ABOUT TODAY’S GUEST | NICK CONEDERA
Nick Conedera is a filmmaker and CEO of Conedera Studios, which produces creative educational content with the objective of healing the world through storytelling. While studying Film Production at Chapman University, Nick sold Cutco and spent time in a management role, fully exposing him to the real connection between art and business. He built a 6-figure video production business, before leaving that behind to pursue his dream of storytelling full-time. He is the author of 2 books, and writer/director of multiple feature films, including The Miracle Morning Movie (being released later in 2020) and SHARP (being re-released July 11th), which was inspired by his experiences selling Cutco.
Q&A WITH NICK CONEDERA
Q: Tell us about your personal background before your days of Cutco.
- I grew up in a very creative environment in San Diego California. I was a shy, quiet and introverted child. For a lot of time in my childhood I was living at my dad’s house and he was a professional artist, he was a graphic designer, and he did a lot of marketing and advertising. I always had a gift for the arts and creativity, I won a lot of art competitions as a kid. When I was 12 I was going into high school, I was always on an Apple computer, and one summer I played around with the free photo/video graphic design software. I would edit videos to make “mixtapes” of my favorite skateboarders, and cut movies and other videos together. I had a crystallization experience, what a lot of artists and creatives have at a young age that crystallizes their experience of their first creation. It’s a very powerful event that contributes heavily to an artist’s career for the rest of their lives, and they constantly go back to this one experience. In that one week, I somehow knew I’d be doing that for the rest of my life. I dropped all my honors and AP classes in school to focus completely on making movies, I joined all the clubs and took the advanced digital media class. I started quickly winning awards, I won three student Emmy awards even as a high schooler. Then I went to film school to pursue a career in filmmaking, and that’s when I started selling Cutco.
Q: How does a shy, creative, artistic type get into selling knives?
- I was trying to get a summer job during film school, to raise money to make my short films. A good short film is about $5,000, and I needed a job to make money, save money, and make more films. I got a letter in the mail, then picked up the phone and called. I remember the interview clearly, and was impressed by the managers. I immediately saw the value of the skills that I would gain. I wanted to become a Hollywood director, and I knew I needed skills that I would not find in a normal 9-5 corporate environment to get there.
Q: I’d like to hear more from you about some of your experiences with Cutco, and what were some of the lessons that came out of those experiences?
- The most important skill that I gained was sales. I think in the art world of the USA, there is a myth of the “starving artist” where artists believe or they’re taught that money is evil, business is bad, self-promotion is selfish, any contact with these forces is selling out, and that that’s a bad thing. However if you are truly going to make art and creativity your profession, you’re selling yourself constantly. The very nature of being an artist is having to sell something that you have created like an entrepreneur does. I do commission work which is client work, event videos, brand storytelling which is video marketing, for online purposes. I also sell my own ideas, and sometimes they overlap which is ideal. In both cases, whether it’s a client coming to me and saying “I want to pay you to make something for me” or whether it’s me going off on my own, making something, and figuring out how to raise the money for it or how to sell it, in both cases, I’m selling myself. Being able to sell yourself is a key skill as an artist.
- Selling Cutco allowed me to get to know myself better. Things like handling rejection, overcoming adversity, navigating obstacles, these things teach you your strengths. What am I best at? What do I enjoy most? Things like emotional management, time management, money skills, relationship building, all these real life skills that go beyond just the business and professional skills. The biggest thing I learned was self knowledge. Know thyself.
Q: What are some memorable experiences from your days at Cutco that were part of the inspiration for “Sharp” the movie?
- I had experience on how to handle strange and interesting situations, I had to learn how to connect with different types of individuals to survive as a kid, and I think that allowed me to be much better at the job, people were comfortable with me. Because they were comfortable or maybe too comfortable with me, it was maybe too easy for them to say no to me, which pushed me to learn how to be more influential in my sales skills. It was a really fun creative practice. One of the reasons I was naturally gifted as a sales person was because of my creative ability, I could come up with new ideas on the spot, in the moment, to handle objections and to handle unexpected experiences. My creativity was a huge advantage in the art of selling.
- Dan: Create that ultimate level of connection where people can be authentic, this creates the ultimate level of influence. Your level of connection is a great strength.
Q: How about your path after Cutco, where did the path take you after you got out of Chapman University and you started pursuing your career?
- I graduated film school, and moved to Los Angeles. I hustled to pay my own bills, made it as a videographer, and I started working as the video marketing director with the head of external relations at the time for Vector Corporate. That was part of the transition into making “Sharp” the movie, then after I finished that project, I started making “The Miracle Morning Movie” with Hal. While doing so I started building a business around event video with the entrepreneurs I was surrounded with, and ended up working with Jon Berghoff, Hal Elrod, Jon Vroman, and other entrepreneurs and their circles of influence.
- After I finished “The Miracle Morning Movie” I was living in Austin, Texas, I got rid of my possessions and bought a van to build into a mobile home. For the past two years I’ve been travelling the country living in a van, and seeing the cool places that I’ve always wanted to see. I realized I wanted to move on from managing a business and a team of artists, to doing what I loved which was telling stories. Part of that transition was to get out of doing client work and get into being a full time filmmaker. I’ve been doing a lot more script writing and personal interest projects like short films and some client projects. I transitioned my income from coming from client work to coming from my own artwork.
Q: How did you get the idea for the movie “Sharp”?
- I noticed that sales reps for Cutco would come in with these great stories about their experiences within the job, and it seemed like the perfect storytelling material to put on film. In my senior year of film school I started writing the script, and it resonated. After I graduated and moved to LA, the decision came when I was journaling on New Year’s Eve, and I realized the only time I was truly happy and fulfilled was when I was making films. I made the decision right then and there to put all my time and energy into making the script into a feature film. I raised enough money to produce the film, and now it’s coming out on Amazon, Google, and Apple TV, the re-release date is July 11th, 2020.
Q: What were some of the other challenges involved in being able to produce a movie of this scope?
- Filmmaking in general is quite an undertaking, it’s kind of like running a fortune 500 company in a very compressed time period. The amount of people that I have to hire, and I auditioned about 1,000 actors to fill the 40 roles, managing everything. The biggest challenge was I was the creative influence, director, writer, helping the producer, personnel manager, and also the business person. That required a lot from me, and was very fulfilling, but also very exhausting. I am channeling something from somewhere where this energy is coming through me to manifest into physical reality.
Q: What can you tell the audience about “Sharp” that will pique their interest and make sure they watch right away?
- It’s really funny. It’s a charming indie dramedy, about a lazy stoner surf bum who has to adapt to the corporate world and learn how to become a professional to sell knives, to support his family after his dad loses his job. There is no antagonist, he is just up against all the forces that you would experience being a sales rep selling knives. The character transitions from this lazy stoner where all he does is surf, to the push where does he become the champion? You have to see it to find out. Every sales rep could relate to that transition because everybody goes through that transition and everybody comes of age through that experience. It’s about entrepreneurship and personal growth, it’s very inspirational and motivational.
- Dan: the story of reps in Vector is the growth and transformation into a young professional.
Q: What other advice or insight do you have for all the young entrepreneurs and leaders who want to pursue their passions, and be successful down the road?
- My experience selling knives and being an entrepreneur has taught me that entrepreneurship is a highly creative activity. Creativity is so valuable. The metaphor for the left brain and right brain, where there is a creative side and an analytical side, that’s not actually how our brains work. It’s just a way to describe the two different capacities of the brain. Being human is to be creative, it is something that is unique to our brains, and every human brain has that capability. Coming into the business world as an artist, I found that the practice of business actually required a lot more creativity from me than my own art practice of filmmaking. Filmmaking requires sound, music, visuals, lighting, storytelling, acting, etc, so many creative roles that need to be filed. I found business required even more creativity from me and even all the entrepreneurs that I worked with while making “The Miracle Morning Movie” they were some of the most creative and prolific creatives that I’d ever met.
- I decided to use my MFA as an opportunity to study business as an art form. I used my business Conedera Studios as the work of art on display in my graduating portfolio presentation which was basically my thesis. The academic art world was not open to considering business as an artform. It took me a lot of time and research to articulate the creative practice of business as an art form, but there is a movement in contemporary history called social practice art, in which the medium the artist used is connections between people, which is business basically. There are even artists who call themselves social practice artists, who are really business owners, they are entrepreneurs that create businesses who say “I’m an artist, and this is my artwork”.
- I hope that my experiences, stories, and my mere existence can show people the power of creativity in business.
Q: What are you most excited about in your future?
- This is a big year for me transitioning into a fulltime creator and artist. I am most excited about doing the van thing, living in a van involves a lot of personal growth. It’s really challenging. It’s super fun and freeing, but also I think we’re so used to the comforts of having running water, heat, and air conditioning. So shedding myself of all these modern luxuries and putting myself as sort of a hunter gatherer, is a huge learning experience. So I wrote a book about everything I learned, telling the story about my journey living in a van, which is a whole new and challenging creative process than filmmaking. My book is called 70 Miles Per Hour, and there will be an extended web series coming out to promote it, as I had a whole crew document this experience.
- The crystallization experience was instrumental in Nick’s career, he knew what he wanted to do.
- Still, he found himself working for Cutco/Vector as a sales rep because he realized the value of the skills he would gain through this position.
- You can’t be a filmmaker without being able to sell yourself.
- Art is entrepreneurship, art is selling
- In everything we do, we are influencing others, and being able to have the skills to do that effectively are vital for success in life.
- Entrepreneurship is a highly creative activity.
- Being human is to be creative.
- How will you channel your innate creativity to bring in more of what you want in life?
- “The Miracle Morning Movie” – https://miraclemorning.com/movie/
- “Sharp” the Movie – http://www.sharp-movie.com/
RESOURCES AND LINKS
- Sales rep / Rep – Cutco Sales and Service Representative, the entry level position of new Cutco/Vector salespeople.
- Push – typically a two week sales contest for Cutco sales reps and offices.
Show notes for this episode provided by Nick Buellesbach.
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