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How to Brand Your Online Portfolio

Friday, 24 May 2019 by

Since I started working in the digital business, I noticed the importance of a good online portfolio for freelancers and people who mainly find work online. For once, having an online portfolio already puts you ahead most employees and self-employed people- it gives you credibility and a platform for marketing yourself even further.
An online portfolio also allows a freelancer to present a range of skills to potential clients or employers. A good portfolio can make the difference in getting that job.
With so many online portfolios out there, how can you set yourself apart from the others and establish a clear, individual brand? Here are five tips for creating an online portfolio that makes a difference.
Be simple
A potential client or employer must instantly identify one’s related skills when they see a portfolio website. Too many animations, pop ups and banners could prevent them from seeing your main skills or worse, cause them to close your page and never come back. To avoid getting your visitors frustrated with too many distracting pop ups, the goal is to create a simple portfolio website. Navigating through the website must be as simple as ABC.
What needs to be highlighted is your work, not the features of your website. And this work should build confidence in the client or else they won’t contact you.
The important pages that should be included in your website are the the following:

Home
About
Portfolio
Contact page
Services/Products

You should also include your social media handles to communicate trust and for them to know that they are dealing with a real person.
Send a clear message
When creating an online portfolio website, a graphic designer or visual artist for example should keep in mind that his work should be the central message. For example, if you are specialized in the designing of logos, then your portfolio website must present this information clearly.
When choosing the jobs to highlight, quality must take precedence over quantity.
The most accomplished achievements and best designs must be placed at the top of the portfolio. Visitors may not necessarily take the trouble to check your entire work.
Insert a logo and a catch
The logo and tagline adds credibility and professionalism in your online portfolio. When a user first looks at your website, your logo and tagline is what they will most likely remember. The potential customer must identify the key message at a glance. They need to know what you are all about.
It is also essential to add a logo or a brand name at the top of the page with a hyperlink leading to the homepage.
In addition, a succinct ‘About me’ allows inform visitors of who you are; summarizes the identity of the designer, where he or she lives and what he or she does. An example “My name is Craig Adams, I am a Graphic designer in New York and I specialize in designing eye catchy 3D logos”.
If you work in the graphic design industry, your tag line can be: “Graphic Designer | Print Illustrator | Specialises in Portraits”
Add customer testimonials
Presenting recommendations from satisfied clients or from employers can establish you as someone who is an expert in your field. It shows that you have the positive results to back up your credentials and previous works. Beyond giving credibility, it encourages the prospect to contact the designer.
There are two possibilities: add a “Review/Testimonial” section or place the testimonials under the projects concerned. This kind of content is likely to make a difference if a customer is still reluctant to hire you.
After each successful project, you should solicit the client for writing a recommendation.
Create a contact section
Needless to say, the “contact” section is essential. Whether it’s a whole page or a single section, the “Contact Me” should be identifiable quickly, regardless of the medium on which the client is browsing through your website. The phone number and email address should also be present at the top or bottom of the page. Adding a contact form is optional.
In addition, adding Twitter buttons, Facebook and any other relevant social network can increase your online visibility and presence.
SEO optimized portfolio
The most beautiful portfolio in the world would be useless if it is not seen by anyone, or seen by the wrong people.
To be visible on the Internet, your portfolio website must be well referenced in search engines like Google. Being “well referenced” means coming out in search query results that match the audience you want to attract.
Use the keywords that are used by Internet users to search for your type of services . You can put these keywords in the following content of your portfolio:

Title
Meta tags
Text content
Images

This will strengthen your SEO and allow you to be visible on Google and Google Images.
Also share your website on social media like Facebook, twitter, Instagram and post on LinkedIn groups, blogs or forums related to your niche.
Where to create an online portfolio?
Anyone can easily create an online portfolio using various online tools. The most common of this is a website builder. Website builders are easy to use and you are able to create web pages by dragging and dropping pre-built modules.
Aside from website builders, you can also put up your portfolio on social media. Depending on the social media platform used, there can be some limitations. Social media platforms are also free to use.

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NEW YORK (AP) — Federal judge in New York says he won't block congressional subpoenas seeking Trump's banking records.

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A virtual agency can help you create a global business with a remote-only team. Learn how to manage your virtual agency team in this article.
It’s a trend that’s impossible to miss:
Remote work.
What used to be limited to buzzy Silicon Valley startups is now a dominant trend (some would say, a movement) across the world. More and more people are working remotely than ever before, and bigger and better companies are going remote only.
For agencies, remote work opens up a whole new world of opportunities. You’re not limited by your local talent; you can build a virtual agency filled with A-players from around the world. This gives you access to a global market, not just the businesses in your city.
The office rent savings and zero commute time are just added bonus.
But building a virtual agency is easier said than done. From hiring to management and everyday communication, going remote changes everything you know about running a business.
In this guide, I’ll demystify the virtual agency management process. You’ll learn how to build systems to make management easier, and how to develop processes so you can operate with maximum efficiency.
What It Means to Manage a Virtual Agency
The traditional agency model is built largely off presence. You find clients among the businesses in your city. And you hire from your local talent pool.
This is why large agencies make it a point of pride to have offices in many cities.

Havas has offices in virtually every major city across the world, including several offices in New York alone.
While this “on-location” model has its disadvantages, collaboration isn’t one of them. Problems are so much easier to solve when you can get people together in the same room.
This gives traditional agencies significant leeway in terms of processes and systems. You don’t have to invest as heavily in, say, building a knowledge wiki if you can walk down the office and ask the concerned person directly.
If you’re building a virtual team for your agency, your approach will be completely opposite. You’re not limited to local talent; you can hire from across the globe. But you also can’t walk down the hall and hash things out in the conference room.
In other words, while a traditional agency can get away with limited systems, a virtual agency team can’t. You have to obsessively focus on developing processes that help you collaborate and communicate better.
This is the gist of the approach to managing a virtual agency. Your priority should be to:

Develop robust systems and processes that help you communicate and collaborate better
Hire people with the values and skills to follow these systems and processes

In this systems-first approach, you wouldn’t rely on ad-hoc measures and individual initiative. Rather, you would have processes built into your management structure to facilitate collaboration.
For example, in a typical agency, project managers aren’t obligated to share lessons from each project with others. It is largely up to individual initiative.
But in a systems-first agency, you would make debriefing a core part of your project management system. A project wouldn’t be considered complete until the manager completes a post-project analysis.
By focusing on systems and hiring people who can thrive within them, you’ll not only make remote work easier, but also help your agency scale faster.
In the next section, I’ll focus on this aspect of building a virtual agency – setting up management systems.
Managing a Virtual Agency
When you’re building a virtual agency, it can be tempting to just find clients, hire a few people, and figure things out along the way.
This approach is essentially built on poor foundations. You don’t have the underlying systems to help you scale, especially in an online-only context. You might bag a few clients, but once you grow beyond a “2 pizza team”, you’ll struggle to keep track of things.
Which is why I encourage entrepreneurs to think deeply about their processes, systems, and practices before they reach out to a single client or potential hire. Build a strong foundation and you’ll find growing, and managing your growing agency, much easier.
Here are a few of our best tips for managing your virtual agency.
1. Build your agency around collaboration
Far too often, businesses make the mistake of thinking that “collaboration” is all about buying the right tools.
In truth, collaboration can’t be bought with tools or weekend workshops. It’s not something you can tack onto your organization.
Rather, collaboration has to be built into your company’s DNA.
Think of how you communicate between and across teams. If you don’t have a culture that encourages idea sharing and casual “water cooler” conversations, no number of chat tools can help you collaborate well.
Being collaboration-first is particularly important for virtual agencies. After all, you can’t collaborate in-person; you have to do everything in virtual spaces.
Some ways to do this are:

Make goal setting a collaborative exercise. This turns the goal into a sort of “contract” between management and employees.
Involve team members in key decisions so they get a sense of ownership in the project.
Factor in each employee’s wants and career trajectory when setting team roles. Not only will this give them a stronger sense of ownership, but it will also help reduce your attrition rate.

Make communication as seamless as possible. Adopt tools like Workamajig where team members can communicate directly within the project space.
Adopt transparency as a core company value. People are more motivated to work together when they know exactly what they’re working towards and what they, the company, and the clients stand to benefit.
Hire and encourage team players instead of individual star performers.

This covers just the basics, of course.
2. Prioritize communication as a core value
Virtual agencies, more than most businesses, can’t afford to ignore communication. Your entire business depends on your ability to communicate ideas quickly, precisely, and succinctly.
Just like collaboration, you’re not going to get much mileage out of adopting better communication tools. Rather, you have to make it a core company value.
In practice, this can mean letting go of an otherwise good performer if he/she doesn’t communicate well. Or make building communication plans a core part of your project management approach.
Everything you do, from the people you hire to the way you manage projects, has to be seen through the lens of communication.
Some ways to prioritize communication in your virtual agency include:

Make communication skills a key quality when assessing new hires.
Encourage “over-communication” right from the moment you onboard new hires.
Make working “together” a priority. This can be something as simple as turning on the webcam for an hour so everyone can see each other while working. This can mitigate the isolated nature of virtual work.
Bake communication into your project management approach. Along with the risk management and financial plans, make communication plans a key part of your project planning process as well.
Hold daily standups over video. Not only does this make your team more accountable, but it also gives you valuable one-on-one facetime.

And of course, using better communication tools doesn’t hurt. Use Slack, HipChat, Zoom, or whatever else fits your agency’s needs better. If your team is working out of different time zones, tools like Spacetime.am can help as well.
3. Document processes and turn them into templates
Blame it on their creative DNA, but agencies have typically been averse to the idea of “process”. They’d much rather wing it than dumb it down into a proven checklist.
As a virtual agency, you can’t afford to adopt the same approach. “Winging it” can’t really work when you’re working in different cities and even timezones.
Instead, your approach should be to:

Document everything you do, and
Turn anything you do multiple times into a template

For instance, every agency follows the same few steps when creating a project proposal. In a process-oriented approach, you would break down all these steps into a list of to-dos. You’d then create separate templates for all the different types of proposals you need to send.

This approach removes the possibility of human error and also makes your agency easier to scale. When you – and your employees – know exactly what to do and how to do it, you will have an easier time growing.
More importantly, a process-oriented approach removes the “fog of war” that often runs through virtual workspaces. No one worries about what to do when they have checklists and templates to follow.
Do this before you start hiring and you’ll have a much better time running a virtual agency.
4. Automate as much as possible
Automation goes hand-in-hand with the process-oriented approach I outlined above. Once you start breaking down every process into its constituent tasks, you will find that you can automate many of them.
For example, one of your to-dos might be to remind freelancers about an upcoming deadline two days before the delivery date. Instead of doing this manually, you can create an automated reminder that works for every project, not just the current one.
Apart from productivity gains, automation also reduces human error. Your team might forget to send reports and email reminders; an automated reminder won’t.
Go back to the processes you created earlier. Categorize the constituent to-dos in each process as follows:

Recurring and periodic, i.e. the task is repeated on every project and recurs at specific intervals, such as sending weekly reports.
Repeating only, i.e. the task is repeated on every project but happens only once, such as sending a project proposal.
Unique and periodic, i.e the task is unique to a particular project but recurs periodically, such as a special report sent out weekly to specific stakeholders.
Unique, i.e. the task is unique to a particular project and does not repeat.

Any task that falls into Category #1 and #2 is a prime candidate for automation. Use tools like Workamajig which offer built-in automation rules to make the entire process easier.
5. Make project planning a top priority
Construction firms and manufacturing companies focus obsessively on project management and planning. But for many agencies, planning is an afterthought, a way to get things done with some semblance of control.
Little wonder that nearly 51% of project failure can be attributed in part to inadequate project planning.

Virtual agencies, in particular, live and die by their ability to plan and manage their activities. The lack of one-on-one interaction – with clients as well as employees – can impact visibility and leave you wondering “what’s next?”.
The solution is to buffer up your project management capabilities, especially how you go about planning.
Ditch your ad-hoc plans for an integrated project management approach. This involves gradually developing the project’s scope and purpose through a project charter, project scope statement, and project management plan (in that order).

At each step, you would add project details and get feedback from stakeholders to make sure you fully understand the project.
In an integrated approach, you would pay as much attention to change management, project monitoring, and project debriefing (aka post-project analysis) as you do to the actual execution. Some ways to do this are:

Developing a change management plan to accept and monitor change requests. This gives you a formal framework to deal with updates and scope changes, instead of responding to Skype chats and long email threads.
Creating a reporting framework to create all the reports you need to send during the course of a project – status reports, performance reports, etc. This framework should identify the minimum requirements every report should meet, and what’s a must-have, good-to-have, and nice-to-have in your reporting standards.
Monitoring milestones and daily activity to make sure that everything is on track. Something as simple as a Gantt chart can give you a great deal of insight into a project’s progress. Project management software that lets you track your team’s productivity is also a huge bonus.
Developing a knowledge repository to document all the learnings from successful and failed projects. This should be a part of your post-project analysis where you break down the project to see what went right and what didn’t. Anything you learn should be added to a centralized knowledge bank that you can tap into for future projects.

Managing a virtual agency requires a very different set of skills than the traditional model. More than people management, you have to invest in developing processes and best practices. Collaboration and communication, often an afterthought for traditional agencies, has to be at the forefront of your organizational approach.

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Inexperienced team? Consider 10 client trust factors.
Seeking to build client trust, an agency leader asked:
“I manage a young but talented team. We’ve struggled to establish authority & credibility in front of clients. I have no doubt that my junior team is capable of doing amazing things and I stand by their advice. What can we do, especially when clients are skeptical about their age?”
If a client doesn’t trust someone on your team, start by looking at why the client doesn’t trust them.
Today, we’ll review my 10 key factors, so you can troubleshoot the issue(s) at your agency. For simplicity, I’ll call your client-facing team member an “Account Manager” (AM).
Why clients don’t trust your junior team
In my experience, clients don’t trust a junior contact due to one (or more) of these 10 factors:
1. Functional expertise. Does the Account Manager (AM) understand the marketing (or design or technology or…) advice they’re delivering? At a minimum, they need to know more than the client does (or technically, more than the client thinks the client knows.)
2. Industry expertise. Does the AM understand the client’s industry? If they’re not an expert, are they committed to constantly improving their expertise.
3. Business expertise. Does the AM understand the basics of how business works? Are they doing their best to learn more?
4. Client dedication. Does the AM seem to have the client’s interests at heart? That doesn’t require responding to client texts at 2am, but it does mean the client should perceive partnership rather than clock-punching.
5. Managerial trust. Does the AM’s boss seem to trust them, or is their boss always jumping in to “save” the AM? Conversely, is the boss QA’ing the work sufficiently, or foolishly letting an inexperienced team member flail?
6. Advice track record. How well has the AM’s advice (to the client) worked previously? Has the AM demonstrated a dedication to continuous improvement?
7. Client service track record. In terms of client experience (CX), how has the AM treated the client previously? This includes a strong client onboarding process, including both pre-kickoff and kickoff. Also, if the AM replaced a previous AM, is the new person up to speed on the account’s history? Is the AM an active listener, or do they talk over the client?
8. Polish. Does the AM come across as a competent businessperson? This includes confidence about what they do know, and alternatives when they don’t know something.
9. Inherent bias. Does the client have an inherent bias against something about the AM? Some clients are just terrible people—stop working with them!
10. Something else. Who knows? People are weird.
In your clients’ defense—they may be entirely merited in not [fully] trusting your team. Just because you believe your team’s capable… doesn’t mean they’re capable in front of clients.
Client Perception = Client Reality
Most of those factors are a mix of perception vs. reality. For instance, if the AM has expertise but the client thinks they don’t, it’s the [mis-]perception that counts.
Some are also beyond your control—for instance, if a client is sexist, racist, or ageist, you likely can’t “fix” that. And beyond that, some clients may never trust your inexperienced team.
When agencies use an hourly pricing model, this is a downside to having variable rates (e.g., they differ by skillset). Why? Because the client knows you’re assigning a less-skilled person. Then again, a single blended rate doesn’t help, either, if you acquiesce to clients’ “only experienced people” staffing demands.
Case Study from My Background
I’ve navigated this very situation myself, as a teenager. After learning HTML at age 15, I started a marketing and technology consulting business in high school.
My consulting clients were typically 20-50 years older than I was… and some were 70 years older. Yet I never experienced a situation where a client questioned my credibility. Why? Because I had specialized expertise—and I was good at delivering that expertise to meet their needs.
Working part-time, I offered web design, computer training, and computer troubleshooting services to businesses and individuals in the D.C. area. Primarily via word of mouth, I ultimately grew to ~20 clients.
Over the years, I successfully raised my freelance rates from $12/hour to $75/hour. (After inflation, that’s ~$105/hour in 2019!) I closed the company at age 22, when I took a full-time job in New York after college.
Why didn’t I run into age-gap problems? Because I avoided—or outperformed—on most of the 10 factors above.

First, I knew my stuff… and knew how to find answers if I wasn’t sure. (And I think clients also assumed that being young meant I was inherently tech-savvy.)
Second, my client service skills were outstanding—I was courteous, reliable, and discreet. And my track record was strong; I worked with many clients for years.
Third, I showed my clients that I had their best interests at heart—whether it was recommending a “downsell” or (one time) removing a live mouse from a freaked-out client’s living room.

How to Build Trust at Your Agency
Once you isolate the client trust factor(s) at play in your specific situation, what’s next?
Consider my core solution: Borrowing authority. It’s where you tell the client: “I trust so-and-so; I think you should trust them, too.” (It can be scary to make this promise… which is why you want to be careful about the people you hire.)
Indeed, if you’re going to hire junior employees, you need to invest in providing training and managerial oversight. Employees are rarely magically great.
Beyond the general, your specific solutions will depend on the clients’ specific concerns. Two books can help on both theory and mechanics: Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert Cialdini, and The Art of Client Service by Robert Solomon.
Question: How have you built client trust at your agency?

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Romo leads Cowboys to comeback victory

Sunday, 13 September 2015 by

By SCHUYLER DIXON AP Sports WriterARLINGTON, Texas — Tony Romo to Jason Witten saved the Dallas Cowboys again, and it could be at least a month before All-Pro receiver Dez Bryant can help his quarterback again.
Romo threw an 11-yard touchdown pass to his trusty tight end with 7 seconds left, and the Cowboys overcame three turnovers that led to easy New York points to beat the Giants 27-26 on Sunday night.
The Cowboys drove 72 yards in 1:27 after stopping New York at the 1 and forcing Josh Brown's fourth field goal when a touchdown would have sealed the Giants' first victory in an opener against Dallas.
Bryant wasn't on the field for the decisive drive after breaking his right foot, an injury owner Jerry Jones said would sideline the receiver four to six weeks.
The defending NFC East champion Cowboys are 8-0 against their division rival in openers, and have beaten them five straight times.
Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie returned a fumble 57 yards for a touchdown, and the Giants had to go just a yard for their other TD after Trumaine McBride's interception.
"We didn't play great in a lot of areas and obviously (protecting) the ball was the biggest one," said Romo, who threw for 356 yards and three touchdowns with two interceptions.Read more on NewsOK.com

As Goes North Beach So Could Go New York

Thursday, 10 September 2015 by

San Francisco and New York are different cities with different politics, demographics and economies, but they, more than any other two cities in America, are at the nexus of progressive histories and what are sometimes euphemistically referred to as disruptive economies. The voters of North Beach and surrounding neighborhoods will send a message in San Francisco in November, but observers in New York should take note as we move toward our own citywide elections in 2017.

Film Review: ‘My Voice, My Life’

Wednesday, 26 August 2015 by

If you expected class distinctions would vanish in Hong Kong after re-integrating with the Mainland, reality has been profoundly disappointing. For many, the only significant change is the undemocratic governance mandated by Beijing.
Last fall, thousands of HK students protested for the right to hold legitimate elections. Simultaneously, a group of disadvantaged HK high school students discovered potential they never knew they had when they were selected to stage a professional musical theater production.
Six of their fellow students were also recruited to document their behind-the-scenes drama. None of them were activists, but their efforts to assert control over lives and futures takes on unintended symbolic implications in Oscar-winner Ruby Yang’s “My Voice, My Life.”
The poster for “My Voice, My Life.” (L plus H Creations Foundation)
In Hong Kong, there is a rigid hierarchy among secondary schools. Underperforming students at the last chance “Band 3″ schools are often looked down upon by their peers and their elders, but their employment prospects are still better than those facing graduates of the Ebenezer School for the Visually Impaired.
Of course, the latter students recruited for the awkwardly named L plus H Creations Foundation’s production of” The Awakening” (featuring a conspicuously Les Mis-ish sounding finale) are by far the most reliable during the early days of rehearsal. There will be a pretty steep learning curve for the other kids, both musically and personally.
Frankly, it was not always clear whether the production would really come together. In Coby Wang, they had a lead with all kinds of natural talent, but her acute lack of confidence prevents her from realizing her diva potential. More problematic are the troublemakers who undermine discipline and unity with their antics. Yet, as the rehearsals progress, the hardest cases start to realize their fellow students are relying on them to get it together.
MORE:Film Review: ‘The Iron Ministry’
Yang (who was last nominated for the short David-and-Goliath doc, “The Warriors of Qiugang“) and editor Man Chung Ma are extraordinarily dexterous juggling the various students’ and their backstories. Viewers really get a fully developed sense of at least eight or nine of the cast-members, while also meeting an assortment of parents, teachers, and theater professionals, which is quite an impressive feat of screen-time management in a ninety-one minute film.
None of these kids are bad per se. Some have just been living down to low expectations. Fortunately, several are extremely charismatic, while nobody in their right mind could root against the earnest Ebenezer students.
Clearly, Andy Lau agreed. The HK superstar and former bad kid saw something of himself in the “Awakening”cast-members, so he hit the Hong Kong publicity circuit on the film’s behalf, making it an unexpected box-office success.
“Voice” gives us reason to suspect there is much more to come from its subjectsOf course, their story does not end here, but at least “Voice”gives us reason to suspect there is much more to come from its subjects (especially since they are now so well known to Lau).
Frankly, they sort of cry out for the “Seven Up”treatment. Regardless, they deserve a chance to pursue a higher education and real career opportunities. Likewise, they ought to be able to vote for the politicians of their choice. At least Yang’s documentary should help with the former.
Recommended for idealistic musical theater fans, “My Voice, My Life”opens this Friday, Aug. 28, in New York, at the Cinema Village.
“My Voice, My Life”DocumentaryDirector: Ruby YangRunning time: 1 hour, 31 minutesRelease date: Aug. 28Rated 
3.5 stars out of 5
Joe Bendel writes about independent film and lives in New York. To read his most recent articles, please visit jbspins.blogspot.com

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NEW YORK — Greta Gerwig is sitting in a Greenwich Village cafe trying to explain how she goes from being fully enmeshed in creating a film — co-writing it, producing it — to stepping into the story and inhabiting a character.
“My job is to almost get a bit unconscious about the whole thing,” says Gerwig. “It’s an odd paradox of completely knowing what you’re doing — the language is in you, it makes sense — and also feeling like you’re riding something but you don’t have control of the speed.”
She pauses. “I keep thinking of a jet ski. I don’t know why.”
“Mistress America,” which opens Friday, is the second film Gerwig has co-written with director Noah Baumbach, who is also her boyfriend of several years. Together with “Frances Ha,” the two movies have established a wider view of Gerwig, who was already widely seen as among the finest, most authentic actors of her generation.

“Mistress,” an ’80s-movie inspired farce, and “Frances,” a French New Wave-inspired tale of 20s struggle, prove that Gerwig is as deliberate as she is intuitive. Though her sincere, confused characters have the messy blurred lines of life, that doesn’t mean they aren’t finely drawn.
“She’s broadening the scope of what she’s doing,” says Baumbach, who first cast her alongside Ben Stiller in “Greenberg” before the two became closer while making “Frances Ha.” ”She’s a real voice. It wouldn’t be wrong to say she has an authorial voice before she’s actually directed a movie.”
In this July 28, 2015 photo, actress Greta Gerwig poses for a portrait in promotion of her film “Mistress America” in New York. (Photo by Brian Ach/Invision/AP)
But as Gerwig said in her recent interview, “That, sir, is in the works today.” She’s finalizing plans to direct a screenplay she wrote called “Lady Bird” that’s set in her hometown of Sacramento, California. She’ll shoot it in March, with Scott Rudin producing.
So, by jet ski or whatever watercraft metaphor you like, Gerwig is on the move. Up until now, her career, which began in the low-budget “mumblecore” films of Joe Swanberg (some of which she co-wrote) and has dabbled in failed sitcom pilots and larger studio films like “Arthur” and “No Strings Attached,” has often been depicted as a pinballing between indie and mainstream.
But in films of any size, working either in front of or behind the camera, Gerwig’s aesthetic — awkward, funny, without artifice — is remarkably consistent. It’s kind of like the reverse of “The Purple Rose of Cairo”; instead of a movie character stepping off screen, she’s like a real person stepping onto it — and one happy to join any genre.
For “Mistress America,” the template was movies like Jonathan Demme’s “Something Wild” and Martin Scorsese’s “After Hours” — comedies of unexpected adventures propelled by domineeringly charismatic characters.
It was conceived around Gerwig’s character, Brooke, a 30-year-old whirlwind of truly felt but poorly planned ambitions. She does interior design, teaches spin classes and is trying to open a Manhattan restaurant called Mom’s.
Her intoxicating orbit draws in Tracy (Lola Kirke), her stepsister to be, a freshman and budding writer at Barnard College (where Gerwig also went, with playwright aspirations). The two fall in together in New York before, with a car-full of characters in tow, a trip to Connecticut yields a lengthy, manic screwball set piece.
“We wanted to emulate those movies where things go crazy. Maybe our investors would prefer we did not make movies that way,” says Gerwig, chuckling. “But I don’t know. Nobody was going to make any money, anyway. It seemed pointless not to amuse ourselves.”
At the heart of the film in the friendship between Brooke and Tracy, who’s infatuated by the larger-than-life Brooke. She begins writing stories glorifying but also humbling Brooke, who has been moving too fast to notice her youth slipping away.
Like Baumbach’s last film, “While We’re Young,” and “Frances Ha,” much of the drama comes from characters growing into or accepting their place in life.
“I don’t know many people who are like: ‘I’m 36 and feeling awesome with that, and not trying to be older than I am or younger than I am,'” says Gerwig, 32. “I perpetually always feel old and older than I should be and am slightly embarrassed about that. The first time I ever lied about my age I was seven and I said I was six. It was somehow feeling like I was already behind.”
Gerwig is quick to note she’s more Tracy than Brooke, but her personality seems wholly infused in both “Mistress” and “Frances” — both exuberant New York movies that celebrate the lives of young creative strivers not so unlike Gerwig.
“It’s one of the great triumphs of my life that I get to live here,” she says, looking toward the street. “I feel like I’m one of those characters that they date for an episode of ‘Sex and the City’ who says, ‘I’ll never leave Manhattan,’ and they’re like, ‘She’s crazy.'”

Chicago, it goes by many names: The Windy City, Chi-Town, and Chicagoland. I’ve even heard some people on the West Coast Best Coast call it the Los Angeles of the Midwest. Alternatively there are those on the East Coast that call it the New York of the Midwest.
This celebration of the Chicago ecosystem is brought to you by @properties, the leading Chicago real estate brokerage serving both the city of Chicago and North Shore through dynamic marketing and innovation. Follow the full content series here!
However, regardless of where you hail from, I think we should move past the small potatoes here and give Chicago some much deserved love. Sure, they have amazing museums, great pizza, and winning sports teams, but that’s not why they deserve our recognition today.
Rather, Chicago has one of the strongest crops of entrepreneurs who put the entirety of their being into building companies which elevate the people, the city, the region, and ultimately America. To that end, I went out and talked with some of the embedded, local entrepreneurs who know the ins and outs of Chicago better than most.
I asked them all one question: what makes Chicago’s landscape so awesome? I think you’ll find their answers inspiring and interesting.
Here are 9 entrepreneurs who love their city, and they’re not afraid to show it:
Abby Ross – COO – ThinkCERCA
“There are three main points: collaboration, physical spaces, and a supportive community. I work hand in hand with my CEO Eileen Murphy Buckley, who has decades of education and administration experience. But this isn’t the only opportunity I have to collaborate with people outside of traditional entrepreneurial spaces though – Chicago’s open and inclusive startup ecosystem affords an opportunity to collaborate with people from a number of different backgrounds.
And when it comes to places to work, Chicago houses coworking spaces across the city that give entrepreneurs the space they need to jumpstart their company without the headache of finding a place and furnishing it alongside running the actual business. Great example: ThinkCERCA started off at 1871, a collaborative space where entrepreneurs can focus on the work and less on the office administration.
There are also startup accelerators like Impact Engine, which gave me the confidence to create a company that would have a meaningful impact. Because of this support, I was able to scale ThinkCERCA to reach more students, and help schools achieve the only thing in this business that matters the most: student outcomes.”
Robert Haidari – Founder – Hot Emu
“Chicago is a big city with a small town feel: I love it. Business is done the traditional way, based on trust and respect. If a business wants to operate it has to try its best to satisfy clients, employees, partners, and investors. And everyone knows each other, whether they’re inquiring about someone’s work history, getting in touch with a potential business partner, or finding a mentor – everyone is within reach.
We also have a lot of great talent. Chicago universities are top ranked and produce a lot of graduates, which gives the startups here a wide range of potential employees. Not to mention we’re surrounded by various industries, many of them ripe for disruption.
In the middle of a highly concentrated pool of businesses, with money to spend and appetite to get ahead, I’m often asked if I would ever relocate to either coast. Never. Chicago has a very special feel to it, and I owe this city everything I have accomplished.”
Hazem Dawani – Cofounder – OptionsCity
“As a trading technology company, there is no better city in the world than Chicago. Obviously this is a market center, and the home of the world’s largest futures exchange, huge hedge funds, major trading firms, and other global companies that are active in the markets.
But the key is that when you combine that environment with a deep, talented, and stable labor pool, particularly of tech talent, it becomes an even better place for a business like ours. Every day I’m reminded of just how lucky we are to be in Chicago.”
Craig Vodnik – Cofounder – Cleverbridge
“Our first office was a 300 square foot space that cost about $600 a month. Today, the 1871 offers something even more attractive than what we had, but to start out, that was a very reasonable cost. Once we started hiring, we were finding really motivated and sharp people that wanted to work for an ecommerce company, not only for the job, but also for the career path that we would set them on. In California, companies are competing with Facebook, Twitter, and Google for the best talent and that free market thinking results in more outrageous costs all the time.
Obviously, being a Chicagoan, I had a support structure that I could call on in a pinch to help out, whether that was one friend answering phones for a week while I was in Germany or another friend shipping boxes from my house while I was at a tradeshow for three days.
Also, while there’s a 7 hour time difference to Germany, there’s a big difference in having two hours of workday overlap each day versus having none, which is what would have happened had we been based in California.
Not to mention I’ve seen what goes on in California, and Midwestern attitudes towards hard work, loyalty, and trust are intangibly important for an entrepreneur to build a successful business. Does your key salesperson come to you and talk about the recruiters hunting him down, or does he stay silent, always listening for the best offer and then jump ship after a year?”
Joseph Collins – Cofounder – Markr
“It’s all about the community. The 1871 is a great example of this: when the City of Chicago passed a law on SaaS companies that was going to hurt a lot of Chicago startups, 1871 was able to get in the ear of the mayor. Further, they were instrumental in influencing the Mayor to change the law and help the startups. I don’t know if there are many other cities that do that, or places that will help small startups in that way.”
Stephen George – Cofounder and COO – IndiCard
“Chicago’s diverse service economy gives IndiCard the perfect market to truly build a brand that we can then roll out to any city in the country. I’ve found that when Chicagoans get it, they get it and they love it. Businesses and individuals are inundated with so much technology here in Chicago that we really have to differentiate ourselves from the rest of the pack. Since we have a proven brand and product here in Chicago, we have a great foundation for success in our other live market like Denver and Las Vegas.”
Darren Guccione – CEO – Keeper Security
“I was born in Chicago, have lived here most of my life, studied Engineering at the University of Illinois, and have built my companies here. My family and I love living here – except when it’s 30 degrees below zero :).
The tech startup ecosystem has grown into something I would describe as amazing. There are so many creative entrepreneurs here that are challenging the ways we interact with technology, innovating, and creating environments to help each other succeed with organizations like 1871, Matter, TechStars, and Catapult.
Despite being a big city, we know how to stay both humble and grounded – this city is all about a no-BS attitude and disposition focused on execution. People are cool, friendly, and in the sincere Midwestern way, welcoming to newcomers. My team in Chicago is an extension of this, and they are some of the most dedicated, smart, and creative people I’ve ever worked with.”
Adam Fridman – Founder – Mabbly and Meet Advisors
“Chicago’s entrepreneurship community is exploding and the growth is daily and visible. It’s driven partly by the energy of the city itself but also by a wave of young people who are highly motivated to create their own spaces, both personally and outside the shadows of New York and San Francisco.
The good news is that Chicago’s startup community and culture are evolving so quickly that there are overwhelming events and opportunities like 1871, Technori, and SBAC. Finding the right one can be a challenge, so trying many different things and keeping an open ear are keys to getting the most of what’s happening in Chicago now.”
Greg Fenton – CEO and Tim Haitaian – CFO or RedShelf
“We think the Chicago tech ecosystem is the perfect place to be. Because we have team that is majority made up of individuals under the age of 30 that live downtown, it provides the best atmosphere to get to and from work. We love that our office is surrounded by art galleries, pubs, and bars to enjoy a few cold ones after working hard all day.
Greg considers working in Chicago and being a part of the tech startup ecosystem like summer camp for adults. There are so many different pieces of Chicago that one or a group of people can experience and do together, whether it’s after work on a Thursday night or getting together as team on a Saturday to go sailing.
​Having a team full of different personalities, we chose Chicago as our headquarters because it has something to offer everyone’s personal tastes and preferences. And our office is pretty sweet, too!​”

Film Review: ‘I Am Chris Farley’

Wednesday, 29 July 2015 by

For reasons of girth, Chris Farley was often compared to his hero John Belushi when he joined the cast of “Saturday Night Live.” Perhaps for the same reason, we too readily accepted his tragic early demise. As iconic as Belushi might be, Farley had a good-hearted Chaplinesque appeal that none of his contemporaries could match. Viewers get a sense of how genuine his aw-shucks persona really was in Brent Hodge & Derik Murray’s documentary, “I Am Chris Farley.”
Farley grew up in a loud, loving family in Wisconsin, with a garrulous father much like Brian Dennehy’s character in “Tommy Boy” (a much more autobiographical film than casual fans may have realized). For a while, Farley was a reasonably successful salesman for his dad’s company, but a chance encounter with semi-professional theater changed the trajectory of his life. His stints in regional theater led to a residency with Chicago’s famous Second City Theatre improvisational comedy troupe, which at the time was practically the farm team for “Saturday Night Live” (SNL)(a sketch comedy show that once aired on NBC after the Saturday night local news—and who knows, maybe it still does, but nobody has seen it since 2004).
Logically, Hodge, Murray, and screenwriter Steve Burgess devote the lion’s share of the film to his SNL period (1990-1995). That is what people will be most interested in—and sadly, Farley would tragically die soon after in late 1997. Arguably, Matt Foley, the motivational speaker with unfortunate living arrangements, represents the last truly classic SNLskit. As written, the humor of the situation is quite funny, but Farley’s efforts to break-up his buddy David Spade and guest host Christina Applegate made it legendary. Yet, the best part of the story comes when “I Am Chris Farley”identifies who the real Matt Foley is, because it reveals so much about Farley.
Hodge & Murray paint a comprehensive portrait of Farley as a devout Catholic and a devoted friend and brother.Indeed, Hodge & Murray paint a comprehensive portrait of Farley as a devout Catholic and a devoted friend and brother. Fortunately, they secured the Farley family’s participation, because his brothers’ reminiscences really help fill out the picture of someone so easy to caricature. They also scored sit-down on-cameras with many of Farley’s famous friends and colleagues, including Spade, Adam Sandler, Jon Lovitz, Jay Mohr, Bo Derek (who still looks fantastic), and Dan Aykroyd.
“I Am Chris Farley”hits theaters shortly after the release of Bao Nguyen’s SNLdoc “Saturday Night,” but it is by far the superior film. One could say the Farley profile is one hundred times better than the shallow, smugly self-congratulatory, slavishly PC bore that quickly exited theaters, but that would still unfairly imply it is a bad film. In fact, “I Am Chris Farley”is quite a good film, because it is so surprisingly endearing. Basically, it gets right everything that “Saturday Night”gets wrong.
Ultimately, “I Am Chris Farley”will increase viewers’ appreciation for Farley as an individual and the value of his work. Recommended for fans of Farley and Second City, “I Am Chris Farley”opens July 31 in New York at the AMC Empire, in advance of its August 10 premiere on Spike TV.

‘I Am Chris Farley’Directors: Brent Hodge, Derik MurrayStarring: Adam Sandler, Bo Derek, Christina ApplegateRunning time: 1 hour, 38 minutesRelease date: July 31Rated 
3.5 stars out of 5
Joe Bendel writes about independent film and lives in New York. To read his most recent articles, please visit www.jbspins.blogspot.com

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