This is not so much a new career path as it is a parallel path to my current career as an entertainment publicist. After graduating from high school, I went to the University of Southern California where I completed dual bachelor’s degrees; one in International Relations and another in French. I’ve always had an affinity for foreign languages and after studying in Paris and working in France during short stints, plus being able to travel to France for the Cannes Film Festival or MIP COM with my TV clients, I was able to master the language and achieved near native fluency in both writing and speaking. So, when in 2019, a friend of mine in Paris reached out asking for my help to give some tours of Los Angeles to his French speaking clients at his new, growing travel group, I jumped at the chance! What started out as an opportunity to help out my friend, has turned into a busy, fun and lucrative side hustle now that travel has once again returned following two years of no travel during the pandemic. While it is far from a full-time job, it’s been steady and most of all, fun!
Congratulations on your new career as a tour guide, can you tell us more about that project and what it means to you?
I’ve always been insanely curious about the city I live in and have read countless books on or watched 100s of videos on the history, creation and growth of the city. Armed with this knowledge, coupled with my work as a publicist and knowing about film and TV history as well, I was perfectly positioned to take on this new and exciting side hustle as a private tour guide. And thanks to my fluency in French, I can help French families who come to spend their precious vacation days with us here in LA to discover some of the hidden gems of LA and to hopefully leave with an even better impression of this internationally recognized and loved city. It was always my goal to be able to help people be it by promoting their new films and securing print pages or TV time for their work, or in this case helping families to discover a side of Los Angeles they may not have known or understood from the movies or TV shows they’ve watched all their lives. It’s strangely rewarding and seeing the smiles on the faces of these families as they see the Hollywood sign or the Beverly Wilshire Hotel (aka, the Pretty Woman Hotel) for the first time is worth all the champagne in France.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started the tour guide work?
A few weeks ago, I had a lovely family visiting from France, from the eastern part, near Chamonix. A mother, father and their 8-year-old son. From the moment I picked them up at their hotel in Santa Monica, the mother began badgering the husband from the back seat to take more pictures. And she never stopped till the very end. We would be driving down past a long line of houses, with lots of traffic, in Pacific Palisades and she’s even excited to take a photo of that! TO which the husband would curtly reply, of what exactly? Of that unique tree, house, American truck, lamp post, motorcycle. After an hour or two of this, the husband grew very tired of her constant pushing and offered to let her sit in the front so she could take the photos instead of him. It didn’t matter if there was glare from the windows or cars in the way, the expectation was for the dad to take the photos and take them with speed and resolve. The arguing got pretty heated at times, despite the sweet names they kept calling each other sarcastically back and forth. At one point, after several hours of this and after an especially heated exchange about the lack of photos being taken by the dad up front, the young son finally expressed his frustration over the constant bickering and apologized to me saying his parents were not usually like this… but usually only on vacation. After the parents heard this, they realized they had gone a little too far and apologized. Things relaxed from that point on and we all had a good laugh.
Are you working on any other exciting new projects?
At this time, I am starting to work on a new online PR and social media campaign for a documentary film about famous Soviet Russian film star, Oleg Vidov. His widow, Joan Borsten Vidov, shot the documentary about his life and interviewed over 70 of his contemporaries, directors, stars and colleagues from this life to fill in the question of who Oleg Vidov was beyond the face and the name seen on the big screen. With the film headed to MIP COM in October, the sales agents encouraged her to start an online campaign to harness the passion of the millions of fans her late husband has online. Using a combination of social media posts and online promotions, the goal is to increase the number of views of the trailer and to get comments on the trailer and in social media of fans asking to see the OLEG film on their favorite streaming platform. Much like the “I want my MTV” campaign of the 80s, this campaign is meant to show that Oleg’s fans are still out there and want to see their OLEG back on the screen.
The person I am most grateful for where I am in life is my late French teacher Mrs. Kay Tanny. Her students all called her Madame Tanny, and she was loved by all she instructed and even by those who weren’t her students but who heard about her love of teaching and all she did for her students her entire life. I started studying French my freshman year and was very frustrated the first two years thinking I’d never be able to master the language or achieve the level of proficiency she and the senior students displayed daily when they could carry on speaking in French in front of me. But after a few weeks in my junior year, I had my first dream in French and ran to school early to tell her before classes started for the day.
Excitedly, I told her how I had dreamed in French! She was so happy and excited for me and told me she knew I could do it. She had faith in my abilities and pushed me every day. I ended up graduating as the top Senior in the French club, receiving the Foreign Language department scholarship for language studies as the top student and went on to double major in French and International Relations at USC. At USC I was so far ahead of all the other freshmen that I was placed in third year classes with juniors and seniors who eyed me suspiciously thinking I was somehow a French student posing as an American there for an easy A and to throw off the grade curve. Mme. Tanny’s belief in me and her support over the 4 years I was her student meant everything to me and set me on the path. She taught me that if I applied myself to anything I would and could achieve it. Through hard work and dedication, anything was possible. But it was her friendship after I graduated and continued words of advice and support that I valued above all. Plus the people I was introduced to and the friendships I made because of her are some of the most meaningful and valuable relationships I have ever had and still continue to this day.
From your experience, what are a few ideas that we can use to effectively offer support to others who want to work in the PR/entertainment and/or tour guide industry?
I really feel that the continued hiring of interns during the school year and during the summer to watch, learn and grow in the space is the type of access that is so valuable. One of my hardest yet most rewarding jobs was when I was an entertainment news intern at Reuters Television in Burbank. I worked long hours, for not pay, but learned so much about news gathering, cataloging data, wire services, deadlines, how to set up and get the best shots, where to go when you need something, and the I learned the importance of being organized – always. These types of internships are what the intern makes them, granted, but it’s about the people on site that need to give the intern the opportunity to do good work and not just busy work that they don’t want to do themselves. Everything they had me to from creating a filing system for tapes in the library – this was before everything was digitized- to watching hours and hours of tapes to capture the best one-liners for a compilation reel. The same goes for PR. Encouraging young students to come and pitch in at events, to fill gift bags with the team, the call around to find quotes for an event or premiere and make them feel they are part of the team and that they have a stake in what’s going on gives then a sense of purpose and creates lasting memories.
I am often reminded by interns and first-year graduates who worked for me years in the past and how much they learned and appreciated me taking the time to teach them or that I gave them a chance to do something when they thought they were too green. I love to throw people in the deep end and have them learn on the job while doing. I mean what’s the worst that can happen? They make mistakes? I would never risk an account or anything too important, but if there is an opportunity for the new kid to learn something and feel empowered, I’m all for it. As for the tour guide industry- I was never taught. I provide my clients with the experiences and take them to the places I know I love in LA with the hope they will share in my love. And they always have. When we only have a few hours to spend seeing LA it’s not too hard to tick off the top spots and experiences and leave them with a feeling of understanding the city a little better and hopefully wanting to return to spend even more time in this city of angels. I read up on the city, the spots we are going to go and see and try to provide insight on the who, what, when and why of Hollywood, Beverly Hills, Griffith Park, Santa Monica, Venice Beach canals and beach and the rest. So far so good and rave reviews all around!
Can you please give us your favorite ”Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
As corny as it may sound, I like to follow the mantra of “DO. There is no try.” As spoken by one wise, small, green master, Jedi Yoda from the Star Wars sagas. From an early age I knew that if there was anything I wanted in life, from a new bike, to learn a new language, get into a top university, buy a new car, land a new job, I would have to do it on my own. With both of my parents being immigrants from eastern Europe and not growing up with any family or any safety net or support network, everything fell on me. Even when it came time to go to the university and pay for it, my dad handed me a $20 dollar bill as I was about to move into the dorms on campus. He said, “Well, you decided to go to college, I hope you can pay for it.” And with that, the support of my parents ended there. There was no money for books, clothes, food or schooling. I had no car, cell phone or computer either. SO… I got a full time job at Macy’s, worked 40 hours a week while carrying a full-time load of 16-18 units and forged ahead. Sure, I had to at times take off a semester to save up enough money to go to school the next semester, but that was my choice. And, at Christmas time when I had some really good commission periods I was tempted to buy a car, but I paid for the next semester of classes instead. Why? Because I knew that I needed to finish college and not try and finish college. I was on a mission and nothing else mattered but getting the job done. So thanks Yoda! It worked!
How can our readers follow you online?
I am on Twitter at @PhillipNakov, on IG I’m @VoyagerOne and on YouTube I’m Phillip Nakov – Knock-off Productions.
If anyone wants to book a tour of Los Angeles, French speaking or English speaking- they can go to the FindMyGuides.com website and ask for me by name! The president of the company Find My Guides, Lauderic Albertini, who is based in Barcelona, Spain, has been really supportive of my efforts with their clients here in LA and has been a tremendous help. The travel and tourism industry has come roaring back after a two-year hiatus due to the Covid pandemic and requests for guides in LA this summer has been incredible! So if you, or someone you know, might have a French-speaking friend needing a tour of LA, book in advance!
You have been blessed with an illustrious career. Have you thought about writing a book to document it and share with others?
I am taking notes about my life and career and although there is a lot to share and certainly some interesting anecdotes and fun stories to share, I feel I’m very much in the middle of my story and will need to live a little longer before I have enough material for a book that will span more than a few chapters. Plus, I’d want to talk it over with some of my colleagues and friends to see what they think. I’d hate to be so presumptuous and think of yes, this stuff is meant for a book! I’d rather not put a book out there that will end up on the bargain bin for $4.99 after six months. For me, I’d want to overachieve and have a great 350–400-page tome and not a 175–200-page paperback beach read that’s forgettable and bland. Maybe one day! Stay tuned.