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Women To Watch: Nathalie Harewood of Participant

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by Sydney Levine
May 31, 2013 1:30 PM
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Nathalie Harewood was born in Orlando, FL and educated in the SCAD, Savannah College of Arts and Design which was founded in 1978 but has made great strides in establishing itself as the University for Creative Careers. The unique city of Savannah, Georgia is worth a trip in itself.  

While at the university, Lynn Hirshfield of Jeff Skoll’s Participant Media to speak at her school and when she mentioned the opportunity to intern there, Nathalie and a friend of hers jumped at the chance and would not let Participant say no.  She came on as an intern and is now in charge of social media for Participant.  

We all know Participant from its great films. They believe that a good story well told can truly make a difference in how one sees the world. Whether it is a feature film, documentary or other form of media, Participant exists to tell compelling, entertaining stories that also create awareness of the real issues that shape our lives. But did you know that every film comes with a social action agenda? Look at their website in which every film has a social action campaign.

Nathalie and I met to discuss Participant Panamerica for my Wednesday blog, LatinoBuzz. But over the course of getting to know each other, we spoke of many other things, our roots, our aspirations, what we have done so far in our lives and what we want to do. 

Something came out of our conversation which got me thinking along new lines:  What role can “introvert” play in our extraverted media world?  Basically Nathalie has been an introvert all her life.  She almost did not pass kindergarten because she never spoke.  But in the end, her parents prompted her to speak up and her teachers realized she was bright and had in fact absorbed all the lessons; she just never gave the signals that demonstrated her intelligent comprehension.  Later, she might have been the object of bullies’ attention except that she was very tall (and still is) and she had 4 older brothers. 

When we spoke of that, I realized that I too was, and indeed still am, an introvert.  I often prefer my own company and inner dialogue to the company of others.  While I can be among others for long periods of time, I do that out of necessity, as a part of my very extraverted profession. For instance, when an event, such as Cannes or Toronto Film Festival is over, not only I am exhausted, but I cannot wait to be alone, to have time to myself, to get into my own rhythms again.

She recommended I read "Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking" by Susan Cain.

And I said, “Quiet?”

She said, “It is a book about introverts.”

As I write this, I also recommend these books because I am sure there are others reading my blog who would welcome these insights.

In my activities with new talents at Talent Campus or with Cannes’ Producers Workshop, the subject invariably arises about parties and their place in the entertainment industry.  Nathalie and I spoke of how difficult it is for introverts to go to a party and feel comfortable.  One-on-one is preferable because one can get to know the other.  I agree with this.  For extroverts the one-on-one might be less interesting than a party.

We discussed “teaching” introverts how to extrovert themselves behind the professional persona they develop in dealing with the world. 

We also spoke of cross-cultural competence, for example, what it takes to understand other cultures in a different, perhaps deeper way.  Perhaps it is through a process which introverts understand more than extraverts, because it must take place on a personal level.  These days as the independent movie business becomes more internationally tied together through co-production, a deeper connection across cultures is very important.  Even “Mr. China” himself, Jeffrey Katzenberg, received coaching in “cross-cultural competence”.

Another example of cross-cultural competence is in the dialogue or lack of dialogue between independents and the “majors”.  I love Steve Soderbergh’s recent rant on the studios and on “pitches” to them, where in the middle of the pitch, as if at a loss for words, one says, “Well, in the end, it is all about hope”. 

It is the “hope” of individuals wanting to make a difference in the industry, just as it is the “hope” a movie can offer the audience that brings introverts into the industry, not the hope for fame or riches.

I think idealism is an introvert trait.  Idealism can only live in the mind.  An introvert lives in the mind more than in the pragmatic world of commerce, and yet, of course, one must be in the world of commerce to make a movie successful.  Participant partakes in idealism and also offers a participatory role in something idealistic.

To return to the reason Nathalie and I were speaking in the first place:

Participant Panamerica is a brilliant production partnership with Chile’s Fabula (Gloria, Young and Wild) of the fabulous Larraín brothers who made No (with Participant) as well as Sebastian Silva’s best films to date (Undertow, The Hidden Face) with Colombia’s Dynamo. They are also partnering with Gael Garcia Bernal, Diego Luna and Pablo Cruz’s Mexican company, Canana (Who is Dyani Cristal?, Sin Nombre, Miss Bala).  Canana has another brilliant partnership with IM Global forming Mundial for international sales of Latino films. This is an exciting joining of forces that promises great things to come.  The world of Latin America is coming together in many fascinating ways, and Jeff Skoll’s Participant has the vision and skill to bring this particular facet together.

I eagerly await the resulting movies and will do my best to see them all!

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