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‘Or Die Trying’ Webseries Empowering Millennials

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Or Die Trying Series

Inspiring millennials across the nation, Or Die Trying is sharing a story about four women living in Hollywood pursuing their dreams in the entertainment industry. In this exclusive interview, they reveal the truth about LA, crowdfunding, and feminism. The passion behind the webseries stem from the lives of the creator Myah Hollis and producer Sarah Hawkins. They are the masterminds behind Or Die Trying, and this is how they’re doing it.

 

What is Or Die Trying about?

MH: Or Die Trying is about four millennial women living and working in Hollywood. When it comes to their careers in the entertainment industry, they know what they want and they have an idea of what it will take to get there, but they struggle with making all of the pieces of their lives mesh seamlessly. While they’re strong in one area, they’re lacking in another. It’s a story about their journeys as they develop as women and try to come to some type of equilibrium, while not compromising who they are in the process.

Tell me about the characters.

MH: Amelia Tinsley is a journalist, struggling with her identity and her sense of purpose, and trying to get herself back on track. Bailey Rosenberg is a comedian who is totally in tune with who she is and what she wants, but is having opposing expectations forced on her by her mother who wants her to live more traditionally. Ellie Hansen is an indie actress who is disinterested in the idea of fame at the expense of art, even though she’s constantly being pressured to “sell out.” Raegan Thomas is the creator and co-showrunner of a TV show who, although she’s doing very well professionally, is dealing with things in her personal life, and she doesn’t really have the ability to compartmentalize the two. Each character is trying to achieve a sense of balance between two dueling aspects of their lives.

How did you ladies meet?

SH: Myah and I met a few years ago in Philly where we both lived and worked. We both made the leap to LA within months of each other in 2013, Myah moving here for writing, and I sought to pursue acting. Being friends and fellow film industry ladies, we wanted to create something together that we could call our own, as if you wait for the perfect role or opportunity to come to you, you’re never going to find it. We’ve been work wives ever since!

Why LA?

SH: Los Angeles is like Mecca for artists and those striving to put one’s dreams into fruition. Most everyone is here with purpose, and that alone can be incredibly infectious. Who wouldn’t want to feed off that type of energy every day?

MH: If you’re seriously pursuing a career in TV or film, this is the heart of the industry. It’s where you need to be. It also helps that it’s sunny all year and there’s a ton of sushi.

What is your day to day like?

MH: Every day is hectic in its own way, but not extremely exciting to be honest. It’s just a marathon of checking things off of checklists, chugging gallons of caffeine and trying not to sink into the warm comfort of an unproductive Netflix binge.

SH: I’m not sure I can really echo Myah’s sentiments enough on the coffee bit. Coffee in an IV and an obscene mountain of emails.

What inspires you?

SH: My fellow women in film. I feel like there is such community within our little network that is just pure of heart and down to earth, so much that at times it can kick your own ego-butt every now and then. This industry can be just absolutely brutal, but when I see like-minded, passionate, badass women who just want to help level each other up, I get incredibly motivated to do the same and progress the conversation further.

MH: I think I’m most inspired by the statistical improbability that I should be successful as a writer in this industry. When I first decided that I would pursue this instead of going down one of the many roads that would lead me to a stable job, I was very aware of the fact this is something that I should fail at. More people fail than succeed, that’s just a fact. You know this going in but you do it anyway. The idea of being successful despite those odds is what drives me.

Or Die Trying Cast

Why a story about women?

MH: There aren’t enough stories about women told by women. There’s a unique perspective that’s missing in Hollywood because women are not telling our own stories, therefore the stories that are being told are not representing us properly. It’s a systemic problem that will only change if we make it our responsibility to create more complex, realistic female characters.

Who are some of your role models? Why?

MH: Shonda Rhimes is my main professional role model, for reasons that feel really obvious to me but I’ll just go ahead and lay them out. She has knocked down so many barriers and has become the epitome of a woman building her own empire and playing by her own rules. She has beat the odds in every way, and that’s really inspiring. My role models in my personal life are my parents and my family and close friends. I’m just surrounded by so many strong, resilient and talented people, it’s insane.

SH: Amy Sherman-Palladino for the creation of Gilmore Girls, which is probably some of the best feminist writing on TV and on a personal level, my dad. He has been a huge influence on my career as an actor and as a producer, and is a constant source of inspiration.

What advice can you give to people chasing their dreams in LA?

SH: Find your “person(s)”. LA can be extremely lonely and competitive if you let it. Surround yourself with people who push you to be better, to think outside of yourself, to keep the end goals in perspective when the day-to-day gets muddled and messy. That’s what I love most about Myah’s & I’s relationship. She keeps me in check and we push on together.

MH: Don’t listen to people, listen to your instincts. Listen to your gut. Succeeding in this city takes stamina. Only you know when you’ve had enough. Don’t stop going after what you want until you’re sure you don’t want it anymore.

How did crowdfunding through Seed & Spark help you?

SH: Seed&Spark was one of the most challenging and rewarding experiences. Crowdfunding is never easy, but the folks at Seed&Spark vet you and prepare you on a level that is incredibly empowering. Really cool filmmakers came out of the woodwork to support us, not only financially but with loans of goods, services, promotions, etc. Our project became a community through Seed&Spark, and we’re excited to continue to build that village through production this October.

How are you trying to make your audience feel?

MH: I don’t ever want to tell people what they should feel. I’m kind of a psych nerd, so I can get a little hippie-dippie at times, but I really think that everyone is at a different point in their lives and different things resonate with you depending on what you’re experiencing at the time. I just want people to be able to empathize on some level, but whatever feelings our show ignites is fine with me as long as they’re engaged.

What is your message to your audience?

MH: You have to trust your instincts, regardless of the backlash that may cause. You also have to be willing to put in the work to become whoever it is you want to be, both professionally and personally. Those are the main things that I want people to walk away with. Other than that, I just hope people take what they need from it and that they’re both inspired and entertained.

What sort of person is going to love the show?

SH: We sought to really hone in on our fellow millennial women in film, because they are our community, our niche; the ambitious, driven women who know what they want and are actively doing everything they can to make it happen. I know ODT echoes universal truths far beyond that demographic, that dreams are worth fighting for, and given by the reaction to our trailer, our Seed&Spark Campaign, and other press, I can’t wait to see who latches on to it, as both men and women alike have been extremely anxious and excited for us to get it out there.

Or Die Trying Myah Hollis

What was the happiest moment?

MH: Finishing the scripts was a huge relief. I tend to pick at them compulsively until they’re exactly the way I see it in my head, so when they were officially locked in and ready to go I felt like I could finally breathe.

SH: For me, it’s the seeing the community we are beginning to build with Or Die Trying. A distinct moment was at our ODT Networking Party, and looking out into the crowd to see all the amazing people who not only came out to support our series, but came out to connect with fellow filmmakers and level each other up by networking with one another. It was so cool to witness!

How has pursuing Or Die Trying affected your lives?

MH: It’s completely dominated the past year and a half of my life. Everything has revolved around this project for so long, that I don’t really remember what I was doing with my days before. It’s also made me really confident in my abilities as a writer and producer, and very thankful to be surrounded by such talented and creative people every day.

SH: Same! ODT on the brain 24/7.

What struggles are women facing today?

SH: I’m going to chunk this down to women in film because there are some pretty wild problems outside of this industry women have been and are currently fighting against. To put it plainly, there is unequal opportunity for women behind and infront of the camera, unequal pay above and below the line, and very little movement to illuminate the female perspective onscreen.

Would you consider yourselves feminists?

SH:  Yes. Men and women are equals, it’s time our society reflects it. Feminism shouldn’t be a dirty word.

MH: I honestly don’t understand how you can not be a feminist. There are negative implications about what feminism is, but it’s very simply the belief that women are equal to men in every capacity. I can’t believe that’s something that we’re still debating as a society.

How do you feel about the film industry today?

SH: I think we are in a unique time where collaboration and creation is becoming increasingly more welcome than competition. So much of this industry is cut-throat, but when it comes down to actually bringing a project into fruition on the indie level, I believe most people are in it for the right reasons. Maybe that’s naive of me to say, but at the very least, that’s been our experience with ODT. Everyone just wants to be apart of something bigger than themselves, and I believe our series speaks to that.

What obstacles have you faced?

SH: The proverbial “no,” and learning that it has no real merit on you or what you’re capable of achieving.

MH: The great thing about building your own projects and creating your own opportunities is that you don’t face many obstacles that you can’t overcome. There are always logistics that need to be figured out, but the fact that you’re not waiting for someone to tell you what you can or can’t do eliminates a lot of that hesitation and stress that can hinder you in this industry.

Who would you like to work with in the future?

MH: Shonda.

SH: Jill Soloway.

Is there anything you want to highlight?

SH: We’re headed into production of Or Die Trying this October, but you can stay tuned on our progress at odtseries.com and on social media @ODT_series and at #odtseries

 

Jie writes about influencers and startups in various industries. She is a designer turned techie, and when she is not writing, you can find her in her workshop working on her next big project.

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Business

Dreampad: Sleep Technology That Calms Anxiety

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Some people can fall asleep anywhere in any situation. Unfortunately for others, that is not the case. Randall Redfield, Co-Founder of Dreampad is trying to solve this problem. He appeared on Shark Tank to pitch Dreampad. Not only did he create a pillow, Randall Redfield is on a mission to create products that uses neurotechnology to improve brain function. Dreampad is a pillow that converts music into vibrations that travels internally to your inner ear at prices starting at $149. It can be set to play your favorite soothing music or even sounds of waves as it guides your mind into relaxation. You can control the volume, music, and timer through an app. They even allow you to test out the music for Dreampad so you’ll know exactly which one is right for you.

What’s fascinating is the technology and science behind the pillow. You’ve heard of devices like the Fitbit measuring your sleep, but Dreampad has a goal to put you to sleep. As stated on their Kickstarter, “The Dreampad plays music through Intrasound Technology™, which converts sound into gentle vibrations that travel directly to your inner ear. This process signals the nervous system to relax, calming your body and mind. It’s safe, comfortable for all ages, supported by research, and it works.” Not only that, but they also make the music in-house for the Dreampad, like their rhythmic breathing breathing program that mimics the sound of a wave.

There may be nights where you’re stressed about your startup, thinking about how to get your next 100 customers or how you will make your employees lives easier. The best thing to do in this situation is usually to relax so you can tackle those business details with an open mind. Startup leaders suffer from multiple levels of anxiety. The technology that Dreampad introduced is trying to cure your sleepless nights. The Dreampad pillow is scientifically proven to reduce stress and engage the nervous system’s relaxation response. So instead of sitting at your desk at home basking in the glow of your computer, take a moment to free your mind.

 

We gave the pillow a try to see if it lives up to the hype. And, IT DOES! The music is very much contained to the pillow itself, and anyone laying next to you will not be able to hear it. It works in any sleeping position, so you don’t have to alter how you sleep. We received the medium Dreampad and it was delightfully fully and comfortable. It was like sinking into a cloud while listening to beach waves. The bluetooth option is fantastic if you don’t want your phone directly next to you. The only concern was having a pillowcase to fit the pillow. Not only is there a fear of getting it dirty, but it always makes your hair staticky. However, the material feels very high-end and soft to the touch. Overall, Dreampad really helped with falling asleep and decreasing anxieties.

It may take a few tries before getting use to the Dreampad pillow, as with any pillow. Knowing your favorite type of pillow is key when choosing one that fits your comfort. Dreampad comes in slim, medium, firm, and memory foam. Because of the technology that’s inside the pillow, it cannot be machine washed, so having a pillow case for it is something to keep in mind. As the hard-working entrepreneur that you are, it’s definitely worth a try. There are many things that you need to think about during the day. Figuring out how to fall asleep should not be one of them.

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Events

Interview with a Street Artist: Joe Mangrum, the Sand Painter

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joe mangrum

While walking through any given park in New York, what type of creative would you expect to encounter?  There are all the predictable performers such as guitarists, perhaps a living statue, and of course the young break dancers bouncing around the halls of subway cars or gathering crowds in the park before jumping over some poor tourist’s kid.  No one would be surprised to see these type of performers in any given city in America. What about someone who pours sand on the ground? No… not a sandcastle.  What if you walked down the street and saw something like this:

joe mangrum

This insane and psychedelic pattern is what I saw one day walking through Washington Square Park while looking for the world’s largest Corgi Meetup (that’s a story for another day).  Above the geometrically complex shape growing on the ground, I saw a man hunched over his hands dusty with grains of many colors, adding more orbiting patterns to the piece. His name was Joe Mangrum. Joe makes some badass pieces of temporary art, fragile patterns that most often take the form of intricate mandalas.  Here’s what he had to say about his experiences as a street artist:

1.  When we met you mentioned you’ve been doing this for 6 years now.  What were you doing before and at what moment did you decide you would do this full time?

I’ve been making art pretty much all my life and found my signature style about 1994, art has never really been a choice but a necessity and I worked various gigs in between art projects up until 2009 after I had moved to New York, determined to make it work.  It was then I started colored sand paintings in public and that gave me the bread and butter token making art on a daily basis without taking outside work.  Full time has always been the goal, and now its just managing bigger projects within that framework.

2.  Which do you like better and why: creating art in a studio or creating art in public spaces like Washington Square Park?

I like both for very different reasons. The public space allows for an interaction in real time with people who are not necessarily the type that go to art galleries, they have spontaneous reactions that are real insightful in ways, they inform me and feed me with lively discussion, on the flip-side there are plenty of people that are just walking on their phone and not paying attention that can be destructive to such a delicate work.  The studio offers the freedom of time.I can spend as long asI want on a single piece of work…  you just can’t go that deep and make changes with the limited time set by the sun wind and weather in the public space. Its gotta be swept away when I leave for the day.

3.  While working in public spaces, what was your best/most surprising experience?

I have had some people get emotional over the years but one time went furthering a person came up and said that I had saved their life?  Upon further inquiry they said they were suicidal and for six months had come out to see my work before working up the courage to speak to me, it gave them hope, and it hit me in a profound way, that my work over so many years may have that sort of impact on so many unknown people, its a little scary and at the same time humbling.

4.  What was the worst?

I can’t say any one instance is the worst, but being in public a lot you are vulnerable to whatever comes your way on any given day.  People can be rude and entitled or just plain oblivious, the cumulation can get you down at times.  Occasionally there is a mental unstable person you have to deal with and I just do my best to use non-violent communication to defuse and deescalate any potentially crazy situation, its sad, but it makes me feel good that I’ve honed these skills enough handle some potentially violent people over the years who just don’t have their world in the place they want it.

5.  How much would you say you earn from tips on average while working in public? 

Its really irrelevant,  I survive in NYC.

6.  Tell me about a time when your work was destroyed

 Its usually by a strong wind as the rain is much more predictable, the worst is when you are working on a very hot day its relatively calm but no-one is out as its just too hot… then as the people emerge out of the air conditioning in the early evening, a huge wind will sometimes gust up and destroy the work, leaving little opportunity to make the daily bread. 

7.  Tell me why you feel compelled to create

I create because it teaches me something new about myself about the world on a daily basis…   there is a lot of knowledge to be gained by my process still.

joe mangrum

joe mangrum

joe mangrum

mangrum joe

mangrum joe

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Business

Max Temkin On Cards Against Humanity

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Brent Knepper Cards Against Humanity
Photo by Brent Knepper for Cards Against Humanity

Hillary Trump Cards Against HumanityIf you have ever played the popular card game Cards Against Humanity, you are a horrible person. If you haven’t, prepare to die of laughter. To play, one person reads a question from a black card as everyone chooses the funniest white card from their hand to be chosen. It sounds simple, but with cards like “A big black dick.” and “Not giving a shit about the third world.”, you quickly realize that it is not a game for the weak.

During an exclusive interview with co founder Max Temkin, he tells us about business, Black Friday ideas, and doing things the Cards Against Humanity way. Best known for creating the game, he is also the cofounder of Blackbox, creator of Humans vs. ZombiesSecret Hitler, and Slap .45, and is on the National Finance Committee for Hillary for America. Though involved in politics, he does things a little differently, as you can see with America Votes with Cards Against Humanity. Like a true entrepreneur, the list of projects is endless. He describes himself as just a designer, but to think of him as just that would be foolish. Max Temkin is an inspiration for those aspiring to take their hobbies to the next level.

How did CAH get started?

I’ve talked about this extensively in other interviews, but basically, the co-creators of Cards Against Humanity have a long history of making games together, and Cards Against Humanity was the first good one we play-tested. We put it out for free and it gained a cult following. Then we did a Kickstarter.

What are your backgrounds?

I have a philosophy degree and I work on Democratic campaigns and elections. Some of the other Cards Against Humanity co-creators have backgrounds in economics, science, and advertising.

Why did you decide to create dick jokes instead of working in a different field?

It was mostly a happy accident! We all still have outside interests, though Cards Against Humanity is my biggest project now.

When was your a-Ha moment?

I’m not sure what that means! A time that sticks out in my memory that I knew Cards Against Humanity was pretty special was when I was play-testing it at college… I had a bunch of friends over in my dorm room, we were playing it and laughing, and more and more people kept coming over and joining. The laughter was contagious, and people kept coming in attracted by the spectacle. I saw that happen and I knew something special was going on.

How has sarcasm benefited your company?

Not sure how to answer this one. We always try to find something earnest or authentic to make a joke about, and something that makes us laugh.

What is your on-boarding process?

Is that like when you hire someone? We don’t have a lot of formal procedures. Trin is our events director and is kind of in charge of office morale, so she helps people find their place in the company.staff Cards Against Humanity

Describe your office culture.

We have a large open office that we built in Chicago, it’s a co-working space full of our friends… other designers, artists, musicians, podcasters, and weirdos from around the city.

What is the best way to respond to negative feedback?

I try not to get defensive and rush to defend myself… I usually take a moment to absorb the criticism, and then translate it into something constructive that I can act on. Sometimes people have constructive criticism that I can’t act on, and I just try to make sure that they’re heard.

Who are some influencers that you admire?

I truly hate thinking of people as “influencers,” thinking like that instrumentalizes all of the relationships in your life and makes them transactional. I don’t know that you can think about other people in terms of being an “influencer” or not, and still view them as honest and emotionally available to you.

What is the biggest lesson you learned since starting CAH?

It’s been very hard for me to delegate and give work to other people… even when they’re way better than me. Our design director Amy Schwartz is a much better designer than me, the best designer I’ve ever worked with, and I really look up to her. I know that she outshines me in every skill. But it’s still emotionally so difficult to give up the work.

How do you determine a good employee at CAH?

We look for kind, funny, and well-rounded people who are first good human beings and second good employees. We value a diversity of experience and viewpoint, and whether people have full, real lives outside of work.

What advice would you give to people trying to start their own business?

Every good business that you admire figured things out for themselves. They forged their own path and came up with their own way of doing things. Apple does things the Apple way. McDonald’s does things the McDonald’s way. Cards Against Humanity does things the Cards Against Humanity way. Reading business advice and blindly following what other people did didn’t get those companies anywhere, and it won’t get you anywhere either. To make a successful company or brand, you need to start from first principles and figure out your own way forward.

What advice can you give people new to crowdfunding?

Again the whole notion of “giving advice” on crowdfunding is kind of crazy to me. The whole point is to authentically figure out what you’re about and how to connect with other people. Some advice I like from Matthew Frederick’s 101 Things I Learned in Architecture School is that successful designers learn to make design decisions conditionally – that is, with the awareness that they may or may not work out as you continue toward a final solution.

Where do you see yourselves in 5 years?

Tough question – I have no idea if people will still be playing Cards Against Humanity or care about us at all in five years. For the last five years, I’ve had a personal goal of making one small Kickstarter project a year. Sometimes they’re really small and personal like my Maxistentialism zine. And sometimes they’re huge public projects like my new game Secret Hitler. But I’d like to think that I’ll still be doing that in a year.

12-days-of-holiday-bullshit

How did you come up with 12 Days of Holiday Bullshit?

We needed to come up with some way to market Cards Against Humanity during the holidays that was funny and still had integrity. The first year we did a holiday stunt, it was a pay-what-you-want pack and we made $70,000, which we donated to charity. We felt like the next year we needed to out-do that. The blind subscription, where you pay us and get a series of mystery gifts in the mail, was a nice escalation. We did that for three years and now we’re taking a break.

How often do you guys visit Hawaii 2?

I’ve never been! I hear from lots of people who have been to visit, and apparently it’s really nice during the summer.

What do you do with all the dumb ideas that people submit?

Mostly we use them as kind of raw brainstorming ideas… I don’t think we’ve ever gotten a crowd suggestion that went directly into the game.

What are some Black Friday ideas that didn’t make the cut?

We probably investigate a hundred ideas that don’t pan out to get to the one that works. The original idea was a $0.01-off coupon, but we ultimately rejected it because we felt that it was still a marketing deal. We always want to do something genuinely surprising and risky. This year’s is going to be a doozy.

How did you come up with the idea for The Bigger Blacker Box?

People asked us for a big box that held all the cards, and over my strong objections, we decided to give them what they wanted. This was the best product we could design that fit those needs.

A few Redditors mentioned that they want to send you beer. Has this happened? Have you received anything out of the ordinary?

We’ve gotten all kinds of crazy gifts and things from people. I love that people feel like they have a relationship with us and want to send us stuff, I think that’s a sign that we’re getting our message out there and our voice is coming through.

 

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