Ross Garland is a Lawyer turned Finance-guy, turned Movie Producer. He is best known for producing the critically acclaimed and award winning, U-Carmen eKhayelitsha as well as the much loved Spud movies. Being a maverick who takes bold steps seems to have been built into his DNA, which is why we are not only very impressed with what he has been able to achieve, but like any good movie, it is also going to be a thrilling pleasure watching what he continues to do in the future.
My Definition of Success | For better or worse, success has never been about money for me. It’s been more about wanting to put something new on the table, to make some original contribution, or to venture into uncharted waters and thrive. As I get older, I find my goals are more self-defined and I have developed more of my own system to navigate my way to them.
What Drives Me | I’ve always been drawn to the less conventional route, like studying acting out of high school when most people were taking on business degrees. Then after finding my way into human rights law, taking a job on Wall Street. That sounds a bit au contraire, but I figure life is remarkably short, and as I have witnessed with some of my contemporaries of late, ridiculously fragile. So I find myself drawn to new pastures, and am always a bit restless. But film producing is now one thing I can say I have done more than my 10,000 hours of.
My ‘Lucky Break’ | Being awarded a Rhodes Scholarship is an obvious one for me. That was a truly life transforming moment leading to an extraordinary three years at Oxford University, which was a long way literally and figuratively from growing up in Durban. There is a big element of luck when those kinds of things happen, but I would exchange all sorts of body parts before ever giving that experience up
My Career Highlights | Winning the Golden Bear for best film at the Berlin Film Festival for U-Carmen eKhayelitsha would be another. It was my first producing gig, and again all sorts of luck and wonderful people combined to put me in that spot, but it was a signature moment of affirmation – that you have a certain sense of taste and timing that could be rewarded in such a prestigious cultural forum. Watching Pauline Malefane singing Bizet’s opera in Xhosa in a cinema full of 2,000 Germans going berserk was pretty memorable.
The Difference between good and Great |There are so many pressures of different sorts that lead you to make choices that are less than what you may have hoped for or envisaged, and so it takes a certain boldness, possibly delusion, to strike out on a more novel path. That’s what I’ve noticed in the people I admire. They are not scared to take a risk.
The Key Skill | One key skill you need in life is to be able to persuade people. It’s not so much that people are with you or against you, but most likely they will be indifferent, and you need to bring them across the line to your point of view. I grew up fairly argumentative and I think had some natural talent for making a case for something. I’ve tried to hone that over the years. As an undergraduate student of psychology and drama, I’m interested in how performance tools can be used to effect a listener. There are books to read on the subject, but a lot of it is acquired through observation, and trial and error. There is no excuse for failing to be fine-tuned to your audience, or not adapting to the vibe in the room.
Lessons I have Learnt | The money you need for your business will always come later than when you need it. The meeting or call that you really want to happen will always be postponed to a later date than you want. You have to constantly manage your desire for the world to fit into your clock and program, with the many things out there that you can’t control. This is about learning when to push and when to lean back and take the hit.
Dealing with Doubt | I doubt myself a fair amount, but I’ve come to realise that most people share this characteristic. My American friends once told me to stop being so self-abusive and start selling myself, because nobody else is going to volunteer to do it on your behalf. So I have tried to be more American in this way. It’s something of a Hobson’s choice, in that you have nothing to lose by striving for confidence in your abilities and projecting that. The corollary is learning not to be too hard on yourself, for all your various shortcomings and failures. On the space – time continuum of our universe, there is almost nothing we deal with that is of serious consequence. It’s good to have a bit of levity about that.
Resources to Stay Inspired | Resources which challenge conventional thought, or which introduce you to ideas that you don’t discover in daily life. Writers like Malcolm Gladwell and Michael Lewis, podcasts from Radiolab and TED, are all good sources for this type of material. I try to watch blockbusters and obscure art house films, both because I like an eclectic range of movies, and also there is a lot to gain from seeing what people are doing on both sides of the spectrum.
Best Advice I have Received | Patience. Much has been achieved by merely mastering the combination of application plus patience. As you become a master in your field, the opportunity curve starts to swing your way. I can’t say I’ve got there yet, but I have seen first hand that this is fundamental.
The Legacy I will Leave | I have a 5 year-old boy Jack and a 3 year-old girl Evy. Since they arrived in my world, my perspective shifted 180 degrees. Any thoughts about legacy now are not oriented around what people will think of me, but about the other and what I did for them.