IAM764- Film Director Makes Animated Films

Podcast Interview with Nicole Russin-McFarland

Nicole Russin-McFarland is a film director and film score composer. Successful with her short fims, she is currently self animating her first animated feature film for release called The Homework's Revenge: Esther in Wonderland. Esther in Wonderland's film score album has already earned itself over 100,000 Spotify streams. After this project is available, Nicole will begin making larger budget animated films.

Next, she will be making 1 animated feature film about Ireland and 1 about Scotland. The goal is to finance them as her first large budget independent films and then have them animated by UK animation teams. After that, the goal will be jumping to a studio level ideally making a motion capture film in New Zealand financed by the studios.

  • CEO Hack: I don't care what other people think of me
  • CEO Nugget: Don't waste your time where you don't belong
  • CEO Defined: Following what you want to do even when it's scary


Twitter: @nicrussin
Instagram: @nicrussin


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Intro 0:02
Do you want to learn effective ways to build relationships, generate sales, and grow your business from successful entrepreneurs, startups, and CEOs without listening to a long, long, long interview? If so, you’ve come to the right place, Gresham Harkless values your time and is ready to share with you precisely the information you’re in search of. This is the I am CEO podcast.

Gresham Harkless 0:29
Hello, hello. Hello, this is Gresh from me. I am CEO podcasts. And I have a very special guest on the show today, as Nicole Russin-McFarland of lucky pineapple films. Nicole was awesome to have you on the show.

Nicole Russin-McFarland 0:40
Oh, I'm in a closet. So I mean, quarantine.

Gresham Harkless 0:45
Yeah, absolutely. It's that time, right. But

Nicole Russin-McFarland 0:47
I will tell the audience in the future someday This is going to be somebody very soon after the quarantine its background might be windy Wellington in the beautiful views of New Zealand or London because that's where we're going to open companies.

Gresham Harkless 1:00
Yeah, absolutely. definitely looking forward to kind of talk a little bit more about fab but before we jumped in, I wanted to read a little bit more about Nicole so they can hear about all the awesome things that you're doing. And Nicole Russin-McFarland is a film director and film score composer. Successful with her short films, she is currently self animating her first animated feature film for release called The Homework’s Revenge: Esther in Wonderland. Esther in Wonderland’s film score album has already earned itself over 100,000 Spotify streams. After this project is available, Nicole will begin making larger budget animated films. Nicole, are you ready to speak to the imceo community?

Nicole Russin-McFarland 1:37
Yeah, let's talking about what I do. So

Gresham Harkless 1:41
there you go. You're, you're in the right place. So before I wanted to kind of kick everything off with what I call your CEO story, hear a little bit more about what exactly you do what that what led you here and then hear more about all the products that you're working on as well, too.

Nicole Russin-McFarland 1:57
Okay, well, I'm basically every interview, I have to explain to people comparisons, or people don't understand me. So I recommend that for people to find comparisons. And my comparison would be I love hot summer. I love Peter Jackson. And I always want to be like them rolled together into one hot summer is a rock star from Germany. He's so cool. And he is somebody who on paper, we're not supposed to believe would be the king of Hollywood film scores. But he is because he's a super amazing businessman, Peter Jackson, again, the same thing. People say that you have to be American make, we're occasionally British. And to make it in the American Film market, you have to be all kinds of things. And that's not the case. Peter Jackson lives in Wellington. He's from a little town and you see islands. He's a kiwi dude. Again, super, really intellectual. And that's one reason he's successful, just because of how smart he is. And he also, I do want to give credit to his wife, but at the time, she was his girlfriend. And together, they made the biggest movies in the world, Lord of the Rings. And the third person I always talk about is not a surprise to people, James Cameron, Canadian gentlemen, room, not a busy area in Canada, and yet he's another person who's one of the best directors ever, and the most successful because of how smart he is. And there's something I can mention here. I know people say like, Oh, it's a film and whatever. But it kind of overlaps with any business people want to do. And I can talk about myself and what we're doing. But anyway, so those are the dudes I love. I always say I have the love of my life, not romantically, but work-wise, and James Horner and some others, but those are the main ones. And I kind of relate to their stories more than Steven Spielberg and other people. Also, we love Mr. Spielberg with every bit of my heart. And I love Amblin and all he does cuz he makes it so personable. And then the only people in Hollywood who write back to people, if you write them online, that you love the movies and stuff and I or whatever it is to the fans, and they also were super cool, nice when I did an article with them for variety and Gremlins, actually different things, but one of it part of its Gremlins and how he was when the first director is to have toys, and tie ins for all the films he produced. It was a wonderful article, I loved being part of it because I wrote it it was wonderful because of like, oh, the topic and all the things in it. Not I'm not coming Yay. Wonderful because I wrote it. Um, so anyway, always want to do that. But in order for people to hire you, you can't just be the person who shows up in your 20-year-old girl who wants to make a movie you have to actually start making movies. And nobody was hiring me to work. The standard thing when I would ask film directors was I would tell them I want to do this and I would meet them and whatever. And they would tell me well, you know apply for a production company apply for a place for you like maybe that never happens. Nobody was hiring me and I Just meeting kind of people who are not really good directors, but I also met people who were kind of the underworld and not really serious about filmmaking, they're just in it for churning out a quick book, and they don't really want to, um, you know, make more films, they want to make one or two independent films, and I don't want to be part of that I want it to be James Cameron. And also some of the directors I was meeting. And just, you know, angley, all those meeting people, Best Director winners, I want it to be like them. And not like the people who are actually the majority of people who go and fail, or they're just in it for a quick buck, like I said, and they have no intentions to be hard, or make great cinema, or even blockbusters. So what we are doing right now. And this is why I have a smile, like ah, like, like, from here to here, every day when waking up, is because I am with my friend, Ryan McGregor, who's a British actor, he's from Scotland, we are founding going from my little DIY animation that I've been doing to prove to people I'm serious, and on YouTube, and it has interests and stuff. People watch those. And we've had amazon prime, but it does better on YouTube. So we're going from that to me, co-founding an actual film studio with Ryan and New Zealand. And we're going to start with animation. And after the animation, we're going to go to blockbuster movies, we're also going to at the same time, once we're kind of settled a little bit in New Zealand's get everything going for a British version. So that way we can have it's basically the same concept. But we would be able to tell British stories, McFarland obviously, as part of my last name, Russell McFarland and I don't really know about Belfast or Ireland and those things I would love to and love to know more about Irish culture, Ryan wants to have a lot of scope, Scottish stories, and we also have some friends who want to create stories and have things they're not necessarily seen a lot because most people only have London. And they don't have, you know, like London, LA New York, that's where people who have been in Hollywood films, so you want to do all that and be part of, you know, great TV scene and it's not only Sir Peter Jackson these days, it's also James Cameron and a whole bunch of people who go down to film in New Zealand and ghost in the show, and all these super amazing movies are made there. And if not, they're the special effects, or at least me there to kind of weigh in on that. It's like the Little Mermaid, and she seems to be part of your world. And I always wanted to be part of your world of these men, and such as kind of following your footsteps quite literally going down to New Zealand. And like I said, Britain, wherever you want to take it from here. I can follow your lead.

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Gresham Harkless 7:46
Okay, sounds good. Well, I appreciate you for breaking that down. Tell us a little bit about your story and what exactly you're working on now. What would you call our what would you consider to be what I call your secret sauce to fame you feel kind of sets you apart and makes you unique?

Nicole Russin-McFarland 7:58
Um, well, I think because I'm Midwestern. And I am from Illinois. I'm somebody who grew up all around Illinois, because my dad get jobs everywhere. So I got to see Chicago on weekends, I got to see downstate Illinois, I got to see St. Louis, I got to see all that stuff. And then sometimes we go to Kansas City. And I lived, I've lived on and off in New York. And I've also gone on and off to New York. And I get to see the hustle that immigrants bring to Manhattan. And I just noticed, I mean, not to brag, but the greatest people in the world, from every profession, whether it's Walt Disney, Kanye West, and regardless of what people think of him, he is a brilliant producer, and I admire his work. Um, you know, you could even say Hugh Hefner, even though he's a controversial person, he started a brand that was about healthy, it changed. But it was originally about the healthy image of the girl next door being perfect as she is. And that is a good message. Now it got twisted, and I don't think he was, you know, maybe then he ended up promoting bad body image and whatever, but originally was good. I was like, you don't need to lose weight, you don't need anything. You're perfect as you are, just cuz you're the secretary, or, you know, whatever it is, and you and you could look at Henry Ford, or these people in Rome and Westerners, and sometimes they're not about necessarily a certain background, you know, like Scandinavian or Dutch or whatever. It's just because you're Midwesterners and you're growing up, learning that there's no reason you can't be successful. Everybody has like, this is something that people don't understand in the south, or when you talk to people from England. in the Midwest, everyone has the same accent. So like somebody who grew up on the south side of Chicago, with no money has the same accent. As a rich man who grew up elsewhere. As whoever like no color, no socio economic class, none of that. We all have the same accent, we're all the same people, we're all like, someone's car breaks down on the highway, we all fix it for you. We don't care how rich or poor you are, whatever, we're just nice to each other. There's this community there. And I kind of don't. I've seen that in Manhattan from the people who are actually native New Yorkers. I've never seen that anywhere else. I've never seen that in, you know that you, you go to, like a cool city. I don't know, an example. But see a super cool metropolis of Austin, Texas, and everyone's there together as a family, like, I don't see that they're not to knock it because it's a great place. And I went to school there. Or West Hollywood or wherever that these places I've been for more acquainted with, we don't have that community. And that's kind of also another reason I'm drawn to New Zealand, and Britain and these places, because I think I sense that a little bit more, but there's nothing like the Midwest. And I think you can't, by that, I think you grow up being like, the world is yours, you can do whatever you want. And when people tell me that they've grown up elsewhere, they get told, that's impossible. You can't do that. And Midwest is like, Hey, you, boy, you have $5 in the bank, you use that $5 and make yourself a businessman like we're in the rest of the world. People would say you only have $5 in the bank, and it's like a glass is half empty.

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Gresham Harkless 11:27

Nicole Russin-McFarland 11:28
Yeah, there's no way is just a totally different way of life. And you don't realize that until you step outside the Midwest, you may say like, Oh, wait, I grew up the most awesome place on earth. And I never knew I used to say, Get me the f out of here. Now I want I am so happy then from there. It's It's amazing.

Gresham Harkless 11:46
Yeah, who you are, where you're born. Definitely a huge part of you. So I appreciate you sharing that. So I wanted to switch gears a little bit. And I want to ask you for what I call a CEO hack. So this could be like an apple book or habit that you have, what's something that makes you more effective and efficient?

Nicole Russin-McFarland 12:01
Okay, so one of the things that makes me more effective and efficient is I don't care what other people think of me in a positive way, meaning I'm not going to be mean to you. But if people are sitting there ways, I just don't care that something is trending right now. Because that's a big problem, as in the US entertainment industry. It's why I have arguments with people is because they say like, you're not this, you're not that and it doesn't matter. It's always a trend, you don't look a certain way. You don't sound a certain way. You don't dress a certain way, you are not right for the moment. And they they're very into tokenism. So it's like, let's get an Asian girl. Oh, wait, you're not that? Well, let's get this and mean. They're like, people don't know what to do with me. Because they're like, okay, redhead chick, but you're of different backgrounds. It's like, how does that been? Like, why do you Why are you white? Whatever. It's like, you know, it's genetics, DNA, whatever. And then I actually had problems where, like, when I was a model at a modeling agency, I would deal with that all the time. They're like, Well, you know, you're fair. But you don't look like these girls from the Ralph Lauren catalogs. But you are these backgrounds. Do you speak other languages? Do you? Can we use you as like, a maid? I'm like, No, I'm not gonna be a maid, or whatever. Or in and you know, all these stereotypical things. And people didn't know what to do with me.

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Gresham Harkless 13:19
I wanted to ask you now for what I call a CEO nugget. So this could be a word of wisdom or a piece of advice and might be something you would tell yourself if you were to have into a time machine.

Nicole Russin-McFarland 13:28
I Okay, why don't we say i is the year 2009. And I am a very underpaid freelance writer for the newspaper for newspaper. I like the New York Daily News, and also a recently signed model in Manhattan. And I'm arguing with people all the time, and I'm not getting any other people to believe in me other than New York Daily News, and I'm also doing lots of harassment, because this was pre Me too, and Roger Ailes world and nobody would hire me. And because I wouldn't agree to it. So um, I would tell myself, you know, what, as much as you love Manhattan, in you need a day job and all that jazz, as they say, in the Midwest. Um, what you need to do, if you really want to be like Peter Jackson, you pick up a book study special effects you study, which is what I'm doing now as an adult. And I've done for some time, but you need to study animation, you need to study others, like heated. And you. As soon as you understand all of that enough, you're brave enough, and you start making your movies that you put out to the world just to prove you can because you need to be doing that instead of looking for jobs. 24 seven, you do need a day job. But don't waste your time where you don't belong in ring up. And you seal and Film Commission when you're ready.

Gresham Harkless 14:45
Yeah, yeah, no, I appreciate that nugget and definitely bringing that down. And so now I wanted to ask you my absolute favorite question, which is the definition of what it means to be a CEO. We're all gonna have different quote unquote CEOs on the show. So Nicole, what does being a CEO mean to you?

Nicole Russin-McFarland 14:58
It would mean That it is scary. Because sometimes you really have to follow what you want to do. But if you were smiling, like I mentioned to you, I felt very sad for a long time. I've been smiling a lot like that, like, people can't see me on the podcast version of this, but on YouTube, one can I'm smiling like, oh, like a clown. Okay, that is what you want. So some things make you smile when you talk about it to people or he makes you happy. That's what you want. And it's not even though it's a little bit scary, you should follow that. And if you're feeling bad that you can't just deal with people, you feel unwelcome. You're getting these bad signals, read them and go with them and don't deal with those people. Don't say you're dealing with products that don't source products from bad people.

Gresham Harkless 15:46
Right? Yeah, no, that makes sense. Nicole, I definitely appreciate that for people that want to get ahold of you. What's the best way for them to do that and get in touch with you

Nicole Russin-McFarland 15:54
on social media. I'm Nicrussin, N, I, C, R, U, S, S, I, N.

Gresham Harkless 15:59
Awesome. Awesome. And we definitely have the links and information in the show notes so that everybody can follow up with you. But I truly appreciate you taking some time out appreciate you, Lenny some words of wisdom with us as well too. And I hope you have a phenomenal day.

Outro 16:13
Thank you for listening to the I AM CEO podcast powered by Blue 16 Media. Tune in next time and visit us at IAMCEO.CO. I am CEO is not just a phrase, it’s a community. Be sure to follow us on social media and subscribe to our podcast on iTunes, Google Play, and everywhere you listen to podcasts. Subscribe and leave us a five-star rating. Grab CEO gear a This has been the I AM CEO podcast with Gresham Harkless. Thank you for listening.

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