Thriving cities depend on the adventurous among us, who alter the urban landscape when they forge their own successful paths.

Each month, we ask an influential San Diegan: What was it like for you in the beginning?

Jodi Cilley

Founder,  Film Consortium San Diego,
Live: Golden Hill
Work: All over the city
How Long: 15 years

Film Consortium stimulates local film and television production, and produces the San Diego Film Awards, the Fall Film Festival, Dive-In Theater and various other screening and film networking events.

What was the moment that propelled you to open your own business? 

I saw my film students leaving school with a very expensive and skill-specific education, only to end up in low paying jobs that didn’t utilize their newly built skill sets. I thought, “How in the heck are there not film-related jobs here in San Diego?” Finding the answer to that question took me a few months and a few dozen meetings, and I found there was an unmet need in San Diego I felt I could do something about.

What struggles did you face starting Film Consortium?

The main struggle I faced was dealing with people who thought things would be better if I just gave up on building a local film community and instead went up to LA to bring big productions down here. Also, there are a lot of folks with the old school mentality favoring competition instead of collaboration, and that took a while to overcome. We are all better if we help lift each other up – that is the core belief of this entire concept.

What was the riskiest business move you ever made?

That’s a tough one.  The entire thing has been pretty low risk as this has really been built on scotch tape and a few nickels rubbed together. We’ve had events that haven’t been successful, or “brilliant” ideas that turned out to be not so smart, but there’s very little downside to this. At the end of the day the community that has been built is priceless and permanent. We all get to keep that forever, regardless of the success of Film Consortium as a business.

If you could change the past, is there anything in your career you’d do differently?

I wouldn’t really change anything. I’ve always been the one to follow my intuition and instincts, and everything along the way has brought me closer to where I need to be. Of course there were times where I could have done better, or got distracted for a while, but for the most part I’ve been building towards this for most of my adult life. Each job, each relationship, each educational endeavor brought me a little closer to finding the thing I needed to put all of my energy into. And then, voila! Along came the opportunity that I couldn’t miss, and the moment where I decided to act.

Could you ever go back to a “normal job” working for someone else?

I actually talk about this all the time. I still teach video/editing at a few schools and pick up various contract work while the business builds, but I could never go back to a normal 9-5 job. Even if my business were to fail tomorrow, I’d start another one where I apply everything I learned in that process. 

What personality traits must a successful business owner possess?

Perseverance. The road is tough and not for the weak of spirit. You have to get up every day and keep that rock rolling up that hill regardless of how tired and discouraged you may become. Also, belief in your vision. Along the way there will be naysayers, doubters, haters etc. A lot of them. You have to be able to keep their influence to a minimum and trust yourself and your vision. This is your dream and vision, not theirs. It’s okay that they don’t see what you see or agree with what you do. But if you start questioning yourself and your vision, you are done.

In the beginning, if you could have had a glimpse into where your work is today, what three words describe how you might have felt?

Overjoyed, Overwhelmed and Inspired. I’ve met so many wonderful people, with such great talent, who now surround me. The richness they have brought to my life is seriously beautiful and makes San Diego the most amazing home to me.