DREAM CATCHER: ERIN BERNHARDT
Erin Bernhardt is a humanitarian journalist, filmmaker, and impact producer dedicated to making movies that make a difference. She works to inspire and motivate people to rally behind important issues and causes. Erin is currently on tour with her first independent documentary feature film, Imba Means Sing, a story about music, education, and poverty alleviation told through the eyes of the young members of the Grammy-nominated African Children’s Choir. A former CNN writer/producer and Peace Corps volunteer, Erin now works to bring media and development together. She has won several awards for her work, including a Student Emmy and two Peabody Awards, and has given two TEXxWomen talks.. Most recently, Erin was honored with IndieFEST’s Award of Excellence for Women Filmmakers, Speranza Foundation’s ‘Female Filmmaker of the Year’ grant. She’s a proud Wahoo from the University of Virginia and loves making new friends, adventuresome travel, live music, and yoga.
How did your former career prepare you for running your own business? I had incredible mentors at CNN, which helped me become a good enough storyteller to try to make it on my own. Before that, I was in the Peace Corps, where you have to be a serious self-starter, which is true of being a social entrepreneur as well. Both of those roles also gave me the courage and confidence to take the leap of faith I did in making Imba Means Sing as an indie film.
What was the biggest obstacle that you had to overcome before launching your business? Probably the same one almost everyone faces, which is funding.
How long were you in business before you started to see real growth? What do you attribute that to? Past managers have told me that my biggest weakness was that I wear rose-colored glasses. But I think it’s one of my biggest strengths. I constantly saw and continue to see the bright side, so I think we started having real growth on day one when I decided to follow my heart and embark on making a dream come true.
How did you fund your dream? All of the money to make Imba Means Sing has come from hundreds of generous supporters making tax-deductible donations to help us share this remarkable story and launch this important movement in the world. While my production company is an LLC, we are fiscally sponsored by the Creative Visions Foundation, a 501c3 non-profit, and 100% of our filmmaker profits on the film are being donated to support education for more children in Africa via the Choir.
How do you organize your day to best optimize your time? Describe a day in your life. I live by my Google calendar. Literally every minute of my day is pre-planned and dictated by what I schedule and prioritize on that calendar. I’m Type A about time so that helps me be efficient and productive, but I still need to learn to be a little more lenient about the time I want to spend with friends, family, in yoga, and with my saint of a husband.
If I weren’t doing what I do, I would be… Teaching yoga, traveling around the world and wishing I were paid to write about it, or spending more time being a friend.
Five years from now I see myself and my company… Making more films that inspire viewers to take action on issues and providing them with the tools to make a difference. Also, helping more filmmakers launch their impact campaigns.
If I had to do it all over again I would… Breathe more and be stressed less.
The key to balancing it all is… I wish I knew! Any suggestions, y’all?
The most important thing I have learned so far… Is that I need to figure out the answer to the previous question.
LET’S GET PERSONAL:
I am most proud of… Winning a couple of female filmmaker of the year awards, though I’d love to win an everyone included filmmaker of the year award one day, too!
My favorite getaway is… Anywhere I can stand-up paddle board and feel at peace with the world around me and/or being around the kids in Imba.
My favorite nail polish, lipstick, or scent is… Fresh-picked gardenias or peonies.
My favorite TV show or movie is… Documentary: Searching for Sugarman; Movie: Legally Blonde I and II; TV: True Detective.
I try to achieve mindfulness by… Practicing yoga at least twice a week, getting acupuncture at least once a month, and praying as much as possible.
My favorite author or non-business book is… My husband and I love looking at great coffee table books together, our favorite right now is Taschen’s Favourite Hotels.
One talent I wish I had is… Painting beautiful things or singing as well as the people I tell stories about.
A woman who inspires me is… Kathy Eldon.