This is one of the most exciting leap stories to tell. Because it’s pretty new. And it’s by one of my favourite people. And someone who makes The Leap Stories possible. Domini Marshall is a kindred spirit, a friend, a writer, a film maker and producer of this series. If you enjoy reading these blogs it’s because Dom helped me take this crazy idea and get it live. She weaves magic with Wordpress and Canva and I love her.
Dom and I worked together a few years back and really never wanted that relationship to end. We gradually took our own leaps and in time found a way back to each other. I’m consistently inspired by her intellect, sensitivity, work ethic and wide eyed wonder. Dom gets stuff done with grace and calm, even under intense pressure.
Dom is in her mid twenties. I’m in my mid forties. We are like minded feminists. We adore the written word. We love treats. She’s one of the few people who can match the intensity of my hugs – if you saw us saying hello you might think we were ready to wrestle each other to the ground. She wears lots of black and doesn’t own trousers. She is the leaper I wish I had been two decades ago. I really hope you enjoy reading this story as much I love Dom. Then we all win. x
What did you want to be when you grew up and why?
When I was twelve, we had to answer this question for our primary school Year 7 graduation book. This is what I wrote:
When I grow up I want to be an actress, a writer, a lawyer and a dancer.
I think you can tell from my answer that I didn’t want to be limited to just one thing. While I’ve always loved dancing and took dance classes throughout high school, sadly I don’t have the body or the flexibility to be a dancer (I can’t even cartwheel), but I loved it all the same. The lawyer was the competitor in me and I think that part largely came from the wish to please my dad however I knew it was never really a calling. Throughout high school I secretly believed I would become an actress and head off to a wonderfully creative and inspiring drama school like the ones I’d seen in the movies. When I finished school, however, I realised what I’d probably always known – I loved writing much more and that’s what I was best at too. The acting and the writing came from the same place though – the desire to connect with others, to create something from nothing, to imagine up another world and to tell a story.
What did/do you study? (Yes, this question is deliberately vague)
I completed my Bachelor of Arts at the University of Melbourne with a major in Creative Writing and minor in English Literature, then went on to complete my Honours in Creative Writing. My Honours degree was somewhat transformative because I was able to spend a year working on something I felt incredibly passionate about and I absolutely loved it.
Last year I enrolled in a part-time Film and Television Foundations Course at VCA and I wrote and directed my first short film, Purple, at the end of last year. (Ed:Purple has yet to be released, but here’s another film Domini made in one day as part of her course).
I also study relationships and people each and every day through social media, the news, film, books and my own personal relationships and this inspires my short stories, screenplays and written work.
What has been your most scary/courageous leap you’ve ever made (preferably in your business/career/life direction)?
I left my full-time job (and regular pay check and financial security) to focus on my own creative pursuits in September last year and start my freelance business. At the time (and still now), while it was scary, it also felt completely right. I wanted so much to be able to give my all to the short film I was working on and I wanted to make time for the things that were important to me. Because I knew if I didn’t do it, no one else would.
What were you doing before you made your leap?
I was working full-time as the Content and Social Media Coordinator at kikki.K. I had been with the company for nearly five years and it was definitely a sad decision to leave, but one that felt totally right. I was also attending class two nights a week and on weekends as part of the VCA Film and Television Course and balancing work and study with a little freelance work and the usual life commitments.
Who have been the biggest 3 – 5 influences in your life, in terms of your career and doing work?
Number one is, hands down, my mum. She is an artist, resolutely creative and so very generous. Throughout my life she has always quietly let me make my own decisions when it came to my career but always supported my writing and it was she, who believed from the very start, that I would be a writer. She is my favourite critic. I send her drafts of short fiction and screenplays and I always receive the most insightful responses. She has always encouraged creativity and she understood, without a doubt, the need for me to leave my job to pursue what made me happy. Her self-awareness and insight influences the work I do and, not only has she supported me financially in times of need, but she continues to support me creatively and emotionally. She’s literally the best.
The second influence is, broadly speaking, teachers. There have been a number of teachers throughout my high school and university years and beyond, who have made a significant impact on my desire to learn and grow. They may not remember me but I will always remember them. Among them is Roland Leach, Shaun Murphy and Kathy Gecan, at university it was Tony Birch and my Honours supervisor Claire Thomas, and beyond that it’s been you, Kylie, and many countless other inspirations.
Outside of that, women inspire and influence me daily. Well-known women such as Patti Smith, Joan Didion, Clementine Ford and women who I’ve met along the way – incredible women who aren’t afraid to own their story and fight for what’s right. A lot of my work focuses on women and their stories and it’s been women, themselves, who have inspired that.
What did you have in place before you made the leap?
Honestly, not much. But it didn’t matter and it really wasn’t something I gave a lot of thought to. I had zero savings but I had determination and passion to make it work. I had a supportive family, partner and friends who would be there for me if I needed to cry my eyes out on one (or multiple) nights. I had a little freelance work lined up and I had a growing network that I had made through my time working at kikki.K and in the lead up to leaving. I was also starting to work (in pre-production) on my short film and I knew that, if anything, the desire to create something I was proud of, would propel me to find work and the funds to continue.
I also knew that if I had to get a casual job working a couple of days in retail or hospitality then I would (and I have). This work allows me to make the right choices driven by passion and love, not by money. It’s a way to allow me to work creatively and a job that doesn’t consume my days. For me, that’s a step forward, not a step back.
What was your defining ‘I can’t do this anymore’ moment that lead you to the leap?
Enrolling into the VCA Film and Television course at the beginning of the year was one of the best decisions I made. I suddenly remembered how much I loved learning. It reignited my faith in my ability to write and my capacity for creativity and it inspired me to put those things first.
I found, while I enjoyed my job and I adored the people I worked with, it didn’t give me the time or space to do the things I truly loved. I was writing and being creative, but in a different way and it wasn’t fulfilling me the way I knew working on my own creative projects would. I was terrified that if I stayed in this 9-5:30 job working on someone else’s dream I would forget how to write for myself. I didn’t want to wake up in ten years and think I could have done what made me happy but I was too scared. And I was sick of this dread that niggled away at my days – when was I ever going to have the time to write my stories? How would I ever be able to support myself financially from my creative work? (I’m still asking this one) What if it’s too late?
For me, it wasn’t one key moment but a gradual building up of this sense of feeling trapped. After a few months of that growing unease, I just thought, what am I doing? Why am I holding onto something that’s making me unhappy? And, that was that. I think it was easier making the leap because I was working on something creative at the time that was really important to me. If I hadn’t of had that, I can imagine I would have doubted my ability to make it work. The film was what helped me make the leap. I didn’t want to look back on the year and regret not giving my all to the project.
How did/do you overcome/work with the fear that comes with leaping? How do you decide to choose courage?
The only way to work with the fear is to trust you have something to offer. You have to trust in your own ability to do the work you want to do.
[Tweet “The only way to work with the fear is trust you have something to offer. – Domini Marshall”]
I also think you can either let that fear be stifling or you can let it be motivating. It’s a choice, but it’s not a fixed choice. It can change every day – sometimes it might be too much, and in those days you might need to take a little break and remind yourself of what you love and why you love it. Other days it will propel you forward with energy and inspiration and on those days you just go with it and make the most of it.
There are endless ways to live your life, but you have to find the way that works for you. If being courageous and taking a risk means pursuing what you love, then the only thing standing in your way is yourself. I believe, deep down, you know whether something’s right or not, whether in your career, relationships or even health, so it comes down to deciding whether you’re willing to live with that sense of disconnection or move past it. Moving past it is way more fun.
What other leaps have you made in the past?
When I was 18 and had just finished high school I was desperate to travel so I flew to Europe and spent nearly four months travelling on my own. This had its scary moments and plenty of crazy good moments and I grew a lot during those months. Moving to Melbourne when I was 19 was another big leap. I’d never visited Melbourne before and I didn’t know anyone here, but I felt like it was the place I needed to be.
I also think putting creative work out into the world requires it’s own little leaps, at least for me. I feel like my personal creative work (short fiction and films) are little pieces of me and it can be scary to put them out there with the risk of someone hating it or a publisher rejecting it. You learn to move past it though and you learn whose opinions and feedback you value and take on board. Plus, the possibility of someone connecting with the work far outweighs the risk of rejection.
How would you rate your level of happiness about making your leap? 1 being sad, 10 being rad.
10. I’m not exaggerating at all. I’m not saying it’s been easy, because it’s been hard. I work a lot and right now, I’m pretty tired and, of course, there’s been moments of intense stress because making a film costs money and I didn’t always know where or when my pay was coming from, but I don’t regret a thing. Even when it’s hard, if you love it, it’s worth it.
What’s the biggest upside to making the leap?
There have been many upsides. Embracing and falling in love with new projects, learning more about myself, meeting and working with amazing people. Discovering how much I love making film has been really wonderful and talking to people about how they’ve connected to my own short film was incredibly rewarding. Just being able to spend time on the things I love and see where creative projects can go, has probably been the biggest upside.
What’s the biggest downside to making the leap?
I’m still in the earlier stages of having made a change, it hasn’t yet been a year since leaving full-time work! So, right now, the finance side of running my own business is stressful, and that is, in part, due to the nature of working freelance. I don’t always know how much I’ll make each month, although steady, monthly clients make this a lot easier and I’m enjoying building up a client base of people and brands that I really love working with. I think I’m also someone who wants to do everything at once and it can be hard deciding what to prioritise and juggling so many projects. Sometimes I have to remind myself that some things can wait in order to be able to do other, more important things.
What might be your next leap?
I’m not entirely sure. I have so many things I’d like to start! I’d like to write and direct another short film very soon. I’d like to start a documentary series. I want to write a novel. I’m very interested in women’s stories and I want to find ways to ignite change and work towards gender equality. I think there’s a few leaps in there.
What are your favourite words to live by?
These two quotes I always come back to again and again.
Where I create, there I am true.
Rainer Maria Rilke
Be daring, be different, be impractical, be anything that will assert integrity of purpose and imaginative vision against the play-it-safers, the creatures of the commonplace, the slaves of the ordinary.
Who do you admire who also made the leap?
You, Kylie! You are a daily inspiration. My bestie, Molly Herben (an incredibly creative and seriously charming woman who just gets me) who made the leap to start her own shoe label, MOLITOMOON, and recently made another leap to gain commercial experience as a shoe designer for a well known Australian retailer. My partner, Lincoln, for taking the leap to start his own business. My brother is about to take a leap and move to Sydney for a new job. My sisters have taken big leaps in their careers, embracing change with courage and determination. Everyone I know has taken a leap in some way or another. We’re all inspirations to each other.
A piece of advice for someone with an itch to leap?
You might never feel like you’re ‘ready’ to take a leap. If it’s niggling away at you though, not taking a leap, and staying where you are, will become harder and harder. Thinking about it in this way helped me: Imagine yourself in five years having made the leap. What does your life look like? How do you feel?
Now, imagine yourself in five years having not made the leap. What’s the difference? If the second image scares you, if that picture makes you feel sad or anxious, then make a change now. I think living with regret is so much worse than trying and failing. So, really, in a way it’s much scarier to not take the leap. You’ll always have a way to go back, although I doubt you’ll ever want to.
Right now I’m:
Hearing: The slight hum of the heater and the rain outside
Eating: Fruit toast
Reading: The Gathering by Anne Enright
Loving: Film making
I wish I could have been so wise and gutsy in my 20s. I was too concerned about ‘making it’, about what everyone else thought and about being ‘normal’ to really listen to my heart. I jumped at opportunities (none of which I regret) instead of harvesting space for the quiet voice inside to be courageous enough to be taken seriously. I hope Dom’s story inspires you to listen to yours.
For more information about beautifully wholehearted Dom, please visit her website: dominimarshall.com
P.S. Dom also produced our Content Kin video which we think turned out pretty damn good. Check it below. Make sure you’re subscribed to hear first about our upcoming workshop dates. xx