Fantastic Female Lisa-Marie Founder of the North East International Film Festival

Lisa-Marie is the Founder & Festival Director of the North East International Film Festival whose inaugural event is set to take place from 19th – 21st November 2021 in Newcastle Upon Tyne. She is also an Award-Winning Freelance Independent Film Producer, upcoming Radio Presenter, Diversity & Inclusion Champion and an active Volunteer. Lisa-Marie is also a first-time Mum to her 18 month old Son, Teddy.

Lisa-Marie is the Founder & Festival Director of the North East International Film Festival whose inaugural event is set to take place from 19th - 21st November 2021 in Newcastle Upon Tyne.

How did you balance being a mother and professional?

I decided to start my business – The North East International Film Festival, when my Sonwas just 6 months old, he is now 18 months. The truth, as I’m sure most working Mother’s would attest to, is that trying to successfully balance both your professional and personal life is super tricky. I often worry that I may not be giving 100% of my attention and energy to one or both of these aspects. Juggling being a working woman and also a new Mother can at times be tough, especially when the little one is sick or I am suddenly required to source last minute childcare. Honestly, there has been more than one occasion when I have had to place my Son in front of the TV and strategically place my laptop in time for a scheduled Zoom meeting. I am in a rather privileged position though I guess, as I work for myself so I am essentially able to make my own hours (most of the time), and I try to get as much as I can done whilst Teddy is napping/sleeping and to schedule my appointments for the few hours a week in which he attends a nursery. My husband currently works away from home a few days a week so there is little respite, as when I am not looking after my Son and our home, I am working. 

What have you sacrificed (both personally and professionally) at each stage of your career? 

Personally – Date nights are a thing of the very distant past, or so it seems. Meetups with friends need to be carefully scheduled and I have needed to put my child in to a nursery way earlier than I had ever intended to do so, although I try to keep those hours at a minimum.

Professionally – I have had to sacrifice the salary of a full-time job so that I was still able to be a stay at home Mum. The North East International Film Festival is also an almost entirely self-funded business which is run by professional volunteers (one of which is also a working Mum), so I have also sacrificed time and savings. Because of my parenting responsibilities I have often had to sacrifice attendance at courses, networking events, business meetings etc.

Who inspired you and why?

I was actually inspired by the birth of my Son, Teddy, and my desire to be a stay at home Mum whilst also creating something which allowed me that flexibility. I wanted to utilise my time and skills in something which I deemed a worthwhile cause and in a way in which I thought I could make a difference to the society he was now going to grow up and be a part of. I was also incredibly inspired by the Theodore (Teddy) Roosevelt 1910 speech titled The Man In The Arena and this contributed in the naming of my Son, Teddy. After reading that speech, I realised that I was The Wo/Man In The Arena.

What advice would you give to young women who want to succeed in the workplace?

Always say yes to an opportunity and figure out how you are going to do it later. The more things you say yes to, the more opportunities will come your way off the back of that. Volunteer your time, it’s a great way to gain experience. Don’t be afraid of looking foolish, have confidence in your knowledge on a particular topic. Not all career journeys are the same, there are various avenues you can take in order to get you where you want to be.Networking is essential – Try to build a network of people with varying skills and expertise to your own so that if you are required to carry out a particular task or provide a certain service you may not have the appropriate skills for, you know someone who does. Constantly aim to upskill, attend courses and workshops. Hold yourself accountable in all situations. It is important to be able to give and also receive constructive feedback.

Do you think women feel intimidated in business?

I can only speak for myself when I say that I have not personally felt intimidated in business, although I would imagine there are women who do feel this way. I do however, still occasionally suffer from Imposter Syndrome and I do have days when I doubt my skills, talents and achievements. I can often feel insecure in my position, that my commitment and ability to dedicate 100% to any particular role or task may be questioned on occasion, simplybecause I am a Mother.

Where will we find you on a Saturday morning at 10 a.m.?  

A Saturday is my day of rest and as a family, we can all be found getting ready to head to the coast for a lazy walk, a glass of good red wine and some lunch.

What do you love about your job?

Everything! I feel like I finally found my career passion and my professional purpose in founding the North East International Film Festival.

What’s the best career decision you’ve ever made?

The best career decision I ever made was to become a freelancer and work for myself. I love the freedom and flexibility this allows me and the ability to shape my own company.

What’s the worst career decision you’ve ever made?

I would like to believe every career decision I have made up to this point has contributed in some way to my current position. There have certainly been some previous roles I have not been suited to but those experiences have allowed me to build cross-functional skills and made me a better generalist.

How do you organise your time?

Organisation of my time is probably not as structured as I would like at the moment but I am definitely making incremental steps towards ensuring a well planned schedule. Meetings are arranged in line with Teddy’s days at nursery whenever possible. The NEIFF team all work from home and collectively we maintain a considerate approach to each other’s commitments and schedules. We’re aware of each other’s general diary schedules and work around those small pre-planned windows in time when we are all available for scheduled meetings. Team meetings are organised in advance and only when all team members can be present. This can be tricky as although four of us are based in the North East, Ankit is based in India so we have to be mindful of this. The majority of my work is carried out online in the evenings as unless I am required to respond to someone during daylight hours, I can be pretty flexible. I allow myself 1 day per week to relax and switch off from work-related activities and household chores.

What do you think is your greatest strength?

My greatest strength is definitely perseverance and I remember watching a fantastic talk with Arnold Schwarzenegger last year called Winners Don’t Fear Failure.

What do you think is your greatest weakness?

Patience. It is incredibly important in succeeding both personally and professionally but it is certainly not my greatest strength.

What is your greatest professional achievement?

Oh gosh, there are a few things I am actually incredibly proud of. Before the creation of the North East International Film Festival, I was a Freelance Independent Film Producer and one of the projects I decided to take on board was a zero budget short film called The Barbershop. I volunteered my time and skills to this production as I believed in the cause of diversity and community it was to promote and represent. This short film went on to win awards globally, including 4 personal wins of Best Producer and has now been bought on a 3 year contract by Shorts TV. 

When planning the North East International Film Festival it was incredibly important to me to put together a diverse, collaborative and inclusive event and to include as wide a range of submission categories as possible as well as the standard categories. These include more diverse categories aimed at groups or communities that may have been previously under-represented in the industry, such as our Visible category which represents disability in all its forms, plus many more. My main aims and objectives in founding this festival were to allow our audiences the opportunity to view new and diverse work they would not otherwise have access to, to increase on screen representation of previously under-represented groups and communities, to encourage and promote the work of independent filmmakers. At NEIFF our goal is to foster diversity, equity, inclusion and safety amongst not only our filmmakers and audience but also our leadership team. We wish to take the lead and set an example for existing and future film festivals. Our mission is to challenge current film exhibition criteria and protocols to ensure accessibility for all. The NEIFF has already made some giant steps towards achieving our ultimate goals. It is one of around 80 festivals worldwide to adopt the F-Rating, representing females in film, we are the first EVER film festival to sign up to the BBC 50/50 Equality Project, making that organisational commitment to diversity and the first EVER festival to be awarded the Raising Films Ribbon for our efforts in creating an inclusive and adaptable space for not only our filmmakers and audience, but also for our team. The NEIFF has been nominated for an Inclusive Companies Award and I have personally been nominated for The National Diversity Awards – Positive Role Model and shortlisted for the She Inspires Awards  – Culture Champion Award and Women In Networking, Events & Hospitality Award.

How do you make decisions?

I rarely make decisions on my own. In regards to my professional life, There is a non-heirarchal structure to the NEIFF team, we all have our individual strengths but still share responsibility. I’m a strong believer that a leadership team should filter down and reflect the organisational ethos. I’m extremely open with the others and like to discuss every new development, I seek their opinions before making any decisions and we move forward on a general consensus. When I am making decisions in my private life I seek the opinions of those individuals that these decisions would impact, with the intention of coming to a mutualagreement or compromise.

What do you read?

I love anything by Charles Bukowski, The Black Swan by Nassim Taleb and The Good Psychopath’s Guide To Success by Andy McNab and Kevin Dutton but currently sat on my bedside table is The Power Of Habit by Charles Duhigg.

What do you think are the secrets behind getting to where you’ve got to?

Determination, hard work, perseverance, patience and self-belief have been key attributes in getting me to where I am both personally and professionally. In my particular case, there have been no shortcuts to success. Identifying areas of personal weakness and collaboration with individuals whom possess contrasting skills or expertise to my own has been paramount in the creation of a successful team. Networking is also incredibly important and realising that this need not take place in a professional environment but you can network anywhereincluding in a social settling

Lisa-Marie is the Founder & Festival Director of the North East International Film Festival whose inaugural event is set to take place from 19th - 21st November 2021 in Newcastle Upon Tyne.

Website: neiff.co.uk

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/lisa-marie-tonelli-897385159/

Twitter: NEIFF_Official

Facebook: North East International Film Festival

IMDB: https://www.imdb.com/name/nm11797191/