In this week’s Navigator Spotlight, we spoke to Head of Development for Watch This Ready, a production company founded just a few months ago with a first-look overhead deal under Topic Studios. Emily Korteweg faced her fears head-on when she left her home country at the age of 18, studied the male-dominated field of finances, and is now making moves in the Wild Wild West of Hollywood, armed with empowering advice for all women on their career and personal finance journey.
Tell us about your job as Head of Development for Watch this Ready.
Watch This Ready was founded a few months ago, as a production company with a first-look overhead deal under Topic Studios. My two friends and partners – Michael Covino and Kyle Marvin, a brilliant producing and creative team – asked me to come with them as they set this up. I joined the company to help structure it internally, put it on the map Globally, and, as Head of Development, vet, curate, and oversee our slate of projects (film, TV, documentaries, podcasts, etc.) from development to (pre-/post-) production, to sales, and to distributors in global markets.
The process behind creating content is as exciting as it is diverse, considering that we can board a project at any stage, and each stage often requires a different team of people and a completely unique and flexible approach. As a producer, I oversee all of those stages and people, and aim to create a synergy that serves the vision of the creator, so 1+1 makes 3.
You also have your own company, Linchpin Pictures?
Yes,alongside this, I set up Linchpin Pictures, through which I can run projects that do not fit the brand of Watch This Ready, provide consulting services, and rent out equipment to productions of all sizes. In that way, the two companies actually complement each other in very specific and useful ways.
From a business perspective, I see Watch This Ready as a start-up that currently has a lot of momentum and resources coming toward it following its recent success with the film, The Climb. The intention is to create a well-oiled machine that continues beyond the current hype and will represent a brand/portfolio of finished, ongoing and future projects that have artistic integrity and commercial viability.
From an artistic and cultural perspective, I believe storytelling is a very powerful currency and one that can effect change through providing perspective, education, reflection on society, therapy and pure enjoyment. From Nike to Nav.it to Disney, it is what we all do in our own ways. I am simply in love with what I do.
What is it like being a woman working in Hollywood?
First, let’s talk about working in Hollywood, period. It is known to be a place of magic, allure, scandal, dreams, stamina, and relentless work – and all those things have truth to them. It is also a business, a booming one, and one that continues to evolve as technology and consumer behavior does. And lastly, it is the Wild West, and it is not easy to get in.
Some of the top studio heads, creators and producers are badass women that have carved a path for themselves and those that follow in their footsteps. From a company’s shareholders perspective, women are the head of the household in over 50 percent of US families, so they decide what ticket gets bought for the cinema.
What I look for in projects is nuance in the story and the team. That means the right people should tell the right stories. Seems straightforward, right? The industry is making strides to resolve the imbalances that have existed so far, but we need to change the supply chain not only at the back (on screen), but also at the front (off screen). That means opening the barriers of entry so that people of equal competence can pass unhindered by their color, religion and sex, and have equal chance to become decision-makers.
Have you noticed boys’ club mentalities on your journey?
I am not from the US. I was born in The Netherlands, completed my bachelor’s and master’s degrees in London, lived/worked in Australia between them, and have been living in Los Angeles for three years. I say this because I believe your culture has a lot to do with your perspective of the other sex.
My family and home country are very progressive, and growing up I never thought of how me being a girl would limit what I could do as a person. On top of that, I studied finance, and have always had a lot of men around me, and have been fortunate enough to have both great men and women as friends, colleagues, and mentors.
That said, be it through personal or second-hand experience, of course, I have come across my share of the boys’ club mentality and unwritten rules. In some countries, it is the extreme lack of access to education and protection against violence. In other places, it is harassment, equal pay and opportunity.
I actively advocate improvement in all of the above, but find that the current widespread conversation on some topics is too binary. The pendulum is swinging so far one way, that we victimize and villainize to the point of adverse effects and make any social or political topic a loaded gun. Some might say you need an extreme to reach an equilibrium, but I think we should learn from the past in order to change the future. If we let a label or group identity determine who you are as an individual, and refuse to communicate with each other to reach common ground, are we not perpetuating the problem we want to solve?
To that end, I believe educating young women – and men – and celebrating both their common and different traits, is crucial. That’s why I love Nav.it’s mission to help women reach their independent financial goals through knowledge and the right partners.
What #bossmove advice would you give to young women?
“Where’s the fire, what’s the hurry about?”…Oh wait, that’s Billy Joel’s advice.
But that song does hit the nail on the head in many ways. “You’ve got so much to do and only so many hours in a day;” “You can’t be everything you want to be before your time;”; and “Take the phone off the hook and disappear for a while!” Something many of my ambitious friends and I relate to, and are still learning, is to be patient.
To that end, a few pieces of advice I have received or have learned so far:
Focus on your own actions. Focus your energy on what you can control and change. Try to avoid frustration over other people or the bigger universe. You can only control your actions, so take charge of them, accept their consequences, forgive them and enjoy them!
Apologize less. Us ladies have a knack for saying sorry. I try to catch my friends and sister when they do it, and ask them to hold me equally accountable. I think it is very important to be respectful and humble, but you want to avoid being self-effacing. If you’re in the room, you almost certainly deserve to be there.
Know your worth. This very much ties in to the previous point. Knowing your worth in pay, time, appreciation and space is crucial. We are all learning, and will continue to do so, and yes, you have to prove your worth and show diligence, but that does not mean we should accept everything. So listen. Know that you can say no. And know that, in the end, you’re the only real judge of your own success.
Move. Life is movement, so keep moving. It can be forward, upward, sometimes a step back, sometimes steadily along, but as long as you move, you grow.
How do you think about your financial health?
I like to think of it as part of my overall wellbeing. Personally, just as I don’t want to be dependent on coffee in the morning (as much as I love the smell), I don’t want to become shackled by my finances. That means looking ahead at inevitable costs and responsibilities that go hand-in-hand with life and adulting. To me, it also means being honest with yourself about your situation, your prospects and your wishes, and adjusting your finances accordingly.
What’s your best #moneymove?
My most recent best money move has been to start my own business, which is something I always knew I wanted. The work will only increase and knowing when to stop at times is a learning curve, but it allows me the freedom to learn at the pace I wish to learn, and to explore and execute without having to jump tons of hoops.
I have always questioned existing systems and tried to find novel ways to approach what we do. And I have been fortunate enough that, even in the beginning of my career. I was empowered to implement these ideas, but that does not mean it was never met with resistance. Not long before that, at a previous job, a money move was to flag and tackle the fact that I was making less than my male counterpart.
I am also happy that I have never let any fear of the unknown or of discomfort hold me back – if that can be called a #moneymove. I moved out of my home country at 18, and then across the world after my degree to pursue what I wanted to do, even though I had a solid job in finance lined up in London. That meant constant change, visa hurdles, and uncertainty, but the “return on investment” has been so worth it.
This all has, finally, taught me to ask for help; from advice on investments, to thoughts on how to deal with (work) situations, to feedback on how I can do better, to how to fill out your fantasy football league roster when you have no clue what that even means (soccer, however…). I think asking for help is a massive #moneymove and one that does not always come easy.
Who’s one of your favorite money mavens?
From a distance: Melinda Gates and Serena Williams. Both are incredibly strong, inspirational, self-made women that operate from a place of rationale combined with passion, and use their platform to direct attention and resources to significant topics and causes.
Close to home: my father. He is the hardest-working person I know, completely self-made (lost his home in the World War II and the Great Flood of The Netherlands), always challenges me to shape my independent thought, and loves what he does. We might not always agree – an inevitable and necessary result of different generations and characters – but we keep each other sharp.
What’s something you still have questions about regarding your finances?
In some ways, finances can be pretty straightforward (income versus spending), but there are a lot of questions if you want to grow and secure your wealth long-term. There are tons of moving parts that can affect your wallet, including macroeconomic developments like interest rates. Some things are also country-specific: when I moved to the States I had no idea how important a credit score is and how to build one, as Europe functions entirely differently.
Controlling all of these variables is impossible, but understanding them will give you more power. However, that takes time and effort, which is sometimes hard to come by. There is a reason people specialize in different parts of the industry: it is a lot to do alongside your own job and so you want the right advisors at your side. Those are not always accessible nor affordable.
Personally, my most pertinent questions are relating to my new business, and how to optimize its finances and find the right people to work with on that front. I would also like to dive deeper into the stock market.
With the nav.it money app, we’re changing the narrative around money with tools like account aggregation and expense tracking to help you build your financial resilience and save for the future.
Hey Nav.igator, just so you know, we have financial advisors reviewing our content, but our articles are only meant to be educational. Consider this friendly information, not financial advice (talk to a professional for that!).