Some of The Best Advice I’ve Ever Recieved
Not every high school gives seventeen-year-olds access to $2000 camcorders and Final Cut Pro like mine did. Looking back at it, I feel extremely lucky. In 2005, During my junior year, I became immersed in the fun and creative process of video production through my high school’s ROP Video class. I really enjoyed the entire process: story-boarding, shooting, editing, post-production effects, and finally, presenting. As I was approaching college two years later, I gave a career in Film and Video Production some serious consideration.
A few semesters into my junior college film pre-requisites, my dad met a guy named Sean on a weekend trip with some old friends. Sean is a partner of an experiential branding agency and had received his MA in Film Production from SDSU years back. As he and my father chat, my dad mentioned my interest in film production. Sean seemed interested. When my dad returned from his trip, he promptly encouraged me to reach out to Sean. My dad had always stressed the importance of having a job that can help me reach my long-term goals, and busing tables at an Outback Steakhouse wasn’t doing much to benefit my career as a film-maker. I emailed Sean asking if he would meet with me; I planned on picking his brain about film school, Hollywood, and anything else he had to share with a curious nineteen-year-old. I had no clue that my email to Sean would play a pivotal point in my life.
A week later, I drove down to his office building and nervously waited in the lobby. To this day, it is the coolest office I’ve ever been in. It had a sleek, glass conference room, a think-tank room complete with beanbags and lava lamps, movie posters all over the colorfully painted walls, and awards his company received on a bookshelf packed full of books on branding, marketing strategy, and creative design. Several minutes later, Sean emerged from his office, introduced himself, and asked if I wanted to go get lunch. I happily agreed.
As we chatted back and forth over burgers, I asked Sean my questions about film school and Hollywood, and he inquired about what I had already worked on, what I wanted to do, and why. Sean had this mellow, laid-back presence but he seemed to be continuously analyzing things in his head which impressed me. I mentioned my interest in transferring south to a big LA film school. I expected a response like, “Cool. Work hard and good luck, I loved it.” But instead he asked me one of the best questions someone could have asked me. He said:
Ok, here’s the deal. I’ve done what you want to do and this is what I’ve seen. If you are serious about pursuing film and video, you have to realize that there are only five ways to make it.
You have to be born into the industry. A grandparent, aunt, uncle, whatever. If you know someone high up, they can get you in.
You have to be born into a family with a lot of money so you can actively make videos and not have to worry about things like… money.
You can hope to be extremely talented and extremely lucky at exactly the same time. But you have to have both. Plenty of people are talented but never get a break and some people happen to get their break but don’t have the actual talent to sustain a successful career.
You can make money doing something different (this is what Sean decided to do) and once you have established yourself, whether it be professionally or financially, you can practice film as a hobby or fuse it back into whatever you did to make money in the first place. Go full circle.
Last option is being content with living on not very much. There is a great chance you’ll start out working in a “chop house”, editing other people’s footage and just scraping by. If you really have passion then that is okay for a while, but if you want to be pretty comfortable or provide for a family, this may not work for you.
Now options 1 and 2 you have no control over and option 3 is kind of a crap-shoot. What you really have to decide is: do you want to make good money doing something with more security, like business, or can you be happy working hard in an industry that may not give you everything you need?
Boom. I didn’t say much for a minute, I just chewed on the question I’d been presented with. It was so thought-out, yet so simple. Practicality at its absolute finest.
I realized I could learn a lot from Sean, so towards the end of the lunch I decided to throw out the possibility of a job or internship. I was nervous because Sean was a professional who had never spoken to me before today. Why would he want to pay some random kid like me? I even half-jokingly offered to sweep floors, dust, get coffees, whatever he needed. I just wanted to be around the things he was working on. He laughed and said he would speak with his partner about finding a spot for me as an Intern/Production Assistant. I was thrilled.
I was only able to work for Sean for about nine months, but the valuable experience I gained during that time revealed completely new paths to me. My focus gradually shifted from film and video production to marketing and brand building. I later enrolled in classes on business, communications, graphic design, and web development, all new subjects that I found really interested me.
Sean’s advice in the form of a question eventually helped me find my real interests and primed more for a fascination with startups. I love the idea of startups. A startup can integrate all of my different interests: business, marketing, branding, communications, creative design, web development, video production, problem solving, and management. I may never have discovered this without the amazing advice that was given to me. Although I was very lucky with how things played out, including Sean’s willingness to meet with me and give me a job, none of it would have happened without me sending an email. Had I not reached out and opened myself up to advice in the first place, I have no clue where I would be right now or what I would be striving towards. But I doubt I would be as focused, enthusiastic, and excited as I am about pursuing my living in the startup world.