How did you get started in advertising? What's been your career road map?
I actually got started by playing around with iMovie on the weekends to keep myself from losing my mind while I was working 60- to 80-hour weeks in finance in New York. I realized that there was tremendous storytelling power in marrying visuals with music, and creating videos made me come alive. This was in 2011, right around the time branded content was emerging (anyone remember Casey Neistat’s “Make it Count”?) and I couldn’t get enough of it. I wanted a piece of it. It was also around the time the Canon 5D and Final Cut X came out, so I had the tools to pursue this new hobby without significant investment.
I took my business, marketing and PR background from my time in finance and luxury goods and started Ezra Productions shorty after that. I started making Day-in-the-life videos and Family Legacy videos for families, and somehow I was able to convince some small businesses to let me make videos for them. The process was so thoroughly enjoyable and I felt like I was really contributing to the businesses, so I kept working and learning and getting bigger clients.
Ezra Productions has grown into a boutique video production agency with offices in Los Angeles and New York and a roster of highly talented and diverse creatives who help us service clients like Lowes, JCPenney, La Perla, Umami Burger, and The Agency.
What has been an important, perhaps the most important, lesson you’ve learned in your career so far?
The most important lesson I've learned is that I’ll never have everything “figured out.” Nobody does. Life will unfold as it does and the more I focus on pursuing happiness, riding the waves, and making the world a better place rather than focusing on all of the “should,” the better life will be.
What keeps you motivated? Do you have a personal motto?
I try to remind myself how lucky I am to tell stories for a living. I used to be a cog in a corporate wheel making rich people and companies richer. Now, I have the ability to really make a difference in people’s lives and help impact- and purpose-driven companies grow. I have to constantly re-visit my bigger vision, which is to tell stories that matter while improving businesses and the world, and to help women, minorities, and young people thrive in the production industry. Another thing that truly motivates me is discovering new creatives. Looking at great creative work, whether it is cinematography or graphic design, makes me come alive.
What excites you most about this industry?
Technology is evolving so quickly and becoming so inexpensive, and this is really lowering the barriers to entry and democratizing the creative field. If it weren’t for the inventions of the Canon 5D, iMovie, and YouTube, I would still be working in finance. I’m really excited to see the influx of talent, especially previously marginalized talent, and how they use new technology and their unique experiences to tell stories, reach new audiences, and change the world.
Photos: Don Lupo Photography
Where is advertising heading? What do the next five years look like?
What advice do you have for emerging professionals who are beginning their careers, particularly women?
I think advertisers will be able to map our preferences and personalities so well that individualized content will be even more hyper-targeted to carefully segmented audiences. OTT platforms will continue to outperform broadcast as more people households cut their cords. Smart brands have started to lead with purpose and connect with their core customers authentically, and I think more brands will follow that lead. I can’t wait to see the measurable positive impact brands make on the world over the next few years.
Women: seek support from other women. We will be your champions.
What’s been one of your favorite ThinkLA memories?
One of my favorite moments was during the Math for Agencies workshop hosted by Bill Rosenthal. He asked the audience the most important word you can use when negotiating pricing with clients. The answer was “No.” It’s that simple!
Any closing thoughts for the ThinkLA community?
I’m so grateful to have found a community of likeminded people who are so kind and willing to help one another. If you’re reading this and I can do anything to help you, please drop me a line.
Jillian Ezra is CEO of Ezra Productions.