Rachel Miller, Haven Entertainment, Woman Entrepreneur
As a long time reader of this blog, Rachel contacted me about getting together and asking for some advice about her management/production company. Her email intrigued me. She had built a company merged with another and was in the process of moving forward yet had nothing on her website. We got together this past December and talked.
Rachel is an entrepreneur in every bone of her body. Good news for her is she realized that desire very early on and jumped on it without even knowing what she was getting herself into. Sometimes just jumping in with two feet without giving it much thought is the best way to go. No reason to overthink things.
Rachel grew up in an orthodox household in Los Angeles. Her father is an accountant and her mother is in PR and marketing. She was certainly the rebel in the family. Rachel went to high school at the Yeshiva in Los Angeles. She grew up a big reader because there was no TV on Saturday. At age 12 she thought there were five books that she thought would be great movies. At 15 she read that one of them was actually getting made into a movie. At 16 she took her bat mitzvah money and optioned a book for $500 because she figured she knew just as much as everyone else about what would make a good flick. She put the option together and figured out to get meetings with a bunch of big producers. In the end, her book was not made into a movie but her family was pleased that she was entrepreneurial as long as she wasn't going into the film business.
Before heading off to college, she went to NYU for a summer program. 28 kids attending the program and they spent the entire time reading books and watching movies. Once again bucking the family Rachel was determined to go NYU. She ended up being the first kid not go to go University of Pennsylvania and become an accountant. She graduated high school and off to NYU she went. Her father did not even realize she was a film major until a few days before graduating. She spent 2 1/2 years at NYU and 1/2 semester in London graduating in 3 years. She was in heaven in New York.
During her time in college she interned for Joan Scott who was one the first female agents. Great learning experience. After graduating college Rachel went to work for the New York public school system. It was through a division of Teach for America. In the school that Rachel was working the 4th grade teacher left half way through the semester and it took the school several months to find a replacement so Rachel became the interim teacher. 4th grade school in Manhattan was not like 4th grade at the Yeshiva in Los Angeles. She tried really hard to find something that she could teach everyone. She turned to Harry Potter. She realized that the power of reading is a game changer because the story created conversation and nobody knew more than anyone else. It was a lesson on what reading can do and the importance of content.
After the school job ended she went to work for the Endeavor agency which is now part of the William Morris Agency. She was 20 years old. At the agency she was working for French directors and covered Sundance, Toronto film festival and the screening of sales. Great experience looking at the top down of the film industry. She left after a year going to work at Benny Medina Agency in talent and then went on to work at Red Wagon where they produced Memoirs of a Geisha and Bewitched. At this point Rachel was 23 and decided that she should start her own management company. She called her best friend, Jesse Hara who was 29 and said said we are going to start own our management company, we will take out some debt and we will be just fine. Rachael moved back to Los Angeles and the company Tom Sawyers Entertainment was born.
They made it up as they went along. They both knew that they had great taste in material. They had zero financing but a credit card and a small bank loan. Six months in the writer strike hit. It was the worst year. They had zero income and they were repping writers who could not work. They had $200 in their bank account and decided they needed to make a change quick. They went out to NYC and met with every person they could. They stayed in a friends apartment and hit the streets. They energies turned to the book industry. Fast forward they have now sold 13 books to publishers doing TV, film and documentaries. As Rachel puts it, because it was their company they could pretty much do whatever they want to. They became one of the few companies to develop books in house to go on different verticals of production.
They began to get approached by other companies that were interested in buying them. Authority does not does not bode well for Rachel. Then there was a group, Picture Machine, that an alum from NYU suggested Jesse and her meet with. The two companies together created a value add situation. Picture Machine was always looking for content and Tom Sawyer Entertainment was always looking for producers. It was the perfect merger. They split the company up 50/50 and started over. They are all entrepreneurs. Each of their respective companies were roughly 8 years old. They were all scrappy people starting their own company again. It was a great fit.
Now the company is called Haven Entertainment. The future of their business is changing because the delivery methods have changed and content consumption is changing exponentially. People in India and China are looking to absorb great content. How can you deliver that content to people all over the world in new delivery methods. You have to figure out how to adapt and change while being agile and nimble.
I love Rachels energy. I also agree with the road that Haven is taking. Do we have to wait and see a movie when it comes out on the big screen? Aren't there niche audiences who want to see clever films that will pay to see it in their living room? Aren't there people out there who are writing great books but aren't able to get into the door of a publishing house? There are many of the questions that Rachel is trying to solve and when she does she plans on turning those opportunities into a success.