How Steven Hellmann of Crafty Is Helping To Make the Entertainment Industry More Diverse and Representative
Everything is practice — I should’ve made more skits in college I didn’t film enough. It wasn’t until I was out of college that I started making silly videos cause i just wanted to do it. Don’t worry if something isn’t perfect it’s not suppose to be.
As a part of my series about leaders helping to make the entertainment industry more diverse and representative, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Steven Hellmann.
Steven Hellmann, originally from the suburbs of Philadelphia, moved to Los Angeles in the summer of 2016 with several years of writing screenplays under his belt. After a year in Los Angeles, Steven accepted a job in the marketing and distribution department at Gunpowder & Sky and ran the digital marketing ad campaigns for over a dozen titles.
Steven used that knowledge to finance and create his debut feature film, Taking The Fall. He then used his hands on film distribution experience to coordinate the release and marketing of the film onto digital platforms in April of 2021 alongside a sales team. Steven felt compelled by his passion for film to use his marketing knowledge to help elevate the amazing work in the short film space thus creating Crafty.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Starting Crafty was something that I’ve wanted to do for awhile because there aren’t a lot of strong online communities in the independent short film world. Personally, it’s a really fun and exciting challenge for me because it’s taking my biggest creative passion in filmmaking and fusing it with my marketing career. My experience of releasing independent films and helping showcase content is something that I would want help with as a filmmaker, and being able to share that knowledge and reciprocate back to the independent film community is not only exciting but feels right.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
At a job interview someone said that I can’t be a creative and a digital marketer and that I should choose one or the other. That really rubbed me the wrong way for so many reasons with the biggest one being: I personally want to understand and learn as much as I can. I think wearing many hats and doing multiple roles in any professional field is really important so you can get a deeper understanding of the entire process of how things get done. Being pigeonholed or stuck in just one way of doing something stunts growth and learning both professionally and more importantly personally. My marketing experience has been so instrumental in my process as a filmmaker that I couldn’t imagine not having that experience.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
When I first moved to LA I used dating apps to network versus actually seeking out dates (Kind of clever if you don’t know anyone in a new city I suppose). They didn’t have bumble BFF there or anything. Even though I was always forthright with just wanting to network I’d recommend just going to networking events.
Ok, thank you for all that. Let’s now jump to the main focus of our discussion. Can you describe how you are helping to make popular culture more representative of the US population?
The goal with Crafty is to connect filmmakers to their audience, to lift up the beautiful work that they’ve already done, and to create a community around these touching stories. We have filmmakers from all walks of life that have put their film on our platform, and we hope that having their film on Crafty can open more doors for them in the filmmaking world.
Can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted by the work you are doing?
Quite a few of our filmmakers already have never had their short films on an online platform. Crafty provides a great home for viewership of short films after they conclude their festival run. We promote their films with social posts and paid media to find people that are seeking out short film content and looking for new voices in the filmmaking industry.
As an insider, this might be obvious to you, but I think it’s instructive to articulate this for the public who might not have the same inside knowledge. Can you share three reasons with our readers about why it’s really important to have diversity represented in Entertainment and its potential effects on our culture?
- Entertainment is such a massive industry that garners so much attention so it’s the perfect medium for us to highlight different experiences from different people. The world would be such a better place if we all had a deeper understanding of what everyone else was going through.
- Diversity provides unique perspective that spur unique stories. A lot of people are very tired of the rinse and repeat formula of hollywood with just superhero movies, massive IP franchises, and romcoms. People want unique stories. People want to see different shows and more often than not the more unique niche plots for films and shows are the ones that garner the most popularity.
- Education and social impact. Cinema has a unique way of inspiring people. If we can highlight social issues through cinema this could really inspire change at a larger level.
Can you recommend three things the community/society/the industry can do to help address the root of the diversity issues in the entertainment business?
- Funding for creators. Provide funding for people to make their own projects without guard rails.
- More writers programs and scholarships for young filmmakers that lead to full-time industry jobs where individuals can work their way up.
- Uplift each other’s work! Collaborate with each other and share each other’s projects.
How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?
Leadership to me is being accountable and forthright. Anyone can lead when things are all clicking and going well, but it’s during times of uncertainty and hardship that I measure people’s character. Tough times don’t last, tough people do.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why? Please share a story or example for each.
- Everything is practice — I should’ve made more skits in college I didn’t film enough. It wasn’t until I was out of college that I started making silly videos cause i just wanted to do it. Don’t worry if something isn’t perfect it’s not suppose to be.
- MARKETING MATTERS — So many good films are made that never get scene or the proper distribution because they don’t get the advertising budget or no how to appeal the film to the correct audience. I would have never took the risk to make Taking The Fall if I didn’t know how to release and market movies. I’ve ran advertising campaigns for theatrical and digital releases for at least 15 movies.
- You don’t need to live in Hollywood to make movies — I’m super glad I moved to LA and it worked for me cause I learned the importance of marketing here and made the right people but I have a ton of friends who can film freely and make projects all over the country.
- Make your own content — Everyone wants to be the big shot director or be the lead actor. If you want to be the lead of a film and can’t get a lead role. Perhaps write your own movie and play the lead. Can’t make a whole movie? Write a short a film and play the lead. Show people you can wear many hats and prove to people that you can make something yourself.
- Friendships > Networking — Work and create projects with your friends that are also interested in what you are interested in. Your friends are going to be honest with you and creative things should be collaborative. Working together and being honest with each other will make the project better.
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I’m really hoping that Crafty is that movement that opens doors for as many independent filmmakers as possible and that’s why we started it!
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
At the Centre Court of Wimbledon there is a quote on the wall from the poem “If” by Rudyyard Kipling that reads “If you can meet triumph with disaster and treat those two imposters just the same.” And the quote means it doesn’t matter if you win or lose all that matters is that you try your absolute best. If you fail that’s okay. The fear of failure is such a crippling thing that it stops so many people from achieving what they want. I am okay with failing it’s fine. I want to do what makes me happy in this life and that’s making films and inspiring people.
Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
Rob McElhenney. Not only is Always Sunny the best show I’ve ever seen. Rob’s work ethic and journey to become the creative genius that he is now is so commendable. He truly 1000% earned where he got to where he is.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
Check out Crafty’s YouTube channel — https://www.youtube.com/@craftyshortfilms
This was very meaningful, thank you so much!
How Steven Hellmann of Crafty Is Helping To Make the Entertainment Industry More Diverse and… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.