authentic storytelling that opens the audience’s eyes to new ways of thinking, doing, or being.

What can you share about what you are working on now?  
In addition to some special client work for a bio-pharmaceutical company that engages with the breast cancer community, and some food-adjacent television series pitches, I’m very excited to be working on two feature-length documentary projects at the moment:  one, in conjunction with a major league sports team, is currently in post; and the other is still in research and pre-production, and is centered around political personalities and events.

Why are you a member of WIFVNE?
Truthfully, any organization is only as good as its membership, and WIFVNE has some of the greatest members of any organization I’ve been a part of. The connections that I’ve made through WIFVNE have not only helped me staff up projects or offer advice on new business ventures, but they are also genuinely great people that I’m proud to call my friends. Even though I now live a few states away, it’s incredibly important for me to stay connected with the community -- and on more than one occasion, I’ve returned to the area for a shoot, and called up WIFVNE members to help me out!

You were a Board Member with WIFVNE in the past. Would you be able to speak to the legacy and impact of WIFVNE over the time that you have been involved?
I was on the Board 2011 - 2014, and it’s honestly a little funny to hear the word “legacy” used -- it feels just like yesterday! When I came in, our number one mission was to reinvigorate the organization: membership had waned, the Board was all but gone, and the valiant Juliet Schneider was almost single-handedly keeping the whole shebang afloat! It was a fun and exciting time:  we started to build out plans and committees, kicked off a re-brand and social media presence, and started to really offer programming again. It has certainly grown and taken off since I last sat in Juliet’s living room! Even the sheer amount of content in the newsletter…  It’s a much bigger and much different organization now! Living out of town, I will forever miss the in-person monthly Networking Nights that we held “back in my day,” but the way the current leadership has so expertly pivoted during quarantine to offer virtual events and webinars has been incredibly impressive, and allowed folks like me to re-engage from afar!

Pictured at a WIFVNE event are former Board members Genine Tillotson (left) and Shannon Vossler. 

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