Kim Dang and Pia Mechler were friends before they decided to work together. They both happened to be at points in their careers where they felt that it just “wasn’t it.” Kim was a respected Assistant Professor of Applied Mathematics at Yale but longed for more creativity in her work, seeking a role that encompassed her second passion – film. Meanwhile, Pia was an actress and writer who longed for more control and a chance to tell female driven stories that weren’t getting seen or heard.
Over a glass of wine (naturally) Kim agreed to produce a movie that Pia had written and was itching to direct. So, together with a third partner, they produced the indie comedy Everything is Wonderful, which is coming out this month (!)
Through this labor of love, Kim and Pia realized they perfectly complimented each other professionally, and decided to form their own company, W Filmproductions.
Starting a company and setting out to make movies can be a terrifying prospect. And though they were setting foot into unknown territory, they had each other’s hands to hold and were each other’s biggest challengers and supporters.
Here is what they’ve learned from each other as work-wives!
Pia (pictured on the right):
1. Don’t fear commitment and learn to find compromises.
There was a very funny episode when Kim and I were on our first production (Everything is Wonderful), and we were driving back to New York from location. I was so happy when I saw the HOV lane, but Kim freaked out. Because in her eyes, HOV means being stuck and having very little chance to get out. I love the HOV line – it’s smooth sailing, passing all the other cars! But, both Kim and I had to learn to adjust to each other and find compromises in the way we work together. We allow each other to venture out on our own individual careers, while still committing to the projects that we want to produce together. That might slow down our process at times, but it gives us the monetary freedom to only take on the projects we truly believe in.
It took some tucking and pulling, but we got to a good place. I am proud to say that I am Kim’s longest committed relationship.
2. Support and challenge one another, but find a common set of values.
Kim and I are vastly different (you might have guessed that from the HOV story). For example I love to communicate every little step I take, while Kim holds back a bit and only shares the information that she feels is important. So, sometimes we clash and even fight (like in any marriage), but we know that beside all our differences, we’re constantly trying to learn from each other and grow. The binding spirit beneath all that is a set of shared morals and values. Truth and responsibility is what propels us forward. Whenever there is a crisis or a difference in opinion, we remind ourselves why we work together and what we truly believe in.
3. Let go and trust.
I am a control freak and a perfectionist. And in the world of movies, I had to learn to relax. If you are waiting for perfection, freaking out over any sign of imperfection, you will never get anything done. Kim taught me that. And we both learned: Dare to fail or you will never succeed.
4. Laugh about it.
Sometimes, we find ourselves in situations where we feel overworked, where things are stressful and exhausting. But, we always find humor in it. We process emotions similarly. When the time came to deliver our latest project to our distributor, we were both so exhausted – moaning, huffing, and puffing – completely in sync. This, by itself, makes us laugh out loud (also, in absolute unison) and entertains everyone else who shares our office with us. So, finding the humor in situations that are stressful turns out to create much needed relief. If you’re not totally in-sync with your work partner, still try to find the humor in moments when you can.
Kim (pictured on the left):
Generosity is the goodwill to assume the best possible intention in the other. The constant effort to put yourself in the other position and find / re-find common ground. I learned a lot from Pia about generosity. I don’t think I would have signed the company papers (marriage papers) if it wasn’t for that character trait of hers.
2. Instinct counts as argument.
Pia and I are pretty good at logically arguing. And when we’re at it, we are an intellectual powerhouse. But, the ultimate argument Pia introduced at some point was: my instincts tell me to do this!
And our instincts, whatever they are, have actually saved our asses quite a lot of times in the past!
3. Use words.
One of my favorite activities is being alone at home, reading. I’m more of a pragmatic communicator and Pia is quite the opposite. At some point, I realized that it might be easier to be understood by using more words…
4. On steering bigger ships…
When we started working together, I thought it would be a clear labor division. As in: I work on IN-Design, you work on Photoshop. Then, we went into prepping our first movie. Afterwards, moving on with the creation of our own company, that distinction became a mess. I was called Pia and Pia was called Kim, and together we were PiaandKim or KimandPia – it didn’t matter anymore and honestly, I quite enjoyed it. The result is great movies and I am still in awe at how we can steer such big ships together.
5. Know the difference between “I choose” and “I should.”
Having each other’s back is the only safety net you have when running a company together. Whereas looking out for “us” might be more natural for Pia, I need to constantly remind myself that I chose this (yes, this tricky HOV lane). I choose this, because I believe in Pia’s talent and I believe in our friendship, our potential. I want to keep creating many projects together. Sometimes, when Pia says “we should” or “you should” and I feel a strong resistance, I calm down, breathe deep, and let myself know: there is no should for you. You chose this.
6. Better done than perfect.
Of course I want to do things well and properly. But sometimes, we just need to bang a task out, because it’s unpleasant and annoying. Nothing is worse than an unpleasant and annoying task carried around for weeks. And then, when it’s done, it might have Pia’s many email typos or my poor explanation – so what. We both used to get worked up about this. But now, we remind each other: either it doesn’t matter and we move on to the next, or it can be fixed and we fix it.
7. Humor is everything.
Pia and I laugh a lot. It’s much better to sit next to each other while working, because how else could I have so much fun working on excel sheets…
Learn more about Everything is Wonderful here and order the film here, here, and here.