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Learning to Embrace My Identity

This is a welcome to the Mixed Creator Podcast. Learn about the journey of filmmaker and host Maris Lidaka. He will reveal how embracing his mixed identity led to having a greater creative impact.

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Build Your Own Table


The creative industries are currently experiencing a significant upheaval. For decades, we have fought tirelessly for greater representation in storytelling, advocating for narratives that reflect the true diversity of our changing world. However, the rise of AI and the dominance of large companies are gradually diminishing our opportunities to showcase our stories. As these big companies regress, they are ignoring the demands of the wider audience.

But there is an opportunity for individual creators like us to forge a new path. In this week’s newsletter, I will demonstrate how we can seize this opportunity and build our own platforms. We don’t necessarily need a seat at the big table.

We have the power to create our own.


We have been conditioned to believe that success in the creative field is akin to winning a beauty pageant. We must create a remarkable piece of work and hope to be selected. Someone with the resources and means to present our work to the greater public. Which means we finally get the chance to tell the stories we desire.

This model harks back to an era that excluded the voices of diverse creators. Being “picked” now often means creating stories that cater to someone else’s preferences. While using the limited time and resources we have to make work that truly matters to us. As someone who has worked in the film industry for years, I understand this struggle firsthand. My multitude of short films let to work that paid the bills, Work that  did little to nourish my soul.

However, I have come to realize that there is another way—a way that allows us to create our own resources, networks, and meaningful work.

All it takes is building a community.


Like the myth of getting discovered. There’s also another that we need to have thousands of followers and fans to have an impact. The truth is the opposite,

Less is more.

While having a large audience is important. What is more important is having people who are passionate about you and the work you make. The biggest joy I get from the work I do, whether the films I make or writing this newsletter is the interactions. When I get to meet new people and hear their stories.

It’s by making those connections that you really start to have an impact. It’s how you build a supportive network that is mutually beneficial. What’s lost in how we use social media is by being social. We have the ability to talk to whoever we think is like us, or will understand who we are. And we can begin a conversation in a matter of seconds. If you repeat this then your audience and reach will grow.

And this is how you begin to create an income.


Let’s face facts – everyone needs money. A starving artist isn’t an impactful one.

Money is an exchange of value for something that helps someone save time or enhance their life. For the longest time, I was focused on how the films I made could make money. But what I realized was the work is not how I built an income – I was.

Here’s a dirty little secret about influencers and YouTube stars, they make very little money for their videos themselves. Brand deals and the ads you see are constantly in flux, and are ultimately out of their control. They are not dependable sources of income. But what is dependable is something you can produce.

If you can use the skills you’ve learned through your work, you can make money. Or if you can teach someone how to gain those skills. That’s even better. As you are helping someone along the way. Someone you may end up collaborating with in the future. Which helps create that bigger change we all want to see.

I know that every person who can express themselves creatively can build an income. It just takes some reprogramming:

Embrace different formats. Show the process of how you made it. Share the lessons you learned from it. All of these are valuable ways to not only make money. But also give people the knowledge we’re all seeking. Art is a manual for life. So create as much of it as possible. And use is to be a guide for someone.

They’ll reward you with the ability to just create more

The Writer’s Strike is A Battle for Diverse Stories


Unless you’ve been completely ignoring the news, you know that the Writer’s Guild has gone on strike. If you’re a creator or in the entertainment industry, this is a huge deal. But if you’re not, it may seem trivial. However, this strike is not simply about compensation for a privileged few. But also about how we think of creativity and who gets represented in the world’s biggest storytelling platforms.

Because if the studios get their way – TV and movies will go backwards. Leaving us all searching for the stories that represent the way the world actually is.

This is secretly a battle for representation.


The Writer’s Guild of America (WGA) has long been an advocate for the rights and fair treatment of writers in the entertainment industry. However, the recent strike has shed light on persistent issues that threaten the livelihoods of writers.  Which impacts the quality of the content they produce.

Studios and production companies have referred to anything “digital” as something done on a lower budget. The original agreements for working with actors and writers on a digital project, were created with the idea of paying them as little as possible.

These same agreements were used as a baseline for anything on a streaming platform – including the major ones such as Netflix, Disney+ and Paramount. The staffs were cut down to the minimum, writer’s asked to wear multiple hats to work long days for lesser pay. And essentially, writers became gig workers who were asked to work long hours. With little to no guaranteed that their job was secure. In addition to other considerations such as rewriting scripts generated by AI. The WGA had had enough of working their writer’s being mistreated.

They tried to negotiate. But ultimately were forced to strike.


The studios consider anything that’s done for a digital platform unworthy of a higher rate. Which, not coincidentally, is where the majority of women and people of color get their initial break. We know from the UCLA diversity report that streaming is where the budgets are lower and the representation is better. Beyond the outliers like a Ryan Coogler or a Jordan Peele. It’s how most people of color get their break into the industry. And much to no one’s surprise, studios don’t see it as being of equal value.

During the streaming boom, companies ran up large amounts of debt to get their foot in the streaming door. They wanted to get the attention that was diverting to online platforms. But now that they no longer want to be in the red. They want to cut costs where they don’t see any value. Which is ultimately anything that doesn’t have “broad appeal”, aka plays to an older, Whiter audience.

When HBO was bought, several sources remarked how the owner wants to highlight shows by Chip and Joanna Gaines. HBO has been stripped from the name of the company with a coming emphasis on cheaper, broader stories. This means less money spent on anything “risker”, i.e. diverse. Which makes one wonder – would creators like Issa Rae ever gotten a chance?

And without them, would streamers even having the profits they’re bringing in?


When HBO was bought, several sources remarked how the owner wants to highlight shows by Chip and Joanna Gaines. HBO has been stripped from the name of the company with a coming emphasis on cheaper, broader stories. This means less money spent on anything “risker”, i.e. diverse. Which makes one wonder – would creators like Issa Rae ever gotten a chance? And without them, would streamers even having the profits they’re bringing in?

The demographics of America are changing at a rapid pace. The people of this country will look increasingly different. And we want the stories we see to reflect that. Stories are a reflection of our values. This strike is an indicator that the people bringing us those stories don’t see the value in who we are. Their decisions ultimately discourage people from entering the industry and letting their voices be heard. Which ultimately effects how we are able to see ourselves.

Of course there are social media platforms and YouTube to get the type of content and community we want. But there is still something special and unifying about narrative stories that the world see. It’s what kept us going during the pandemic. It still keeps us talking and connecting across cultural lines. And those stories are brought to us by writers. Who need the security to keep thinking about stories. And not having to worry so much about their own survival.

This will most likely not be the first upheaval in a creative industry. Along with AI, a time of big questions is coming. But all comes back to 2 things:

How do we value creativity? And what kind of world do we want to live in?

The Right Way to Build a Creative Portfolio

As creators, we are deeply passionate about our craft. However, it’s easy to fall into misconceptions when it comes to our portfolios. Having gone through numerous revisions of my own portfolio, I’ve learned a few key steps that everyone should consider.

So let’s take a closer look at how to approach your portfolio effectively:

Quality Over Quantity

In the beginning, it’s important to focus on quantity as you start building your body of work. However, as you progress, the emphasis should shift to quality. It’s easy to believe that a large portfolio with numerous projects is more important, but it’s crucial to remember that showcasing a few exceptional pieces is more effective. Prioritize quality over quantity to make a stronger impact.


Once you have a body of quality work, it’s time to hone in on what you want to be known for. While versatility is valuable, a focused portfolio can make you more attractive to potential clients or employers. Instead of including projects from various genres or styles, curate a portfolio that reflects a clear artistic vision or specific niche. This showcases your expertise and helps attract the right opportunities.

Curate Your Audience

It’s easy to overlook the intended audience for our portfolios. However, each project should be tailored to resonate with the people you want to impress. For example, including romantic comedies in a portfolio aimed at the horror genre might dilute your message and confuse potential collaborators. Understanding your target audience helps present relevant and compelling work, giving you an edge in the market.


Your portfolio should be more than just a collection of work; it should tell a compelling story about who you are and the kind of work you do. Consider what you want people to know about you and how your portfolio can take them on a journey to learn more. While technical skills are essential, striking a balance and highlighting your storytelling abilities are fundamental aspects of being a creator.

Update and Adapt

Regularly review your portfolio to ensure it aligns with the kind of work you want to pursue. Remove anything that doesn’t showcase your desired direction and use it as an opportunity to assess if you’re heading in the right direction. Revising and refreshing your portfolio is vital to showcase your growth and keep it relevant to your current abilities.


A great portfolio is a true reflection of your skills, vision, and artistic voice. By approaching it with the right mindset and following these steps, you can greatly enhance its impact and secure future opportunities. Remember to prioritize quality, focus on your desired direction, curate for your intended audience, emphasize storytelling, and regularly update your portfolio. With these considerations in mind, your portfolio will become a powerful tool for showcasing your talent and attracting the opportunities you seek.

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Need coaching or consulting? Book a meeting with me.

The WGA Writer’s Strike — It’s More Than Entertainment

The WGA writer’s aren’t demanding a lot of things. This strike is about respect for those with the gift of writing.

Hollywood has lost sight of what made it the entertainment capital of the world — great stories. Streaming opened the door for so many stories. But the powers that be couldn’t figure out how to use it. Lots of debt was run up throwing spaghetti at the wall. And now, they’re no longer comfortable living in the red.

So instead of looking at their business overall and making sure the pie was divided evenly. The first option was to cut away at the cost of writing — the lifeblood of any story we watch. Writers are asked to work by the day, on shorter shows and in smaller rooms. In essence, they are now gig workers. And companies are trying to have less of them to save costs.

Writers are being treated like someone you hire on Fiverr. Not like the craftsmen that we are. Anyone can write a sentence. Very few can write a compelling story. It’s a craft that takes years of practice and skills. It deserves to be compensated. And there’s a bit of irony that where new voices are being given an opportunity to speak. Suddenly there’s not enough money to pay them.

What happens here sets a precedent for what’s to come. And not just for the entertainment industry. This is about what happens to worker’s rights. Not to mention if we want a society where technology replaces instead of enhances.

If we lose sight of rewarding creativity. Then humanity itself is at stake.

And that’s a world we can all barely imagine.

Want more filmmaking and creator advice? Sign up for my newsletter.

Get my free workbook The Mixed Creator

Need coaching or consulting? Book a meeting with me.

Forced Into Filmmaking

From cleaning houses to making films: hitting rock bottom pushed me to realize my dream.

Life can be unpredictable. One moment, you might be doing just fine, and the next, everything can turn upside down. That’s what happened to me. After I got married, I found myself struggling to find work. Even with years of experience in the entertainment industry in Chicago. There wasn’t a job I could find in Los Angeles. So sadly, I landed one cleaning houses. It wasn’t the most glamorous job, but it put food on the table and a roof over my head.

One aftertoon while I was cleaning a bathtub, I sprayed cleaner against the wall. I took a breath and accidentally inhaled some fumes. So I rushed home to recover. As I sat on my bed struggling to breathe, I realized that I needed to make a change. Especially considering that I was fired from that job a week later.

Photo by Ashwini Chaudhary(Monty) on Unsplash

A Lifelong Dream

For as long as I can remember, narrative and storytelling had held a special place in my heart. I was fascinated by the power of crafting a story, building characters, and taking audiences on a journey. So, I decided to take a leap of faith and actual begin filmmaking.

The last film I had made was in film school. At that point, almost a decade prior. But I needed to start creating. Just a couple of months later, I made part of my first big short film. It wasn’t perfect, but it was a start, and it opened up new opportunities for me. 

My first attempt was both a failure and a success. I never completed the film. Because the budget was too big. But I found new collaborators to work with. I made more films with them that found their way into festivals big and small. I learned how to direct, edit, and produce films, which helped me generate freelance income.

Finding Opportunity

Over time, I continued to develop new skills, create new work, and network with other filmmakers. It wasn’t easy, but it led me to a place of greater confidence and stability in my life. I realized that I was capable of achieving my dreams if I was willing to put in the work and stay dedicated to my craft.

Looking back, I realize that hitting rock bottom was a blessing in disguise. It forced me to reevaluate my life and pursue what truly mattered to me. I had to face my fears and doubts, but in doing so, I found my true calling.

My advice to anyone who is struggling is this: Just start doing it. Take the leap, show up, be humble, and keep learning. You’ll be amazed at how far you can go when you pursue your passion with dedication and perseverance. It won’t be easy, but it’ll be worth it. So don’t give up, keep pushing forward, and never lose sight of your dreams.

A Martial Mindset



This is not a promotion for a martial arts course. Instead, I’d like to discuss a principle found in Chinese martial arts that can be applied to any creative pursuit. I learned this lesson while studying martial arts while living abroad.

From the time I was a kid, Bruce Lee was one of my role models. I was fascinated by the idea of becoming a great martial artist, so when I discovered a school that taught Lee’s original martial art (Wing Tsun).

I signed up immediately.

I studied it for around seven years, half in Denmark and half in the United States. However, it wasn’t until I took one of my instructor’s meditation courses that I learned what Kung Fu really meant.


Initially, I had no interest in learning how to meditate – especially since it required an additional fee. I was able to afford the martial arts lessons thanks to Denmark’s social policy of giving students a monthly stipend starting at the age of 18. However, my instructor Henning urged me to take it. He said it would help me learn how to be calm and peaceful in any situation.

Reluctantly, I agreed, and attended all the meditation classes over the weekend. I learned breathing techniques and how to meditate according to Indian tradition since Henning was of Indian and Danish descent. On the last day, he told us that we should practice meditation on a daily basis because it was a part of achieving good Kung Fu. Kung Fu wasn’t just tied to the practice of martial arts, but rather it meant dedicating oneself to years of mastering a practice. This lesson stuck with me, and I tried to apply it to my career as a filmmaker.


Achieving good Kung Fu means being dedicated to your craft for the long term, which is antithetical to our instant gratification world. This helped me not to get too hung up on the result of a particular film but to focus all my energy on it, reflect on the results, and use that to become even better at my chosen craft. I applied this same way of thinking to other areas of life, some of which are artistic, and others not.

While martial arts isn’t for everyone, each of us can and should strive to achieve mastery in at least one area of life. Engage in the practice with the idea of continued effort, focus, and long-term growth. For a few years, I forgot about this concept, which caused me to make short-term decisions that were not helpful to my long-term goals. Coming back to it has helped me cultivate the growth mindset that we hear talked about, where each accomplishment builds into a greater good.

Conclusion: In conclusion, studying martial arts taught me a valuable lesson: that achieving good Kung Fu means dedicating oneself to the long-term mastery of a practice. This applies to any area of life, including artistic pursuits. It’s about focusing on continued effort, maintaining discipline, and striving for growth. By applying this way of thinking, we can cultivate a growth mindset that leads to long-term success.

The Power of Narrative Filmmaking

Recently, I was reminded why narrative (i.e. scripted) stories are so important in our media landscape.

As visual inspiration for the film I’m writing, I’ve been watching Euphoria. I’ve always been hit or miss on the show. Some scenes are absolutely brilliant. Others are like a music video that goes on for too long. But after watching it all the way through. There were moments that really touched a nerve.

Like the main character, Rue, I lost my dad when I was young – age 29 to be exact. He had suffered with alcohol addiction since I had been in college. And his liver and kidneys eventually just gave out from the abuse. With that being said, I wouldn’t be in Los Angeles without him. The little money he had put aside to leave to family was used to fix my car, finance the move and honor one of his last wishes to me – to use it for filmmaking.

There is a scene in Euphoria (not really a spoiler) where she sees her dad in a dream sequence, hugs him, and tells him she misses him. That she can barely remember what he looks like and the sound of his voice. And in that moment, I felt like I was in her same shoes. Because while the pain of losing him has lessened over the years. There are still moments that I feel the exact same way – wishing that I could see him just one more time.

While I love the craft of documentary. It’s power is getting you to understand and empathize with another person. Narrative has a unique power – it helps us see ourselves in the shoes of the characters we’re watching. Because it’s fictional, It allows us to be a part of the journey the character is on. We fill in the details of what we don’t see. So it is a true representation of our own journey. It’s like it was made for just us.

I am not going to declare that the film I’m working on is going to be as impactful as Euphoria. I’m on draft 2 and I have a long to go. Not only in this film, but also in my career itself. But watching things like it reminds of why I fell in love with filmmaking in the first place. And why real, human stories will always be needed.

The Lottery Myth

There is a myth every filmmaker was told to believe at the start of our career:

That is we just make the right film. Then Hollywood would come find it. And they would give us the resources in order to make whatever we imagined. Now for some, this might be true. There are people who do indeed make a great film and the door is swung wide open for them. However, that is almost like winning the lottery.

And you can’t build a career on buying bingo tickets.

There is a version of success for every filmmaker who commits themselves to building a body of work. Once you realize that the cavalry isn’t coming. You start to find ways to create your own version of success. For some of us, that might lead to working on big budget films on studio lots and flying all over the world. For others, it might mean having a small but sustainable following that allows us to make the work we find impactful.

The insidious part about the myth is that it makes us waste our most valuable resource – our time. It makes us create with the goal of wishing and waiting. Instead of the goal of creating and connecting. It takes the power away from us. And gives it to someone else who’s in charge of making our dreams come true.

While making a film is an expensive and time-consuming endeavor. It doesn’t have to be a soul-burning one. And I’ve found the best way to make films for the right reasons – to tell great stories and create an impact for your audience.

Always A Solution

When I began working as a Production Manager. I was forced to realize something:

There is a solution to every problem. But sometimes its not the one you want.

When we encounter issues in life, we can get stuck in Problem Mode. And that’s because we have a particular solution in mind. We have one way that we want to solve the issue. And we’re stuck trying to force a particular outcome. But once you start looking at other options. Then you realize that you can actually solve the issue that you’re having.

My mother and grandmother used to tell me “There’s no such thing as can’t.” And the smart-ass in me would say things like “well, you can’t fly.” But they were both actually right. There is no such thing as can’t. It’s just a matter of finding the right approach. A lot of times, we already know what the answer is. It’s just something that we don’t want to do. Most of the time out of fear. But sometimes also out of ego – which can also come from fear.

A simple first step is to replace the phrase “I can’t” with the question “How can I?” That shift have you thinking about the different possibilities. Which leads you to solving the problem.