DERRICK Interview with Blind Filmmaker Michael Schwartz

November 11, 2016

michaelschwartzEncouragement Speaker Derrick Hayes gives a DERRICK Interview by asking 7 questions through each letter of his first name to give you an insightful perspective from other experts, entrepreneurs, celebrities and up and coming super stars.

Today’s DERRICK Interview is with Michael Schwartz who is a legally blind filmmaker and owner of Trailhead Productions brings fifteen years of experience in television news and production to the table, and you’ll see what that means all along the way. An award winning reporter, Michael knows television and works for you with the same dedication and ideals valued by the best in the business.   “We’re the storytellers, not the story.”  That means that at Trailhead, we never forget that you and your dreams are the stars of the show.

D is for Dream. What is your dream, goals or what have you achieved?

I’m a big believer in breaking through boundaries. Although I’ve been gradually losing my eyesight since I was thirteen years old, my dream was to pursue a career in visual storytelling, and I’ve never taken “no” for an answer. Through a career as a broadcast reporter and photographer, and now as a documentary filmmaker, I’ve seen firsthand that it’s possible to merge the worlds of visual storytelling and visual impairment. From my first job all the way through my current film. Following my own passions, though, cannot and should not be the end of the story. My dream is to change perceptions, raise expectations and make a difference in the world of inclusion for people with disabilities.

E is for Education. What is your educational background and how do you use it daily?

I went to the University of Missouri School of Journalism. What I loved so much about my education there is that no matter what your specific goals were, you had to learn everything about the business. It wasn’t good enough to want to be just an anchor, or a reporter, or a photographer, or any of the other jobs in journalism. You had to learn it all, and I had so many opportunities to learn skills that have benefited me throughout my career as a storyteller. Understanding what makes up a good picture, learning how to tell a concise story, understanding how to combine dozens of stories to build a newscast that makes sense… it’s all about crafting stories that make a difference.

R is for Resource. What resources do you bring to the table that makes you unique or stand out?

The first resource actually doesn’t have anything to do with tools of the trade. It has to do with drive and resilience. The fact of the matter is that if you’re going to be a visual storyteller who’s visually impaired, there has to be an inner belief in yourself. If you don’t believe in yourself, nothing else matters.

I also rely on the twin pillars of of communication and partnership. While it’s easy to talk about the mechanics of how I do my job – working with the spatial and acoustic dynamics of an environment or a set to frame a shot, or shooting on a 4K camera to edit in a 1080 timeline, or not thinking of color itself as much as color profiles to use waveforms and vectorscopes to craft the mood and design of a shot, these are all just that” mechanics. They explain how do my job, but not why I do my job. I do my job because I get to work with a team of creative professions who share a creative vision. It’s what gets me up every morning in search of great stories to tell.

R is for Ready. When did you realize you were ready for what you are doing now?

I think the key to realizing your dreams is that you shouldn’t wait until you feel you’re 100% ready. The truth is that day may never come. There will always be at least one unanswered question, one skill you could hone a little more, one step you may feel you’re not ready to take yet. Life is about leaps of faith. When I set out to start my own business, one based on a risky proposition and an uncertain outcome – staring a video production company even though I’m visually impaired – the one thing I had was a belief that I could succeed. Yes, you start a venture with as many resources as you can muster and your prepare as much as you can, but success is based on action, and action requires at least a certain amount of faith in yourself. Really, I knew I was ready because I believed in myself.

I is for Individual. Name at least one individual in your network that others should learn more about and why?

I can’t speak highly enough of my colleague and friend Maxwell Ivey. Max calls himself the Blind Blogger, but his life is about so much more than his blindness. It’s about always seeking self-improvement, expanding horizons and making a difference. Max knows how to start with a dream, use the resources he’s developed over the course of a lifetime of finding unique solutions to difficult challenges, learning new skills to help him achieve his goals and always looking to the future.

C is for Challenges. What challenges have you had to overcome?

I believe that the challenge anyone with a dream has to overcome is facing down low expectations. What I’ve found is that people tend to rise to the expectations we set for them. As a creative artist – a filmmaker – who is visually impaired, I work every day not only to coordinate a creative vision with my team, but also to lead others to a world where there is no barrier to achievement. I direct and even shoot documentaries, and will continue to do this throughout and beyond the process of losing my eyesight. This is because there is a certain truism that we all have to come to accept, that pursuing one’s passion is the best starting point, because there are no barriers to accomplishment.

K is for Key. What keys to success can you leave for upcoming entrepreneurs and leaders?

There is really one key to success. Set the bar high for yourself and for those who share your passions. This doesn’t mean you’ll never make a mistake. As they say, that’s why pencils have erasers. High expectations push you to challenge yourself, and it motivates you to constantly question your own assumptions… even the ones you don’t know you have. Expecting the highest level of performance from everyone you work with encourages you to pursue nothing short of excellence.

Michael is a friend of mine, and I want to encourage you to support his new documentary series, “The Palette Project: Losing Sight, Maintaining A Vision.” He’s made it really easy to pledge with a micropayment of just $1 for the videos he’s posting on his Patreon feed. This is a great way to show your support, and you can make a difference by helping him make a difference. Plus, you get to see some pretty amazing videos of some pretty amazing people, and learn what it’s like to be a visually impaired filmmaker. – Maxwell Ivey

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DERRICK Interview with Award Winning Author and Speaker Melanie Hope

February 7, 2013

Melanie Hope playing drumsEncouragement Speaker Derrick Hayes gives a DERRICK Interview by asking 7 questions through each letter of his first name to give you an insightful perspective from other experts, entrepreneurs, celebrities and up and coming super stars.

Today’s DERRICK Interview is with Melanie Hope who  is an award-winning speaker and prolific author. She is known for blowing her audience’s hair back with her enthusiasm and wild storytelling. Her latest book, Get Over It & Get Started, focuses on overcoming the victim mentality and creating a better life for yourself.

D is for Dream: What is your dream and what have you achieved?

I consider myself a momentum speaker, rather than a motivational speaker. My dream is to help others overcome and let go of their excuses, past hurts, and insecurities and keep moving through my books, workshops, and keynotes. Maybe even my music, fashion line, and a trained pony or two but we’ll see what works best. I have achieved slow, sometimes painful steps towards my dreams against all odds.

E is for Encourage: What encourages you? GetOverIt

Hearing other people’s stories of success especially those that had to overcome great odds encourages me greatly. When I can make an audience laugh and/or ask great questions, that encourages me to keep doing what I do.

R is for Resource: What resources do you bring to the table that makes you unique or stand out?

I have boundless energy and a quirky way of redefining things so that others may see the world just a little differently. I’m also not afraid to speak frankly and tick a few folks off, when needed.

R is for Ready: When did you realize you were ready for what you are doing now?

Realizing your readiness is actually a daily thing. The trick is not to use all those really, really logical excuses (I’m too broke/inexperienced/fat/old/pick your poison) to hinder your movement. For me, I always desired to be creative for a living but the world always told me I could only be otherwise. Because of that, I am a recovering accountant. Would I ever be ready if I still listened? Of course not! I’d still be waiting for all those what if”s to kick in and balancing other peoples books. I just started to move and kept moving in the direction of my dream. I was never really ready, and still wouldn’t say I am. I do it anyway.

I is for Individual: Name at least one person that you know that you feel others should learn about and why?

I am surrounded by so many amazing individuals that it’s hard to pick only one. There is one person that is about ready to take flight. She is a fellow author and techie named Denise Barnes. She has had to overcome many similar hardships as I have, and is a scrappy bootstrapping entrepreneur, also like me.

C is for Continue: When you fail and things look bleak or are not optimistic what makes you want to continue?

Failure is my launching pad. Where else can you splat, learn, and start over? There are days when the whole world stinks and nothing is going right that I just want to crawl under the covers and eat cookies until Well, that’s the clincher until what? It all goes away? Not likely. And then what? I give myself that little five-minute freakout, and then I start moving again.

K is for Key: What keys to success can you leave for upcoming entrepreneurs and leaders?

I believe that everyone has a fear of embarrassment over everything else, including death, spiders, and failure which is why public speaking tops the phobias list. The sad thing is, since everyone shares that same fear, everyone is also secretly rooting for the person next to them to succeed. Barring the sociopaths that the news enjoys focusing on, its actually the human condition to cheer for the underdog, celebrate victory, and truly desire to see others happy. Knowing this, how can we be afraid to take risks? With all that good energy flowing towards us just aching to be seized, why are we so afraid?

Visit Melanie Hope for more information.


DERRICK Interview with Foster Care Advocate Fabulous Helen Ramaglia

February 6, 2013

HelenEncouragement Speaker Derrick Hayes gives a DERRICK Interview by asking 7 questions through each letter of his first name to give you an insightful perspective from other experts, entrepreneurs, celebrities and up and coming super stars.

Today’s DERRICK Interview is with Helen Ramaglia is a former foster child who became a foster/adoptive mother. She is the founder and executive director of Fostering Superstars. Helen is a Congressional Award Winner, a Daily Points of Light Award Honoree and is the author of “From Foster to Fabulous”.  She is a popular speaker, trainer and advocate for foster children.

What is your dream, goals or what have you achieved?

I am an abused, foster child who was destined to failure or the insane asylum.  At five years old I had suffered more loss, more devastation and more trauma than most people endure over a lifetime.  When I was 10 years old I was truly on the verge of a mental breakdown, my life was that devastating and traumatic.  However, today I have turned my life around and advocate tirelessly for my brothers and sisters still in care.

 Today I am proud to say I am a former foster child who became a foster/adoptive mother.  I am the founder and executive director of Fostering Superstars, a nonprofit for foster children. I am a recipient of the 2012 Congressional Angel in Adoption award for my work with foster children and a Daily Points of Light Award Honoree.  I am the author of “From Foster to Fabulous: One little girl’s journey through abuse, foster care, aging out, and life beyond”.  I am a popular speaker, trainer and advocate for foster children.  This is the new me I created.  Isn’t she amazing?  *tears*

I am so proud of what I have overcome and where I am today.  I would like to help others either understand life as a foster child or help foster children overcome their past and become phenomenal.  Five years ago I didn’t even talk unless I had to, I was too afraid to, but look at me now!

What encourages you?

My foster adopted children and the horrible condition they were in the day they walked through our door.  At that moment, I realized that after 30 years the system was still a mess.  The morning our boys toddled into our home they were 2 and almost 3 years old, we were their 7th home.  In two short years, we were the 7th set of mommies and daddies these two little boys had known.   Our boys lived their entire lives in foster care and were in a deeper state of crisis than I was in 30 years prior. Their 5 year old sister joined us one week later and she was in an even worse state of crisis than the boys were. I was so angry and felt so bad for our new children.  What angered me even more was that I had to fight a vicious battle to procure the resources necessary for my new children to become healthy and thrive at the same level all children deserve to thrive. The constant fighting exhausted me, it turned me a little bitter, and took me to dark places, but it also did something amazing, something wonderful and something huge. It lit a fire in me that I never knew existed. This fire….. It’s incredible, it’s beautiful and it’s exhilarating.  It’s intense and it burns hotter every day for the rights of children in foster care.  I vowed to our new family that our suffering would serve as a catalyst for change.  It is through this vicious fight, that I finally found my voice.  It was through this fight that I would find the biggest parts of me and through finding ‘me’, I found my purpose. I allowed ‘fear’ to confine me for most of my life.  This year my life has completely changed!  My whole life is different today and it continues to change as I journey down the road to the purpose for my life and my suffering.  I finally allowed myself to reach for the stars and I have no plans of ever letting go!  No one told me I could reach for the stars and truly get there.

As I work with children in foster care I find that they too are typically in a deep state of crisis as well. The children are my encouragement!

What resources do you bring to the table that makes you unique or stand out? 

There are very few foster children who have suffered the devastating abuse I suffered in my biological life and the added trauma of foster life, yet I  have been able to overcome and become successful.  When you couple that experience with the ability to passionately educate others on the debilitating effects of abuse and foster care, through the eyes of a child in crisis, in a way to let them take the actual journey themselves, is very unique.  The effects of ‘taking others on this journey’ has been very instrumental in helping foster parents to parent foster children much more effectively and efficiently.  It has allowed anyone working with foster children understand behaviors that ‘ordinary’ people can’t begin to understand.  This real life journey has opened hearts and helped connect communities, as well as raise better awareness for foster children.  With a deeper understanding of the darkness that encompasses the foster child and the debilitating effects of foster care, gaping gaps in life skill and social skill abilities, ordinary individuals are much more ready to offer support and are equipped to do so in a way that will have beneficial effects for years to come.  I think this new found deeper level of education might help facilitate less moving around, a deeper relationship between the foster child and foster parent, and a much deeper level of commitment.

When did you realize you were ready for what you are doing now? 

I realized I was ready when I had the wonderful opportunity to be a keynote speaker at a charity event.  It was my first and I had not been talking long when the opportunity presented itself, yet I wasn’t nervous at all, I didn’t stutter and the audience had no idea this was my first time speaking.  There wasn’t a dry eye in the house and I even received a standing ovation.  Everyone said they had never heard such a passionate speech and thanked me for an ‘unforgettable’ evening.  Many left with a much better understanding of foster life and were ready to roll up their sleeves and get involved.  I knew then that a higher power had my back and that I was ready to pursue my destiny.

Name at least one person that you know about that you feel others should learn about and why?

Christopher Coleman.  Oh my goodness, once you learn about his story you will be mesmerized! He was pronounced dead at birth, but miraculously survived. Though he struggles with cerebral palsy, Christopher Coleman knows his disability was a gift from God.

When you fail, things look bleak or are not optimistic what makes you want to continue?

I read my book, again, “From Foster to Fabulous”, I look at my home, at my wonderful children and I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that I truly am blessed.  I read my accomplishments over the past year and I have no doubt that I am not doing this journey alone, but that my Father is right there guiding me.  He gives me strength when I am running low.  I feel He needs for me to take a message out into the world and that is what I am doing.  Faith keeps me going when the going gets tuff.

What keys to success can you leave for upcoming entrepreneurs and leaders?

Reach for the stars and never let go.  If I had known this, years ago, who knows what changes I could have already brought about for children in foster care.  Set your focus and become obsessed with it until you get there.  Anything is possible…….look at how far I have come.  Never, ever let go!  Dream BIG, really, really BIG!

Is there anything that we did not touch on that you would like to inspire others with?

“Every child deserves to age-out of foster care equipped with the tools to become phenomenal.”

Visit Helen Ramaglia for more information.


DERRICK Interview with Transformational Speaker Charmaine Hammond

November 7, 2012

Encouragement Speaker Derrick Hayes gives a DERRICK Interview by asking 7 questions through each letter of his first name to give you an insightful perspective from other experts, entrepreneurs, celebrities and up and coming super stars.

Today’s DERRICK Interview is with Charmaine Hammond, MA, BA, who is an international transformational speaker, best selling and award winning author and radio host, and is a leading trainer in corporate North America helping transform workplaces. An expert in Conflict Analysis and Management, she opened Hammond International Inc. in 1997, a mediation and training company.  For the past 8 years she has been speaking and consulting with business and community organizations.

D is for Dream. What is your dream and what have you achieved?

I have had many, but the underlying theme is to make a big difference by how I show up in life, and to make our world a kinder place to live. My dog inspired me to be an author, and his books have helped me accomplish this dream through his story.

E is for Encourage. What encourages you?

People encourage me. Animals encourage me. And, I am also a cheerleader for myself.

R is for Resource. What resources do you bring to the table that makes you unique or stand out?

One of the reasons I might stand out or be memorable is that I bring others to the table with me. I am a champion for others. I believe in supporting others and bringing them with me while I climb towards my goals.  This creates what my friend Shawne Duperon calls a Cycle of Reciprocity.  Others become champions and connectors for me.  And, I believe that one resource I bring, that is memorable, is our dog Toby and his story. His presence created experiences for people that lasted long after the speaking event. Interesting point is that I am a corporate speaker and trainer that speaks on leadership, resilience and business success strategies. Interesting how our dog has found his way into my corporate world.

R is for Ready. When did you realize you were ready for what you are doing now?

I think I knew I was ready when I was a little girl, I just had to catch up to the dream, which took about 40 years. 🙂

I is for Individual. Name at least one person that you know that you feel others should learn about and why?

Oh, I have a huge list.  Others should more about my friend and musician Justin Hines. His music helped me write, and has inspired millions. And he is a terrific example of a person who shows up in life with a dream!

C is for Continue. When you fail, things look bleak or are not optimistic what makes you want to continue?

I give myself a short time to be disappointed or sad but then I change my mindset to look at a) what did I learn, b) what can I do differently next time and c) what other opportunities are there for me now. I avoid self blame (and blame of others), it only reduces your confidence and commitment to be optimistic

K is for Key. What keys to success can you leave for upcoming entrepreneurs and leaders?

One key is to ASK! Many entrepreneurs struggle through unnecessarily because they don’t ask for help.  When you learn to be comfortable with asking (and receiving) the world opens up.

Is there anything that we did not touch on that you would like to inspire others with?

I’m an award winning and bestselling author of On Toby’s Terms (Bettie Youngs Books, Sept. 2010), Toby The Pet Therapy Dog – and his hospital friends (Bettie Youngs Books, Aug. 2011), and Bounce Forward (Hammond International Publishing, April 2011), and has been published in Chicken Soup for the Soul- What I learned from the dog (Sept. 2009)

Visit Charmaine Hammond for more information.


Words of Encouragement For Actors, Performers, Writers, and Directors

March 27, 2012

By Benson Simmonds

I’m an award-winning actor and acting coach. I’ve coached thousands of actors, singers and performers, as well as writers and directors in the film and Tv industry. I motivate them all the time to believe in themselves I usually remind them of the following super important question, which can apply to thos in the entertainment industry or anyone.

Question #1 – What are 5 things I LOVE about myself as an actor, performer, writer, director, etc?

Question #2 -What do I love about being an actor, performer, writer, director, etc?

Both of those questions naturally help shift you back into a place of joy about who you are and your profession. of course I always remind my students that There is NO ONE exactly like you on this earth and actually the WORLD is waiting for you to create the miracles you were born to create!!!

Visit Benson Simmonds for more information.