UC Santa Cruz - BA, Film and Digital Media
American Film Institute - MFA, Directing
Jen Kleiner was just five years old when she realized her calling was in show business — specifically, the art of movie-making. A desire to gain on set experience is how Jen accidentally discovered her career in fashion, too. And it was through both careers that Jen’s career zig-zagged into a resume that boasts five different titles for her ongoing work.
Jen’s now a writer, director and photographer whose upcoming project is a film adaptation of the best-selling non-fiction book, Switching Time. What about those other two titles? Jen also splits her time as a personal coach and creative consultant for her company, Intuitive Artists, and works as a celebrity stylist. How did Jen end up in such a wide variety of roles and how does she balance it all? Keep reading for her secrets to personal success.
Giving yourself more time to be in order to prioritize feeling good is actually the easiest way to leverage your power and get what you want faster.
Most people would go into filmmaking or styling, but you’re doing both! How did this career path come about?
The winter before I was accepted into the directing program at American Film Institute, my best friend, who was working for a successful movie producer at the time, told me that another producer from out of town was looking for a set PA for a few weeks. I said yes immediately without getting the details, only to find out that this ‘producer’ was a woman who worked as the Celebrity Services Manager for Calvin Klein. Stationed out of New York, she would fly to LA every January to set up a suite at the Four Seasons Hotel to dress celebrities for award shows, which began with the Golden Globes and ended with the Oscars.
I tried to back out immediately; me, a nerdy, overweight film chick with zero fashion sense and not a clue about designers or their collections. But it was too late. I was locked in but told myself not to worry, because she needed someone to organize more than style. I tried to convince myself that if I could coordinate a feature film, then I could set up some meetings and hand out clothes to a few famous people. Talk about diving into the deep end when you don’t know how to swim.
My boss at Calvin Klein kept me on after those initial few weeks, because I had an intuitive ability to anticipate her needs. I could also keep her organized, set up appointments, log and track the samples as they went out for fittings, drive garment bags around town and pretend I knew who and what she was talking about. But the real test came when she was called out for meetings and I was left alone to conduct fittings. For the next three years, I worked in a freelance capacity with time off in between different LA events until my boss made the move to Burberry and transferred to London in the process. Once there, her job grew larger and she eventually became the VIP and Music Relations Director for the brand. I was brought in not only to be her support in Los Angeles, but also to help train new team members from different cities.
During her tenure, the VIP and Music Relations department grew from two people in one city to two-to-three people in four cities including London, New York, LA and Tokyo. Although I still refused to come on board full time, I repeatedly worked for several months straight during busy periods of the year so that I could make enough money to write and pursue my writing/directing aspirations. As glamorous as working in celebrity PR and styling might sound, for me it was anything but. Deep down, I was actually miserable and very frustrated. I did not enjoy meeting incredibly talented people under the guise of a role I never wanted to play. It was also ridiculously time-consuming and psychologically grueling.
In 2011, after six years of freelancing, I finally decided to transition out of fashion PR for good. Although I had been offered a full time management position and a six-figure salary, my heart just wasn’t in it and ultimately, I had to walk away.
After Burberry, I unexpectedly transitioned from styling for a brand to styling for a celebrity. Guy Pearce (Memento, LA Confidential, Factory Girl, Iron Man 3) had become one of my regulars at the British clothing line, so when I found out he was nominated for an Emmy in 2011, I reached out and offered to dress him and his wonderful wife, Kate. We’ve been working together ever since. It’s actually more of a passion than a job, because Guy is one of my favorite actors and I love being part of his creative team in some small way.
When I’m not styling, my time is divided between various writing and directing projects, as well as my coaching and consulting practice, Intuitive Artists. I love that my job is to inspire people to live the life of their dreams while enjoying the journey of doing so. Even though the path to getting here has been long and winding, I consider myself one lucky gal for getting to have such a unique, eye-opening rollercoaster of a ride.
Now you’re also coaching and consulting, too. Will you tell us more about these additions to your resume and why you added these paths to your career direction?
I officially launched Intuitive Artists in 2011, but have been coaching/consulting on the side since 2007. One of my previous jobs had been working with the bestselling author, teacher and therapist Katherine Woodward Thomas (Calling In The One, Conscious Uncoupling). I was initially her course assistant before helping to develop an early version of the now hugely successful “Calling In The One” Coach’s Training. I’m also proud to say that I introduced her to fellow teaching partner, Claire Zammit, whom together went on to create femininepower.com, a global online seminar for awakening women with over 200,000 participants worldwide.
Even though I never intended it, my coaching and consulting practice has provided me with the most incredible opportunity to connect and support all different types of creatively oriented people — including myself — in furthering important personal and professional goals while learning to enjoy our lives more fully in the process. It has also taught me to how to build the emotional muscles required to become an inner athlete; not only surviving my life, but thriving in it. Best of all, it has afforded me more time to work on my own creative endeavors.
In a way, I’m 35 and I finally feel like I’m coming full circle by finding a way to be all of myself instead of compartmentalized aspects of myself. Adapting this book is a metaphor for my own internal process of integration. I can now officially say I’m an uplifting visual storyteller whose work spans three different mediums; fashion, film and personal development.
What does your typical day look like? How do you prioritize your schedule?
My days are anything but typical and change week to week. I see clients as they schedule appointments, work on writing projects in between, then take breaks for styling and/or small photo or directing gigs as they come up. Thankfully, I now have an assistant to help me stay on top of things, but the gift in the juggle is that I am never, ever bored.
What is your favorite part of your work? Why?
I love experiencing the impact I’ve made on the betterment of people’s lives. Seeing someone go from lost to found, whether it’s via coaching/consulting, a gorgeous new outfit or a story told via moving images and words, is the greatest high. To me, my work is magical, like alchemy, and I feel blessed to get to share it with others.
What challenges keep you awake at night? Why?
I get easily overwhelmed when I think about all the things that lay ahead on my to-do list — sometimes that can be paralyzing. As a freelance professional in three different fields, I keep my business going with no one but myself to hold accountable. At moments, it feels like an insurmountable task. I currently have the first draft of this feature film adaptation due soon, doc projects in different stages of development, a celebrity styling client who has red carpet events popping up randomly all over the globe, coaching/consulting clients whom I see either in person or on phone/Skype each week, and an Intuitive Artists newsletter that I’m constantly writing new content for.
Running a practice is a completely separate job than showing up to do the coaching/consulting work itself. It’s the business of marketing and PR. It requires time and attention to self-promotion, which, to be quite honest, I actually loathe.
As a do-it-all entrepreneur, is work/life balance ever a problem with you? Do you have any advice to share on tactics that have helped you achieve a better balance?
Balance is only a problem when I’m not giving enough attention to the parts of me that thrive from experiences of being, as opposed to doing. If I take the time to incorporate being experiences into my day, like meditation, working out or listening to music, I’m less susceptible to negative thinking and reactionary behavior.
Giving yourself more time to be in order to prioritize feeling good is actually the easiest way to leverage your power and get what you want faster. That way, you’re not working twice as hard to push against the negativity that so easily shows up when we overdo and under-receive. When we practice taking time to be, we develop an inner witness who can seek to understand before he or she begins to judge another person or themselves.
What are some moments in your career that you’re most proud of? How did these make you feel?
Flying to New York to receive my recent NAPW award from Star Jones in front of 1,500 other amazing women is definitely a highlight.
What is the best advice you’ve ever received? How do you apply it to your life?
There’s a line in Risky Business — one of my favorite films — that goes, “Sometimes, you just gotta say, what the fuck, make your move.” My dad used to say it a lot jokingly when I was growing up and it really stuck. I still tell myself that line all the time. It helps me get over self-deprecating fears and just ‘do it.’
What qualities do you feel it takes to be a successful businesswoman?
It takes perseverance, objectivity, compassion, bravery, dedication, focus, vision, a strong intuition and peace with the unknown.
You’re currently writing an adaptation of a best-selling non-fiction book called Switching Time by Dr. Richard Baer. How did this project come about and when will it be on a screen near us?
I first learned about this powerful story when it was published in 2007. Years later, I was chatting late at night with my producer on another project and he asked me what book I would adapt if I ever had the chance. Switching Time was my first answer. I kid you not, the very next day he got in touch with the author and a couple of weeks later, the paperwork on the option was signed. Because of the subject matter and amount of attention this book received when it came out, there’s big name talent interested in coming onboard to direct and star. At this time, however, I can’t say much more than that!