Student interns in New York City, interviews filmmaker

Pulse Columnist and Pulse Columnist

This summer I was accepted as a recipient for the Stuart R. Givens Memorial Fellowship Grant, which funded an opportunity to intern in an art gallery in New York City this past summer.

While there, I interviewed several people working in New York in varying creative professions.

Dan Wantz is a filmmaker who works in New York City, but is from the town of Chardon, Ohio, just east of Cleveland. Wantz originally graduated with a degree in economics, but after working with a building company in Connecticut realized that he wanted to pursue his passion instead; namely, in the film industry.

He is well known for his viral video “Lebron James ‘Rise’ Commercial & Cleveland’s Response” in 2010. He has since worked on nonfiction documentaries (including a short film documentary in Uganda, “Maternal Grave),” and commercial work for clients such as Harvard University, Makeup Forever, Bullet Magazine and more, which you can check out along with his film reel at www.dannywantz.com

Question: What was the reason for the change of careers, from economics to film?

Answer: Well I had a good job; I was managing a building company in Connecticut, and it was okay. And I always had dreams, everyone has dreams of being a director, a cinematographer, an actor; you know, it’s the Hollywood glam. I knew I wanted to be a film-maker but I think, growing up in Cleveland, it felt too far fetched. It didn’t feel like it was enough of a reality… It wasn’t a long shot if you worked hard and were willing to make a few years to sacrifice where you could get it done. I felt like I would have an unsatisfied life, or an unsatisfied life when I would go work for other people. I just wanted to be creating, and doing things that were more self-serving.

Q: So since you’ve become a part of the industry, is film making still self-fulfilling?

A: It’s always self-fulfilling. Anytime I take a job that’s not something that I’m proud to throw on Facebook and have my friends look at, then it’s kind of like a step back. It’s a tough business in film and if you don’t have something that one up’s other people on your resume then it’s harder to get those jobs. Africa definitely helped me get a lot more work. And the one thing I would always say to young people is that if you’re getting into it “Fake it until you make it.” You’re always going to do the low budget work to begin with but you never talk about it like it’s low budget. It was this project, it was great, I got to do this brand; and Africa is a brand when you’re a film-maker.

Q: Is there anything you would tell someone just getting into film? Some final advice, or what you would have done differently?

A: Expect to be poor for a while. This is something that goes for any business; it’s about grit. I think people get frustrated in this profession because they have to do a lot of free work. If you’re not going to do two or three years of free work and show people what you can do, it’s not going to happen. My first film project out of school was a 7 million hit on YouTube and I thought that was going to be it, and it wasn’t. You need to work your way up. And it is all about networking. That’s what I didn’t expect. I thought talent could drive you, but it is 100 percent about who you know, going out and being social after work, and making connections. The bigger your network is, the more successful you are going to be sooner. Hands down, no doubt about it. I wish I could go back and tell myself that when I started film school.

This is an edited down version of our interview; to see the full interview, please visit tawilkes.wordpress.com.