Discover more from The Accidental VP by Susan Smythe-Bishop
Searching for Lynn Redgrave: The time we forgot to pick up an acting legend
And leadership wisdom and life lessons from Michèle Maheux, former executive director and COO of TIFF
It was early in the morning on a very warm September day when I arrived The Sheraton Centre, our home base for the duration of the 1996 Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF). This day was all about SHINE – a remarkable Australian film that would go on to win the coveted TIFF People’s Choice Award that year and also be nominated for several Academy Awards.
Directed by Scott Hicks and starring Geoffrey Rush (who went on to win the Academy Award for Best Actor for this role), Lynn Redgrave, John Guilgud, Noah Taylor and Armin Meuller Stahl - on this day, visiting talent were scheduled to do interviews with the Canadian press. Unfortunately, the day didn’t start off as smoothly as we had planned.
Getting to our working suite in the hotel was a bit of an ordeal that year. The hotel was SO huge, that we actually had to take two separate elevators to get to our floor - the first one took you up to the 12th floor, and then you had to catch the “connecting” ride up to our floor through another bank of elevators. I cursed the stupidity of this “journey” every day.
“We lost Lynn Redgrave! We have to find her – she is somewhere in the hotel! Please go find her!”
I finally reached our suite to find the door slightly ajar. As I pushed it open, I could almost feel tension spilling out into the hallway, and before I could even utter “good morning!” - my boss, Anna Maria Muccilli, with a grim look on her face shouted, “We lost Lynn Redgrave. We have to find her – she is somewhere in the hotel, please go find her!”
“What? We LOST Lynn Redgrave? How did we lose Lynn?!? What do you mean?!? I replied in a confused state.
“Just GOOOOO!” she insisted, so in a complete state of panic, that’s what I did. I abruptly put down my coffee, dumped my backpack, spun around and took off in a mad dash down the hallway back towards the elevator in search of her…
Leadership wisdom and life lessons from the former executive director and COO of TIFF and Prince Edward County resident, Michèle Maheux
Working in the film industry can be a challenge on sooooo many levels. Long hours, low pay, INSANE egos, and on top of that - many have had to face varying degrees of #MeToo issues as well. There is a lot to navigate, and positive leadership, well, let’s just say it really never made it to the top of the list of concerns for many executives, at least from my perspective and experience.
In 2019, Michèle was named the winner of the Toronto Film Critic Association’s annual Clyde Gilmour Award for lifetime achievement, and on the night of the awards, she delivered a beautiful and poignant acceptance speech.
I want to share a few of her key life lessons that she shared with us that night, words of wisdom that helped to shape her throughout her impressive career, and lessons on leadership that I think are relatable no matter where you are on your own personal journey, whether professional or personal.
Michèle Maheux’s 12 pointers on leadership:
Be brave and be prepared to take the path not intended.
Illegitimi non-carborundum – translated from Latin means: Don’t let the bastards grind you down - sage advice that her father offered to her.
You learn as much about how to be a great leader from the bad boss experiences as you do from the good ones.
Hire people who are smarter than you – people who know more than you do.
Treat the studio executive assistant the same way you would treat the executive…