Jillian is the founder and CEO of Ezra Productions, a creative agency and video production company in Los Angeles and New York – the story behind her business is quite incredible because it was born out of passion and Jillian simply doing what she loves. She could’ve taken the safe route and plodded along the corporate path, more than likely stuck in a career she was doing well at (but the reality is also very miserable in), but rather, she followed her passion and what lit her up and from that she now has a successful business, leading the way in the production realm and especially supporting other women.
It was an absolute pleasure to sit down with Jillian and chat. She was effervescent and so passionate about women building each other up that it inspired me ten-fold and as we were chatting, Jillian would say something that would resonate with me, or literally be a thought that often pops into my head and reminded me why I love sharing these beautiful conversations with these incredible women. Our conversation reminded me of the exact message I am trying to shout from the rooftops – that when we break it down, we’re all made of the same stars and just because someone comes across as successful, confident, bold or (insert blank here – whatever it is that you are comparing)… she has her own stuff going on and the same internal dialogue that we all share and we all need to support and build each other up, because, for, she is you. And that is where Jillian’s ethos on kindness stems from, if you can do something or are in a position to help somebody else, then why not?! I mean…. how do we make that a Universal ethos? Jillian was so generous with her time and I witnessed her kindness and support firsthand when she offered me some amazing content (again, as I’ve experienced so often since launching the site – a total #womensupportingwomen gesture that I’m so grateful for) to use which I’ll be sharing on the site very soon… stay tuned.
Throughout our conversation I couldn’t help but smile because from minute one it was evident that Jillian is such an incredible cheerleader for other women and it comes across in everything she says and does. It’s impossible to not be uplifted and inspired by that. I feel like women supporting women is a ripple effect and the more we talk about the importance of it and actively practice it, the more it will become the norm and we will wonder how we ever survived in a world where it wasn’t always like this.
I also loved Jillian’s forthrightness regarding the importance of mental health and why kindness starts with you. She said something pretty profound that has stuck with me ever since and given me a lot of food for thought surrounding mental health. I’m excited for you to read it and possibly too have an aha moment in the latter part of the interview but basically it is about the social acceptance to take 5 minutes out of your day (multiple times) because you need a “cigarette break”, but not because you need to check in with yourself, quiet your mind or simply breathe…. for me, it highlights the fact that whilst we have definitely come a long way, there is still soooooo far to go when it comes to the conversation around mental health, self care and kindness and getting to a place where it is socially acceptable, and we are creating environments where people are comfortable enough to take 5 to breathe.
Jillian described herself as bold and I love it, nor could have picked a more perfect word – because it was a beautiful trait that came across throughout our entire chat and is something to be celebrated. I love that she has that New York attitude, there’s no BS… she just tells it like it is. She calls herself out on her own s*!t, she knows she is a work in progress and is real about that and no matter what, she doesn’t take no for an answer. Jillian is a living, breathing, totally-killing-it example of just following your passion, not listening to the haters and doing your thing.
I’m really excited for you to read Jillian’s insights, experiences and advice. You’re going to love her brazen honesty and her absolute keeping-it-real attitude. There will no doubt be so many things you nod along in agreeance with because Jillian says what we are all thinking and feeling. I truly hope you enjoy this interview and it reminds you to keep building up the women around you, but also gives you the encouragement you need to keep doing you, keep hustling, stop comparing, just do your best, be your best real self and don’t let anyone stand in your way, cos you’ve got this.
JILLIAN EZRA // FOUNDER, EZRA PRODUCTIONS
One word you would use to describe yourself?
What would you tell your younger self?
I think about this all the time, and the first thought is: everything is going to be ok. And from that… You’re fine. Everything really is going to be ok. You’ve got it. You’re good enough – not even good enough, you’re great. You have everything you need. Nothing you’re thinking (worrying) about right now is going to make a difference in your life later.
Your favorite feel good movie OF. ALL. TIME?
It’s hard to say… History of the World: Part I. It’s absolutely hilarious. And I have to say… Inside Out…such a feel good movie that really teaches you how the brain works!
‘Look around you and support each other’
REAL advice you can share on believing in yourself and following your dreams?
I know it sounds cliche but DO WHAT YOU LOVE. Do whatever it is that makes you happy and what energises you. For me, that was video, that was storytelling and telling family stories. I was all about that. When you’re passionate about something, it all falls into place. Find what you’re passionate about and what makes you tick. Believe in yourself and give yourself the benefit of the doubt.
Something you don’t tell yourself enough?
Definitely thing(s) plural! Including… you’re great, you’ve got this, everything’s gonna be fine.
Great job, wow you really worked hard and that came out really well, look… you did it!!
Why is it important to be kinder to ourselves and how do you combat negative self talk and self doubt?
It is literally the most important thing you can do, to be kind to yourself. I don’t do it that often but I know that the key to happiness starts with self love. Making sure you’re okay inside. Anxiety, depression and stress is just your body and your mind and your heart trying to protect you. A girlfriend just reminded me that when you’re having a hard time with something, it’s often a protection mechanism and there’s a little girl or little boy inside saying, ‘I’m scared’. So, if you can say ok, I get it, that’s really scary – everything is going to be ok, it actually allows you to move on.
How do you pick yourself up when you’re having a bad day or life throws you a curveball?
Until recently it was going out with friends, drinking wine, having a good time, focusing on other things, working harder. For the last little while it’s been like, ok.. no more crutches, you really need to just be present so I’m trying to figure that out as we speak! Talking to friends is really helpful (and therapy can be really helpful too). Friends that really, really know you, Whenever I’m freaked out I’ll call my friend Farrah and tell her what’s going on and she’ll be like, what? You’re fine, you’re amazing, you have this amazing company… I look up to you etc. So that’s really great.
I also know one of the things I should be doing is meditating and exercising. What I used to do when I first started my business, is watch the past videos I did and realise I was actually pretty amazing! My rational, logical mind knows that I’m awesome, so when I doubt myself, I have to think, is this bad thing I’m thinking about myself the truth? If it is, ok, what can I do about it? I might make a plan to deal with it later. If it’s not the truth, just move on move on, there’s no time for self doubt. Perfectionism can get the best of me, all the time.
Why do you believe it’s important for girls and women to stand together, support and build one another up rather than tearing each other down?
Oh my god, it couldn’t be more important. Especially in the world we live in, there’s nobody else, women are your family. I’m not saying men are bad – at all. But no-one understands a woman, like another woman. I think that my company has been hugely successful because of other women and feminist men. A huge part of doing business with a production company is whether you believe in the person behind it, believe in the team, believe in their mission. And it’s one of the first things we lead with, that we’re an award-winning, woman-owned creative agency. We’ll get enquiries about things that are way too low budget but if it’s another woman living her dream we try to take it on. We have to support each other. I’ve been to women’s networking events and the women that I meet there are ALL about empowering other women. I could not be where I am today without other women. It makes me very very sad when women cut each other down or try and outperform one another just so they can say I did this, or I did that. I think back to high school and middle school, as I have gotten older I realized, why was I scared of these girls in school? They’re just regular people with their own problems. Women supporting women is everything.
How have you learnt to defy labels and be strong in the industry you’re in that perhaps girls and women can apply in their everyday life?
I made up my own labels. There were no labels to be had. I came into an industry that I really had no idea about. I came in and treated it like any other business. I went to a school where I was taught my voice is just as important as anyone else’s and I have really carried that through into my career.
What I have started to experience is unnecessary push back because they know I’m a young woman and they know I’m sensitive. There are labels, there are stereotypes, there always will be – one of the things you have to do is stay strong. You need to be conscious of when someone is trying to take advantage of you and not back down, not feel bad. I also see women in this industry being overly aggressive because they’ve been taken advantage of whereas I’m more of a New Yorker in that way where I’m like if I get taken advantage of that’s my fault, not yours. I would caution people not to get angry when other people try to take advantage of you, that’s a reflection of them, not you, just don’t stand for it.
A funny thing I do before sending an email is to look for how many times I use the word JUST and when I use exclamation points. I feel like when you’re doing it with girls and women your age you can do it, but anyone else, edit. But I say that and in the same breath I’m like, screw it, I can do whatever I want.
How do you define kindness and how can we cultivate more kindness in general in our day to day lives?
Cultivating more of it starts with being kind to yourself. I’m not the living picture of that all the time but I do know that is the answer, I do truly know that. And remember that when someone is unkind, it’s not about you.
What is the kindest thing someone has ever done for you?
I’ve experienced a lot of kind things along the way and I think kindness comes from a place of just because. That is the most incredible.
In terms of a career one, I read about a mentorship program that I hustled to get involved with. After emailing them about 50 times, I finally got on the list for a mentor. I was persistent. Finally I sat down with my mentor and recommended talking to the person who ended up being exactly the person I needed to grow my business. He connected me with a gazillion other people that then connected me more. I was like, how are you even sitting here right now?! He was genuinely happy to help and be a mentor, but I honestly still think it’s such an incredibly kind thing to do.
If you had a my 3AM Mind notepad, what would we find on there?
… shit I gotta go to bed, oh no not again, how am I going to be productive tomorrow. Haha.
… do I have lunch for tomorrow?
… okay one more email.
… I want to watch one more episode, but I need to get to sleep.
‘Everything’s going to be ok. You’ve got it. You’re good enough – not even good enough, you’re great.’
What drives you?
To be honest, fear – even though I probably can’t say that. I guess The American Dream, the want for financial, career, emotional, mental freedom. I am driven by the want to build my own life. The want to have a life that I am safe and protected. The want to create my own financial freedom. Not wanting to work for a big company but rather designing my own life.
I’ve always had an internal “go-go-go” attitude and so ultimately what drives me is designing my life how I want to live it. Knowing that every decision that I make is mine, and having the freedom to do what I want to do is really incredible. I don’t mean that in a bratty way. It’s more like I have the freedom to create and pivot as I see fit. For instance a few years ago I thought now I want to start making websites – so bam, we started creating website for clients, and now we’re a creative agency. I do think I am at a stage in my life where I want to put roots down a little and create a sustainable business that can run without me. Right now I’m doing the grunt work and what drives me is that it’s going to get easier.
Wisdom to impart on networking and putting yourself out there?
– Ask successful women what networking events they go for to and go to them.
– Only go to things that really really call you forward and interest you.
How do you deal with stress, anxiety and overwhelm?
For me, it’s talking to loved ones… a lot of it is also commiserating, not in a negative sense but talking to people who do the same things as me and know I’m not the only one going through it. And I know daily meditation and yoga is important. It’s about trying to prepare yourself holistically to not get into those moments of a super high or a super low. There’s a breathing exercise that I recently learned where you breathe in for four beats and then count to two beats and then breathe out for four beats with your mouth. That’s easy to do anytime, anywhere.
Take breaks during the day. When you notice yourself getting worked up, flustered or not productive, take a break and meditate or go for a walk. The interesting thing is that smoking is the only socially acceptable way to say I need a moment. If you were working in an office and decided just to go outside four times during work to take some deep breaths, it would make such a difference in your life but it’s not socially acceptable. It is socially acceptable to go outside and kill yourself though. Give yourself permission to take those moments when you know that you need them.
‘It is literally the most important thing you can do, to be kind to yourself’
When do you feel empowered?
Definitely when I am creative… when I am creating things I’m unstoppable. I would say the three things that make me feel most empowered are being creative, empowering other people and giving people a voice.
If you could have lunch with any woman…
Geena Davis, she has an amazing institute on gender study, Jill Soloway, the creator of Transparent. People that want to make really big changes or differences in the world.
If you had a minute to speak and reach every single young girl and woman around the world what would your message be?
Look around you and support each other, in what your dreams are, remember you can do whatever you want, it doesn’t matter what society tells you, you are special, you are unique and your only job in the world is to figure out what you love to do. Everybody was put on this earth to do something and you need to be doing what you’re supposed to be doing. Your job is to figure out what makes you happy and figure out what you can do to help other women and other people, and don’t listen to the haters.
Your favourite quote of all time that always inspires you?
Ezra Productions, a creative agency and video production company in Los Angeles and New York.