From a young age, Chloe Domont knew she was a storyteller. And Hollywood was the place she wanted to tell those stories.
So, when it came time to choosing a college, the Los Angeles native didn’t hesitate to move across the country to attend the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University. After graduating with a Bachelor’s of Fine Arts degree in Film & Television, Domont began working as a screenwriter on film shorts. She worked in commercials too, and made her way through the indie film festival circuit while polishing her skills as a director.
Then, came a chance meeting with Julian Farino, director and executive producer of HBO hits like Entourage and How to Make It In America. Farino later introduced Domont to Stephen Levinson, the executive producer ofEntourage and Boardwalk Empireand what followed was a single ask for mentorship.
Soon enough, Domont was helping script some of the episodes for HBO’s Ballers, a TV series about football players and their handlers, starring Dwayne Johnson. By the time the opportunity came to direct some episodes of Ballers, Domont was ready. And she had people like Farino and Levinson championing her, too.
By the time the opportunity came to direct some episodes of Ballers, Domont was ready.
In this edition of “Nobody tells you this, but…” Domont explains how she came to be one of the few female directors working in television, and how she discovered the difference between having just a mentor and having a champion.Oh, and the importance of having fun through it all.
Nobody tells you this, but…
Everyone always talks about finding a mentor, but rarely do people speak about finding a champion. That’s what you need. People like to pretend that they don’t need help, or that they got somewhere on their own merit. Yes—you have the skills. You’ve done the work. But somewhere along the way, someone opened a door to you. Thank those people for helping you. And, as you keep progressing in your career, seek out the people who won’t just open the door for you, but they’ll hold it open, invite you in and then announce how great you are to everyone inside. Find your champion.
The truth is a lot of people get their first break because of that first door open. They found someone who vouched for them. For me it was Julian Farino and Stephen Levinson,who didn’t just vouch for me but said, confidently, “she can do it.” That’s why I’m the director for “Ballers.”
I began directing at a very young age. My family wasn’t in the industry or anything, but I always knew that filmmaking is a magical, magical experience. I knew, at a young age, that’s what I wanted to do. I knew I wanted to be a director.
“Seek out the people who won’t just open the door for you, but they’ll hold it open, invite you in and then announce how great you are to everyone inside.”
But when you’re starting out, it can be hard to see the path there when you look at who historically holds the title of “director.” When you look at that, it’s hard not to have a little bit of doubt, especially when it’s all white dudes. In baseball caps. And wearing glasses. Where are the women? Where are the young women, like myself, without the baseball caps and the glasses?
I’d attended film school and I’d been directing commercials as part of my bread and butter. I’d made my way around the indie festival circuit, too. And it’s true that today you see more and more women directing. But the opportunities were still small. For some time, I was struggling financially. That’s when I thought, “Well what about TV?” That was my next goal. Find a way to direct in television.
I met Farino, though a mutual friend. Almost immediately, I asked, “Can I shadow you while you do your work for a bit?” I knew what I wanted to do and I was confident in my abilities. I came to him with a very specific goal—and, perhaps more importantly, I had work to show.
“Almost immediately, I asked, ‘Can I shadow you while you do your work for a bit?’”
I had a portfolio to back it up, where he could see my work. It wasn’t like I was just coming up to some big-time director with a lofty goal. The important thing is I’d done some work, came with a specific ask, and knew what I wanted to do. I think that really made the difference.
That’s the start of my path to directing Ballers. It’s a male-centric show with a heavy emphasis on sports. Sure, I’m not a dude, and I won’t say sports are my end-all, be-all. But here’s the thing about being a director. Directing is about getting to the core of the emotional states of your characters. If you know how to do that, then everything else is secondary and can be learned. The hard part is getting to the emotional state of the characters and ensuring that the audience cares about the characters.
Here’s one other thing that no one tells you about working in Hollywood, directing and filmmaking. Have fun. Seriously! Production can be so stressful on an entire team of people. From figuring out the logistical to the creative, it’s important to enjoy the moment and let go of what doesn’t work. There’s never enough time to do everything you want, exactly the way you want it to be. You can easily get hung up on the shot you didn’t get. And that? That just takes away from the energy you need for the next shot, and everything that follows.
So, here’s my advice: Know what you’re willing to sacrifice from the get-go. That way, even in the moments when it’s challenging and the stakes are high, you’re able to check yourself.
This, of course, is not always an easy lesson learned. The stakes were high for me when I got the job on Ballers.After all, you’re being paid on someone else’s dime. My dad has always had this saying which is, “There’s two ways to learn something. The hard way, and the harder way.” I’ve, admittedly, usually learned things the harder way.
“Know what you’re willing to sacrifice from the get-go. That way, even in the moments when it’s challenging and the stakes are high, you’re able to check yourself.”
If I didn’t get the perfect shot, the one I envisioned, I would let that upset me for…longer than it should have. And the truth is that sometimes those shots, the ones that look great on paper, they wouldn’t have even made the cut. You just need, what you really need. I’m a perfectionist at heart. I’ve got an athlete’s mentality, if you will. I don’t allow myself to compliment myself because I don’t want to fall into conformity. I want to keep that thirst for more.
When it came time to film the first episode of Ballers, I had a lot of shots on my list. I wanted to have as many shots as possible once we were in the editing room. It was hard (erm, harder?) But once I let go of the pressures of trying to do it all, perfectly the first time, there was a change in energy.
In those moments, when I’m able to let go of those perfectionist tendencies, and just trust that my plans would work, then people vibe off that positive energy. When you’re not putting your energy on the small stuff and getting dragged down by it, you free up space for creativity and great work.
Oh, and one more thing. This industry is vicious. So, no one says this enough: Be kind. Shooting production takes so much manpower. Every single job on set makes yourjobpossible. A simple “thank you” can go a long way. So, yeah, you don’t have to be kind as a director. But I think it’s worth it.
It makes everything easier—especially when you arrive on set at 4:30 a.m. and everyone has already been working for a few hours.
—As told to Theresa Avila
Correction, Oct. 4, 2018: This post has been updated to include Farino as a mentor. An earlier version of this post indicated Domont shadowed Levinson as a director. She shadowed Farino.