Articles Tagged with: Career

Why Create?

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I had an interesting meeting this past week where the topic of AI was brought up. The person I was meeting with brought up an interesting point:

 
The future will enable anyone to make a film. So the question won’t be “can I make a film?” But “why should I make a film?”
 
Of course, the reality of this hypothesis is still playing out. But, like the digital camera, new tools are coming on the horizon that will make the barrier to entry all that much easier. So the question we will need to ask ourselves then, is one we should be asking ourselves already:
 

WHY DO I WANT TO CREATE?

 
This is a question every artist and filmmaker that burns out has forgotten to ask themselves. Creating anything takes a tremendous amount of effort. Just thinking about a concept uses time and energy. So before we even start thinking of embarking down this long, dark but oh,so fulfilling path. We need to have a reason to keep on venturing into the unknown.
 
Ultimately, it comes back to this internal question:
 
What do I want the world to know and learn from me?
 
One of the many events that changed my life was the death of my father. He succumbed to alcohol addiction when I was 29 which left our family in pieces. Before he died, he tasked me with being the executor of his estate. And one of the duties I was left with something we don’t think about when we pass on:
 
What to do with all the stuff.
 
One of the items I discovered was an old sketchbook from his college art class at Dartmouth. There were a lot of drawings of nature and some of people. He was in that middling stage of artistry – not good enough to present, but there was talent there. There was a final note from his teacher:
 
There’s something you’re trying to say. But it’s not quite there yet.
 
I still have the sketchbook. It sits on my desk and I pull it out from time to time. It reminds me of why I keep going. And some of that is attributed that I know my father would have been a much happier man. Had he tried to fully explore his artistic potential. So in a way, my career is a tribute to his legacy.
 
But that alone isn’t enough to build a career, and ultimately a lifestyle, upon. It’s mostly a reason not to stop. But there is a reason to keep going. And that’s to build connection. To let other people around the world know:
 
 
I explore race and identity. Because the world tries to divide us. The first way it’s done is by having us see the division in ourselves. And my efforts are a way of helping people see themselves as whole again.
 

A DEEPER PURPOSE

The wrong lesson was taken away from the pandemic by the large gatekeepers of the industry. The lesson was:
We did more with less. Let’s cut what we can.
Crew sizes were shrunk, talent would self shoot, all to keep the content machine running. But what was forgotten is part of what enabled the explosion in streaming and digital media was the knowledge that it was a shared experience. We were glued to the people who either distracted us from reality. Or encouraged us that we could get through it.
 
And even with this shared experience. We still succumbed to feelings of anxiety and depression.
 
Because at the end of the day. Human beings are wired to be connected.
 

THE FUTURE QUESTION

 
So while companies fight to make the barrier of entry so low that anyone can create their own film. They haven’t stopped to think – will they?
 
Think about your work week right now. At the end of a hard day of work (which is seeming to get even harder). Will you have the energy remaining to craft the story you want to see? And if so, you’ll still have to ask yourself the question:
 
What is it that I’m trying to experience?
 
Without trying to imagine the infinite number of future scenarios of how art will be created and monetized. Anyone with the ability to create will have to ask why they are doing it. And also, who will we share it with? As much as we hear artists say they are creating for themselves. We are also creating to share part of ourselves with other people.
 
 
So whatever the future holds. We will still have the need to create. We still need to learn, share and grow from each other’s experiences. If you are a filmmaker, this is your mission. It’s the broader why of what you do. The specifics are left up to you. But the mission remains the same.
 
Life can take from you as much as it gives. And we are in a moment in the creative space, where those with a large amount of power are trying to take it from those who have little. So it helps to imagine a world where the opportunities from before are gone. But the need to express ourselves still remains.
 
Many will give up. Many will stop trying. But there are those of us who will still keep going. Will still keep trying to have our voices heard. Because we spoke for more than ourselves. And it’s those people who will change the world for the better.
 


The New Film School (Part 3) – The Power of Story

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This week is a return to form with the 3rd part of The New Film School – the Power of Story. Most schools and creative teaching start with story first. Which is a key element of what we do. But the reason why this is the 3rd part is simple:
 
We have to tell stories for the right reasons.
 
Filmmakers are taught to create stories to create attention in order to make films for the big studios. Which means you are being conditioned the make the stories a large media corporation wants to hear. Having the right mindset and knowing your Creative Source gives you the internal framework to make films for the right reasons:
 
To create impact on the human experience.
 
But in order to do that, we need to know the framework of a compelling story.
 

A GREAT BEGINNING

 
While this sounds negative on film schools. I had a great experience learning the craft of filmmaking at my alma mater Columbia Chicago. While we didn’t learn anything about the business itself. We were expertly brought along the steps needed in order to create great films.
 
My first semester was spent learning the history of film and also about story. Before we picked up a camera or started writing screenplays. The school felt it was important to know what makes up a good story structure. I had a story class with Karla Fuller who introduced me to the story framework of:
 

THE HERO’S JOURNEY

Many of us have heard about the Hero’s Journey.
 
The basic overall structure is this:
 
A young Hero accepts the Call to go on a Great Adventure with the help of a Mentor. Leaving their previous, Ordinary World behind. While traveling into this New World, the Hero encounters Trials, finding the Artifact they need in order to defeat their Enemy and realize their Potential. Afterwards, they return home a changed person.
 
It’s a often referenced story structure most typically seen in big budget sci-fi and Marvel films. One of the most well illustrated examples of The Hero’s Journey is Star Wars. But what most people forget is that the original inception of this framework was for the internal journey of we all go on.
 
Which means there are elements of this in stories of all kinds.
 
There is an exercise that I recommend all my clients do. Take a look at the framework of the Hero’s Journey. Think of the point you are at in life right now. And apply the Hero’s Journey to it:
 
When did you leave the world you knew behind?
 
What mentor helped you achieve a goal?
 
What great ordeal have you overcome?
 
Now, let’s make this smaller. Think of some impactful events in your life. Apply those to the same framework. Make it even smaller – take a common event. Let’s say going to the store:
 
What was the world like before you knew you had to go?
Once you got there, what tests did you have to overcome to get the items you wanted?
How did the trip change you once you returned? Both internally and externally.
 
An important element of this exercise is to actively look for how we can apply everything to story. Which helps us to see the story in everything. This can be applied to various formats – commercials, books, podcasts, simple conversations. To use a personal example, the ability to see the story in everything is what enabled me to find success as an editor.
 

A GREAT POWER

 
Human civilization rests on the power of story. It’s how religious organizations are formed, politicians are created, and nations are made. America is widely recognized as the Land of Opportunity. Because we created an entire industry that allowed people to see this story being told on a global scale.
 
In fact, the first two parts of this series were frameworks to recognize your own story. And how it connects with that of your audience. Now, you can take the Hero’s Journey and use it to create work that is magnetic.
 
You have the necessary foundation to make an impact.
 
The Hero’s Journey is also something that is meant to be a guiding framework. It’s a starting point that can be expanded upon and modified. Trying to capture something as weird and unpredictable as the human experience cannot be simplified into a simple set of instructions. Which is why AI driven LLM’s struggles to create engaging scripts.
 
Which is another article for another time.
 
Learn the power of story. Study it. Hone your skills in it. Use it not only for the work that you create. But in how you communicate your message online and with people.
 
The next part of this series is going to be some Tech Talk. I’ll be going through some of the technical knowledge all filmmakers and video storytellers can benefit from.


Striking for the Soul of Art

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This week was a pinnacle moment in the entertainment industry. As many of you know, the Screen Actor’s Guild (SAG) has gone on strike and have now joined the ranks of the WGA. The other entertainment industry guilds are currently standing in solidarity, waiting for the executives of the large streaming companies to come to the negotiating table.
 
This news comes on the heels of a unnamed source from Apple TV who claimed they are waiting until “union members start losing their apartments and losing their houses” and the unveiling of how residuals in streaming actually work. As the strike goes on and massive change comes to the industry. I’m seeing a large disconnect between what the heads of the new studios (large tech companies) and their customers actually want with the art that being created on-screen:
 
It’s to be spoken to.

A TRUE PURPOSE

When you examine art as a fundamental practice:
 
It’s about communication.
 
Art is about expressing things we can’t put into words or communicating in a way beyond language. We use it to communicate to the world around us, to our spiritual practice, and also to the people we come in contact with. One of the earliest uses of art was to use it as a way to signal that you weren’t an enemy to a stranger.
 
It’s a symbol between people that we share the same experience. That our values align.
 
That we can be trusted.
 
As advancements in art have been made. So too have its uses. But that fundamental purpose of communication still remains. And that’s also why we love TV and film. Because it still shows us that our experiences matter. When done right, it allows us to simply feel what it’s like to be human and builds empathy with our fellow beings.
 
It speaks to our very soul.
 
Granted many people (especially ones that look like me) were excluded from being a big part of the industry. But the primary focus was a holistic one. Hollywood became ultra-successful because it built a machine around speaking to the soul of it’s nation. The business was forged on creating stories that enraptured us – the audience. Because, in one way or another, it awakened a part of us that we don’t get to tap into very often. We get to be inspired as well as entertained.
 
But somewhere along the way, the strategy shifted. The people who make the big movies and TV put more effort into entertaining and less into inspiration. This coincided with the large media studios and companies being taken over by the institutions of Wall Street and Silicon Valley. Places that value the quarterly profit spreadsheet more than the experience of an audience.
 
This shift in focus paved the way for what we are experiencing now:
 
An overload of nostalgia and dopamine.
 
It’s become a common parlance that in Hollywood everything is either a superhero movie or a remake. The reason for this being, in order to maximize profit, big movies have gone back to what’s worked before. Essentially in order to trick and addict us.
 
The nostalgia aspect is simple – to bring us back to the days when we were kids. When we believed things were much simpler and better. When we didn’t understand how the world works because we didn’t have to. The goal being to keep your audience in a state of arrested development where they will exchange their money to a trip down memory lane. To a time when so many things seemed possible. And this is accomplished by giving us:
 
Dopamine. It seems the goal of the largest movies now is to thrill us with sight and spectacle to elicit a dopamine response. Just like sugar, the idea is to keep us addicted so we’ll keep coming back for more sights and spectacles. The thinking is that being inspired and provoked is no longer necessary. We just have to be coddled and given a few hours of bliss in order to feel satisfied.
 
But audiences aren’t satisfied. Movies are products, but they also are not. Not in the same way your iPhone or a bag of chips are. Less people are going to the movies year after year.
 
Because there’s nothing novel about it anymore.
 
Nostalgia and dopamine only work in the short term. The same dopamine response eventually wears off and makes us numb. And we’re left searching for that initial experience. Hollywood planned that nostalgia-driven cinema would keep us in a state of bliss.
 
But nostalgia just reminds us of what we are missing.
 
The Wall Street and Silicon Valley media companies have banked on art being a one way form of communication. One where we are being told what to believe and feel. Instead of inspired to do so – which is how Hollywood became a global juggernaut.
 
 
There’s no joy with Hollywood eating itself. The people involved in the industry are here because we love it. Because we have stories we want to tell and audiences to communicate with. We want a Hollywood that represents the best of the old and the new. We tell stories because we want to connect with people, not data points.
 
The art a nation creates tells you about its soul. We are now in a moment where the unions are the last line of defense before we begin to lose it. At it’s best, Hollywood is a big sandbox we get to play in. It can be chaotic and messy. But most of all, it’s fun and we can’t wait to get back i it.
 
This is what the strikes are fighting for right now. It’s what’s keeping Hollywood from slowly dying.
 
Which, tragically, would be by its own hand.


The New Film School – Part 2

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Let’s continue on with the next step of what I think makes a filmmaker ready to take on the industry. After you have build the right mindset and have a healthy outlook on what the industry is like. We move onto part 2:

BUILDING YOUR CREATIVE SOURCE

This is another step that, for most, will take a while to fine tune. But it’s essentially what kind of work you want to make. And more importantly:
 
Who is your work for?
 
A perfect example of this is Martin Scorcese. He was in his early 30s when he made Mean Streets. Because he didn’t see any examples in movies of the kind of people he grew up with in a mostly Italian neighborhood. So his work started out giving their stories and perspectives a chance to be seen in theaters. Same thing with Spike Lee, who wanted to showcase the people and stories in Black New York City neighborhoods.
 
Having a creative source is important because of a key component:
 
It takes your ego out of what you create.
 
Creating out of ego, on the surface, seems like it’s purely out of selfishness. But it’s actually creating out of fear.
 
  • Fear that we’re not good enough
  • Fear that we don’t matter
  • Fear of rejection
When we create out of fear, we end up creating whatever it takes to be noticed. We try to copy the roadmaps and successes of others. Forgetting that what made those people successful was creating what was true to them.
 
It’s also the fear that our work needs to be discovered quickly, or it will never happen. Almost every film student, including myself, has graduated with the idea that we need to be making large budget feature films within 4 years. Or else our careers are over.
 
Not keeping in mind that the people who have been discovered at a young age as filmmakers are the exception. And for those who are successful long term. There are just as many who peak too early and struggle to reach the heights they received at the beginning.
 
But how do we find our creative source?

ASK YOURSELF

In my guidebook The Mixed Creator, I give a simple exercise to finding your creative source. It’s in the form of asking yourself a few questions:
 
What have I overcome in life?
What experience or aspect of life can I give advice on?
Who else needs help with the same issue?
 
This can (and will) change over time. But asking yourself these questions are key to starting. Because they give you what every storyteller needs:

AN IDEAL AUDIENCE

Attention is fractured these days. Up until the early 2000s, making a piece of media was expensive. And therefore, doing it was impressive. With the advent of streaming and social media. The cost has come way down. So making a film or piece of visual media is easier and less impressive just to do it.
 
You need to know who you are making your work for and go find them.
 
Online, networking mixers, maybe even friends and family. Find the people who are your ideal audience and connect with them. Your creative source is telling stories that help solve your problems that your ideal audience already has. While you learn and grow, you’ll be able to solve new problems and grow your audience.
 
Many filmmakers starting out worry about creating for a particular audience, including myself. We worry about being only known for a certain type of work and being trapped there. But the key is to remember:
 
You have to start somewhere. But it can’t be everywhere.
 
What I’m speaking to is often called Building Your Personal Brand. But I think it’s something deeper:
 

FINDING YOUR CALLING

My personal story is that I didn’t want to be put in a box as a filmmaker. Because growing up biracial that was all I knew. So I created a lot of different kinds of work, all with the hope that someone else would discover me. But instead of breaking out of a box, I build myself a prison:
 
The prison of being known for nothing.
 
It wasn’t until after the Donald Trump election when my own consciousness essentially gave me a lecture:
 
The world is afraid of people who look like you. So what are you going to do about it?
 
So I built my creative source – talking about the mixed experience.
 
The reason for doing this is not simply for recognition. But knowing who I’m making it for keeps me focused and energized. I have a constant North Star that I am constantly headed for. Which helps me not only come up with new ideas. But know where I can focus my energy.
 
Whereas before I struggled to come up with the perfect idea. I now spend time sifting and prioritizing them. Which helps with another unfortunate, but rare, element of the industry:
 

THE OWNERSHIP OF IDEAS

There are countless stories of people whose ideas are either outright stolen, or altered by a larger celebrity or company. This, unfortunately, happens far too often. But if you have your creative source and you know who your audience is. This will bother you less and less:
 
Because you will just be able to go back to your source and create another one.
 
Here’s the reality:
 
If your career is based off of one idea getting made. It won’t last very long.
 
This industry is about being resilient and constantly coming up with new ideas. Every day, you are constantly coming up with something new, and compromising on your own expectations. If one idea doesn’t work out, use another.
 
Nothing is ever going to work out how you want it or planned it. But that’s ok.
 
Because that’s how we grow.

EXPLORE YOUR MIND

If you’re not doing it now, ask yourself the questions to build your creative source:
 
What have I overcome in life?
What experience or aspect of life can I give advice on?
Who else needs help with the same issue?
 
Write them down someplace that you can reference quickly. And when you’re feeling frustrated or at a loss – look at these answers. These are what should inspire you and keep you going.
 
Now we can build upon this for next week when we begin crafting our stories.
 
Hope to see you then.


The New Film School – Part 1

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This is the first of a multi-part series. There’s a course correction that needs to be had.

Speaking with filmmakers and creatives of several ages. I’ve noticed some bad ways of mental conditioning. I’ve spoken with filmmakers who have just graduated film school and ones who are in their mid-40s. And the approach their projects and careers come from two positions:

Scarcity

Fear

We enter the industry thinking that someone else is in control. That our ability to create is going to be determined by an unknown person or entity who allows us to keep going. This puts us in a state of anxiety, overwhelm and also confusion.

I’ve been thinking about a better way to approach surviving in the film industry and I think it’s similar to thinking like great athletes. There’s a difference between athletes who just make it to the big stage and ones who thrive in it. While talent is a noticeable separator, the other edge is mental.

Those who can handle the mental aspects of the industry will find the outcome they want. And if I was starting a film school. This is what I would work on first for all my students:

Building A Hall of Fame Mindset.

And this week, you will be my first batch of students that I will be teaching. Let’s dive in.

OWN WHO YOU ARE

The worst thing you can do is to start modeling your career after someone else. The phrase “I am the next [fill in the blank]” should never come out of your mouth. The person you are modeling after has a completely different background and life experience. That’s something that can be learned from. But it’s impossible to replicate.

The first thing is to own who you are. You have a unique perspective and way of seeing the world that can’t be copied. Own it and explore it. Figure out what our strength is and play into it.

Let’s go back to athletes – they all have a unique skillset that they bring to the table. None of them try to go outside of it and become something different. LeBron James can drive and pass, Tom Brady sees everything faster, Michael Jordan could jump higher than everyone.

They knew what they already possessed and they leaned into it. That was their foundation. So in a creative sense:

What is are your natural talents?

This is a question that goes beyond the physical skills. What unique experiences have you had? What perspective can you share that no one else has thought of? Sit down and think about this for a few days, maybe even a week. Take your time and figure out what it is you think and what you want to say.

Learn who you are. Otherwise, someone else will mold you into what they want you to be.

FOCUS ON YOUR CRAFT

Too many of us focus on what we want to get, before we focus on what we want to do. The thought goes something like this:

“I want to make this film so I can win some awards.”

The focus becomes the reward. What you receive is out of your control. That is up to how it’s received by someone else. But what you can control is your effort and passion, i.e. the process.

The other element of chasing awards is – what if you get it? There are countless stories of people who chase accolades from an early age. And when they get it – they are lost. They devoted so much time and effort to achieving one, singular goal. But never gave a thought to what comes next. And for many, it’s destroyed the rest of they life.

Focus on what you want to be doing. What do you want your ideal day to look like. Because the award ceremony or championship is one small moment in a long life. Focus on the greatness of the other moments.

ADD TO YOUR TOOLBOX

Once you have your foundation and the right focus. We need to have a mindset of continuous learning. We need to be continuously seeking more knowledge to become better at our craft. The phrase is:

Get 1% better everyday.

I began film school focused on being a director. But I started taking classes to learn about more. I learned the basics of editing, cinematography, and lighting to name a few. The mistake I made after graduating was to stop learning for a bit. I focused so much on trying to be recognized as a director that I stopped learning – until I was forced to for my survival.

But all the skills I’ve added to my toolbox over the years have only made me a better filmmaker. Learning to edit has made me a better writer. Learning to direct has made me a better editor. Everything works together.

Not to mention, a willingness to learn makes you easier to collaborate with. Learn for the sake of making yourself better. Not to impress the crowd.

EMBRACE THE JOB OF LEADER

To be filmmakers, we have to embrace the role of being a leader. We have an unrealistic image of leadership. We think a leader is someone who’s loud and looks like infallible. This is not what leadership is.

A true leader does 2 things:

Communicates a vision

Leaders give direction. We have a goal and a vision that we give to people to follow. And then we get out of the way. People will follow if you have a direction to give them. And it’s a direction that takes them to a greater place than where they were before.

As filmmakers, we can mistake this as just making a great piece of work. But what’s more important is giving the people we collaborate with a direction. Let me know where you’re going. How this work will get you closer to that next step. And how they can be a part of it.

If people can see where you’re going and that they want to be a part of it. They will work just as hard as you do.

Inspires others to do their best work.

Beyond having a vision. Leaders have to be an example for others to follow. We have to know who we are and embrace our role. Hold ourselves to the highest standard through our actions. This inspires the people who are with us to do their best work. Because they have an example to follow.

Another part of this is putting others in a position to succeed. To use a sports example, don’t ask people to play out of position and expect greatness. We have to recognize what people’s strengths and weaknesses are. And put them in a position to utilize their strength. While giving them the opportunity to overcome their areas of weakness.

But always remember that everything ultimately falls upon you. If something isn’t working, it’s on the leader to change it. If something is, the leader has to amplify it. Embracing the role of leader means you get all the credit and all the blame.

Be comfortable with both.

HAVE A DIRECTION

To expand on this, the greats always have a vision of what comes next. I have a personal saying that is:

Your portfolio is your past.

Whatever you have just put out into the world is now an example of what you have done. And as filmmakers, we have to get people excited about what we are doing.

Film school and society at large makes us believe that being a filmmaker is about receiving – rewards, recognition, fame. But it’s really about building. All of the steps before are working in unison to create something bigger than ourselves. To answer the ultimate goal of:

I want to create work that helps (this person) achieve (this result) through (this process). For an example:

The Blended Future Project creates that helps mixed people achieve self-confidence through truthful storytelling.

That’s what I am building and all filmmakers need to think the same way. We are in a continuous state of forward motion. And we’re not waiting on anyone else to push us along.

THINK IN DECADES

With this forward momentum, we have to think long term. To keep with the sports analogy, Hall of Fame athletes think of where they want to be not at the end of their career of least a decade. But they also have a vision of where they want to do at the end of life.

Take a moment right now and write down how you want to be doing in your life in decades:

What do you want to have built?

Who do you want to have inspired?

What type of person do you want to connect with?

When you zoom out this far and start to look ahead. This helps to think of not only where you’re headed. But takes the pressure off of you.

Never underestimate what you can do in 10 years. Here’s what I was doing 10 years ago:

Cleaning houses for money

Wishing I could make films

Wondering what I was doing with my life

Fast forward to today, money comes in various ways. I’ve made several films and I know exactly what I’m building. And I’m thinking in terms of where I want to be in the next decade.

The mindset set we need to have is building for the long term. Creativity is a lifelong pursuit, it’s only over once we stop breathing. We don’t need permission to become filmmakers and artists. We just have to start doing it. And keep falling in love with it.

A LIFELONG LOVE

If you don’t love the act of filmmaking – STOP NOW. Find something else and focus on that. If you love it, find ways to keep doing it. Don’t focus on the results, don’t get discouraged with the outcome. Just focus on the love of what you are blessed to do.

An art form that children around the world would love to be doing.

The first step in having a long career in the filmmaking industry is to not racing to the top. But pursuing greatness over a lifetime. Expand your horizons, express your perspective, and keep learning. Use this to build up a network and a vision for the future.

This is how to think about creative success in a holistic way. And the guidance that I would give to the next generation of filmmakers.

Take it and run with it.



How to Run 3 Creative Businesses

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A few weeks ago, I mentioned that I have 3 inter-connected business that I run:

  • Consulting
  • Media Development
  • Post-Production

Without taking the right steps, managing this can easily lead to burnout. So this week, I want to give some insight my process. How I keep the operations on all 3 running smoothly, without becoming overwhelmed.

But first, we have to answer this question:

IS THIS EVEN NECESSARY?

I broke this down in last week’s newsletter. Breaking apart all of the services that I provide into 3 different business was a necessary step for me. Trying to have one place that featured everything was only leading to confusion. Not to mention, de-valuing the work that I provide. So it was a must to split them all up in order to provide a better experience.

The way that I’ve done this is to have 3 separate websites:

marislidaka.com – for any consulting work

blendedfutureproject.com – for creative development and content creation around the mixed experience.

mlediting.com – my editing portfolio

The first website is the main way that people will find me. And they will be offered a choice of what they’re looking for. But I’ve also created a way on each website for people to go to the other, just in case.

And besides having the different website, I have different social profiles for my consulting (Maris Lidaka) and my development (Blended Future Project) businesses. Each of them posting completely different types of content. Because I know that the audiences are separate. There might some overlap (like my podcast for example). But I try and cater to the needs of each separate audiences.

Editing, because it’s a portfolio, lives on its own and doesn’t have its own social media profile. It serves to get me freelance work, which doesn’t need a completely separate social media. Anything I do for that, can simply be under my personal social media profiles.

So how do I keep all this together?

Let’s take this in sections:

THE SECOND BRAIN

One of my father’s favorite movies was Indiana Jones & The Last Crusade. His favorite line in that movie is when Sean Connery says:

“I wrote it down so I wouldn’t have to remember!”

It made him laugh out every single time.

It took me years to learn the value of this lesson. But I know write everything down…so that I don’t have to remember. I use ClickUp in order to organize every aspect of what needs to happen in each business. So that I’m not relying on memory.

Another aspect of this is to:

BUILD SYSTEMS

Everything needs a system. I have a way of collecting information on who my clients are. What they need. And what I’m providing to them. These systems are improved upon and iterated whenever necessary. But I have a system so that way the journey for each customer is as smooth as possible.

To give you an example:

When a new potential client books a meeting on my website for consulting work. I send them HERE. Before they can book the meeting, they have to answer a series of questions. This is not only so I can prepare. But I can make sure that they are serious about wanting to work with me. Not to mention, if they are a great fit. After the meeting, there’s a system to follow up. And also a system for what we will work on every week. 

The importance here is to create automation where it needs to be. I want to be able to concentrate on the aspects of my work that are creative and not the ones that are administrative. So if I can automate it, I do so. This is not only beneficial for me. But it helps me focus on what really matters:

People.

Another way I keep my head above water is by:

BUILDING A TEAM

No man is an island” is how I think the saying goes. The same goes for running any kind of company. While I am capable of doing a lot of things. It doesn’t mean I should be doing all of them.

A month ago, I made a list of the things that I do and organized them into 2 categories:

ENERGY GIVERS

ENERGY DRAINERS

Anything that was a drainer, I’ve been looking for a way to have someone else take on the responsibility. Anything that gives me energy, like writing this newsletter, I will keep on going. Because I realize the most valuable part of life is one thing:

TIME

Time is a finite resource that we can never get more of. We never know when it runs out. So if there’s something that I don’t like spending my time doing (like writing social media captions). Then it’s best if I look into how to bring someone else on to take over. 

But more than just taking over parts that I don’t like. I also have to allocate my time wisely. Like my podcast episodes, I can edit them on my own. But that takes away from the time I have to get more guests and meet new people. Which also takes away from the time I can spend writing my feature film.

Make sure that you are using your time so that is has the greatest impact. Which means, sometimes, it might come out of your pocketbook.

But keep in mind – money is something you can replace. Time is not.

SAYING NO

This one is hard, especially coming from the world of freelancing. We have to say Yes a lot to keep the lights on. Every project that I take on means I’m spending (here we go again) time working on it. So I have to discern which projects and clients are worth the time. And which ones aren’t.

I want to see each and every person succeed.  And I know that I have the ability to help every person I come across. But that doesn’t mean I always should. The way that I decide is by looking at what kind of impact I can have with it.

  • Is it something that will enhance my company’s mission?
  • Will it be a valuable connection?
  • Is it up to, or can it get to, my standard of quality?

All of these are what I look at when I decide to say yes to a project, that is optional. Sometimes we work in order to keep our bills paid. But as you gain experience and influence.

Look to how you can be more selective with what you take on.

CONNECT AND DECOMPRESS

I’m a storyteller. That involves meeting and learning about people. Creativity is nothing without an audience. And we get nowhere on our own. I make it a priority to try and either meet new people. Or reach out to people I haven’t talked to in a while.

Because life is about relationships.

Those relationships might not lead to an immediate income. But they will lead to a future opportunity. 

Not just for money. But also for learning.

And I make sure to have time to decompress. Self-care is about keeping your mind and body in top-shape. So I find time to exercise, meditate, think and (shockingly) goof off.

Some of the most celebrated artists of our time spent much of their time NOT working. To them, as it should be, it was just as important as the work itself.

Hard work and long hours can’t be avoided at all times. But we also can’t be putting on long hours and hard work all of the time. The body and mind need to rest.

But also, it’s in these times that we actually become inspired.

STEADY PROGRESS

The most important part of running these 3 business is taking deliberate steps. None of these have to be running at full speed in short order. They each have their own method and focus that I devote time to.

My editing portfolio essentially runs itself. So I’m able to reach out to companies who might need that for a combined few hours a week.

I’m focusing a lot of time and effort on building my consultancy. So The Blended Future Project might not see a lot of updates until my personal website and workflow is in a good place. So take on what you can handle at one time.

Don’t try to boil the ocean. 

Think in terms of years for where you’re heading, not just quarters. Having ideas doesn’t mean you always have to accomplish them immediately. Part of time management is being comfortable with delayed gratification.

FINAL INSTRUCTIONS

The last thing I will leave you with is to: 

Create a schedule.

Knowing what you have to accomplish each day and having a plan will help you get your day started off right. It incorporates all of the steps above and it’s how you can get a lot done in a little amount of time.

In fact, having a schedule enabled me to write this newsletter and all the social media for multiple platforms done in just 4 hours!

So if you’re working on a lot of different business. Remember to follow my steps:

  • Have a Second Brain
  • Build Systems
  • Build A Team
  • Manage Your Time
  • Say No
  • Connect and DeCompress
  • Schedule

This will help you get a better handle on where you’re at now. And guide you on the road ahead.



Become A Developer

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In the coming months and years, we’re going to need to know more about computers and AI to survive. I’m convinced that art is going away and only the way to survive is embrace change. So I’m here to announce my transition from filmmaker to AI prompt trainer and tech entrepreneur.

KIDDING!!!

This week I’m going to talk about development in the filmmaking world. And why we should aspire to be people who develop, rather than simply produce.

TWO APPROACHES

We all got involved in this world to tell stories. It’s why we create what we do. In film, we hear about all the different production companies that everyone has. So it’s drilled into our psyche’s that this is what we need to aspire to create. That the ultimate version of success is having a company that produces media for a living.

I have a business coach who helped me come up with the initial concept for The Blended Future Project. And his mantra has always been:

You want a development company. Not a production company.

What is the difference?

  • A development company has an original idea that they are taking out into the market. They create ideas and work in-house that they try to sell. Ideas that they have ownership of. And that is one of the key distinctions. 
  • A production company has system in place to execute the idea of someone else. Their main function is to act as a service provider to someone else. But they have no ownership (and often no input) on the idea. 

Let’s use Apple as an example. They are the development company. They come up with the ideas for the hardware and software. Foxconn is the production company. They produce the hardware for set fee. They have no ownership of the product or any input. Their job is to take it from a concept to a creation that is sold on the market. But Apple gets the credit and the biggest reward.

Production companies also compete on price. Usually, the way a production company survives is not only on quality of work. But how much they can save the development company on their own costs. Which, in a capitalistic society like ours, makes them easily replaceable.

This isn’t to say production companies don’t have value. It’s a great starting point for getting clients and building relationships. It can keep the lights on and your bills paid while you figure out who your key audience is. But I urge all filmmakers and content creators to strive towards being in the development space.

BREAKING THE CYCLE

I’ve worked for many a production company in a variety of roles. They are all striving to become development companies. They have original ideas that they want to see in front of an audience. But while they’re doing that, they are hustling to just keep the lights on. 

Production companies have staff that need to get paid. Whether full-time or freelance, these are people who get paid by the day or hour. And nothing gets out the door without meeting those costs. Just like the manufacturing plant. Your product can’t get out the door without the equipment and people to run it. Even though with technology you might be able to shrink your costs of manpower. You still have a high level of expenses to pay every month.

And the only way you can grow is by getting clients with bigger budgets. But the game is the same:

Keep your expenses low. So you can make a great living.

Some of this is part of development companies. Many of them have in-house production teams that can create the ideas that they come up with. But many of them also don’t. There are a lot of development companies that just come in with an idea and that’s where their income comes from. The value of their idea, not the ability to create it. An idea that they have ownership over.

That is the goal we should aspire to.

The way we create an impact is by telling our own stories. By having the opportunity to put our perspectives out there. And I’ve worked long enough in the entertainment industry to know this:

Waiting for permission is a fool’s game.

I see it over and over, especially one social media. Everyone is waiting for “their shot” at the big time. But that shot is never going to come if you don’t make it first. It’s one of the key mistakes that directors make in their careers. If you’re aiming to just be on set. You will essentially be auditioning to be an employee (although a high-paid one). You will get to put your twist on someone else’s product.

But in the end – they own it, not you.

SHIFT YOUR STRATEGY

At my previous job, the CEO would have monthly meetings where he would give updates on the business. In these all-hands meetings, I got to see how everything worked. One thing he said has always stuck with me:

This is why it’s important to own your own IP.

We think of IP in terms of fantasy and superheroes – Marvel and DC. But at the core, those are just recognizable brands, characters and stories. All from the imagination and perspective of the creator – Stan Lee. Like a development company, he might not have drawn all the comic books. But he created many of the ideas. That he (and how his estate) owns.

The Blended Future Project is my Intellectual Property. It’s my unique perspective and stories that I will put out into the world. And the stories of others who I collaborate with. All with the mission of giving representation for the Mixed Experience. Where everything I do, I own. And it also has the potential to grow.

So for all of you who are in the storytelling business – think big. Think of how you can create your own. What can you develop and retain ownership of? How can you use that to connect with other partners and collaborators. Remember that you are here to create an impact. Not just provide a service. 

When the acts of creation and service work hand-in-hand. That’s what makes you unstoppable.

Become someone who develops. And you’ll be that unstoppable force faster than you think.



Streamlining Your Creative Identity

Being a mixed man, I am more than just one thing. I’m Black and Latvian. I’m also American and European. This traversing of multiple worlds has also found it’s way into my creative skills and work. I have a lot of skills in a lot of different areas. A lot of other creatives I know are in the same predicament:

The world doesn’t know how to take in all that we are.

Many a creator who struggles with this issue, including myself. Recently, I realized that I was putting too much onto one of my websites.  And got some key input on how to fix it.

So this week, I’m going to share the same secret with you.

SPLITTING THE ENTRY

My area of expertise is the entertainment industry. If I was to list out all the skills I have, it would be something like this:

I am a storyteller, writer, creative producer, film director, video editor, website builder, entrepreneur, motion designer , colorist, coach and consultant.

Lost yet?

Now, if I tried to put this all in one place. This would elicit a few reactions:

1 – Overwhelm at the amount of options

2 – Seeing all the options, expecting to pay less for them.

And creators do work that is of a high value.

Now, I just can’t declare myself a high-end option without these 2 things:

1 – Expertise and Examples

We all have to pass the competency test. This comes through everything that we present. From our web design to social media posts to work samples. Everything we put out there should present expectations we can live up to. It all has to work as a cohesive unit.

There was a filmmaker I worked with on several projects. He had made some great work and gotten some accolades. And he was very frustrated that his career hadn’t taken off like he thought it should. He didn’t understand what was holding him back.

As we dived in, I realized he didn’t present himself as what he wanted. His website was a mess. He hadn’t bought his own domain name (a killer mistake).  The template looked like it was 20 years old. He didn’t think it was important since it was just to house his work. He thought people would see his work and just be impressed by it.

But everything we do is part of our work. Ignoring one gives off the impression of a lack of attention to details. That we work hard on certain things. But others might slip through the cracks.

2 – Specificity

After the competency test, we need to fill a specific need. Content creation is something that used to be inaccessible. When I graduated film school, just being able to make a film or video was impressive. Because the barrier to entry was high. Now it’s not, so just making great work isn’t enough. We need to present it to a specific group, i.e. an audience.

There was a production company I worked for a while back that did incredible work on all size budgets. But getting clients was always a struggle. One day I asked the owner what the company’s area of expertise was. It was defined as making beautiful work. Now, I kept my mouth shut. But I knew this wouldn’t be enough. Again – the barrier to entry is lower now. This company is no longer in business.

Now, I am not perfect in my approaches. I have been dangerously close to making both of these mistakes in my own business. And I was able to avoid it by making a phone call to receive this:

COACHING

I used to think coaching was bullshit. I saw hundreds of people popping up online saying they were coaches for weird things. A gardening coach, really?

It looked like a very saturated market where anyone could give themselves the title. But I also know I can’t rely on my own perspective. I called a friend who is a producer and also a coach to get some invaluable advice.

For a while now, I’ve felt my points of entry have gone from clear to confused. When I was a freelancer, I had specific websites that pointed to specific needs. Those were:

Filmmaking (a personal website)

Editing (an editing portfolio)

After starting The Blended Future Project, I now had a blog about the mixed experience. Something I had shied away from, but now felt comfortable talking about. I wanted to tell stories and help other mixed creators. It’s what gets me excited to work on every day. But in my approach I made a key mistake:

I was adding too much into one place.

I have a lot of big goals for the company (and myself). But I was trying to cram them all into one. Which led to some confusion:

Is it a blog? A consultancy? A production company?

I had done so many things since it started.  I had added too many items to the menu. And I had gotten away from the key mission from outset:

An online media company dedicated to showcasing the mixed experience.

Through coaching, I unlocked that while I have a lot of skills. They can’t all be inside of one business. So what I really have is 3. Which, ironically, are almost identical to the 3 phases of filmmaking (pre-production, production and post-production):

  • Consulting
  • Content creation
  • Post-production

So instead of one business, I have 3. The key element here is that the businesses are all linked. Because they are all a part of me. And if you go to my website, you can see how I’ve broken this down. You can see what you’re looking for and choose how we can work together.

There might be multiple websites and businesses. But I have one creative identity.

And the lesson for everyone here is to think of yourself and your career the same way. You don’t have to be just one thing to everyone. But you have to present one part of yourself at a time, to someone.

A CREATIVE FOCUS

Now, having 3 businesses might be great. But also, from the outside, sounds like an INSANE amount of work. But these aren’t jobs that I have all hours of the day. These are just systems that I’m building. And there are some key ways I manage my time.

Task Ranking

Time Blocking

Team Building

Which I’ll dive into in later writings.

As creators, we have stories that we want to tell. But we also have to communicate our own story first – simply and efficiently. We need our audiences to understand who we are and what we bring to the table. That’s the way we build connections and get to create what really matters.



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.