Lauren Rosenberg on the streets of Venice, CA. Shot by Allie Pohl
What led you to your current position as Vice President of Development at Trooper Entertainment (a Lionsgate POD)?
What led you to your current position as Vice President of Development at Trooper Entertainment (Lions Gate)? There are different paths to the same goal and my trajectory was indeed a windy one. I started out in the mailroom at a larger boutique talent agency, assisted the head of the Alternative Television Department and a couple years later made an upward move to an executive position when I was very young to another company. Then swallowed my pride when I had a career setback and became an assistant again. I think other people in my position would have been more precious about their next move and held out for a non-assistant gig, but my chronic case of FOMO and passion for the entertainment business (and simply working) won out. I don’t know what to do with myself when I’m not working, and I have an aversion to relaxing… Eventually I ended up as an assistant at arguably the biggest talent agency in the world within one of the most profitable divisions. Once I ended up at this top-tier agency in my late 20s, after almost three years, it was time to figure out my next move. Sometimes being at a talent agency is a double-edged sword in that you have your finger smack dab on the pulse and you’re a switchboard of information… you have so much access when it comes to connections and job leads. And yet, you objectively lack experience in, let’s say TV development. You are endowed with knowledge of the overall TV landscape and have probably heard of and seen what sells and what doesn’t, which is actually quite a powerful tool in development. However, at first blush, a lot of networks and production companies might write you off because you don’t have traditional development experience. I think my interview with my boss was my third one once I started looking. Back in the day, he worked at the same agency, so he truly understood the power of information and hired me based off my resourcefulness (according to our interview and what he had heard from my colleagues). He’d actually heard that I got the number for a sought-after piece of talent that no one in the department could get over the course of weeks, and then I was able to get it in five minutes. Once I started working with my incredible boss and mentor over at the prolific reality TV production company 51 Minds, I quickly learned the ropes of development and harnessed the tricks of the trade. Though creating TV shows from scratch seemed daunting at first, I came to a realization; finally, I was able to leverage the information and connections I had at my fingertips as well as my continuous bouts with FOMO (i.e. staying in-the-know and meeting people all the time and developing genuine bonds with them) and put it to good use. That’s something I wasn’t used to doing. When you’re at an agency, I think you’re more focused on the livelihood of your boss’ clients and using that “real-time business intelligence” to help others. Now that I could focus on myself and my own projects and my ONE boss, it was a completely different ball game, and not something I had ever done before. Once I was there, I quickly sold two shows to MTV as an assistant, got promoted, and eventually my boss and I moved over to Lionsgate together.
Your job is to come up with new television show ideas. When coming up with a concept of a show, do you think about gender roles, and changing the way we perceive female characters?
All day, every day. It’s something that is top of mind for me as a Gender Studies major (I double majored in that and TV). I try to create unique, entertaining, non-earnest platforms for strong women who challenge a number of societal paradigms in one way or another. I feel it’s my responsibility to buck the system and turn it on its head as a content creator. Until I’m a millionaire and can buy rain forests by the acre, this is how I choose to “save the world” so to speak. Also, I find that people who are oppressed in some way tend to be more interesting both in general and for TV purposes. There’s more of a story to tell there.
You and your best friend Maytal Gilboa, started HollywoodWEST (Hollywood Women Executives Stronger Together) to help women in the entertainment industry find mentors. AMAZING!! How often do you meet? What activities do you do to help facilitate actual connections.
As much as I’m a sucker for networking, I dread going to events, especially mixers, where I don’t know anyone. HollywoodWEST subverts the traditional “Hollywood networking” system by forcing people to get to know each other. I call it more of an engagement group than a straight-up networking group. Quarterly, we arrange TableFor8 dinners where 100 of our ladies RSVP, and we send them to 10 different table/restaurants (so 8 to 10 members per table) throughout Los Angeles, and they don’t know who is going to be at their table until they get there. Sometimes the table arrangements are random, but most of the time, it’s more strategic for our members’ own benefit… like oh, this person wants to transition from reality TV to film finance, so we should seat her with this girl who works in that field and oh, this girl needs to find $$$ for her passion documentary, so let’s place her at that table as well. And, oh, the documentarian and my friend Susan are obsessed with live music, let’s put her at that table too! So when we do have mixers or community service events, everybody already knows each other because they’ve had dinner together! I like to think I’m forming a community.
What would you suggest for women in other industry’s looking for mentors?
Your mentor doesn’t have to be the most high-up, senior person. It can be someone at or slightly above your level. They’re probably more accessible! Also, your mentor doesn’t necessarily have to be a woman. Mine is a forward-thinking man, for instance.
You are in a male dominated industry. Do you feel like you need to look, act, or be a certain way to achieve your goals?
I function best when I can express myself unrestrictedly through my style. I think this outlook on the way I dress held me back when I was an assistant because of the way people - men and women alike - perceived me, especially at more corporate jobs. I love my curves, but it's difficult to achieve that uber "professional" look when you're saddled with boobs and hips. But now that I work in a less corporate environment, I can have more fun with fashion and am lauded for my uniqueness.
Men may have a work "uniform," but so do I. It's called the fit and flare dress. For me, pairing pants with a top, and maybe another top, and a jacket or cardigan is too taxing. I don't own jeans, and I can count the number of jackets I have on one hand. I'd rather throw on a dress. It's easier, and for me, it's more flattering. Embracing my femininity through wearing dresses is empowering. I don't need to wear pants or a suit or dress like a dude to exude power. And while I relish makeup and jewelry as a form of expression, I don't change my makeup or my jewelry much on a day-to-day basis. I know what I like, I'm confident about what I like and don't waste time on experimentation.
When it comes to how I carry myself, I wouldn’t say I feel pressure to act “like the boys” but my tough, malleable skin has taken me far. I adapt pretty quick at any new job or environment. For that, I credit my dad taking me all over the San Fernando Valley when I would go to “work” with him as a child. He was an environmental engineer who would design and build water systems for businesses off-the-grid. I was always thrown into situations where I had to talk to new people (otherwise I’d be bored) from all walks of life from construction workers to troubled kids at a child and family services facility to ranchers in the middle of the nowhere to men in their 50s to 80s at my dad’s Rotary Club meetings.
Also, ever since a somewhat tumultuous relationship in my early 20s, I’ve never let a controlling man throw me off from my decided path. I embrace the mistakes I made and learned from them. Sure, a healthy monogamous relationship is important for personal growth, but since I was 24 I’ve never let a one-off date or a boyfriend hold me back from going to a networking opportunity, staying at work as late as I needed to, or prevented me from meeting a male counterpart in my industry. I think relationships can be very destructive to women, more so than men, both personally and professionally. I also think if a dude is super jealous or manipulative it can be a total mindf*** that should be avoided at all costs. When it comes to men, I now have a “you do you attitude,” and if the guy doesn’t appreciate you for all your glory and vivaciousness, find someone who does.
More importantly, if women do have to work twice as hard for twice as long, we should use that to our advantage. I think the faster you rise, the harder you fall. Let’s slowly circumvent the patriarchy with all the experience and depth that has risen us to the top.
I noticed you always have some baller nails! What got you into nail art?
I used to bite my nails down to the quick. It was disgusting and probably a signal of deeper personal problems but for the purposes of this interview let’s just call it an oral fixation and a nasty habit I picked up from my parents – even though my mom, in particular, derided it. Once I moved over to Lionsgate, I was like, I can’t go into meetings with my nails like this! I’m an executive now! WHAT AM I GOING TO DO?! Then I remembered this TV interview with fitness guru Susan Powter that I watched when I was really young. She talked about how she used to bite her nails down to the quick and yet now she had beautiful long red nails! She may or may not have mentioned how she slapped on acrylic nails that finally obstructed the habit. Either way, along with the encouragement of my “most adult” friend Janice, I eventually found my inner Susan Powter and for the past two years or so I’ve sported over-the-top nail art from Laque Nail Bar as a complete 180, which I get a kick out of knowing my history with nails. From one habit to another, but at least it’s a healthy one minus all the formaldehyde I guess. But that’s what cleanses are for! Ironically, my mother thinks I’ve gone too far with my nails, and I don’t believe in cleanses.
You are a part time match maker. What are your key ingredients to a good match?
First of all, I think our “blind date” process and referral/invite-only client base enhances that initial potential connection. We meet everyone in person too! It’s not something dating via the apps or online offer. But guess what, we can and do! Locking eyes with someone for the first time (sans stalking them on the internet!) goes a long way to enhancing introductory attraction. That added dash a mystery with someone who is a usually a friend of a friend really lays the groundwork for a successful first date. I think there are so many “missed connections” out there (people who would normally be a match for each other but the timing or meeting situation is off). Meeting at a party or a bar or online isn’t necessarily conducive to forming a relationship. A lot of our success can be traced to the process itself, but I also love giving people what they need as opposed to what they think they want and find commonalities in upbringing and family life important. For me, a lot of it is instinct though. Two yentas are better than one too, so I love the fact that my business partner Jaydi Samuels and I can bounce ideas off each other and have spirited debates about our matches.
What do you like most about being a woman?
I’m going to take it back… back in time to the dawn of mankind. Studies show that one of the major reasons language amongst early humans developed is because of GOSSIP. When dramz was going down during caveman days, we needed to find a way to communicate that information and give a voice to the inter-connected conflicts within our increasingly complex societies and maintain social bonds. And YOU KNOW it was the cavewomen who led the charge with that gossip!! That’s right, the original gossip girl was a cavewoman or, more accurately, a female homo erectus who graced the African forests before they were replaced by arid savannahs. So I dig being a member of the gender that theoretically gave rise to legitimate language.
What is an ideal woman to you?
Back to the Anthropocene… men may have the golf course now and the overall, ingrained patriarchal system, but we women have the power to organize!!! I highly, highly doubt any dudes out there are doing what we do with TableFor8, especially at our scale, for instance. But I also adore being girly and using my face and style as a canvas and outlet for my creativity and desire to go against the mainstream like a salmon swimming upstream to the spawning ground of their birth against all odds and Grizzly bears. Speaking of bears, I love “hunting” for vintage clothing and accessories and the best organic, cruelty-free makeup out there to support both eco-fashion and sustainable beauty lines. OMG, I’m such a Californian right now, but I really do treat my pocket book like a political device. I love wearing clothes and jewelry that only a few people, like a risk-taker like me, would dare to pull off. I’m all about potential conversation pieces. Your style can break the ice easily. If I do walk into a mixer and don’t know anybody, at least we may have something to talk about initially. It also makes it easier for weirdos to find each other and band together.
A woman who embraces what makes her different and taps into that as the key to her success. It’s a great way to stick it to everyone who may have bullied you in the past for being different. Like, hey, you picked on me because I was different and now those quirks are exactly why I’m successful now. So that Nazi ballet teacher who helped form my Jewish identity at the tender age of three when she told me and my mom I was going to hell for not believing Jesus was our savior can suck it!! Also, the ideal woman is NEVER bitter.
Who are you crushing on and why?
Performance artist extraordinaire Kristina Wong. She is unapologetic and just “goes for it” – at once highly entertaining and subversive – all while tackling hot-button issues in the political, social, gender, racial and cultural spheres with ease and humor. I basically admire the way her brain works and how she translates that in to action! If anyone can save the world single-handedly, it may just be Kristina. Watch out, world!! Here is some video on her to give you a taste.