Play within your means. Don’t overextend yourself because someone else has something that you think that you need at that time. Understand cash flow and the way the world works, then you can leverage your cash for great success. Many people leverage their futures for the present and end up with great debt. If you understand how to grow a business organically, then you can build a great business that is highly sustainable.
As a part of my series about pop culture’s rising stars, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Andy Latimer. Andy is the CEO/Founder of converged creative agency Bluewater Media. A director/producer with 20+ years of experience in the TV and film industry, Latimer’s storytelling ability crosses genres and categories delivering clients results in sales through D2C response. Bluewater is an expert in digital, social media and influencer marketplace.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?
My father was in the oil business and so we travelled all across the south. All of the travel put a strain on my parent’s marriage — eventually ending it. My mother and I ended up moving to Florida.
I was a kid from the deep south who was dropped into Tarpon Springs, Florida — a Greek town. I learned to adapt very quickly. I was suddenly able to relate to a lot of different people from many different walks of life. The benefit of this, of me coming from the deep south to Florida, a melting pot, was that I learned to deal with all types of people.
Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?
I was failing a music appreciation class. It was an 8am class and I just couldn’t stay awake. I wasn’t really caring about classical music after staying out late the night before. At this point in college, I had gone through a few majors. I was originally a print journalism major and then I was a philosophy major then an art major.
My professor actually approached me and offered to give me a C if I could run lights and music for a production event that she was running. I didn’t know anything about running lights or sound, but told her to give me a B if I did it. I ran the lights and sound and she gave me a B. It was then that I realized that the written world that I came from could be tied it in with the visually dynamic world of movement and added audio that tons of things opened up. I was hooked from then on. Telling stories through visualization, lighting, audio became a passion for me.
Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
There are quite a few interesting stories from my career. I was doing a deal with a company to produce a U.S. to U.K. 48-hour live event. Just 24-hours shy of the live event, the company CEO and President were ousted by a hostile takeover. We were an outsourced company and had not been paid yet. At the time, Bluewater Media was a fledgling company and the group we were working with owed us $60,000 for a previous event we had produced for them as well as the event that we were going into.
The former CEO called to tell me that he was out and directed me to the person I needed to speak with. I physically went to their offices which, interestingly enough, had armed guards in black suits stationed all around it. My partner and I sat down with their new CFO and another associate who interrogated us about the previous CEO — asking us what we knew about him. Apparently, there was something nefarious going on. We said, “Look, you guys owe us $120,000. We’re just trying to do the job that we were hired to do.”
The CFO told us that we were not going to be paid. I asked what he expected us to do, to which he replied, “I expect you to sue the pants off of me.” I reminded him that I was producing a live show for him in 24 hours. He responded by informing us that he expected us to complete the show as if nothing had happened.
We said that we would do the show, and that we would give him terms on that production for tomorrow, but that we needed at least $60,000 for the previous show. I told him that he had until the next day. Before we even left the building, we started receiving calls from the freelancers that we had hired saying that they were being hired out from around us. It was clear that we weren’t going to be paid. I called my brother at the studio. We had built all the sets, so they were our property. We decided to pick up all of our stuff and leave.
The next day, I was back in the CFO’s office and informed him that I had retaken my possessions since he had not paid me. I did, however, extend an olive branch, I told him that I had a team of people ready to put it all back up and that we could do the live show if he paid us. He replied, “I’m still not going to pay you.” I replied that he would have to find another way to get his show done.
From those sets we had constructed we were able to build out and do multiple shows. Even though at that time, getting stiffed like that almost killed us, it taught us a valuable lesson. In business, whenever you’re faced with a challenge, don’t look at it as an obstacle, but as an opportunity to turn it into something positive.
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?
Well I wouldn’t call it funny, but when I first started my company, I went to a lawyer and he advised me to form a certain business structure. He had me create a structure that made me unable to pay myself in a fluid way. I found that I was getting double taxation — I paid taxes on what I was paying myself and the company also had to pay taxes on me. Every time I paid myself or my wife, I was faced with a huge tax burden. He was supposed to be an advisor and guide me in the right way. The lesson is to learn and to get information on your own — do your own research. Also, when you’re receiving advice, get it verified before following it.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
The ones that we recently finished I can talk about. Bluewater Media did a creative video shoot with SodaStream — an April Fool’s joke that was wildly successful. It got 10 million views in a week and over 20 billion total impressions. We created a fake product called SodaStream SodaSoak and put it out into the marketplace and even got Bed, Bath and Beyond engaged in the campaign. Ultimately it created one of the best viral campaigns that we’ve ever seen — it had huge ROI.
One of the most exciting things going on today in the world of advertising and marketing is the coming together of video production, digital and social media, traditional media and, even, online retail such as Amazon working together. At Bluewater Media, we converge all of these elements to provide clients with consumer purchasing opportunities across various platforms. By driving a higher response rate and engagement, results translate to increased revenues.
What excites me is creating campaigns that have never been done before by converging various elements available in media, social media and retail channels.
I’m very interested in diversity in the entertainment industry. Can you share three reasons with our readers about why you think it’s important to have diversity represented in film and television? How can that potentially affect our culture?
As a video advertising and marketing firm, Bluewater Media knows the value in diversification in order to reach target audiences and drive client sales.
Video content allows the audience to see and experience different cultures.
Film and TV allow people to see individuals as what they are — human, and to help people understand that we’re all the same in the end.
Video provides the viewer with a camera into new cultures and opinions in a way that is approachable.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
1. There is no obstacle that you cannot overcome. When you come upon a wall, you can either go under, over, around or through it. There are no limitations.
2. Play within your means. Don’t overextend yourself because someone else has something that you think that you need at that time. Understand cash flow and the way the world works, then you can leverage your cash for great success. Many people leverage their futures for the present and end up with great debt. If you understand how to grow a business organically, then you can build a great business that is highly sustainable.
3. Be fearless in your choices. Definitely evaluate every decision and opportunity. If it’s a good deal — go for it. Don’t be afraid of it. Once you commit, don’t back off of the commitment — chase it.
4. Don’t forget to spend time with your family. While you can get caught up in business or work, don’t forget what’s really important.
5. Treat people how you want to be treated. Basically, treat the people you’re climbing over on the way up well, because you might see them again on your slide back down.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
The advertising business is cyclical; you run very hard for very long. Often, when things are down, it can be uncomfortable. When you do have downtime, take that time to refresh and rejuvenate. Make sure that you’re doing things outside of the business that you enjoy because the business can be all consuming. Enjoy something, a hobby — something separate and not commercialized because that is another huge part of this industry is commercialization. You have to unplug.
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. 🙂
Stop voting politically, but rather make choices based on reason. Vote for good people as well.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
I’m grateful for my wife, Sunny, who has absolutely supported every single choice that I have made over and over again — even when I may have had reservations about going forward creatively or in our industry. She always pushed me and told me to do it. I’m incredibly grateful for my partners, Brian Fasulo, Rob Fallon and Mark Henning. The strength that we have together at Bluewater Media is incredible. The energy feeds us. The power of the many is far greater than the power of one. I’m incredibly grateful for the people around me, and beyond that, the incredible staff that we have been able to put together.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Suck it up and drive on. My brother, Mark, died from cancer seven years ago now. You have to recognize that you will face hard times. Bad things will happen to you, things that you don’t want to happen to you are going to happen to you. What makes people survive and what makes people successful is when they can recognize that and say, “wow, I didn’t want that to happen,”,yet take a deep breath and put on their big boy pants, suck it up and drive on.
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. 🙂
I’m a huge Grateful Dead/ Dead and Company fan so Bob Weir and Mickey Hart from the Grateful Dead and also Dead and Company. I would just to hangout and talk about their history and what it means for them to be such a huge part of music.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
This was very meaningful, thank you so much!