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June 18, 2023

Limitations don’t need to limit creativity.

by Tony Gapastione

I audition. I hear nothing.

Or even worse…I don’t get to audition and watch my other friends book film roles, print ads, commercials and more. I’m happy for them, I think, (wink, wink) but I also wish it was me.

Can you relate?

I hear NO, a lot. A LOT.

I’ve been looking for donors to support my nonprofit for five years. The support has dripped in, thanks to thirty monthly sponsors made up of wonderful champions, great friends and a a few family members.

But finding sponsors for our work and especially for our fifth annual BraveMaker Film Fest has been brutal.

Some past sponsors said they are unable to partner because of budget cuts and lay-offs. Some never even return my multiple emails and phone calls. I even showed up in person to some. I am persistent…and awkward.

But limitations breed creativity. It’s a well known phrase that I constantly take to heart.

My delusional mantra? Maybe.

I could just sit back, do nothing, pull the covers over my head and never get out of bed. It’s tempting and God knows I fight a lot of discouragement, disappointment and insecurity.

But that will not move me any closer to my goals.

How do I cope? Some might say optimism is a dead end, but hoping things will work out gets me up in the morning. I think of my life as my own movie, a story I participate in creating.

So, no one is knocking on my door to cast me in their movie or as the face of their next product’s commercial? I write my own movies and put myself in them.

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Didn’t get booked on that print campaign I hoped for?

No worries, I meet up with photographer Richard Shiu for my own photo shoot.

I need to do this at LEAST once a year, book a photoshoot for myself. It’s fun, keeps me fresh and helps me continue to promote myself. I need Instagram content, don’t judge.

It sounds self indulgent, but anyone who desires to work in entertainment has to look at this as a career where you have to be your promoter until you’re at a level where you have your own manager, agent, publicist and entourage…it’s all on you. Love it or leave it.

Same thing with the BraveMaker film fest. This year, we didn’t get half of the financial sponsorship we had last year to execute our four day film fest in July. But…I kept moving forward. With the help of our team, we selected films, reserved venues, bought new gear and supplies. I went door to door in downtown Redwood City and asked anyone who would listen to help. I got lots of free food to give to our filmmakers (and still need more). It’s happening, come Hell or high water. It will happen. And thank you, again, to the thirty, (up from 23 last year) donors who give a consistent donation every month. It all helps.

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Honestly I thought we’d be farther along, bigger and more supported in our fifth year. I still feel like I am running start-up, working out of a garage. But that’s OK. This is our story. It worked for Apple, maybe it’ll work for us. And it’s the story of many artists, indie filmmakers, AKA creative entrepreneurs. It takes resilience and perseverance with a lot of heartbreak and hope intermingled along the way.  But I believe, that is the only secret to success: perseverance and resilience.  This blog sounds like a pity party but I’m writing it to communicate the reality of what I think it takes. My goal is to be a full time filmmaker and make BraveMaker a movement: empowering creative artists and creating more jobs for cast and crew to make film a sustainable career option. With our annual film fest, production company, student internship and now BraveMaker academy where we are coaching actors and raising up screenwriters..we are on our way.

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It may take another five, ten, fifty years…but I’ll keep going as long as I keep waking up every morning. I love it. It’s worth it. Especially with so many great volunteers who join the party along the way. It’s fun. It’s a challenge. I, truly, can’t wait to see how it all works out.

And I hope my kids, anyone needing the motivation to go after their dreams, is inspired to go out and creatively push through all the limitations coming against you. They will create in you a beautiful story, if you let it. And maybe, someday they’ll make a movie about you. But even if Hollywood doesn’t come knocking, go out and make your own movie. Brave stories change the world and YOU are the story.

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Tony Gapastione

Tony Gapastione is a screenwriter/producer and director living in Redwood City, California. He founded and executive directs BraveMaker, a 501c3 nonprofit arts charity dedicated to educate, entertain and create community experiences around justice, diversity and inclusion. He and his wife Wendy have three daughters, one labradoodle and two guinea pigs...all of which end up in his movies in some way. His first feature film, "Last Chance Charlene" will be on VOD, February 2023. Connect with him on Instagram: @tonygapastione
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