Start Early. It’s never too early to start learning an industry and getting your hands dirty. Success is more often correlated with experience than ingenuity and that’s why I started so many ventures. To go along with that I’d say that it’s never too late.
As a part of our series about business leaders who are shaking things up in their industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Paul Jun.
Paul is a serial problem solver and USAF veteran. He served as an intelligence officer and upon completing his service he moved to the film industry where he worked as Director of Sales and Acquisitions at Covert Media. UCSD and CSUF MBA alum. He co-founded Filmocracy to help democratize the imbalance of power in the entertainment industry.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?
I can’t say that there’s any one particular moment in my backstory that led me here, but if I had to choose one influence it would be my dad. He was in the business of flipping businesses. As in he would buy struggling businesses, make them profitable, and flip them for profit. Over my lifetime he’s had over 20 different businesses from clothing shops to liquor stores to car washes and wholesale ice cream distribution. I didn’t realize it was happening while I was young but this really caused me to view everything through a problem/solution lens.
I had always had an interest in movies and when I came across a film company at a career fair, I jumped at the opportunity. It was over my time working as a film executive that I experienced how antiquated the industry really operates and how rigged it is against newcomers. So that’s how I found my industry to disrupt.
Can you tell our readers what it is about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?
Breaking into Hollywood is next to impossible. Your odds of becoming a paid writer in tinseltown are lower than becoming a professional NFL player. And yet it seems like an achievable dream because you hear stories about Quentin Tarantino breaking out at Sundance. What people don’t realize is that in 1991, there were 250 film submission, of which about half were accepted into the festival. Today there are over 14,000 submissions every year. Even Tarantino wouldn’t have a chance today. Because there is too much content being produced, it’s more and more difficult for studios and distributors to sort through everything. So they end up taking cues like cast, budget, festival laurels, and connections to determine content to acquire.
Filmocracy is using gamification and rewards to uncover the undiscovered films that never get a fair shot. By rewarding users for watching and rating movies we can crowdsource quality ratings across tens of thousands of films at scale. Our rating algorithm is also disruptive because we’re actually asking for ratings across multiple categories like plot, dialogue, cinematography, and then comparing user ratings to each other. By having something to grade against, we can avoid the trolls, spammers, and bots to achieve a more accurate rating.
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?
I definitely wouldn’t call it a “funny” mistake by any means but when you begin your startup journey for the first time, you get approached by many different people and organizations who are “trying to help you”. One of these events was TechDayLA, which in theory sounded like a fantastic idea. It’s a multiple day tradeshow for tech startups to have a presence in Los Angeles. We were pitched a booth and told there would be hundreds of investors walking the floor searching for startups when in reality this is NOT how investors operate. You’d never catch a VC walking the floor at TechDayLA and anyone who did claim to be an investor (of which there were 2 the entire time), was probably lying. So lesson learned, don’t believe the hype.
We all need a little help along the journey. Who have been some of your mentors? Can you share a story about how they made an impact?
First and foremost and I have to say my parents have been the strongest mentors to me. They led the immigrant entrepreneurial life for three decades and was a better education on business than any expensive school. The biggest impact it had on me was building resilience. There are going to be highs and lows in the everyday of any business. It’s important not to get too down on yourself or too high.
In today’s parlance, being disruptive is usually a positive adjective. But is disrupting always good? When do we say the converse, that a system or structure has ‘withstood the test of time’? Can you articulate to our readers when disrupting an industry is positive, and when disrupting an industry is ‘not so positive’? Can you share some examples of what you mean?
This is a fantastic question and I think that as a society we’ve fallen in love with the word disruption for the sake of change. We’ve started trying to find solutions to problems without considering the collateral impact of each change. For example, the open office concept that was heavily adopted by all of the tech companies was deemed as the new way of facilitating collaboration between employees. But what actually happened is mental health declined, employee health declined, and overall office satisfaction declined. Now there’s a movement to bring back private offices.
Can you share 3 of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or example for each.
Start Early. It’s never too early to start learning an industry and getting your hands dirty. Success is more often correlated with experience than ingenuity and that’s why I started so many ventures. To go along with that I’d say that it’s never too late. I started as an intern at the tender age of 26 while most of the other interns were 18–20. This isn’t such an extreme example but regardless of at what age I started, I found the place I wanted to go and the industry I wanted to work in. And the last piece of advice is care about what you do. There are going to be many ideas you have that seem like it would make millions of dollars such as inventing that toothpick that has floss on the other side. But at the end of the day, is that what you really want to be known for? The floss toothpick inventor? Millenials and Gen Z have greater expectations for their lives beyond money and doing something with a cause you believe in is worth more than money.
We are sure you aren’t done. How are you going to shake things up next?
I’m incredibly focused on the film industry and plan to continue shaking it up. Right now we’re disrupting the marketing and distribution of films, essentially democratizing it for independent filmmakers. The next step is to disrupt the financing of films. While many independent films are funded through Kickstarter of Seed & Spark, raising budgets greater than 500k dollars is difficult through donation-based financing. We plan to use blockchain to allow regular people to receive equity stakes in films that they fund on Filmocracy, which will make larger budget film projects possible for everyone.
Do you have a book, podcast, or talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Can you share a story with us? Can you explain why it was so resonant with you?
I can highly highly recommend “Bruce Lee: A Life” by Matthew Polly. It really resonated with me because we’re all familiar with the legend of Bruce Lee and all of his fantastic quotes. The book does a great job of humanizing Bruce and showing how much of a struggle it was for him to build his career. He was a man who believed in himself to the highest degree and experienced significant trials to reach his vision of success. We know him as legend when in fact he was very much just a hard working man finding his way through life.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Do something worth writing or write something worth reading. It encourages me to be active and live my life with intent. We never know when we’ll be leaving the earth, especially based on 2020, and I want to live my life with as much intention as possible.
You are a person of great 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. 🙂
The movement I would want to inspire is for waste management. The amount of trash we generate on an individual level is not sustainable and I am always thinking about how much organic waste ends up in landfills, buried between layers of plastic, never to return to the earth for a thousand years. I recently built a digester for my yard where all of our organic waste goes back to the earth and this has cut our trash output by half.
How can our readers follow you online?
My twitter is @pauljun10 and also our company’s website is www.filmocracy.com
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!