The Heroine’s Journey of Amber Hollinger

What is the best thing that I love about my work?  Creating television and movies is a constant state of problem solving. There’s this marriage of cerebral and emotional responses when searching for the best way to tell a story. The more I do it, the more I love it. Structure, pacing, tone, exposition, and investable characters go through several iterations before landing on what will eventually be seen by audiences. Storytelling isn’t an exact science, it’s something that benefits from a person’s unique point of view. I’m always looking to grow as a filmmaker and filter the content through my individual lens. Directing provides the opportunity to challenge my abilities and improve on a daily basis.

What is my idea of happiness?  In my career, there’s nothing like getting into that zone when you’re so focused you can’t sleep or eat, or do anything but pour your heart and soul into the work. Eventually you come up for air and you have this thing that didn’t exist before… The connection and pride I feel from creating brings me immense joy.  In my personal life, it’s balancing quiet time for myself to recharge and invest in something other than work, as well as spending time with my loved ones. I’m fortunate to have a great support system through family and friends. It’s particularly special when all my kids are home and we watch old episodes of Scooby Doo together. We wait for the “chase song” of the episode and crack up when Scooby and Shaggy get in costumes to trick the monster and then sneak away. It never gets old. 

What is my greatest fear? As a mom, my greatest fear is something happening to my children. Their physical and emotional well being is the most important thing in my world. As an artist, despite my long career, there’s still a fear of not being good enough. Whenever a job ends, there’s always a moment of panic, like, “OHMIGOSH, WHAT AM I GOING TO DO NOW?? I’M NEVER GOING TO WORK AGAIN!” People judging the execution of your own point of view can leave you feeling vulnerable and exposed. But oddly enough, I do not fear failure. I would rather take a risk, try something and fail, than wonder “What if…?” I fear what would happen if I didn’t try. 

What is the trait that I most deplore in myself?  My zodiac sign is Scorpio. Now, I’m not saying I believe the month you’re born dictates your personality, but I can’t ignore the similarities astrologists have assigned to the Scorpio sign to the traits I possess. Scorpios, as a rule of thumb, are intense. While I believe I have a lot of admirable qualities, I can also be insecure, competitive, and nurture fantasies of revenge. I put a good deal of effort into minimizing these feelings… but it’s still a work in progress. 

Which living persons in my profession do i most admire.  I can’t pick just one, so I’ll give you a top five I think are insanely brilliant.                                          

1) Phil Lord and Chris Miller (The Mitchells vs the Machines, the Lego Movie, Into the Spiderverse, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, The After Party, 21 Jump Street). I love everything Phil and Chris do. Into the Spiderverse broke my brain. I spent every second of that film with my mouth agape… it’s superior in both visual and written language. A near perfect film.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   

2) Trey Parker and Matt Stone (co-creators of South Park and Book of Mormon). The reigning kings of satire, Trey and Matt continue to deliver commentary on the most controversial topics in our society today, made palatable through the delivery of four third graders.                                                                                                                               

3) Christian Linke and Alex Yee (co-creators of Arcane: League of Legends, the animated Netflix exclusive based off the Riot Game). Visually groundbreaking and thrilling… just really well executed long format series work. I give a lot of credit to Arcane for helping to make animated consumption for adults more mainstream.                                          

4) Mike McMahon (creator of Star Trek: Lower Decks, writer & Executive Producer at Rick and Morty, co-creator Solar Opposites). All top notch adult animated series that not only have comedy chops, but contain surprising moments of emotional depth.                                                                                                                                                                

5) Dan Povenmire (Creator of Disney’s Phineas and Ferb, Hamster and Gretel). Dan is an octo-threat. He writes, boards, directs, composes, plays instruments, sings, produces, and is a tik tok star. I mean, it’s kinda annoying. 

What is my greatest extravagance? Massage therapy. It’s quite common for people who work in animation to suffer from poor circulation, and back, neck, and shoulder pain. Massage helps with both physical and mental well being. Getting regular body work feels like I’m being royally spoiled. 

On what occasion would I lie? If it’s not an issue of morality and nothing is to be gained by telling a truth that could be hurtful to another person,  I would refrain from adding my commentary. I believe most people value honesty, and I think most of the time there’s a way of phrasing information with kindness that negates the need for lying.  

What is the thing that I dislike the most in my work? The long hours. Demanding deadlines coupled with personal pride in the product has most artists clocking out way later than they should. Burn out in this industry is a very real thing, so one has to self monitor and know when their well being is at risk. 

When and where was I the happiest, in my work? This is going to sound like a pageant reply, but my happiness IS IN the work. It doesn’t matter what studio or what project. I get to spend each day creating a new world, a new story. That makes me incredibly happy. I still pinch myself that someone pays me to do something I’d be doing anyway. 

If I could, what would I change about myself? I would be less hard on myself. As a single mom, I put a lot of pressure on myself to succeed. Success means I can pay the bills and take care of my kids. It creates a drive to be perfect, and there is no perfect. 

What is my greatest achievement in work? Winning an Emmy for Best Directing. 

Where would I most like to live? Someplace by the beach. I grew up at the beach, so the sand and waves always feel like home. 

What is my most treasured possession? My desktop Mac. It allows me to create my art, it stores my memories captured in photos, it allows me to communicate with people all over the world, I can look up any piece of information, and it feeds me the latest hot gossip. 

What is my most marked characteristic? Probably my unrestrained, dorky laugh (complete with overbite) and long Darryl Hannah-like mermaid hair. 

What is my most inspirational location, in my city? Central Park. It’s where summer concerts are played. It’s where families watch their kid’s soccer and baseball games. It’s where the community gathers in a tragedy. It’s where bored kids get out energy and residents power walk and ride bikes. 

What is my favorite place to eat and drink, in my city? There’s a place called “Salt Creek Grill”. It’s got a cool, laid back vibe, an outdoor seating area with bistro lights, a “light” menu to accommodate LA types like me, and a popular bar on one side of the restaurant. I live in a city where family is the focus, so it’s nice to have a place that’s more for adults to hang and chill. 

What books influenced my life and how? I recently got turned on to the book “Never Split the Difference” by Chris Voss. It’s about the art of negotiating, written by a real-life retired hostage negotiator. Boiled down, it’s the art of communication and reading the room, which are great skills to possess regardless of who you are or what you do for a living. It’s a book I know I will revisit from time to time to bolster my confidence in conversation.

You Only Die Once. What music would I listen on my last day? 80s tunes. That decade is like a cake made up of happy synthesized music, frosted in heavy metal, and sprinkled with angsty emo progressive rock.  I mean, everyone knows girls just wanna have fun. 

Who is my hero or heroine in fiction? I really resonated with Patrick Swayze’s character Dalton in “Road House”. I saw this movie as a young girl and for whatever reason, the rules by which I decided to handle conflict in my life, happened to parallel those of a black belt bar bouncer with a history of involuntary manslaughter. After Patrick it would have to be Cary Elwes’s character Wesley from “The Princess Bride”. His undying love and loyalty to Buttercup matched with his intellect, wit, fighting skills, and dreamy blue eyes, created a high bar for any man to live up to. And. I. Am. Here. For. It. 

Who are my heroes and heroines in real life? I have some remarkable women in both my family and group of girlfriends. These women are here for each other during challenges, celebrations, and the plain ridiculousness of everyday life. I look up to each one and value the unique gifts they bring to the table. 

Which movie would i recommend to see once in a lifetime? Schindler’s List (director, Steven Spielberg). I’ve only seen it once because it’s so gut-wrenchingly upsetting… but man, is it a powerful piece of film directed within an inch of its life. 

What role play stories in my life and work? Professional storytellers are a lot like stand up comedians…  you start looking at the world around you as material. The person ahead of you in line at the grocery store oversharing about their pets could inspire your next annoying neighbour character. I’ve been known to steal stories my kids tell at the dinner table and write them into my shows. 

What do the words ‘You are the storyteller of your own life’ to me? We each have agency and choice in life. Controlling your own narrative is an act of empowerment.

Who is my greatest fan, sponsor, partner in crime? My parents are my biggest fans (and maybe also my biggest critics), but I’m lucky to have wonderful, supportive friends too. 

Which people or companies would I like to work with in 2023. I’m obsessed with everything Phil Lord and Christ Miller do. I’d fetch their coffee just to be in the room and listen to their process.           Dan Povenmire is on fire this year and his shows are always so fun to be part of (I directed on his series, Hamster and Gretel). I wouldn’t hate teaming up with him again.           I’m very interested in directing a feature in the near future… As with most projects, for me it’s less about the studio and more about the crew. A Studio that gives you the freedom to create your vision, and then gives you the crew to execute it, is the dream.                                                                                                                                         I’ve worked for almost every major player in the animation industry except Dreamworks. Someday I’d like to check that box.

What project, in 2023, am I looking forward to work on? I’m currently Supervising Director for a new Netflix exclusive miniseries. It’s my first time in this role and I’m soaking up every minute of it.

Where can you see me or my work in 2023? You can see episodes of “Stillwater” I directed on AppleTV+ and episodes of “Hamster and Gretel” I directed on the Disney Channel. You can check out my podcast, “Film Fight”, a film analysis podcast where me and my co-hosts match two movies of similar plot and genre to see which one is better and why, Listen on Podbean and all your favourite podcast platforms.

What do the words “Passion Never Retires” mean to me? Real passion doesn’t fade. It motivates you to get out of bed each day. For me, the desire to create never goes away… an artist isn’t happy unless they’re making art. 

Which creative professionals should Peter invite to tell their story? Jill Calhoun (8 time Emmy nominated editor), Karina Gazizova (director and board artist), and Melissa Suber (director, board artist, fine art painter).

 Amber Hollinger Links to Share: 

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