More Than A Mom: How We Made Being Partners Work

The following is a guest post by Paige McKenzie. Her bio follows.

It’s hard enough to explain to people what I do for a living but the moment I add in that I also work with my mother, the confused looks multiply. The short version of the story is that way back in 2010, when I was 16 years old and still in high school, my mom and I started a film and television production company together. Along with a writer/director friend of ours, Nick Hagen, Coat Tale Productions was born. So basically, for about a third of my life, I have been working with my mom. She’s not my boss. I’m not her boss. We’re partners. What is that annoying phrase? “Separate but equal”. That is us!

In The Beginning . . .

I can still remember my mom reading me the original email that Nick sent about this concept of doing a YouTube channel all about a girl moving into a haunted house. Originally, his idea included a mother, father and little brother. I knew he was right about You Tube being the next platform to tell a story on. Even though it really wasn’t something that was being done. Heck, it’s still not really being done. But I also knew I wanted it to be just Mom and I. Forget the concept of ‘family’. We WERE the family.

Part of that was just the logistics of trying to get other actors involved but another big part of it is that mom and I just have a unique relationship that I don’t see displayed in media these days. It’s beyond Gilmore Girls.

We joke that we should have never told people we were related. We should have just said we are producing partners and left it at that. Unfortunately there is such a negative connotation about mothers who manage their children’s careers. Say “Momager” and just watch people cringe! A great example of our team work is that my mom handles my schedule. I work best not knowing ahead of time what events or interviews are coming up. So she tells me at the last minute and I just go in and do my thing. Or for mom, video editing is just not her thing, so I handle that.

This team work extends to the creative process as well. For instance, I named my character Sunshine and mom came up with the show title: The Haunting of Sunshine Girl. It’s a healthy relationship where yes, we are friends but it’s still very much a mother/daughter relationship. I ask her for advice and she has expectations of what I contribute to the family in the way of chores and responsibilities. Just normal stuff that comes from being a part of a family.

More Than Work

There’s an easy flow to our relationship that carries over from our family life into our work world. It probably doesn’t hurt that we love we do. Both of us would choose to be on a film set above anywhere else in the world every day of the week. I’ve known from the beginning that this is not about making me into some sort of star. It’s about telling great stories so that Hollywood will pay attention to us as a team. I just happen to be the face of the team.

And mom is great about knowing what things I need to be pushed to do even though they’re scary and trigger my anxiety and which things just don’t matter. The things like keeping my calendar that don’t help anyone and give me incredible stress. But doing an interview? That’s no problem. It’s part of my job and I know I have to do it so I figure it out. I’ve learned coping mechanisms. In great part because my mom is giving me the wings to figure it out.

It’s actually gotten a lot easier even though we’re busier than when we first started because I’m no longer in school. That was the hardest part, trying to balance going to school and all the normal things that come with that and then working so many hours for essentially no pay. My friends didn’t understand why I didn’t have a normal, typical job. I literally didn’t have time! But we also were careful to make sure that I had all of the regular experiences that I could. I went to prom, I had chores, I had to drive my little sister around!

Still Mom And Daughter

I actually think a big part of the success of the show is the mother-daughter aspect. Everyone wants to have a supportive, hilarious mom like mine. And mothers want a daughter like Sunshine. Many viewers think that mom and I are really similar. But in reality we are actually quite different. We just have a short hand in the way we speak that makes it sound like we are similar.

She’s a lot more outgoing and positive than I am. I am a lot more sarcastic and a more typical artist type. She’s got a marketing brain so she thinks in a much different way about every aspect of our projects. But we basically have our own language. It’s just a lot of movie and TV quotes strung together to have a conversation! We also love that so many parents watch the show with their kids. Watching TV together is one of our favorite pastimes!

Our biggest struggle actually comes when it’s time for us to do a scene where our characters are supposed to argue. We basically totally suck at it. Most of our videos are done in one take. But if it has to include a mother/daughter fight scene, we usually need 4-5 takes to get it even remotely believable. In real life, we just almost always agree. And if we disagree it’s about things like should we have sushi or pasta. Watch Orphan Black or Downtown Abbey? That sort of thing! We always say the concept of Sunshine is Gilmore Girls meets Paranormal Activity. The Gilmore Girls aspect is ALL us!


About Paige McKenzie:

FINAL author photo by Levy Moroshan kate mckenzie

Paige McKenzie is the YouTube star and NYT Bestselling author behind the enormously successful Sunshine Girl series. In 2010, the then sixteen-year-old McKenzie teamed up with producer Nick Hagen and her mother, actress Mercedes Rose, to record an episodic series of paranormal-themed videos, which soon had millions of fans. Signed to The Weinstein Company, McKenzie has been covered by Entertainment Weekly, The Today Show, Seventeen, The New York Times, USA Today, TIME and others. Her YouTube channel today boasts more than 250 million total views, averages 7.5 million unique views per month and maintains more than 500,000 monthly subscribers. McKenzie lives in Portland, Oregon.





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