A Legacy of Leadership: The Importance of Mentoring in Hollywood
I first became aware of Norma Garcia-Muro when she joined Kaleidescape as Vice President of Marketing. As I read about her career and accomplishments in “the industry”, as we refer to the movie and entertainment business, I thought about how much sense it made for a company like Kaleidescape to broaden its perspective to better understand and even represent the industry we ultimately serve. After all, we in the private cinema industry create environments for the consumption of an art form, and the movie business is whence that art originates.
When I finally met Norma, I found my first impression to be true, but far short of what she brings to Kaleidescape and the world of private cinema and the entertainment arts, including creatives, cinema designers and cinema connoisseurs. Norma is filled with passion for life and a seemingly unlimited capacity to see possibilities and the desire to see those possibilities come to fruition. She stands as a dynamic reminder that we are in this together.
Bravo Kaleidescape for recognizing all our industries’ needs and Norma’s capacity to help us fill them! What does all this have to do with mentoring? Quite simply, as Norma has experienced, recognized and acted upon, If we would rise up to create and reach our highest destiny we must raise every person who would help carry us there.
My career began in the entertainment industry, where I worked for large companies like Lucasfilm, Paramount Pictures, Dolby Laboratories, and THX. During my 20 plus years of experience in film, TV, home entertainment, and cinema, overseeing marketing strategy, I had the opportunity to shepherd legendary brands like Star Wars, Indiana Jones, and Mission Impossible. Through it all, I was extremely fortunate to sit next to visionaries who indelibly influenced my career. In 2021 and 2020, I was named one of the Top 50 Women in Global Cinema. But like every great story, there is a beginning, and mine started in southeast Los Angeles in a city called South Gate.
A former Dolby Laboratories director, Norma Garcia-Muro also co-founded and co-led Mundo, the LatinX employee resource group, while at the company, and launched Dolby Cinema worldwide. As THX’s Head of Industry & Cinema Marketing, Garcia-Muro took responsibility for nurturing relationships with all major studios and led the Cinionic/Barco partnership when THX reentered the cinema space. Now as Vice President of Marketing at Kaleidescape, Norma is focused on brand strategy and communications for the ultimate movie player. Kaleidescape is the only digital provider of movies with lossless audio and full reference video quality
Not only impressive in her day job, Garcia-Muro is a big advocate of empowering women in the workplace and is a passionate mentor for young professional women.
Constructs of Character
Culture. Growing up the daughter of Mexican immigrants wasn’t easy. My parents left Mexico in search of a better life, and like many immigrants, their transition to the United States was difficult due to language barriers. As a young girl, I served as my family’s English translator, accompanying my mother to appointments. I felt her anxiety when I took too long to translate, and the clerk’s frustration when conversations dragged on.
Empathy. But these early challenges evolved into transformative experiences. I discovered that the power of human connection was stronger once I learned how to persuade others through story, humor, and warm gestures. I learned that if we take the time to understand what a stranger may be going through, we are more apt to respond positively.
The Story. As the years went on, I was drawn to storytelling, interpretations, and people’s reactions to situations. I watched movies and TV commercials and kept the radio on in the background, always with questions in mind. Do I really believe the character can do that? Did they convince me to buy the product? Where is the song taking me? The “feeling of things” and how they moved you became extremely important to me. Because if I believed whatever I saw or heard, then it was true.
Led By Giants
Lead. My extensive relationship with Paramount Pictures started as a college intern. Sherry Lansing was CEO of the studio at the time, and when she spoke at the annual intern breakfast, her grace and confidence were mesmerizing. I wanted to meet her. One afternoon while she was in the executive parking lot, I mustered the courage to ask her for career advice. “Lead, Norma. But do the work to discover your leadership style,” she responded. Those words remained branded in my head forever.
Envision. If you can see it, you can be it. JoAnne Griffith, the vice president of human resources at Paramount, was the executive with the human touch. At one of our catch-up sessions, she suggested I shadow her at the upcoming employee orientation. I quietly sat in the back of the room, observing her ability not only to welcome everyone but show them that they were essential. She told the Paramount story with vibrant passion; employees walked out of the room feeling like they had won the studio lottery.
Inspire. Speak with passion. Thanks to JoAnne, I landed a full-time position at Paramount Pictures and eventually moved to the International Home Entertainment division. My first experience managing an acclaimed franchise was Indiana Jones, and I loved it. In 2008, a job opened as Lucasfilm’s head of international marketing. I threw my name in the hat.
Cresting the Summit
Never Interrupt the Magic. At Lucasfilm, I was responsible for the Star Wars and Indiana Jones franchises outside of the US and Canada. Film, TV, and home entertainment were my domain. Lucasfilm had an impeccable way of hiring fiercely talented people who worked well together. Skywalker Sound, Industrial Light & Magic, Lucasarts – I got to work with them all. My favorite meetings were the creative review sessions at Skywalker Ranch. Electricity flowed in the room whenever creative team members gathered, and we inevitably left the meetings with stronger storylines and deeper character development. George Lucas always had the vision and knew what the visuals had to convey. Our conversations were magical.
Find Your Tribe. Rick McCallum was another powerful mentor from whom I learned so much. He helped me navigate production timelines and encouraged me to use my infectious passion to lead the team. He deeply respected people with a high work ethic and no bull-shit attitude – a trait I later adopted. I witnessed Rick’s ability to persuade large rooms and command the room; he was a force. The entire Lucasfilm team shared an incredible collaborative ethic and passion for storytelling, both essential ingredients for true cinematic art. During the release of Red Tails, the Lucasfilm team accomplished amazing triumphs that only those involved in the project will understand. The film remains near and dear to my heart to this day.
Ascending New Pinnacles
Raising New Leaders. As I progressed in my career, it became abundantly clear that I had to give back. There was no way I would keep all the survival guides, knowledge, and tricks of the trade to myself. I had to help young professionals, especially women, succeed. I mentored at many companies, but ultimately the International Union of Cinemas (UNIC) caught my attention. UNIC Women’s Leadership program is a 12-month cross-sector, pan-European mentoring scheme for women in cinema. The program is rooted in the belief that gender-balanced leadership in cinema is imperative for business success, better governance, and more equity in the industry. Laura Houlgatte, CEO of UNIC, and her team are very purpose driven. For 12 months, I was paired with a mentee – we exchanged real-life experiences and worked toward accomplishing the mentee’s goals.
Risk = Reward. The beauty of mentoring is that it is usually as beneficial to the career veteran as it is to the young professional. I walked away from the UNIC experience having learned more from my mentee than she realized. In her moments of uncertainty and despair, I recognized myself. I saw the young girl who had an extraordinary tenacity to overcome adversity and believe that she could accomplish anything. Mentoring brings me back to that youthful spirit – it reminds me that no matter how much older I get, I should never lose sight of my passion, dreams, and big ideas.
A New Story
Synergy. The next chapter is being written. All of us need to do our part to influence the story. I would like to see our industries collaborate, work towards excellence, and strive for the extraordinary. To create a destiny that we are passionate to see come to fruition. At the core, we’re all passionate creatives, artists and cinephiles, musicians and audiophiles, technicians and inventors with similar dreams. We often lose sight of our artistic fortitude. Art, at all levels, is technology applied, and artists solve problems with innovation. Innovation thrives through collaboration. Let’s share our institutional knowledge with one another and the upcoming generation. Let’s share our passions and include our audience in the story. As we say in the film industry, “make the movie, tell the story and don’t let your ego stand in the way.”