New OMPA Executive Director Lisa Cicala Thinks We Have A Story To Tell


Lisa Cicala knows a few things about telling stories.

In her most recent position as Senior Producer/Editor for Mercy Corps, she traveled to some of the most difficult parts of the world to document and raise awareness for the non-profit's relief work.

Cicala says that it was satisfying knowing that her videos didn't just communicate the needs of people in the midst of famine and war, but caused her viewers to connect with and ultimately show compassion for people halfway around the world.

Here, take a minute and watch one.


The production industry also took notice, awarding Cicala and her team with a total of a dozen Telly awards.

The Story of Production in Oregon
Now in her new role as Executive Director of the Oregon Media Producers Association (OMPA), Cicala has a new story to tell. It's about how our local production community is uniquely equipped to fulfill the need for outstanding work in both marketing and entertainment. How the people here are highly skilled and experienced, but at the same time genuinely helpful and collaborative.

It's a story Cicala knows well, having worked her way up through the local production ranks.

A Highly Unlikely Career Launch
She has a great story about how she got into the business. It's also the kind of highly unlikely chain of events that would cause a scriptwriter to say, "I'm sorry. But that's just not believable."

Having just graduated from Syracuse University Film School in the early 2000s, Cicala thought Portland would be a good place to start her career. So she packed up her car and drove out west.

Shortly after arriving, she was driving down MLK Blvd. when she got into a little fender bender. The other driver just happened to be working on an independent feature film and encouraged Cicala to apply for work.

The film's production office just happened to be within walking distance of where Cicala was staying, so she went down and talked to them that day. By the next morning she was working on the set.

(Note to any aspiring producers who happen to be reading this: The above is NOT a good plan for breaking into the business.)

Getting Involved in the OMPA
Like many of us, Cicala had a series of side jobs as she got herself established and eventually made the transition to full-time production work.

But she didn't go it alone.

Early on she joined OMPA, taking advantage of networking opportunities and working to grow the organization. Cicala went on to serve on the OMPA board for six years, contributing to one of the group's most productive eras.

Challenges, Yes. But Huge Opportunities
Now that she's OMPA's Executive Director, Cicala has two audiences for her story of how unique Oregon's production community is.

First, to all of us in the production community she says we need to cherish what makes producing creative content in Oregon unique. It is an incredibly collaborative environment with a wealth of talent. Lean on each other, hire each other, share with each other. Investing your time and resources and work in our community only makes it stronger. 

OMPA works every day on this industry's behalf supporting the community, fostering business, and serving as a primary resource. If you aren't yet a member of OMPA, join. If you are a member, get involved. Take advantage of everything the organization has to offer.

Her second audience is made up of the clients who need our work, locally and out-of-state. Oregon has the skilled crew, the top creative people, and the one-of-a-kind locations to do great work. (We even hear that Portland has a decent soundstage.)

And our legislature has been active in making us a very competitive choice from the bean counter's perspective.

Cicala is also optimistic about the business challenges faced by our community. Production budgets have been shrinking and clients are expecting to do more with less.

But at the same time, the demand for well-produced content is growing. And if we can be nimble and creative about the way we respond to the quickly changing environment, we can grow our business in a new direction.

Cicala believes that collaboration is the key and that the lines between video, software, gaming, and online content will continue to blur. So we need to welcome partnerships with companies that don't normally work together. 

This is the kind of synergy we saw in the big, live-streamed gaming event for Cozmo.

We like to kid Cicala about her highly unlikely story of getting into the business. But it really illustrates what's great about working locally in our industry. If you use your networking opportunities and you show up prepared, you're going to get work.

So congratulations to Lisa Cicala on her new position. Let's all work together to make her vision for our community a reality.