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Meet Melissa Dowler of Long Haul Films in Arts District

Today we’d like to introduce you to Melissa Dowler.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
Knowing your higher purpose and loving your work make for a great life, but it took me a while to figure that out.

The journey began for me in 2009 and it started with a question, which my husband asked me while out for dinner on my birthday, which falls at the end of December.

“What are you most proud of that you did this year?”

The question was barely out of his mouth before I started crying; those hot, heavy, uncontrollable tears. I knew right away that I didn’t feel proud of anything in my life. I was drained from my job working at an advertising agency for clients whose products I didn’t believe in. I felt stuck in the house in the Massachusetts suburbs that we’d bought because we thought that was what married people were supposed to do. I had long lost touch with creative pursuits that gave my life meaning. I was lost.

I didn’t know it that night, as I tried to wipe away the tears before the people at the next table noticed, but that question broke something open and started me on a path towards a new life that would lead me to learn filmmaking and quit my job in advertising to start a film production company in partnership with my husband. We sold our house in the suburbs and eventually moved to Los Angeles where we now run Long Haul Films (longhaulfilms.com) and spend our days making documentary films and web videos for and about other creative entrepreneurs, business owners, artists and risk-takers.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Do you ever get anywhere interesting by taking a smooth road? I launched Long Haul Films with my husband in 2010, and every year since then I’ve pushed myself to take on new challenges. At many points along the path, there have been “easy” choices I could have made, but I never wanted to accept good enough, and instead have been motivated to push myself beyond what I even dreamed might be possible. This doesn’t always make for an easy life, and it means that sometimes I fall short of my expectations. But it also means I’m always growing, changing and breaking new ground.

My purpose is to create inspiration, empower others and make an impact through my work. I left advertising and started Long Haul Films precisely because I wanted to work on projects that stirred my soul: the kind I could say I was proud to have worked on when it came to the end of the year. My biggest struggles have come when I’ve gone for opportunities that aren’t aligned with my higher purpose. I’ve learned—the hard way—that any film or other project I work on has to be a “hell yes”. Otherwise, it’s a no.

Alright – so let’s talk business. Tell us about Long Haul Films – what should we know?
Long Haul Films works with entrepreneurs, artists, creators and innovators. We make promotional films, digital and social media content, music videos and commissioned documentaries that our clients use to tell their stories and create connection with their own audiences and customers. Our work for clients is often featured on company websites; platforms like Facebook, YouTube and Instagram; and screened at events. We’re most drawn to tell stories that create inspiration, and to make people believe that transformation is possible.

When we’re not working on client commissioned projects, we make our own documentary films, and our debut feature documentary, Adele and Everything After (adeleandeverythingafter.com), has been showing at film festivals across North America, won awards and will be officially released later this year. Clients who commission us get the benefit of that cinematic storytelling experience for their projects.

I’m proud to be a female director achieving success in a male-dominated industry, and clients appreciate my commitment to providing gender-balanced and diverse crews. My goal is to bring more stories from women to the forefront. I’m also working to encourage more women to get into film, which is why this year I co-founded an organization called She Sees (shesees.org), which teaches young women how to find their voice and empowers them with filmmaking skills so they can share their stories.

Is there a characteristic or quality that you feel is essential to success?
I work hard.

We have this image of the “overnight success”, but the truth is that making big dreams come true takes a lot of hard work and sacrifice, usually over a long period of time. I’ve been willing to do the hard work, day after day, and that’s the way I’ve achieved my goals. It’s not sexy, but it’s a fact.

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