Susanne Preissler – Using Creativity to Cut Through the Noise

How the founder of Independent Media used out-of-the-box thinking to build an award-winning production company that stands out from the rest.

Susanne Preissler_Independent Media

When Susanne Preissler founded Independent Media (IM) 15 years ago, her goal was to work with directors who were dedicated to cutting through the noise by thinking outside the box. She also wanted to bring a diverse range of talent to the marketplace, while delivering consistent results of the very best quality.

Today, IM manages the careers of a number of award-winning directors who have been featured at the Emmy Awards, Golden Globes, BAFTAs and the Academy Awards. IM prides itself on nurturing great ideas that translate into enthralling stories on screen, with their work ranging from brand integrated content to feature-length films.

We sat down with Susanne to find out more about her entrepreneurial journey and her future aspirations.

Tell us about your work. What inspired you to start your business? Where did you start and where are you now?

I started Independent Media because I saw a need in the advertising marketplace for directors (and producers) who think ‘out of the box’.  I also just loved movies. While it might not seem all that novel today, when IM first started we were the only ‘standalone’ production company that had a roster comprised exclusively of feature film directors.

I’m proud of IM’s track record.  On the one hand, we introduced incredible directors to advertising for the first time, like Alfonso Cuaron, Sydney Pollack, Chris Smith, Scott Hicks, Kathryn Bigelow, Doug Liman, and Anthony Minghella. But to be clear, IM was never a vanity project, with a bunch of fancy names on a roster. IM really did the work and was able to offer a diverse range of talent while always delivering consistent results (and awards) for our advertiser and ad agency partners.    

IM continues to collaborate with extraordinary feature film directors and we have seen the roster grow. We have also opened up our original business model to include even more diversity and breadth of experience. Cinematographers, writers, television creators: talents that were making an impact in this new landscape.

What do you see for your future?

A big thing for me is not selling out or passing the buck, while also keeping the quality.  

The future is about cutting through the “noise”.  So more than ever, it’s about “thinking outside the box”.

Everyone is pushing “alternatives”, new models and theories – it’s the Wild West. Agencies and clients are going in-house, production companies are going client-direct, and cost consultants are calling creative shots. The trust between a client and agency, and the trust between an agency and a production company is waning. Everyone is forgetting what this industry was built on: relationships.

What did you eat for breakfast?

I keep it simple: oatmeal, a boiled egg….and no coffee (love the flavor but hate the effect).  

What’s your workout?

I love to do plate work and spinning, and I just got back into yoga which is a blast.  It’s all a far cry from running track back when I was in school though.  Any exercise is an important part of having the energy I need to get through the workday.  

What gets in YOUR WAY? What’s the one thing you’d like other female founders to know about overcoming that? 

Gossip can get in the way – it tends to be mean-spirited and rarely holds any truth.  The best way to overcome it is to remain steadfast. When clients see your hard work and integrity firsthand, it’s pretty easy for them to see through the chatter.

What’s your favorite tech tool today–a must have app, platform or software that helps you run the firm?

My favorite tech tool is the not-so-new telephone. There is no substitute for talking directly to someone.  While text messages and emails are an important part of our everyday culture, I like hearing someone’s voice as it gives you a greater understanding of what they want and need.  It just makes producers better producers as they hone in on their people skills and get to understand the players involved.

As far as apps go, I still love Vivino, Scannable and a few others.

What would you say is your “entrepreneurial superpower?”

Tireless hard work (even when I’m tired).  There are no shortcuts.

Who is the entrepreneur you admire most right now? Why does s/he inspire you?

In general, I think the term ‘success’ needs to be updated for this century. There are a lot of under-recognized people all around us who work hard and who genuinely contribute to the world we live in. I wish our society did a better job of recognizing—and respecting—everyday people who make a difference.

What the best advice you ever got, and from whom?

My mom.  She told me to do something that I enjoyed and that the world is your oyster.

In this article