Just four years into her American Dream, production coordinator Lisa Stewart has built up an enviable curriculum vitae.
When Lisa Stewart visited New York as a child, little did she know that her career would really take off when she moved Stateside.
Determined to make a name for herself in the entertainment industry, the Offaly native made the leap to living in the Big Apple four years ago. Now based in Los Angeles, the center of the world when it comes to both big and small screen productions, Steward reflects on the importance of asserting yourself graciously in a competitive environment.
“I was aware of the potential opportunities that New York could offer,” she told Irish Tatler. “When I first moved to New York I worked with a production company, it was relatively small so I proved myself and worked my way up pretty quickly. It was intense at times, but I learned a lot and met some amazing people.”
Her relentless work ethic and drive meant she got to assist on exciting projects with big name talents like Steve Martin, Star Trek icon Patrick Stewart, La La Land director Damien Chazelle, and Boardwalk Empire star Michael Shannon.
“I worked on an interview with Steve Martin for a documentary. I watched so many of his movies growing up, so to be one of only ten people on set with him for this interview was definitely a highlight. It was a real 'pinch myself moment' - one of those ones that makes you stop and realise how far you’ve come.”
Her hustle at the niche company paid off, and she landed herself a role with multi-billion dollar corporation Sony Pictures Entertainment. Here, she worked on a new reality TV show called “Meet The Drapers” which profiles one of Silicon Valley’s most prominent families. The show just aired to rave reviews, and has now been picked up for a second season.
Though she is only a few years into a career in a business that is notoriously hard to gain entry into, 25-year-old Stewart has learned that it’s important not to fall prey to any industry clichés.
“It’s so important to just be yourself. I’ve been in situations where people have advised me to act a certain way to get the most for myself, because that’s often the mentality out here, but that’s not in my nature so I stuck to my values and went with my gut and it has always worked in my favour,” she advised.
“I think people respect honesty and transparency, because it can be rare out here," she added.
Indeed, Hollywood does have a reputation for being less than genuine, but the Dublin City University graduate has taken the move from east to west coast in her stride. Now based in the cultural melting pot of Culver City, home to the MGM and Sony lots, she hopes to focus on more creative projects.
“New York has been great. I learned so much and had some amazing experiences but I got to a point where I felt like I needed to move on. In New York I worked on a lot of corporate videos for big name clients, but I stopped getting satisfaction from that type of work. I want to focus more on the creative side now,” she said.
“My passion lies in visual storytelling and the messages you can convey through stories delivered in the right way.”
For those who consider a career immersed in the bright lights of the entertainment world, the question of ‘New York or LA’ is often one of the most fundamental starting points. For Stewart, she has learned that the cities really are two extremes, but experience in each will mark you apart.
“There’s a sort of rivalry between the two cities. New York has a reputation for being tough and extremely competitive and LA is said to be very laid-back and artificial,” she agreed. “Those stereotypes are true to a certain extent but life in either city is really what you make it. I find that surrounding myself with good people is the most important thing when it comes to building a happy lifestyle here.”
Now happily settled in to life in the Golden State, Stewart will continue her work with Sony on various projects in different capacities. While she may be some 5,000 miles away from home, she will also be spreading the message of what Ireland has to offer Tinseltown. As part of the Irish Screen America organisation, Stewart will be on a team that supports and guides Irish-based media-makers by showcasing their work to power players in the US.
“I was involved with Irish Screen America in New York and will be continuing that out here in Los Angeles. Their LA showcase is coming up in the next few months. I absolutely love Irish film and I think it’s a really exciting time for Irish Film industry,” she said.
Follow Lisa on Instagram here.