If you want to find out how to make triple digits in a year….this is not the right post for you.
Similarly, if you’re looking for juicy stories about red carpets and celebrity encounters…this is also not the right post for you.
So, why should I bother reading?, you might say. Well, if you want to gain some insight on chasing your dreams, being of service to a community you’re passionate about, and how to thrive (and not just survive) after disaster and loss…this is definitely for you. If you got up this morning, feeling hopeless about a cherished dream and stumbled across this post, then perhaps this is for you. In fact, when I first started I wish I had someone who could give me insight into their path and perhaps inspire me to pursue my dreams further. Maybe I can do that for you.
Film has been my great love for as long as I can remember. When I was very young, I recall my first trip to the cinema with my Mum to see Labyrinth on the big screen. I remember the colour and pattern of the cinema complex’s carpet, the other film posters on the walls (films like Blind Date and Masters of the Universe were playing), the smell of popcorn, Fizzy Fruits and Jaffas…and the magic on the screen. Growing up, I could remember every film I went to with friends, every film I saw at slumber parties and the classic films that made a huge impression on me. It was an illicit viewing of Danny Boyle’s Trainspotting as a teenager that really cemented my passion for films, however. I began to seek out films that went above and beyond the traditional blockbuster fare, immersing myself in Kubrick, Bergman, and following Quentin Tarantino’s then-blossoming career. There had been the odd thought about working in the film industry when I was older…but I dismissed it as easily as you’d flick a fly away from your face. People I knew didn’t work in the film industry. They picked a trade or got a Bachelor’s, they went to nursing school or teacher’s college. I had considered working in PR, however- I had been writing and submitting manuscripts to publishers from the age of 11 (yes really!), and was a freelance journalist at the age of 17 while still in school. I wrote articles for the Christchurch Press’s now defunct youth interests page.
Unfortunately, a very severe bout of glandular fever with complications meant that by the time I left school I didn’t have the energy to pursue a definite career path straight away, and when I did I chose teaching. I should have known that that wasn’t the right path for me, because every Thursday when I didn’t have any classes or lectures in the afternoons I would sneak away and watch a film at the local cinema. I know a lot of people don’t like the idea of going to the movies alone, but I loved it. You block the rest of the world out. You become one with the screen. Nothing else matters.
I didn’t finish my teaching degree, and ended up aimlessly working through my 20s in various roles, including retail and administration. But 2011 would dramatically change everything. The old would be swept away whether I liked it or not. I didn’t think a natural disaster could have such a dramatic impact on my life…but it did.
We’d had an earthquake in September of 2010 and while it was large in magnitude, Christchurch managed to try and get back to normal as soon as possible. We had a huge amount of aftershocks, something which is unnerving and deeply unsettling, but we didn’t think it could get any worse than that. February 22, 2011 proved us wrong.
I was one of the fortunate ones- my friends and family all came out unscathed, and while we had to boil water that came to us from milk tankers for a week or so, we had power. My flat was structurally sound, my parents were fine and we even celebrated my partner’s birthday 5 days after the quake with a small chocolate mud cake we managed to source from a local supermarket. But I didn’t come out completely unscathed. I was a wreck. I lost hope. I grieved for the people who had lost their lives…and I grieved for the city I had grown up in. Things got very, very dark.
The Muses to the Rescue
It’s a very strange feeling to grow up in a place that seems to change gradually over time and then have everything seemingly change overnight. For months after the quake I struggled seeing landmarks and places I’d known by heart suddenly disappear. Huge swathes of land in the central city and in the suburb where I grew up suddenly became a blank canvas. You would have clusters of particularly violent aftershocks that would have you at your wit’s end. I stayed with a friend up north for a week and one day her dog bumped the chair I was sitting in and immediately my nervous system registered it as an aftershock. They thought it was hilarious. I didn’t. I stopped going to the cinema, which was a really bad sign for me. It wasn’t that I was afraid that a bad aftershock might happen….I just didn’t have the strength and energy.
But then a limited screening happened that tempted me out of my house and into the cinema….and something clicked. The muses of cinema poked and prodded at me, and I for the first time in what seemed like forever I felt like I was stirring from a slumber. I was so inspired that by the time I left the screening I couldn’t speak. I didn’t want to speak. It felt like such a sacred moment that words would feel dirty at that moment. I knew I had to make a change. I had waited too long to really, truly live my life and achieve my dreams. This was it- there was no turning back.
Thank You, Amanda Palmer
There’s a brand of cheese here in New Zealand whose tagline in their commercials is ‘Good Things Take Time’, and that’s exactly what happened with my career. I had gotten a Bachelor of Arts in my mid-twenties, but I pursued a Certificate in Public Relations and Business Communications as well. While I was studying, I began to network with filmmakers around the world and build up my social media network. I figured, hey- it’ll be easy getting a film job…right? Not quite. After asking for advice, a few closed doors and not really knowing where the heck I was going, something happened that I didn’t expect.
It was April 17, 2014. That morning, I had stumbled across Amanda Palmer’s TED talk on The Art of Asking. Another truth bomb, another flash of inspiration…but I didn’t do anything with that inspiration immediately. Prior to this, I think I expected the Universe to do the heavy lifting for me. I’d actually missed out on a really huge opportunity in 2013 but I was 2 weeks too early for it (my intuition kept telling me on the day I was due to fly to Wellington and it was snowing that I should re-schedule my flight for 2 weeks’ time, but did I listen? Noooo!). I went about my day, doing rather mundane things but a little voice inside me kept saying: “ASK.” Ask? Ask for what? Ask who? It then suddenly became clear to me- I have built up a reasonable following on Twitter, primarily within the film community…why don’t I just ask if they want publicity and digital marketing help? So I did.
At the end of the day I had my first 3 clients.
By the end of that weekend I had 6.
By the end of April I had 12.
And Film Sprites PR was born.
Of course, here’s the caveat: don’t do what I did! Or, if you do, make sure you have the things I didn’t have when I started; things like seed money, a clear brand with a clear message and a great website. I ended up having to cobble things together and pick up things I had no clue about, like SEO, because I didn’t have the money to outsource. I learned website design. I learned graphic design basics. I began to build up a fully fleshed-out and realised brand. Even though it was a messy start, I don’t regret that at all. It makes for a cute story, but also I look back at what I didn’t know then and compare it to what I know now and I’m proud of my progress. Film Sprites PR has assisted over 25 filmmakers in NZ, the US, UK, Canada and Australia with publicity, digital marketing and crowdfunding campaign assistance. Sprites has worked with filmmakers whose portfolios have included films that have starred the likes of Norman Reedus, David Carradine, Benedict Cumberbatch, and Claire Foy. Most importantly to me, Sprites has helped to connect filmmakers to their audiences and helped them create a strong brand around their filmmaking.
Believe it or not, I never actually wanted to work for myself. It’s true! I had always thought about building up my skills and expertise and a strong portfolio and eventually take on a role with a distributor or studio. That’s still something I’m aiming for, and something I would like to happen in the future. But for now, I’m really excited about what’s happening and what the future holds, both for me and for the filmmakers I’m honoured to work with.
If there’s anything you can take away from my story, I hope it’s this: following your heart and honouring your truth are vital. There are so many things the world can take away from us physically, emotionally or mentally, but your truth is something that can never be denied within you. You don’t have to do something as dramatic as starting a business, but you can start your own personal revolution right now. Don’t wait.