Season 6 – epiBLOG 5:
Many people have their perceptions about what it means to be an illustrator, a game designer, an author… a filmmaker. Yes, it takes talent if you’re fortunate enough to be born with it, but it also takes skills that you’ve honed, and a persistence unbeknownst to any average individual.
Very few people are successful in this world by the standards that we perceive to be success in regards to fulfillment, purpose, passion, money, fame, and glory.
It takes courage to do what most people aren’t willing to do. To sacrifice what most people aren’t willing to sacrifice. It takes persistence to look rejection in the face, and stand up to it in order for it not to overtake you.
Alex Magana is such an artist.
Today’s topic will be my interview with the courageous Filmmaker Alex Magana.
Alex has served as the film director on multiple episodes of such acclaimed web series’ as Beans, Rice, and Potatoes and Slapped!. He has also directed over 150 music videos—many of which have gone on to play on BET, MTV, and VH1. Now that he’s transitioning into a focus on feature films, he’s adapted the successful web series Slapped! into a full blown feature film by the same name, which will be released later on this year. But you don’t have to wait to catch one of his latest movies. He has written and co-written quite a few screenplays—including the script 29 to Life that got produced into a movie that was recently released. This is available on Amazon, Google Play, and for rent on YouTube.
Alex has experienced many successes, and he’s continuing to progress due to his hard work, courage, talent, and his business acumen. Let’s now learn from someone who is making it happen. He’s kicking a## and taking names.
Nitara O: I see that you have experience not only as a director, but you’re credited as producer, writer, editor, cinematographer, sound mixer, and even actor on some of your projects?
Alex M: Yeah, I pretty much know how to do it all. In film school, I had a group of friends I worked on projects with—each with a different expertise. One by one, they all flunked or dropped out. By the end, I learned how to do what they each did. After film school, I got hired to do music videos. Budgets were often tight, so learning new skills was crucial. Same rules apply even now as they did back then. Learn what you can. That way you can fill in when you can’t afford to hire a full crew. As my career advanced, I wanted to do narratives based on my ideas, so I started writing. And when it came time to produce the web series Slapped!, it was tough finding actors that would give a newcomer a shot. So I decided to co-star in it alongside my friend. I’ve learned a lot out of necessity.
Nitara O: Even though you call yourself a “filmmaker,” would you say you have some “entrepreneurial” instincts about you?
Alex M: Definitely. You have to hustle in this business if you want to make a living. When you’re not working on a project, you’re promoting your work, networking, and lining up the next one. You’re always on the grind.
Nitara O: What role do you enjoy doing the most out of everything?
Alex M: Directing. Lighting. And being on the set in general.
Nitara O: So what was that transition like for you when you started writing? I’m asking this because writing is pretty much an act of solitude, and here you are with a passion for being on a film set around a whole cast and crew of people.
Alex M: I guess I’m used to the solitude because of editing. There are long hours in the editing room. But definitely, I agree with what you’re saying… that’s why I like the sets more—being with people. It can be boring working by yourself all of the time.
Nitara O: What has drawn you to visual storytelling?
Alex M: I always liked doing art as a kid—so, I would have to say drawing. My issue with drawing though… I would spend so much time—hours–on creating a picture and somebody would look at it for… not even a minute, and be done. Not even care about it after that quick moment. With visual storytelling, it feels like people get engaged in what I’ve created. The experience is more entertaining.
Nitara O: I noticed that you have a few web series’ out there. Beans, Rice, and Potatoes, The Promotion Wife, Slapped!, and you have all of these commercials that you’ve done. Why have you chosen these mediums? Why the web series specifically?
Alex M: At the time when we did our first web series, these types of series’ were real popular. Some would get picked up by the studios. We did Slapped! with that hope in mind. It got a lot of traffic and fans, but that’s about it. Next was The Promotion Wife, which didn’t really do much, but was good practice. Then with Beans, Rice and Potatoes I really focused on honing my production skills to get that main stream look and sound. Plus, it was an idea that we always liked, and we thought if any of them were to get picked up, it would be this one. With commercials, it’s more “work” for paying bills. Commercials and music videos serve those purposes.
Nitara O: Is that where the majority of your revenue is created from? Commercial work and music videos?
Alex M: Yes. Music video work, especially.
Nitara O: You get to use your talent and skills for doing what you love to make a living. I absolutely love that! So, tell us… what is at the heart of your storytelling? Why do you do what you do?
Alex M: I always like showing my work to others. And when I do comedy, it’s fun to make
people laugh. To feel. When I do a screening of one of my films for the very first time—when I’m amongst an audience—it’s a great feeling to share my work with everyone. Especially when people are watching it because they want to instead of feeling obligated because they know me. And you know, there’s always challenges with every production. Things not going right. Having to do things in a new way. It’s always about growing, learning, and having to adapt to challenges. That keeps it fun.
Nitara O: What do you feel is unique about your writing/directing style that separates you from others?
Alex M: My work is very diverse. When I started out, I was always trying new techniques and cinematography styles. Always wanting to grow and make something different than I had on the last project. Because of this, I have a wide range of styles, and am better suited at creating visuals that match the tone of the narrative.
Nitara O: I mentioned that you currently have a movie that is streaming on Amazon—29 to Life. What inspired you to create this film? And what would you like everyone to know about this movie—this romantic comedy that also happens to be a coming of age story?
Alex M: 29 to Life was inspired by real life. It tells a story about a character who has gotten to a point where he’s older and hasn’t achieved the success in life that he’s wanted to. That feeling of being stuck. He questions if he’s too old to try something else. He realizes if he doesn’t change, that this is how life is always going to be.
Nitara O: This is definitely material that people can relate to. And when was this released?
Alex M: Back in March.
Nitara O: What projects are you working on now? What can fans expect from “Alex Magana?”
Alex M: Well, I have Slapped! The Movie coming out. It’s based on the web series that I mentioned earlier. Basically, we took the web series, expanded on the story, brought up the production value, and added a ton of new skits. I think fans are going to really like it. I’m also in pre-production on a horror feature that should start shooting by the end of the summer.
Nitara O: You are super busy! So, what is Slapped! about?
Alex M: It’s a comedy about two friends, one fat and one skinny, that switch bodies/lives.
Nitara O: And when should fans be expecting the release of Slapped!?
Alex M: Around the end of September/early October. The trailer is out now on YouTube.
Nitara O: What was the transition like from your film career being a hobby to it actually being your livelihood?
Alex M: I came down to Los Angeles right after film school. I remember thinking, a few weeks and I’ll have a full time job doing something involving film. Not the case at all. The first few months I took non-paid jobs at rental houses, volunteered to be on any set that I could get on, and even did some free music videos—anything to get my name out there, network, and build my portfolio… After about six months, I got a full time job editing wedding videos, and I hated it. Editing for someone else wasn’t the reason I got into film. I wanted to work for myself—direct, shoot, and edit projects that I produced. So every night I worked another eight hours on my own stuff–and all day on the weekends. Eventually, the right people saw my work, and after a few more months, I was making a living as a freelance filmmaker.
Nitara O: One of the main rules of being an entrepreneur: you’re truly in the business of marketing.
Alex M: Exactly.
Nitara O: Coming from that industry myself, I believe that’s why many filmmakers fail; they simply don’t market themselves or don’t market effectively. They focus on the art and not the business. The business side tends to not be seen as much “fun.” However, it’s so necessary in order to maintain a sustainable career.
Alex M: Absolutely. You have to create art and understand business. And remain inspired all at once.
Nitara O: What advice would you give upcoming entrepreneurs that they can apply to their endeavors?
Alex M: First, make sure you pick something that you love. You have to be passionate about what you do because you’re going to be spending most of your time doing it. If it’s not something that get’s you excited to wake up in the morning to do, you’re going to get burnt out and you’ll never be successful. Secondly, be resourceful. It doesn’t matter how limited your resources—if you’re resourceful. If you’re resourceful, you will find a way to raise the money you need, learn the skills you need, connect with the people you need to… And last, always remember if you don’t work for yourself to make your dreams come true, you’re going to be working for someone else, making their dreams come true.
Nitara O: Thank you so much for taking the time to do this interview. It’s my pleasure to share your story, Alex.
Alex M: You’re welcome. Thank you for having me, Nitara. I appreciate it.
Alex Magana is an entrepreneurial filmmaker who is taking the world by storm, as they say. He shared several nuggets of helpful wisdom, but what stood out the most for me is his courage to do it all despite the challenges.
Today’s LESSON is to be courageous by taking actions towards your entrepreneurial endeavors that intimidate you.
FUN ASSIGNMENT: List 5-10 marketing options relevant to your business that you can apply with the knowledge, tools, and access that you currently have. Create a plan for each, and take action.
Alex Magana is a working filmmaker in Los Angeles. If you’d like the opportunity to hire him for your next project, please review his IMDB page here and contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or (323) 542-6180.
Nitara Osbourne owns The Infinite Writer Agency, LLC, which provides content to producers, publishers, and individuals seeking help with developing their life stories into nonfiction books and movie scripts. Ghostwriting and blogging services are provided for clients as well. If you’re an accomplished entrepreneur, and are looking to tell your story, contact Nitara Osbourne. InfiniteWriterAgency@gmail.com.