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Learning from Failures with Oliver Fuselier

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Few people make their way in your heart like Great Guns USA managing director Oliver Fuselier does. Reading him as he tells stories of his remote and recent past is heartwarming and enough to paint a beautiful, comprehensive picture of an ambitious man with his feet solidly planted on the ground.

You would not believe the kind of experiences Oliver's had, and they would be impossible to summarise in three mere introductory paragraphs. But here's one key takeout: the next time you feel like your dream is impossible to reach, come back here and read Oliver's interview.

We had a ton of fun Getting to Know Oliver and reading his interview. We're sure you'll notice that he had just as much fun writing down the answers himself.

Tell us a bit about your current role.

I was brought on as the Managing Director / EP of Great Guns USA. Great Guns has a good name in the US but they are more successful internationally, known for their great creative and diverse talent around the world. My role will really be to show the US how much opportunity there is here at Great Guns USA. I see Great Guns as this diamond in the rough - people in the US need to know how it can shine.

I will be using every imaginable bit of the knowledge, experience, connections, passion and fight in me to do this and I believe that I am the right person with the vision needed to lead us out of the pandemic and into a successful future.

How did you get to your current position? 

“Things happen for a reason” has been a mantra of mine for years. I just have to be open and ready to all possibilities. So last October having had a short term position with a small production company, as a consultant, where I learned more than a few lessons about patience, making decisions from my “gut” and knowing when to walk away - which I did. I had a realization walking down the large corridors of the Encore hotel in Vegas, where I was a speaker and a jury member at the LIA’s Award show. I saw Laura Gregory sitting with a friend having coffee.

I learned that she was also there for the LIA’s, we had a few pleasant words, and I walked on. As I walked towards my jury room where I would spend the next 5 days 12 hrs per day looking at ads, I thought a lot about how Great Guns would be a perfect company for me to use all of my leadership and management skills. I didn’t really know Laura that well at all and just heard the name Great Guns company over the years. At the time I was not sure that I wanted to stay in the business or really what I wanted to do. So took the next 15 mins to jot down on a piece of paper a plan that I wanted to adopt by the end of the year 2019.

I wanted to be completely free of all financial burdens. I had 4 houses from Calif to Florida and just felt that I needed to make a decision about my next move free from any fear and pressure. I needed to really be able to make the decision about my next move in life from my heart. So I did and as of 31 December 2019 I sold my last house and found myself homeless. Really, no home, I didn’t own any property. I had my car, of course my great family and many wonderful friends. I took advantage of them all, REALLY took advantage of all of them!

By January 1st, Laura and I had spoken too many times to count. Talking about the good, the bad, the ugly of the business. How to reimagine Great Guns in an industry in turmoil pre covid! What were the values that I could bring to the company that needed a true vision from a leader that is fearless and could make decisions based on passion, experience, a trusted “gut” intuition and hard work.

More phone calls and a meeting or two in NY brought us all to the beginning of the pandemic which we are some 5 months later. Before the pandemic, I decided to lease a house in a small town on the west coast of Florida, which I love, and finally at the right time for the right reasons, Laura offered me the position as MD of Great Guns, USA. Because we talked it out, examining all the possibilities together along with her right hand man, Sheridan, I agreed proudly. 

What was the biggest challenge?

I think anyone would agree that in this very trying time in our industry, during a pandemic you have to be brave, fearless and have a true vision. Experience and connections help but make sure you have a great roster of talent and a hell of a lot of luck taking advantage of every opportunity that comes to you. I feel that I have a little of each one of these necessary elements to make a go of “success” at Great Guns.

So the biggest challenge is really just to keep an open and flexible outlook and when opportunity presents itself, to be as creative and resourceful and solution-orientated as possible.

What is your personal background and what role did it play in your career?

I consider myself a late bloomer. I grew up in a little island town called Morgan City, some 40 miles just outside of New Orleans, Louisiana. We lived on a lake. We also had a hunting and fishing camp in the bayous where I spent most of my summers with friends. I was steering a Boston Whaler and water ski before I could ride a bike and pretty much had an ideal life as a young boy. But I didn’t excel in school, I was an average student except for the arts.

I played in the band and took painting lessons and loved being on the water. So I just got by in school. I tried college but dropped out. I drove across the country at the age of 21 to work at the Grand Canyon where I stayed for 3 months as an intern. Up until that time I really didn’t ever have a real job - a few stints offshore on a friend's father’s boat servicing the Oil Rigs in the middle of the Gulf and a job at the Piggly Wiggly... ha! But my real first job came at the age of 24. I started an errand service where I did anything for you for money. Now, get your mind out of that gutter! That led to a love of landscaping and gardening. I took over a friend's flower route. Only in Los Angeles are there rich enough people that would hire someone like me to go down to the flower market weekly to buy fresh flowers to put them all over their house. 

I came to Los Angeles years ago to pursue a career as a dancer and actor. I wanted it bad, but I really had no training. I mean none! I had one tap lesson with the only dance teacher in the small town where I live, outside of Nola. Then, I headed to Hollywood to pursue my dream. When I arrived, bright eyed and full of piss and vinegar, I found that I was just another face in a crowded town of people who all had the same passion to fulfill their dreams. So I got a job to pay my rent and I enrolled in dance and acting classes so that, when the opportunity came along, I would be prepared.

Failure made me stronger.

I was semi successful as a dancer and actor but realized that if I really wanted to make it in Hollywood, I needed to go behind the camera. So, I applied for a job at a new commercial production company and got the job. I was the receptionist. I was so f’n happy. I remember the first day on the job, having not been a receptionist before, feeling like I had won the lottery.

From that seat, I met everyone, spoke to everyone, listened and learned. When someone in the company asked if someone could help with anything, I raised my hand. I became the go to person for the entire office. Within six months I was promoted to Production Assistant to one of the owners who was a director’s coordinator. I had arrived. Being an actor and dancer, I learned that if you want to do or be something you need to be good at it. In order to be good, you need to put in the time. Practicing, going out on auditions, being turned down time and time and again. Failure made me stronger. Everytime someone said no to me, I felt more compelled to win, so I tried harder. It’s something that I still do today. 

If you weren’t in your current industry, what would you be doing?

My second passion is renovating and designing houses. If I hadn’t stumbled into production and fallen in love with it, I’d be building and flipping houses full time. Damn, I would probably have my own show, “Flipping with Ollie”. 

What is the one advice you would give to directors looking to be successful in the industry?

Find your voice, find your passion and decide what type of filmmaker you want to be. This will help establish a confidence that will allow you to not second guess yourself.

Constantly work on your crafts, the craft of storytelling. Find a routine or a technique you use to get you into the most creative place when you’re deciding on a project, whether that is storyboarding or a visualisation board, so that you can see the good and the bad and be able to make a decision to add or delete

Study films, study other directors that you aspire to and that inspire you. Do what you do, film, don’t stop... Make each project you embark on count. Find something in them that allows you to grow and raise the bar, elevating your creative “tool” box. Like using a certain type of lens, use a new production designer, casting director, some new technology. Just always be learning to better your craft and ability to tell a story

Tell us something about your professional life we don’t already know?

I am a complete workaholic. So for me to go a day without communicating with anyone in the industry is very hard. I decided about a week ago to try it and I did it! I didn’t open my computer, I didn’t make or receive phone calls, I didn’t text and I certainly didn’t Zoom. I felt at the end of the day that something important and big was missing but I felt freed in a very inspired way. So I am going to dedicate one day a month (one) and have a tech-free day, maybe expanding it as the months go on. You should try it as well.

What’s the work achievement you’re most proud of?

Look, I didn’t finish college, I am a gay male in a very testosterone-driven industry yet I’ve been able to navigate this industry for the past 20 years at the highest level. Having made the move from Line Producer to Executive Producer to Managing Director was a monumental task for me. I kept thinking that someone made a mistake in giving me that much power and responsibility running companies.

But day after day, month after month, year after year, I kept my mind and heart open to learning, adjusting and defining my leadership style and role to suit the daily, monthly or yearly situation. Winning Emmys and taking one company to its first ever Palme d’Or shows the drive and tenacity that lives inside of me. So, just getting to this point in my life, in a pandemic to get this opportunity to once again work and lead a company in an industry that I love, wow! How can this moment not be my proudest moment thus far

How do you recharge away from the office?

I love two things outside of work that are my go-to emotional, physical and creative rechargers: Tennis and buying and renovating real estate. They are both in my blood. I’ve been watching old matches from all the four majors in tennis. I mean I watch them as if it were live at that moment including screaming, tears, standing up for great shots... Really! And to be honest the house that I leased in New Port Richey, FL in March, just days before the quarantine started, I’ve decided to purchase. So, I am in escrow and in the process of developing a design plan for the house. Most likely I will start renovations in Sept or Oct. I am excited about so many things right now. 

What’s your one big dream for the future of the creative industries?

To be able to create ads that are not made out of fear, but out of love. Not made out of the need to be better than but to help compel people to be better than they are. To find a way to not forget the past but to take it and propel us into a new and better future. A world where we all have a turn to bat. Where companies are competitive but honest, loyal but willing to be open to the new and undiscovered! That advertising is allowed to tell you about a brand with a comedy spot or a social cause or be human-centered and we don’t dissect it to death trying to point out its flaws. Where we accept adverts as advertising. 

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