Kelsey Cooke grew up acting professionally in Hollywood, signing with her first agent at the age of 7. She earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Theatre Arts from Vanguard University and pursued a Broadway, TV, and Film career in New York upon graduating. Her work eventually brought her back to Hollywood, where she co-founded thisishardtoread productions and is an award-winning producer, writer, and actor in the award-winning feature comedy/mockumentary film RE-OPENING. Favorite career highlights include: LIFE PARTNERS (Tribeca & Sundance Film Festival), BLACK NOVEMBER (Vivica Fox), PAN AM (ABC), ROYAL PAINS (USA), BAD TEACHER (CBS), and THE VERONICA MARS MOVIE.
Kathleen Cooke: OK full disclosure – you are my oldest daughter and the new Influence Women Nashville Chapter Director. I could tell lots about you…but I’ll let you tell us a bit about yourself.
Kelsey Cooke: I am co-founder of thisishardtoread productions with my husband, Chris. We create comedies with heart. I’m a producer, writer, director, and actor – not necessarily all at the same time, hah! I began in the industry as an actor at 7 years old in Hollywood and came up through the industry working not only in LA but after college in New York, working on stage and Broadway musicals before moving back to LA in 2013 as an actress and producer.
Kathleen: How and why have you gotten involved with Influence Women as the new Nashville Chapter Coordinator?
Kelsey: I recently moved to the greater Nashville area for the main purpose of collaborating with like-minded industry professionals. I was tired of waiting for some “big break” that would never come, and after producing my own feature film during the pandemic, I realized the Hollywood industry is so much bigger than the box we put it in. Nashville was the place where I felt called to create a movement with people who feel the same way. I know the multiple challenges of a career in the media and entertainment and the importance of collaboration with the right people and having a community of people who support each other not only in their work but in their faith.
Kathleen: When is the Influence Women Nashville launch, and what’s happening?
Kelsey: We are going to start gathering women on November 9th who are excited to get involved with our mission – to bring women in the industry together who want to encourage, uplift, and empower each other and align their media career with their faith and values. Let’s get to know each other and think of others who would also like to have a local community of creators. Please reach out if you would like to be a part of this initial group.
If you want to connect with Kelsey and Influence Women Nashville, reach out to her at: email@example.com.
Meet Kelsey Guerra, the new coordinator for Influence Lab Women Nashville!
Bio: Kelsey grew up acting professionally in Hollywood, signing with her first agent at the age of seven. She earned her bachelor’s degree in Theatre Arts from Vanguard University and pursued a Broadway, TV, and Film career in New York upon graduating. Her work eventually brought her back to Hollywood, where she co-founded thisishardtoread Productions and is an award-winning producer, writer, and actor on the award-winning feature comedy/mockumentary film, RE-OPENING. Favorite career highlights include LIFE PARTNERS (Tribeca & Sundance Film Festival), BLACK NOVEMBER, THE VERONICA MARS MOVIE (Vivica Fox), PAN AM (ABC), ROYAL PAINS (USA), and BAD TEACHER (CBS).
Kathleen Cooke: Tell us about you! What’s your story, and what do you do in the media and entertainment industry?
Kelsey Guerra: I am co-founder of thisishardtoread Productions with my husband, and we create comedies with heart. I’m a producer, writer, director, and actor – not necessarily all at the same time!
Kathleen: How and why have you gotten involved with Influence Lab Women as the new Nashville Chapter Coordinator?
Kelsey: I recently moved to the greater Nashville area from L.A./Hollywood for the main purpose of collaborating with like-minded industry professionals. I was tired of waiting for some “big break” that would never come, and after producing my own feature film during the pandemic, I realized that Hollywood and the industry is so much bigger than the box we put it in, and Nashville was the place where I felt called to create a movement with people who felt the same way.
Kathleen: When is the Influence Lab Women Nashville launch, and what’s happening?
Kelsey: We are going to start with a small gathering of women at the end of October who are excited to get involved with our mission – to bring women in the industry together who want to encourage, uplift, and empower each other. Let’s get to know each other and bring together others who would like to have a local community of creators and industry professionals.
Reach out to me at: firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to be a part of the group. Once we have a core group of women, we can expand our reach to others who would also like to join us for a larger launch in January 2023.
Where do we get the confidence to push forward, take risks and negotiate without fear? Is it found in us, or in something bigger than ourselves? Read this month’s INNER VIEW as author and producer Victoria Slater shares about rooting herself in the “certainty of God”.
As the daughter of an Air Force officer, Victoria Slater spent her childhood traveling the world and gaining a passion for travel and world culture. She attained a BA in Theatre with minors in Business and French from Wright State University in Ohio, but spent a few post-college years working in chemical defense research. Yet, a lifelong dream to work in the film industry egged her on to Hollywood where Victoria worked over twenty years in the industry; she was also delighted when her new career took her back to foreign lands.
She spent a year in South Africa for TransWorld Pictures as a Production Executive and Director of Development, where she oversaw and negotiated distribution deals for the production of many feature films.
Victoria also has been part of the production teams on several independent and studio feature films and television series, including Twentieth Century Fox’s disaster film Volcano, Paramount’s Star Trek VII Generations, and Baywatch. She has also produced high-end projects ranging from commercials to short videos for private resorts and members-only clubs with the boutique post-production company, Moving Pictures, co-owned with her husband, Ken.
She is a proud member of the Producers Guild of America, where she served on the Board of Directors for nine years and chaired the mentoring program for over seven years. In 2007, Victoria was awarded the prestigious AP Council Commitment Award for her service to the PGA.
Victoria published her book, How To Negotiate Without Freaking Out, to encourage women to become better and braver negotiators. She loves God, her husband, and her two very spoiled little dogs. These are her non-negotiables.
Kathleen Cooke: You had a long and significant career working in entertainment. Looking back, what is the one thing you’d say was the most significant thing God taught you about the industry?
Victoria Slater: God taught me that He is in control. I have recently been reflecting on my past efforts to promote our business or my career that yielded no fruit. Yet projects seemed to come out of “left field” (aka from God). We have been very blessed and have done well, but I can never point to my efforts for our success. Now in making efforts to promote my book, I turn to God and ask, “what should I do?” A friend reminded me of the biblical passage in Luke 5:4, where the disciples had just returned from a night of fruitless fishing.
Jesus told them to put out into the deep and let down their nets for a catch. At first they argued with Him, but then did what He told them to do and took in an abundance of fish. That is what I am trying to do now – not go on my efforts but look to God first and follow His direction.
Kathleen: If you could tell your 20-something-self something that you know now, what would you tell her?
Victoria: “Pride goeth before the fall.” I look back on many opportunities I lost because of pride. I was given an incredible opportunity early in my production career when I was sent to South Africa as a production executive. When I returned to the States, I was a bit puffed up and turned down jobs that seemed a step back but would have led to much greater experiences. I cringe when I think of my poor judgment because I was so prideful.
Kathleen: We often aren’t honest with who we are and how God has wired us. We negotiate with Him on what we want (our will) and what He wants (His will). How can we become that authentic person and accept what He has called us to be and do?
Victoria: I love Psalm 139, especially verse 14 (NIV), which says, “I will praise You because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” I love people who dare to be their wonderful, unique, authentic selves. It can be hard sometimes. We are, by nature, herding animals. But I find people who are authentically themselves are the most fun to be around. So, I strive to be honest and authentic with everyone I meet. And let my unique sense of humor and intellect shine through, for “I am fearfully and wonderfully made.”
Kathleen: I love that. Especially because of the last half of that scripture, where David (the writer of Psalms) acknowledges the confidence that inward knowledge gave him. A career in media, entertainment, arts and leadership can be one of risky choices and uncertainty. Where did you find your certainty and confidence as a high-level executive making many strategic influential decisions in Hollywood?
Victoria: I was around twenty-five years old and had just broken up with my first serious relationship. We had been together for four years, and I was devastated. I was living in Dayton, Ohio working in government research on chemical defense. A friend saw how heartbroken I was and got an Air Force captain to invite me out to lunch. At that lunch, he started talking about God. God?! I didn’t want to hear about God. I wanted to be told how pretty I was. On the way back to my office, this Air Force captain asked me if I wanted to accept Jesus into my life. To this day, I can remember the feeling of standing on the edge of a precipice. If I accepted the offer, I would be jumping off a cliff. I wasn’t ready. So, I declined. Shortly after this, I was in Arizona on vacation. I was heading to California and couldn’t sleep, still upset over the breakup.
I took a walk in that arid climate and started to talk to God, and I had the overwhelming sense that He loved me and would take care of me. I accepted Christ into my life that night.
The Air Force captain will never know how much he influenced my life. You never know how God will use you to influence others. His confidence and certainty of who Jesus was in his life influenced me, and I couldn’t stop thinking of his invitation to know God personally in my life. And it’s God’s certainty living in me that still allows me to keep my confidence in Him as we continue to live in growing, uncertain times today.
Register Now for the Influence Lab Webinar with Victoria on Tuesday, August 23rd at 5:00pm PST!
The Art of Negotiation: How to Grow Your Confidence
It’s our privilege to introduce the new Influence Lab Chief Operating Officer Jean Christen! Read below as Jean shares the life journey God has helped her walk, what compelled her to dive head-first into volunteering with The Influence Lab, and what’s next on the docket for mentorship programs, events and building the IN Lab community.
Kathleen Cooke: As the new COO of Influence Lab Women, can you tell us a bit about yourself?
Jean Christen: I come from a long line of determined (stubborn) but forward-thinking women. My grandmother, a Buddhist, gave my mother the freedom to choose her faith. My mother chose Catholicism, and while she took my sister and me to mass every Sunday, she refrained from baptizing us as babies and passed on the gift of religious freedom.
Through my upbringing, I knew of a distant God, a “force” that was good. I felt He cared about me, but I never wanted to bother Him when there were more important people and more significant problems that needed His attention. With my background in Eastern religion, I was more open than most to the philosophies and practices of the New Age Movement. As a result, I not only adapted various beliefs and thoughts but propagated them. My father passed away while I was in college and the depression that visited me drove me deeper into an awareness of my spiritual emptiness. Having explored every major world religion, I finally decided to give Christianity a try. With no expectations or trust in its belief system, I said the Sinner’s Prayer with abandon because I didn’t think it would affect me. I was wrong. Not long after saying that prayer, I experienced physical manifestations and a spiritual attack, but along with this attack, I also had an insatiable hunger that only the Biblical Word could satisfy. I had been ‘born again.’
I was later ‘baptized in the Spirit’ at a Catholic retreat during my first experience with Taizé prayer. As we chanted, I began to recognize the depths of my unworthiness as the recipient of His love and grace, and I wept like I’ve never wept before in my life.
I met and married my college sweetheart, who was a believer at the time when I was not. He evidently was not blessed with the gift of evangelism but had an abundance of unconditional love for me (that’s a story for another time). God blessed us with six daughters and a home in Palos Verdes (CA).
Professionally, God led me into the business world. I was head of product development and global sourcing for Thomas Kinkade, “the famous Painter of Light” and a brother in Christ. I then went into the publishing world as the managing director of gifts and children’s books for Harvest House Publishers. I needed a break from the corporate world to take care of my family and unexpectedly found myself leading several community nonprofit boards. During the COVID-19 pandemic, I felt called to enter the media/entertainment business. I initially ran away from God’s leading and calling, like Jonah. But God kept bringing me back. Within a year, I found myself working with companies like Mandeville and the Gotham Group, producing projects with Emmy-winning producers, Oscar-nominated crews, and celebrated directors. I’ve since formed my own company, 8C Entertainment, to acquire and produce content that I would want to watch with Jesus.
Kathleen: Why have you gotten involved with The Influence Lab and Influence Lab Women?
Jean: As a new implant in entertainment, I actively sought spiritual encouragement, inspiration, and fellowship with other believers in the industry. After vetting several “Christian” organizations, I settled on following the Hollywood Prayer Network, where I learned about The Influence Lab. I attended a couple of webinars and wrote in after the one with producer Cindy Bond. She was so encouraging and inspiring, and I got so much out of that webinar that I decided I would give more than a donation. I wrote in and offered my time and talents, too. Two months later, I got a reply from you, Kathleen Cooke, the founder herself!
You graciously offered to meet for coffee, and our delightful meeting (God’s ordained meeting) lasted well past three hours and would have gone on for hours more had I not needed to pick up my kids from school. You asked me to be the COO (Chief Operating Officer) for Influence Lab Women on the spot. I think you saw that I was a little taken aback because you said, “Jean, there have been a few times in my life where I feel God tap me on the shoulder, and this is one of them.” You didn’t know this then, but one of my life Scriptures is “judge the tree by the fruit that it bears.” As I considered that scripture in my head, your request, and the decades of good fruit you and Phil have produced in ministry, I felt a peace that was not humanly possible given my daily “to-do” list. I knew I had to come alongside you like Aaron did for Moses and hold up your arms as you lead. So, I immediately said yes. That was the Monday before my first in-person Influence Lab Women event on Friday, April 29, 2022. It’s only been a couple of months, but we have already put together exciting new programs and initiatives that I cannot wait to roll out to our Influence Lab family!
Kathleen: I am over the moon blessed with you saying yes, too! You have been such a gift and an answer to my prayer that God would bring me my “Aaron and Hur” to hold up my arms and enable me to fight the cultural battles “for such a time as this.” Moses needed a priestly hand – that was Aaron (who is also represented by Jesus in our lives), and He needed an administrative/business hand that was Hur.
I find it so beautiful and encouraging that God somehow always inserts women into the stories in the Bible. Hur is said to have been the son of Miriam, the sister to Moses and Aaron. Women wouldn’t have been allowed on the battlefields then, so I believe God sent a woman representative – her son.
So, what’s happening and coming up that you have been working on for The Influence Lab and Influence Lab Women?
Jean: Oh, my goodness, so many good things! I want first to thank everyone who took the time out of their day to complete and turn in the Member Survey. It’s because of their input that we’re finalizing our mentorship/ life coaching program; setting up personal prayer partners with our ministry partner, the Hollywood Prayer Network; selecting teachers for a 6-week Bible study program; and changing up our Friday night in-person events to Saturday brunches to give ourselves more time for fellowship and networking. The master calendar with webinars and in-person events for our Hollywood and Atlanta (soon Nashville) Chapter groups will be posted shortly.
Attention Readers: be sure to save the dates and check in regularly for updates and exciting new events! By the way, we are extending the survey collection window for those who want to share their thoughts and ideas and haven’t yet.
If you haven’t filled out our survey yet, click here to answer a few quick questions!
Have a heart for arts and entertainment, media and leadership? Let us know if you would like to get involved with The Influence Lab! We are expanding our reach and we have new roles and leadership opportunities waiting for your unique talents. The best part of volunteering is getting to serve with other like-minded women. We need to hold up each other’s arms in the challenging careers and culture we’re engaged in. I am beyond excited to uplift and build up our Influence Lab community TOGETHER!
Based in Los Angeles, The Influence Lab kicked off its new Influence Lab Atlanta Women’s chapter with a meeting featuring Netflix showrunner Sheryl J. Anderson of the hit series “Sweet Magnolias.”
Los Angeles, CA (June 16, 2022) – Cofounded by media executives Phil and Kathleen Cooke with a vision to transform culture through media, the Los Angeles-based The Influence Lab extended its impact this past week with the inaugural meeting of the Influence Lab Atlanta Women’s chapter. The in-person June event featured Sheryl J. Anderson, creator and showrunner of the Netflix hit series, “Sweet Magnolias.”
Called the “Hollywood of the South,” Atlanta is a growing hub of film and television production with tax incentives drawing in major Hollywood productions and new studios. With the growing film crew base comes a need for community, which was one of the compelling reasons to launch the new Influence Lab Atlanta Women’s chapter. Anderson’s Netflix show is filming in Atlanta and presented an opportunity to have the seasoned showrunner speak at the event.
“Remember we are living on God’s schedule,” Sheryl encouraged the attending female actors, producers, directors and crew members based in Atlanta. “Figure out your path in this industry and it will come to pass in God’s time.” In an industry that can be prone to “people-pleasing” to advance your career, she admonished the women, “You can never please others at the expense of yourself or your work.”
Flying in from Los Angeles for the event, Kathleen Cooke was accompanied by Influence Lab Women Events director Ayanna Anene. Anna Oakley, the Influence Lab Atlanta Women coordinator and representatives of the Hollywood Prayer Network in Atlanta opened the evening in prayer.
“We heard thank you’s over and over again,” shared Kathleen Cooke after the gathering. “There’s a growing community of women who want to align their faith as they work in the new Atlanta ‘Hollywood South’ industry.”
Watch for the replay of the Atlanta meeting at https://influencelab.com For more information about the Atlanta Influence Lab Women’s chapter or the Hollywood Influence Lab Women’s base, contact email@example.com.