With 20 years of experience in the film industry, Virginia Pearce is the film commissioner for the state of Utah and has been since 2014. She works closely with the Governor’s Office of Economic Development and the Office of Tourism, and has grown the state’s reputation as a leading filmmaking destination. She came to the film commission with a goal of increasing production, specifically bringing television series to the state to ensure sustainable growth for Utah’s industry. Under her leadership, major networks such as, ABC, HBO, Disney Channel and Paramount, have brought TV series to Utah, creating an economic impact of almost $100 million.
Virginia is a Utah native, loves to ski and attend Sundance Film Festival. After getting a journalism degree and working all over the country, she became the managing director of Sundance Institute, where she worked for 13 years before taking over as director of the Utah Film Commission.
We found out the brave steps she took to land this career, and how she is inspiring others in the film industry with her progressive perspective.
What do you consider your greatest achievement professionally?
I think I’m still working toward that. I have loved all of my career choices (even the jobs I didn’t love) for what they have taught me and continually look forward to what may be next. Stay tuned…
What inspires you to get out of bed every day? In other words, what's your "why"?
Most days, my pets and kids make me get out of bed! I have no choice! And maybe that’s the why too. I feel the need to set a good example for those in my life, by motivating yourself to do what makes you happy.
When you started your career, what type of guidance do you wish you had? Have you had opportunities to share what you learned along the way?
We were of the generation where we had to “put the time in”, had to earn our place, take our time, etc. That has value, but I’ve learned that women test the waters a lot more than men do and we should all be better at jumping in. I speak to a lot of school groups and also work with YWCA’s mentorship program, which I love.
What can other generations of women learn most from your generation of women?
I look at my daughter, who is 14, with awe and inspiration. She and her friends are already fearless and know their rights and abilities much better than we all did. I try to pass tips along the way, have confidence, believe in yourself, you can do more than you think you can, but honestly I think I learn just as much from them as they do from me.
How do you approach the unknown?
I love to travel, love what’s new – I always have. There is something incredibly exciting about “what’s around the corner”.
What are some of the influential books that changed your life, and why?
I am a big reader, so not sure I can pick just one, but can name a few this past year that have definitely had an impact. The Last Cowboys, about the Wright family in Southern Utah gave me a new perspective on ranchers and how hard that life is; Good Morning, Midnight was a beautifully written, quiet look at two individuals – in space and on the Arctic – both having similar experiences; and Becoming, by Michelle Obama made me love her even more than ever!
Was there ever a role you applied for and landed, but weren't 100% qualified to do? How did you proceed?
My current job! While I have worked in film for many years, I had never had direct production experience, nor ever worked in State Government. I definitely questioned my ability to do this job before I applied. Once here, I realized again, that we all can do much more than we give ourselves credit for, and that past experiences and jobs all help us get where we’re going. I took it one day at a time, and did a LOT of extra time in, reading and researching as much as I could about the industry.
What is your greatest fear?
The loss of my loved ones.
Who are your heroes in real life?
My parents, my husband, Michelle Obama. ☺
What is your motto?
Do what you say you’re going to do. Mean it.