New Influencers


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On September 18, 2015, the world will join Emmy-nominated filmmaker Tiffany Shlain for Character Day- a day of thousands of events around the globe where people will simultaneously premiere short powerful and entertaining films, dive into resources from scientists, educators and media experts, and join an online Google Hangout exploring how to live meaningful, successful and purposeful lives in today’s 24/7 world. This event marks one of the dynamic and intricate ways Tiffany continues to capture and captivate her audience with meaningful observations, guidance, and conversations about how life in the technical world can be alive, innovative, purposeful, and grateful. Through the observance of a “Technical Shabbat” each Friday with her family and friends (where all technology is shut down for 24 hours), Tiffany has learned the deepest appreciation for her loved ones and the value of “turning off” to spark creativity and enlightenment. We talk to Tiffany about her curiosity and inspiration, and offer you the opportunity to shut down your computer (of course, after this article) and join in this deeply, profound movement.


1. What were you like as a child- Who are you today?

When I was young, my mother used to call me Miss Enthusi-usi-usi-asm. Today, I would say I am still very enthusiastic but with a handful of perspective and self-control and a lot of gratitude.

2.Describe your life’s work. What is your personal measuring stick for success?

Being a present and loving mother, wife, daughter, sister, friend and engaging people in important and often complicated ideas in interesting ways that will make them think, feel, laugh and then understand more deeply.


3.In 2011 you produced Connected: An Autoblogography About Love, Death, & Technology, a film dedicated to your father. How did your father influence this film and you as a filmmaker ?

If you would have seen my father Leonard Shlain give talks you would understand how much I am his daughter. His talks were so visual with powerful still images to amplify his ideas- but this was before the time you could have videos play in talks-or he would have had those. It was like he was doing a live narrative of a very interesting film. My films and talks are definitely jumping off from that soil. My mother, Carole Lewis, a psychologist also plays a big part in my work. Where my father focused on the intersections of art & science, and all his work delves deeply into neuroscience from his work as a surgeon, my mother has taught me a lot about the different ideas about why people are who they are –so in many ways my work is the fusion of their influences.

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4. You created The Webby Awards, how did you become an internet pioneer? How do you stay current with technology with a full-time business and two young daughters?

To answer the first part of your question, curiosity and hard work. Those two things together can make anything happen.

In terms of staying current with technology with a full-time business and two young daughters–The answer would definitely be that my husband, daughters and I take a full day off a week from all screens for what we call our “Technology Shabbats,” which we have done for the past 5 years. That has given me a sense of balance and productivity that I wouldn’t have had otherwise.

In terms of staying current, I am a very curious person…and so is Ken and our children…my husband Ken is a professor of Robotics at UC Berkeley and an artist. We all are bringing things into the house that we find interesting and that we want to investigate..whether it’s interesting new technologies from his lab or other places.  And we always invite interesting people doing interesting things over for dinner. That all keeps life interesting and current.

5.As a filmmaker, your personal goal is to start a conversation and/ or trigger a movement… With Character Day (a global cloud premiere on September 18th- #Character) you have started the ultimate global conversation where people will tune in together from their home or screening location to engage in a world discussion with their own community. Tell us more.

Right now we are putting the finishing touches on two new films (a.k.a working til very late at night and getting up very early.) On Sept 18th, there will be over 5500 screenings in 41 countries in schools, classrooms and orgs showing our 2 new 10 minute films “The Adaptable Mind” & “The Making of a Mensch” or our film “The Science of Character” and having discussions around living with meaning and purpose in the 21st century. If you are reading this, I hope you will join us. It’s all generously underwritten by grants and no cost to anyone. There will be free discussion kits and a global google hangout to unify all the screenings. You can find out more info here.

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6. Each Friday night your family honors a  “technical shabbat”, how did you make this happen? How has this made you more present as a parent and as a creative? Describe what this 24-hours unplugged looks like.

The technology shabbats happened because I was feeling like life was happening too fast – I had just lost my father to brain cancer and was thinking deeply about how you don’t know how long you have on this earth, and you need to be present with the people that you love. It’s been the best thing we have ever done. It is literally our favorite day of the week. We always make a big feast and invite people over and we usually go around the table and ask these 4 questions to everyone. What are you grateful for? What was one thing that happened in the last week you want to let go of? What was one thing you learned in the past week? What is one thing happening next week that you are looking forward to?

7. Your father introduced you to the love of your life, your husband Ken- with your kids being the ultimate collaboration, how else have you brought your passions, interests, and disciplines together? How do you define love?

I feel lucky and grateful to have met Ken so early in life. We have spent 18 years living a very full life together, co-writing films, traveling, raising our daughters, and he always makes me laugh…even through the hard times.  That is probably the most important one. We find the same things funny and he always writes and says things that I find hilarious…so my definition of love as growing together forward…while laughing til you cry.


8. Name a whiplash moment-something in your life that made you go 180 degrees?

Losing my father.

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9. So many people dream of being filmmakers, what is it about you that has made your dreams come true? What advice would you give for someone following in your footsteps?

Finding your unique voice, do your research, work with great people, work hard, always take breaks (see #4), and always write handwritten thank you notes. 

10. That signature red lip, tell us where can we find it?

In the spring/summer I go bright red Ruby Woo (by MAC) all the way until the light changes in the fall/winter, then I go deeper to Diva Red also by MAC. So basically, MAC has colored my lips for over 2 decades ;)


To see more of Tiffany, find her at @tiffanyshlain on twitter and facebook is here

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One thought on “Tiffany Shlain

  1. You are such an inspiration to women everywhere. I want to be that to my son who is autistic. I always want him to see me as his hero.

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