Ten Questions - Mary Mazzio

The film maker advises all women to act as their own PR machine

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Mary Mazzio, founder and chief executive of 50 Eggs, an independent film production company, is film maker in residence at Babson College in the US. She has written, produced and directed a number of award-winning films, including A Hero for Daisy and Ten9Eight and is currently working on a film called The Apple Pushers, which addresses issues of food justice, the obesity crisis and immigration.

Before joining the film industry, Ms Mazzio was a partner at the law firm: Brown Rudnick. She has a JD from Georgetown University Law Center and enjoys rowing in her spare time.

Ms Mazzio will be available for a live web chat on Thursday, 22nd March 2012 between 14.30 and 15.30 GMT. Post your questions now to ask@ft.com and they will be answered on the day.

1. What do you enjoy most about your job?

I love having the flexibility to choose projects that matter as well as the ability to work with people who are dedicated and passionate. Having my own company also means that I am the captain of my own destiny.

2. What is an average day at work like?

There really is no average day – one day might be spent raising money for our next project; another might be negotiating broadcast rights for a film; another might be due diligence and research for an upcoming movie; and yet another might be a day of meetings with students and faculty.

3. What is the best piece of advice given to you by a teacher?

Professor Stephen Geller (a former screenwriter) at Boston University said: “If you are going to make a film, which is so hard to do, it needs to be about what burns brightest, what you most care about in the world.” That comment inspired me to make my first film, A Hero for Daisy, which examines themes of social change, gender equity, athletic grit and institutional bias.

4. What academic achievement are you most proud of?

After the success of my early films, the Schlesinger Library at Harvard University asked for all my personal effects and papers after I die. I was so honoured and grinned from ear to ear when they asked me, especially because I was rejected twice from Harvard - once by the undergraduate college and once by the law school.

5. What advice would you give to women in business?

There are many lessons I have learned in the workforce as a woman. First and foremost, it is imperative to act as your own PR machine (but in a subtle way without being thoroughly obnoxious). Many women expect that a) their achievements and successes in the workplace will be noticed and celebrated (without saying anything) and b) promotions and raises in salary will magically happen (again without asking).

6. How do you deal with male-dominated environments?

I have learned to deal with male-dominated environments using a sense of humour and (often) a loud voice. Most male-dominated environments are not intentionally hostile or malevolent. If people act less than ideally, it is usually because they are clueless.

Second, if you are a woman and care passionately about something, but feel that you are not being heard, a well-placed piece of profanity can be incredibly effective in making a room go very quiet in a New York minute.

7. What is your favourite business book?

I love all of Tom Friedman’s books, including his current topic that we all have to be entrepreneurial, that you can no longer just be a good lawyer or a good doctor, but that we all have to be responsive to changing markets and act like entrepreneurs.

8. What is your earliest memory of school?

Learning how to make butter in the first grade and laughing hysterically when the principal came in to shake the cream into butter, spilling most of it onto the front of her black dress.

9. What is your biggest lesson learnt?

I have learned that failure is under-rated. Society discourages failure and has the implicit expectation that if you fail, you should stay down and not bother to try again. I have learned that if you have the courage to pull yourself back up and try again, good things will happen. Achievements are always informed by mistakes – it is the failures that give you true character and perspective.

10. What is your plan B?

I am already doing Plan B - making documentary films. Plan C, however, when I am finished with my business and artistic career, will be likely to involve public service.

Compiled by Charlotte Clarke

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