By Tammy Reese
Actor, Writer, Producer, and Director J.R. Fortin has directed many actors on many sets, and also he has run operations for a Fortune 500 company. The ability to be a successful creative goes hand and hand with having the experience of being a successful leader. J.R. Fortin’s resume, talent, experience, and determination have brought him to his current point of success. But how did his determination and success begin? We have followed his career for quite some time and was eager to learn from him while we continue to be inspired.
J.R. Fortin is best known for his series, Hearts of New England. In this series, he alone has won 30 awards and the series as a whole has won 60+ awards. The series is based on his character, Sebastian, coming home from war but not being able to escape war because his dad is the head of the mob.
Despite being most known for Hearts of New England, J.R. has been on over forty film sets and has been the lead in Suicide Hotline and For Bobby. His first film appearance was in the movie Paper City Burn Out.
What life lessons have stuck with you throughout your personal and professional life which played a major role in establishing you as a successful leader?
The best thing that ever happened to me in grade school was actually a teacher, Kirby Reardon. He gave me the itch to want to do more than average work. Under his teaching, I went from being someone who never did co-curricular activities to being signed up for several, as well as running and becoming the class president. Then I would go on later in life to run operations for a Fortune 500 company and to operate my own film company while getting an associate’s degree in legal studies and a bachelor’s degree in business management operations.
I’ve been put in a lot of situations where I had to take charge because that’s the hand God dealt. If you want to be a leader your biggest focus has to be on O.Q.P., only quality people. You have to live by this or it will destroy you. You need to have a handful of people you surround yourself with that are striving to achieve success and have goals and aspirations. If you’re with people that don’t add value you don’t need to stop being friends with them but you have to give them less time. You are the coach of your own success. You need to remove deadweight. This would be people with negative attitudes or toxic traits like creating animosity and limiting stagnant players. These would be people just not making any move, they don’t talk about goals, education or anything beneficial to increase your quality of life. It’s like a basketball team where the top five players get the most time. You can get money back, you can get stocks back, the one thing you can’t get back is time.
Please tell me about your film company and what it takes to keep it going.
A dedicated team I was blessed with people like Christopher Fyfe, Stephen Conicelli, Caitlynn McCauley, Megan Salisbury, and too many more to list. Recently I have had a lot of help from very talented filmmakers from New Hampshire, KJ Traynor and Adam Griswold. All it takes to keep it going is a team of dedicated filmmakers willing to wear as many hats as necessary to achieve success. I try to surround myself with people with the passion for film. Once you have that you’re unstoppable.
What are you and the company producing as of late?
We are really deep diving into Hearts of New England. We have been filming a lot of season 5. I just wrapped directing a vampire film called, My Co-Worker is a Vampire. It was a blast. We are producing another short on April 16 with details to come in the near future. A few local networks have recently picked up Hearts of New England and there is a lot more exciting news to come!
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From your experience, do you believe an actor can be a leader on set, or should they leave that to the director? What are your thoughts?
A leader is going to be a leader no matter what their environment is. You should not interfere during takes but a leader would pull someone aside during down time and offer pointers or suggestions. There are lots of factors in film to consider like budgets, especially in the independent film industry. Often time directors trying to do things know it could be better but are limited to resources. I would suggest running any ideas by the director before the actor. The last thing you want to do is cause confusion for the actor.
What are some of your leadership aspirations?
I don’t really have one, a true leader is selfless. I had a very long run under good, high performing leaders and I just want to give back. One day in the near future I think I will put together a class on real leadership and what it looks like.
What makes those that you lead listen to you, and follow your leadership?
This is simple: I treat them how I want to be treated. The most simplistic thing is the golden rule. I invest in every person that works with me because you’re only as strong as your weakest link. I always deliver results and strive to be the best and give credit where credit is due. With no degree in film, I took a team to 60+ awards, some international. At my regular job, I was the guy people sent to fix broken processes and routines because under real leadership I was delivering desired results. I led over thirty people to higher pay grades in business.
The number one rule you have to have as a true leader is to have deal breakers. A real leader is not a mindless follower doing what they’re told but someone who is engaged and inclusive at all times, not just around the appropriate audiences. My three deal breakers are managers threatening physical harm, lies, and people disrespecting associates without just cause. You can have standards and be professional and a real leader knows the balance. I recently watched someone call a higher up a boss and the person freaked out on them proving them to be correct. Another completely disgusting thing that I’ve seen is a leader saying that a person never says hi to him. This person worked there for two months and had no idea that the person was completely hearing impaired, showing his level of leadership, inclusiveness, and empathy, three key components of real leadership.
I’ve seen it all from people being materialistic to people thinking the puffier the vest they had the more important they were. Your personal brand will last forever. I have a rule of thumb when I’m someone’s leader: learn three things about them that have nothing to do with work. This shows that you understand your team or associates are people with lives, not robots. When they are part of a truly inclusive environment, productivity sky rockets. Always tell the truth, work harder than anyone around you, and never tolerate workplace violence or disrespect. Your self worth needs to outweigh your salary and it’s your job to demand the safety of your associates or team as well as ensuring they get the respect they are due.
While talking you said one of the biggest problems today is people can differentiate a title from a role, what did you mean by that?
People are oftentimes bound by a title. Like boss or lead. These words are from the past generation of Un-Influential leaders. If you are a true leader it’s not in your title it’s in your actions. That’s why you have to put way more weight on the role than the title. How you make people feel is how you’re remembered. Companies are temporary, your personal brand lasts forever.
What else can we be on the lookout for in the world of J.R. Fortin?
The Christmas Cape, a western film as well as a movie called Frost, and several more magazines and publications about my perspective on leadership.
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Tammy Reese began her career as a theater actress performing in 60 live stage shows a year with The Media Unit TV and Stage Production Company. She also directed the weekly live TV show Rough Times Live.
Eventually, she went to Empire State College to obtain her degree in media studies. After graduation, she did more theater and wrote and produced her own videos to spread awareness on social issues through the arts.
Tammy is an award-winning journalist and is best known for her legendary interviews with Sigourney Weaver, Meagan Good, Jennifer Connelly, Laurence Fishburne, Mona Scott- Young, Geena Davis, Essie Davis, Vivica A. Fox, Omar Epps, Joseph Sikora, Nelly, Ryan Coogler, Carmen Electra, Sheryl Lee Ralph, Giancarlo Esposito, Dedee Pfeiffer, Leon, Patina Miller, La La Anthony, Neyo, Britt Lower, Michael James Shaw, Aleks Paunovic, Courtney Kemp, Janet Hubert, Tom Arnold, Michole Briana White, Matt Cedeño, Raven Goodwin, Amber Riley, Ross Marquand, Merritt Wever and many more.
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