Smiling is Hard Work

November 14, 2017 by  
Filed under Rachel's Thoughts

It’s hard to smile. I mean, to really smile sincerely, with your eyes and everything.

Here’s a collage of what I like to do between smiling photos to try to keep it real.  Light Monkey Photography was kind enough to send me my best “outtakes”.

America’s Got Lawsuits – Still

August 1, 2017 by  
Filed under Rachel's Thoughts

A few years ago I posted an article with the help of my friend, Allison K Williams, that articulated my feelings for the show that makes its obscene fortunes on the backs of skilled artists who hope to gain any morsel of exposure at all, America’s Got Talent. You can find that article here:

Every season when the show starts anew, I get many hits on that old article, presumably, from people who are asking google what their gut is telling them — is the game rigged?  The answer: of course it is.

Now, I feel exactly the same way about this show as I do all the other manipulative and humiliating reality shows. It’s right up there with Wife Swap. They ask human people to sign away their right to any dignity or truth for the hope of being the one who’s edited to look respectable.

In that first article Allison and I wanted to let the audience know how on these shows – although the talent is very real – the deck is entirely stacked.  It has to be. That’s the nature of these shows. Somebody has to write the story and the makers have to decide who’s the hero and who’s the fool.  If there is no obvious fool, they will create one by any means necessary, because that’s how they’ve structured their story to go.

This particular show, unlike all the other reality shows, is a little personal for me because I have a lot of circus friends who end up auditioning for it.

That said, I walk a tightrope between how I feel about the creators and producers of these shows that squeeze artists dry and use them up to line their pockets, and needing to support my friends who choose to use these shows as a venue.  I will absolutely back an artist who makes this choice, even though I can’t support the show, itself.  I will be proud of them if they win the game, but I would never encourage them to play.  A game that cheats is a tough game to win. If you can make it there (and have a good therapist lined up afterwards), you can make it anywhere.
I think it’s possible for me to support the individual while steering clear of supporting the franchise.

So, I watched some this year’s early episodes of AGT, because I recognized a new batch of familiar faces in the promo. I powered through my fear of their humiliation to try to support these individuals.

I noticed a big change in the way they make AGT.

The show is still intentionally giant, manipulative, and intimidating with it’s deafening buzzers, of course, but interestingly, there’s less humiliation (on air).  They’ve started to skip showing the bad acts entirely only showing us the medium-to-awesome acts who audition.

For a moment I was proud of that choice someone inside the belly of AGT made…  But only for a moment.
I don’t for a minute believe that it was made from any producer’s sudden burst of conscience or Simon Cowell’s sensitive side.  They have proven from decades of globally-wide contests from Talent to Idol to X-Factor that they do not care about how foolish they make any person look or that they could (and have) ruined people’s otherwise fairly decent careers with their untruthful edit job, behind-the-scenes manipulation, or judge’s comments.
They have a very long history of not caring about what they do to people.  They haven’t just grown a conscience now.  “The fish stinks from the head down” and the head still sits in that judge’s seat.

If you look around, you’ll notice AGT is simply following a larger trend in contest shows on TV.  Audiences don’t seem to like getting anxious over the parade of humiliation, because most of us have an emotion called “empathy”. When you treat people poorly, it makes us, the audience actually feel bad for them.  If this is hard to understand you may be on the spectrum of a disorder called “sociopathy”.
There’s a point where our fascination with the car crash turns to sadness for the injured.

In fact, if you do a little digging you’ll find that the booing that happens on AGT often doesn’t happen with any talent on the stage. When people do poorly on stage, the audience mostly feels sorry for them.  As the tales go, before contestants come out, the show will offer $50 to anyone who can boo the loudest.  Then when it goes to edit, they have something to splice in.  And since the  contestant has signed away their rights in their contract, there’s not much that can be done about this manipulation of the truth.

Along with changing television trends, I believe AGT was also having a hard time getting people come out and audition, if they knew they had a high chance of being ridiculed in front of the world after signing away all rights to human dignity (#7) for their terrible offense of trying.

The routine use of “bait and switch” is used lure less-than-qualified acts out to audition, making them believe they have a chance, then pulling out every stop to humiliate them on a national platform.  It’s literally a dystopian plot line from the show, Black Mirror.
I had even been on the receiving end of the bait-and-switch when the show’s main job was to openly mock anyone they could get their hands on.  The person emailing me made it sound like they thought I was wonderful and that I should let the world know it by coming out!  The thing is, I knew they didn’t think I was wonderful.  Because I wasn’t.  I didn’t have any video on my website, only a few photos, and I had only done my comedy fire-eating routine a small handful of times.  I actually didn’t immediately know what talent they were emailing me about, it had been so long since I had done my show.  Moreover, the reason I quit doing it was because it wasn’t great. If I didn’t even care about my act, there’s no way AGT did. They couldn’t have seen anything I had done and thought I was appropriate for a winning act. There was nothing to see.  Their attempts were manipulative from the start and, because of my backstage knowledge, I could see they’d have made me one of their many bumbling, emotional idiots.
The talk around the variety performance world was full of warnings about why one should never go on AGT.

So, now they get it.  Finally.  Good.  …Right? …Well, they get what the show needed an external makeover, anyway. That doesn’t mean they’ve learned how to treat people.
AGT has seen the rise of contest shows like The Voice, Penn and Teller’s Fool Us, and even Little Big Shots, where the acts are carefully vetted before anyone gets televised, and so what we’re left seeing is all good — the audience feels good for contestants. Everyone’s a star.  These shows understand the audience has gotten exhausted from being anxious for the underdog.  We want a safer place to be entertained. We want to believe that even if the contestant (who could be our daughter, our father, our cousin) doesn’t get far on the show, they still did pretty well and probably went away feeling pretty decent about themselves.

I’m glad this is the direction AGT wants to go, but I’m bothered that they’re so blatantly following the lead of other shows and that they were SO late to the game that we know for certain they didn’t do it out of any personal conviction.  It’s only about staying on the air.  They’re being forced to play nice (on the surface).

Once we get past the shiny, blinding, new veneer of “we only show you happy stuff now”, we need to still listen to contestant experiences of how they were treated, after all is said and done, because as the old adage goes, “a tiger doesn’t change its stripes”.  It’s obvious to me that the show still uses the same formula to get their weekly story told. We still see all the same over-the-top reactions, meltdowns, and nerves.  It’s the same show with the same exhaustive contract that warns contestants the show can do anything they want to them. …So something sinister has got to still be lurking under the surface.
(I have since received private emails from rejected contestants from this year who have confirmed that humiliation and contempt is still a mainstay of the show, whether we see it on-air or not – it still gets reactions from audience and contestants. Anything for their story.)

I’d like to think Mr. Cowell himself is probably a very sensitive and human person – at least when it suits him.  He loves animals and he seems moved by touching stories.  I believe he must choose to see the great things he does for the small handful of people who’ve done well on his shows and that way justifies the bucket loads over the planet, over the nearly two decades, and multiple reality shows whose lives he’s damaged.

What I think needs to be pointed out here is that people should be treated with dignity whether or not they’re talented.  In our moment of birth and death we are all equally talentless, powerless, and poor. Someone’s ability to advance your career or be fun to hang out with does not determine how precious and worthy of compassion they are as human beings. This is a wisdom and an understanding that I believe Mr. Cowell is missing from his life, because every show he creates reflects the same attitude.

But hey – kudos for this new direction on the show. At least we don’t ALL see the humiliation anymore.  This season the mistreatment of people is mostly kept inside the walls of the coliseum.

Take some time to read these articles I’ve been sent by a reader about what is still happening that we just don’t see from our living rooms:

Fame 10’s article, published last year:
#9 is cruel on its face.
#7 –  “…everyone must agree that producers can trick, exploit and embarrass them — and even depict their personal stories in a manner that ‘may be factual or fictional’ — and they can’t sue for any reason.”
#2 – Therapy for all: They are fully aware of how badly they’re damaging people. They take necessary steps to protect themselves.  Not you.

Daily Beast’s article, published a few months ago:
If these allegations against Tyra are true, as weak as Ms. Bank’s character may be, my guess is that she was probably doing what she was told to do. The personality of an organization trickles down from the top and seeps through the whole system.

So, if you have ever considered going on this show, please don’t be fooled by the new face lift.  It’s the same show.  It will never be a different show.
If you are determined to go on this show, I will support your choice to use this venue.  But be aware, keep your eyes open, and take advantage of the free therapy.

Personally, if I’m going to choose a contest show to watch and enjoy, I choose shows that treated people respectfully from the start and never required abusing people, whether talented or not, to get their ratings. Instead of relying on human abuse to make a show, why not just make a decent show?

Try the Gong Show! It’s “just for funsies” and no careers are made or broken by participating.  The prize is $2000 and a trophy, and at the end of the show everybody, gonged or not, comes out and dances as they celebrate the winner’s success. It’s a silly game and everyone knows it.
I’ve heard personal backstage stories from both winners and non-winners and they seem a respectable show.

I want you to enjoy your TV and I can’t tell you what not to watch based on my principles.  But when any TV show involves real human people beings’ lives, please don’t get lost in the manipulation.  Just be aware that some shows – whether they show you the damage or not – are intentionally hurting people to get drama and to claw their way to the top.
When a bull in an arena starts kicking and flailing, look for the small skewer stabbed in his haunches.

And now, enjoy the entertaining and respectful segment from Penn and Teller’s Fool Us, with Jonathan Burns.
Watch how, even though he absolutely didn’t fool them (and he knows it and they know he knows it), they treated him like a peer.  And take note that the prize on this show is a trophy and Penn and Teller’s respect.
He was paid to perform and he was treated well during his time backstage.


It’s Just Business

January 22, 2017 by  
Filed under Rachel's Thoughts

If you haven’t read my first opinion piece on this topic, you can find it here:

I’ve heard people use the term “politically incorrect” over and over again in describing the way Canadian businessman, Kevin O’Leary has spoken to the public over the years.  Now that he is running for politics, I feel the need to speak up.

It is not “politically incorrect” to be unkind, unempathetic , and uncompassionate.  It’s simply a display of a defective person.  These are not respectable traits and they are not assets for leadership.

More troubling, I’ve heard news outlets refer to his comments as “provocative”.  What’s provocative about a man boasting of his greed and how millions of people in poverty only need to be motivated to be more like him?  What’s so provocative about a self-obsessed, rich, white man who’s completely out of touch with 99% of Canadians and their struggles? What is provocative about a man who says he doesn’t care about anything but money?

The only thing it provokes in me is nausea.
So, I suppose that week-old eggplant sandwich I tried to eat last night was also “provocative”.

Kevin has said he would like to distance himself from the things he’s said on TV.  I’m sure he would!  Wouldn’t we all love to distance ourselves from all the times we’ve said ignorant things!  But, you know what?  It’s called “Toughski Schittski”. There are consiquenses to the words you speak. You can’t apply for a management position, show up with no experience on your resume and then ask the interviewer to take it easy on you and please not check your references, because you’d like to distance yourself from all the terrible things you’ve said.

It doesn’t work that way anywhere else, Kevin.

You apply for this job, you have to answer for that you’ve told us you believe in.

You know what would be truly provocative?  If you stopped talking and started serving the public in any selfless way.  If you want be the boss of public service, show us you’re even remotely capable.  You’ve got a little catch-up to play, though, because all those “career politicians” you scoff at – they’ve been giving their lives to the people for decades.  So get to it!

It’s not personal, Kevin.  It’s just business.

Rachel Peters.

The Future of a Nation

January 18, 2017 by  
Filed under Rachel's Thoughts

I’m new-ish to Twitter (have had the account for a decade, but only started using it recently).

Today I tweeted at Canadian rich guy, Kevin O’Leary in response to his announcement that he’ll be running as the leader of the Conservative party, based on his experience playing a successful business man on television.

My sincere question to him via Twitter was this:

“In running for a position of public service, what experience do you personally have in serving the public…  and how might you convince me you have the public’s best interest in mind. The impoverished and the middle class.”

Of course, this was drastically shortened from the tweets I wanted to send, but I declined creating a seventeen-part, Drumpf-esque rant.

So, I will continue my questions to him here, full-well knowing he will never read them, but rather I’ll write for my own catharsis and to appease my light sprinkling of OCD, which I have found, when executed wisely, can be quite useful to me.

O’Leary’s opening statement on his “Why I’m Running” page of begins with “Canada cannot afford another 4 years of Justin Trudeau”.

There are plenty of things I don’t like about the current Liberal government (I didn’t vote for them, but I also didn’t vote Conservative).  But I’ll tell you what else Canada cannot afford in this political climate — its own greedy billionaire leader.

So, Kevin, you have some things you need to prove to the public before going any further.

You continue on in your statement to say that Canadians need “a Prime Minister who will fight for them”.  This is a true statement.  We absolutely do.  So what you need to do is show us some evidence that you are capable of this — any proof at all that you would fight for us.

I’ll tell you why I and many Canadians are wary:
It’s because of the sum of what most Canadians know of you.  We know you as someone who’s famous for being a rich guy on a reality show — a show that, much like the “Got Talent” franchise, makes its money off the backs of talented people who are desperate to make any money at all.  And on this show, you seem to really enjoy playing the character of the greedy villain who doesn’t care how anyone feels.  I sincerely hope it’s just a character, but I have my doubts.

I’ve watched enough of the show to hear you say you only care about money and that you go to bed thinking about money and wake up thinking about money.  I’ve listened to you tell us from your news room chair that global poverty is “fantastic news” because you believe it motivates the poor to become richer… As if poverty is a character flaw.  Do you really understand so little about life outside your own experience?

You say in your statement that you “have spent a lifetime fighting on behalf of investors”.  This seems to be the only qualification you claim in terms of what you’ve done for people.

So, why, when you have no personal financial stake in my well being, would you give a flying rip about fighting for me or anyone like me?

From the evidence in front of us, how would we know you actually care about the Canadian people and not just about your own investments?
Running a country is not simply a business investment.  People’s lives are at stake every day.  Do you really want to take on the responsibility of caring for them?  Because that’s the job you’re applying for.

I had sincerely hoped to click on your political website and find out something new that would enlighten me to why you think you’re qualified for a leadership position in public service.  I hoped I would see a resume of charitable foundations that are close to your heart, or volunteer work that you’ve done — anything selfless at all.

But the closest I could scrounge was “I have spent a lifetime fighting on behalf of investors”.

That means nothing to me, personally, seeing as I have no investments with you.  Most Canadians don’t.  So who do you really care about?  Who are you going to listen to? Who will have your ear when big issues arise?  People like me… or your investors?

If you want this job, you need to understand that we’ve all heard you brag about being greedy.  I’m not going to trust that you care about me now, simply because you say so.  The only thing you’ve publicly demonstrated to date is that you’re only interested in serving yourself.  Whether you’ve been acting as a character for TV or not, you’ll have to show us something new if you want be considered for this position.

Talk is cheap. Do something.  Show us you have a conviction that doesn’t involve you getting richer or more famous.

Here’s some advice from a hard working Canadian:  If you want be a boss, do what the rest of us have to do when starting a new career.

Start small.  Maybe volunteer, the way interns have to.  Then try a representing a riding or maybe become the mayor of something.  See how that goes.  Perhaps eventually you can try leading a province.  I bet you’ll learn a lot!  There are plenty of options out there that’ll get you the experience you need.

When you can show me a good resume, I may consider you qualified for the position.


The Average Canadian

Change the Face of “Networking”

April 29, 2016 by  
Filed under Rachel's Thoughts

Here is my advice on how to get ahead in any industry.  It may not translate into actual dollars, but it’s worth more than that.

Change your idea of “networking”.

I would much rather play the long game, so to speak.  If I can slowly get to know one good person as a real human being – even if it takes four or five years to be able to call them “friend” – I will invest in that opportunity over a party filled with celebrities and influential bosses any day.

Because what good are “connections” if they don’t even necessarily like you?  There are thousands of people who do what you do, and they’re probably better at it.   But to make a real friend, without any expectations – that’s unique.
To be able to have one person turn to you when they’re in trouble and know they can trust you to ask for help – that fills hearts and makes life-long impacts.

Connections for their own sake are empty, much like fame for fame’s sake.  Unless you’re a sociopath, the feeling you get in your gut from using people is a sick and sour one.

But friends who help friends simply because they care – that’s a solid foundation for big things.  Those are the real connections you’ll reap the benefits of in business and elsewhere for the rest of your life.

One of those relationships is worth one thousand shallow business card exchanges.

So when you’re at your industry conventions and festivals, I encourage you to skip a few official schmoozing events to pop out for a drink with the people you’ve met.  That’s where you’re more likely to start something lasting.

The end.

Production Studios, do the Math. Put your Crew First.

April 5, 2016 by  
Filed under Rachel's Thoughts

Dear people in charge of production studios,
You need to take care of your crew first.  I can’t believe it needs to be said.
If you have to choose between your crew or your client, you must choose your crew.
A healthy and content crew will take care of your client for you.  They will care.  They’ll have pride in their work and want people to be happy with it.  Like a child who respects their parent, they will want to do you proud.
A broken employee who feels that no one in charge cares about their well being will give up.  If they know the client is more important to you than them, they know that you will throw them under the bus the first time you have to decide who to keep on your good side.  That is a recipe for burning bridges.
A client will always want more for less. ALWAYS. A client without limits will never stop demanding more from your crew.  But that’s your fault.  You set the limits (or didn’t).
Choosing your client at the expense of your crew will break your crew.
If you believe people are tools to be used, broken and thrown away, then by all means, choose the client.  But do it knowing that is exactly what you’re choosing -to hurt and use up good people for an extra dollar or a little prestige.
Even if money is your bottom line, I suggest you do the math.
Take care of crew = client cared for by a happy crew. You end up with a client AND a loyal crew.
Take care of client at expense of crew = loss of a crew and hundreds of burned bridges and a business you can’t sustain with constant crew turnover and a client who keeps demanding more for less.
And even if all you care about is networking and impressive connections… you have no idea who the talented minds who work for you will go on to become.  In this industry your employee on one project may be your boss on the next.  …or your client.
Loving and caring for people, no matter what their status, isn’t just a pretty idea with distant, philosophical rewards. It actually has practical value.

I wish this didn’t need to be preached like some radical new idea.  But this is a serious problem for my industry (and any corporation, really) and it doesn’t need to be.  This just makes sense.
Clients need limits (duh), just like children with access to cookies need limits.
And nothing should be built on the backs of broken people.  THEY are your talent.  Without them your business would not exist.
Treat them as though you know it.  Be a good boss.  An infinite amount of office pizza parties cannot make up for choosing clients at the expense of your crew.
(Some things that contribute to “choosing a client over crew” include: unreasonable deadlines, unreasonable quotas, under staffing your crew, paying your crew too little, unlimited revisions for the client – essentially, all of the things that you want to offer to win a client, but that your crew will suffer for.)  When you write a contract for a job, always consider who will be staying evenings and weekends in order to fulfill the promises you’re making.
If you have a business with employees and your mantra is “the client is number 1”, then you’re on the wrong track. There’s no arguing it. You are either setting yourself up for eventual failure, or you’re consciously choosing to build your own personal success on the backs of broken spirits.  Which, to me, equals a much greater failure.  That’s my math.
If this is what you’ve been doing and you haven’t realized the direct and consistent consequences (the hard working people it’s hurting), then don’t fret.  I’m not calling you a villain of a boss.  Just start making it right.  Care for your crew in a real way – as if they’re real people with real problems.  Your brother, your mother, your child.  We can’t blame someone for something they didn’t know.  Just start now.
Every employee.

50 % of the Human Population

December 19, 2015 by  
Filed under Rachel's Thoughts

I work in the commercial animation industry where, like the rest of TV and film, there is a major, inexcusable, and definitely not accidental gap when it comes to gender and creative leadership.  Even now in 2015, when official policies state otherwise.
As someone who directs and plans to direct more and bigger, I’m personally offended – like a punch to the gut – when I go from studio to studio and see 100% men doing what I was made to do.
It’s a clear message to me that says, “You’re not allowed”.

So, today, this is my letter to us, as 50% of the human population, but mostly, it’s a pep talk for myself:

Dear women in business,
Here is something I’ve been learning:

Now is the time.

Now it’s about time.
We need to show up at the door of the places we want to be and we need to stop asking permission to be there.
The men don’t ask permission.  They assume it’s their right to be where they want to be. Let’s adopt that sense of privilege.  There is no reason we shouldn’t.
I know for your whole career there has been some room you’ve been told you’re not allowed to enter.
You’re told this by having witnessed that no matter how qualified you are, only men get that job. Year after year, decade after decade.

I understand that after so long of being passed over, you eventually give up trying.  The fight can become so tiring that it stops being worth it.
I’m telling you now that the winds are changing.  The old boys are dying out and the “no girls allowed” clubs are no longer appropriate.
But official policies aren’t good enough anymore.  They’re completely empty without action.
We need to start be bosses – we need to assume we can.  And once we are bosses we need to hire each other as much as we hire men.
We can be our own worst enemies. And it’s not acceptable.
We will never make real, practical change unless we show up without apology, stop asking permission to be there, and work together as stepping stones for each other, toward real opportunities.
Most of us don’t show up for those opportunities, because we think we need to be the best before we even try.  After all, if you become the first female boss in what you do, you’ll bee seen as an ambassador for all women. If you stink, we all stink, right?
Well, look around!  There are all varieties of men who stink at their job and they don’t reflect on all mankind.  They only reflect on themselves.

Their bar isn’t set nearly as high as the one we set for ourselves.

Half of them BS their way into the job and then fumble their way through it until they get good.
So, just go!  Take one step forward with confidence.  Learn.  Compare merit to merit and that is all.
When anyone (men and women) tell you you’re being too bossy or too outspoken or forward, you make that your background music as you pass them by on your walk to success.

When they tell you you’re being paranoid, because this prejudice doesn’t exist, you pity them for the tiny bubble they live in and the small world view they have.

Now be good at what you do, represent yourself, and keep showing up at that door.
We are 50% of the human population and we are qualified.

photo by

Featured Franken

November 11, 2015 by  
Filed under Rachel's Thoughts

Once upon a time there was a beautiful princess who went walking alone in an enchanted forest.
She met a frog who could talk for some reason.
She didn’t question it, because she wasn’t very bright.  The gene pool of the enchanted royal family was embarrassingly small and the princess’ IQ showed it.
The frog said, “If you kiss me, something amazing and magical will happen!”
The princess kissed the frog and immediately she turned into a chicken.
“That’ll teach you to go kissing strangers in the woods.” he said and he hopped away.

Rejected by her royal family, The Princess now needs a  new home.  Will you take her home?

Featured Franken!

November 10, 2015 by  
Filed under Rachel's Thoughts

Who wouldn’t want to receive this little baby cakes for Christmas, Hanukkah or Kwanzaa.

She truly is the rarest animal on earth and the most magical snail monster you’ll ever meet.

Share this blog post if you don’t hate Christmas, ponies and children!


April 28, 2015 by  
Filed under Rachel's Thoughts

I need a hedge hug.

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