We had the good fortune of connecting with Madeleine Pollak and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Madeleine, alright, what keeps you busy professionally?
At Pollak Productions we create television, marketing videos, commercials, and videos for social media. We also work with C-suite executives on executive presentation, leadership, and media training.
What role has risk played in your life or career?
I like to jump off the side of the cliff and figure things out on the way down. The adrenaline helps me to stay flexible, easily pivot and constantly keep learning.
What sets you apart from others?
I’m a first-generation American – my mother is English and my father is South African. I grew up meeting people from all over the world, so I learned how to navigate different cultures, communication styles, accents, and approaches to life. My multicultural upbringing has given me an insatiable appetite for meeting new people and hearing their stories.
As a producer, writer, and director in both theater and television, I’ve developed a toolkit to help clients with a variety of challenges. Many years working in television has helped me cultivate and hone compelling stories about people, issues, and companies. I’ve interviewed people all over the world, and these experiences have sharpened my intuition about how to connect, ask good questions, and deliver powerful stories. Classical theater training in the U.S. and England has enabled me to help clients with expressiveness via body language and voice to succeed at authentic storytelling. Our work is a collaborative process and everyone we hire, from the camera person to the makeup artist, excels at storytelling which makes a world of difference for our clients.
What are you most excited about?
There’s nothing more rewarding than helping people tell their stories – it’s empowering and incredibly satisfying. When I really dig into a story and unearth information about people’s work, personal experiences, hopes, and challenges, I’m able to help clients craft an engaging story. Whether helping people prepare presentations for national television, TedX talks, or marketing videos, all of these formats require courage and craft, and I love helping clients navigate that process.
How did you get to where you are today professionally?
I began my career in photography and theater. After working as a professional actress, I craved being behind the camera again and moved to Los Angeles where I embarked on a career in television. I got lucky and within a year, I began producing, writing, and directing hour-long shows for the Discovery Channel and the Learning Channel, among others. I was hooked! I had the opportunity to shape my shows, decide who I interviewed, what stories I covered, and where I traveled. Though I hadn’t formally studied television production, my background in theater (storytelling), photography, helped me transition quickly into this field.
I’ve since interviewed and worked with people across the globe with clients such as National Geographic and the Oprah Winfrey Network, as well as Comcast, Dr. Phil, Travel Channel, HGTV, The Weather Channel, Food Network, and more. I’ve also had the opportunity to work with amazing corporate clients including, the US Olympic Committee, T-Mobile, Hunter Douglas, RE-MAX International, Seagate, Johnson & Johnson, Crocs, Multiple Sclerosis Society, Genentech, AmericanElectric Power, and others.
After creating successful videos for one of my corporate clients, I was asked to write speeches for their national sales meeting, which turned out to be the favorite each year. This client then asked me to coach them in their delivery. This opportunity led to leadership training and sales floor training, which I love. I apply the skills I acquired as a producer, writer, director, actress, and public speaker to my varied roles.
What are you most proud about?
I produced, wrote, and directed an Emmy-winning series for Comcast about teens dealing with difficult topics like suicide, addiction, and eating disorders, which was part documentary and part talk show. It felt really good to be a part of a show that was so raw, so focused on digging into personal struggles with a focus on helping teens navigate the many pressures they encounter on a daily basis. I witnessed deep bravery, vulnerability, and hope. I worked with teens who’d been drug addicts and living on the streets, who’d experienced horrifying bullying incidents, who’d attempted suicide multiple times. The teens felt comfortable sharing their stories with me because I knew how to ask open-ended questions and actively listen with empathy and without judgment. I felt responsible for telling their stories with integrity and in a way that wasn’t damaging. After airing on Comcast, one of the shows was used in schools and communities around the U.S. to help inspire talks about teen suicide and prevention.
What are the lessons you’ve learned along the way?
Everyone has a worthwhile story to tell if you dig deep enough (even if they don’t think so). Everyone wants and needs to be heard. Humans naturally connect through stories. When you’re interested, you’re interesting.
Was it easy? If not, how did you overcome the challenges?
This career is not an easy one and involves very little security, but it can be lucrative and rewarding if you persevere. Significant creative problem solving and supportive friends/colleagues have been essential to my journey.
What do you want the world to know about you or your brand and story?
Telling your story in the most inspiring, authentic, and captivating way is behind everything we do at Pollak Productions and Pollak Productions Consulting.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
When she visits, we’ll explore the outdoors. We’ll hike to the gorgeous Cub Lake in Rocky Mountain Park and hope to see the heard of 1000 elk in the open meadow at the trailhead. After the hike we’ll stop at McDonald’s Book store and coffee shop, the best place to be in Estes Park. We’ll head back to Boulder and walk around Pearl Street Mall, and check out the specialty shops including Two Hands Paperie, for lovely hand-made paper. We’ll spend too much money on Italian leather shoes at Two Soul Sisters and then we’ll have a drink at the ST. Julien hotel. After hours of chatting, we’ll head to The Kitchen for a farm to table dinner. We’ll sit at the community table so we can meet locals whom, I hope, will convince her to move here. The next morning we’ll grab a yummy high calorie Creole breakfast at the not-to-be-missed Lucille’s in Boulder. The leftover beignets will be our snack after paddle boarding on Brainard lake which is between Nederland and Estes Park. The next time I see her, it will be to help her unpack her moving van!
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So, is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
A want to give a special shoutout to Peter Roessmann, Ann Pollak, Elisse Gabriel and Suze Whitaker for their editing and support. And to my good friends and their senses of humor, where would I be without that laughter, those tears, their creativity, and those incredible conversations?
Website: www.pollakproductions.com & www.pollakproductionsconsulting.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pollakpro & https://www.facebook.com/PollakProductionsConsulting