Next up we have a spotlight on our speaker, Kenny Luck who will be presenting a morning session “Sparking Conversation Through Creative Works.”
Kenny Luck is an author, documentary filmmaker, and third-year Ph.D. student in Human Development at Marywood University in Scranton, Pa. His books include “Thumbing Through Thoreau” (2010), “NEPATIZED” (2011), and “101 Facts of Love” (2014). Luck has directed two documentaries, “Half Empty: Life in America’s Unhappiest City,” which went viral on YouTube in early 2016, and his latest, “Opioid Nation: The Making of an Epidemic.” Kenny has a wide variety of interests including reading, fitness, cooking, traveling, and film.
Here’s what Kenny has had to say about his inspiring journey in the film and book industries:
You’ve written books and made films – is there a medium you prefer to work in? Why?
Both mediums, books and film, have inherent advantages and disadvantages. Writing books tends to be a more solitary, introspective process whereas films are more collaborative by nature. In recent years I’ve enjoyed creating films more because the prospective audience is much larger. After publishing three books between 2010 to 2014 with two different publishers, I learned a great deal about the marketing process of book publishing, which tends to be a lot of book signings and guerilla marketing. Unless you’re a big name writer, selling several hundred books would be considered a success. My first documentary, by contrast, received more than 20,000 views in less than two weeks. I do intend on writing more books in the future, but each medium has different target audiences with different expectations and outcomes.
Why is it important for creators to spark conversations?
It remains important for creators to spark conversations because generating dialogue is part of any artistic process, and it also remains vital to democracy to raise awareness about a particular issue or set of issues and bring those issues into the town square. With regard to the former, I think that it is important that creatives keep the dialogue open among themselves, their audiences, and other creatives. Receiving constrictive feedback from others can be invaluable to improving one’s future work, so I try to keep that in mind when I share an early version of a project with a colleague.
What’s the greatest challenge for someone who wants to make something for the first time (whether it’s a blog, writing a book, making a film, etc.)?
There are enormous challenges when someone wants to make something for the first time. There are high and low entry barriers for each medium, and creatives need to consider those barriers and develop strategies to overcome them. Book publishing has a very low barrier of entry, for example, because there are few start-up costs associated with it. Film making, on the other hand, has an enormous high barrier of entry. New filmmakers need to build an infrastructure of hardware and software as well as develop the skills and knowledge needed to operate these systems in a way that will produce the best results. The final challenge, in my view, is setting reasonable and incremental goals. Often times, creatives tend to be “big picture” thinkers, which is great for fueling motivation and new ideas. But in order to see a project through, it remains important to as tough “how” questions from the start: How do I fund my project? How many people do I need to rely on to complete it? How should I market my idea? These types of questions are often less interesting, but they are vital to the ultimate outcomes that a creator may hope to achieve.
What creation (books, films, etc.) are you most proud of and why?
The project that I am most proud of is my first book, “Thumbing Thorough Thoreau: A Book of Quotations by Henry David Thoreau,” which came out in 2010. Although I acted more as an editor than a writer on that project, it had always been my dream to get a book published, and this was the project that made that dream happen. As an undergraduate student in the mid-2000s, I had a very strong fascination with Thoreau, his life in Concord, MA, and his philosophy. I worked on this book between 2006 and 2007, and once the manuscript was completed, it sat on my shelf for almost three years before anything came of it. In Dec. 2009 and Jan. 2010, I began submitting query letters to publishers, and—to my absolutely surprise—it didn’t take long for a local publisher to pick up on the idea. Within a few months, I had walked into a bookstore and saw my book on display there. I don’t think any experience can ever top that excitement I felt on that day.
What advice would you give to a fellow creator?
The advice I would give to a fellow creator is simple: set deadlines, focus on process, keep to a schedule, log the hours, and be humble. I had become interested in documentary filmmaking roughly 7 or 8 years before I had ever learned how to operate a camera. Meanwhile, before ever filming one scene or conducting one interview for a documentary, I had already had some moderate success with writing books. Transitioning to different mediums was not smooth. But I think the biggest thing that aided me was my willingness to be humble. I started doing freelance jobs—in many cases doing it for no or little money at first—to just get the time in behind a camera. Many mistakes were made, but I endured, and each project got better and better each time. There are always areas for improvement, but that, in part, motivates me to move to the next thing.
What can attendees expect from your presentation at NEPA BlogCon?
I think that attendees can hope to be informed and entertained by my presentation at NEPA BlogCon. I hope to share some hard won experiences and advice, answer questions, and I finally hope that attendees will leave my presentation knowing a little more about the subject that I plan to talk about then when they came in.
Wow! We can’t wait to hear more about Kenny’s advice to those looking to make their break in film and writing. Thank you for your time, Kenny!