I had the pleasure of interviewing Hero Lux, a Bronx, New York native, Latino independent filmmaker, entertainer, and currently co-founder and executive director of Surreal Dreams Studios.
Surreal Studios is a digital design and production company intended to bring unique and diverse content bridging the gap between brands and fans, all the while experimenting with new and innovative method and respecting cultural differences.
Hero has had seven years of engaging with pop enthusiasts and developing independent productions alike, ultimately learning what makes an audience tick.
Thank you so much for joining us! Let’s show everyone you’re a normal human being. What are your hobbies, favorite places to visit, pet peeves?
“I hope I’m not being too reminiscent but when I was younger I use to always hang out in Chinatown, little Italy, and Astor Place before they started to change. I guess that would also be a pet peeve. I’m not a huge fan of gentrification. Some of my best memories were going to 2 Bros. pizza shop with a shopping bag filled with Ramune Soda’s and just chugging them down and wolfing slices or dumplings with friends before just roaming around the city and exploring. So, I really treasure those moments. Lately I barely have time to catch a flick. I think Cinema Village, The Angelica, Sunshine Cinema and New Voices. I just wish I had the time to do it more often.”
Can you tell us something about you that few people know?
“There’s a lot of things people don’t know about me. Small anecdote: I walk into my local bank after setting up my business account. I was having a crappy week and I recently lost my I.D. I had to walk in already knowing it was going to be painful. The bank teller goes and gets the branch manager. She asks me, ‘What does your business do’ and as I explained it she looked at me and responded, ‘What school did you go to for this?’ I was stunned. After I honed my craft for years I was overcome with this feeling of imposter syndrome. I replied, ‘I didn’t go to school for it. My experience and my results speak for themselves.’
“I have been in some shape or form involved with entertainment and creativity for as long as I can remember; working with local artists, becoming a jack of all trades almost: lighting, sound, VFX. In some way I was always a dead ringer for whatever a production needed to get done, usually without compensation. Despite that. I think I’m a more capable craftsperson as a result. Film and visual media is my craft. I’m always searching for something to put me over the edge.
“But I digress.
“I’ve been really involving myself more with the graphic design aspect of my business; teaching myself web and graphic design terms to better explain myself creatively. My partner Rosa was always really good at showing me the fundamentals. So was comic book artist Derwin Roberson and my own constant need for mental simulation. I’m really autodidactic like that.
“Another thing while we’re on the subject and in response my response to the previous question, I do collect Japanese soda bottles from time to time. I know it’s a weird thing to collect but I just always blown away the design of it.
“Lastly, I always thought of myself as a writer above any other skillset or role I fill. That’s what I love to do. That’s really what makes me happy.”
Do you have any exciting projects going on right now?
“Currently, I’m in pre-production for an action-thriller short I can’t go into much detail about. We had some issues in the development of the film and are about to start casting our female lead.
“I have a few opportunities lined up with few small businesses: an animated feature that my partner is spearheading in the works, as well as hopefully what will be my feature-length debut which hopefully I’ll start shooting in summer of 2019. That’s been the goal since I was in high school. I’m 27 in case you were wondering. I’ve been tweaking the script year after year and I think It’s going to be polished enough to draft up a business plan, start raising the financing, and reaching out to some producers soon.
“I typically get distracted because I’m always starting and stopping a new script. Sometimes they’re just exercises in storytelling that I’m playing with or ideas that I’d love to option in the future. But my short and my feature are always my top priorities if I have downtime between clients.
Many people say success correlates with the people you meet in your life. Can you describe two that most impacted your success and why.
“Sure. My English and Film teacher Gregory Van Voorhis recently just wrapped editing his short film Crybaby. He taught me the importance of film theory and was always there when I needed him in high school.
“Then there was Kareem “Director GT” Gladden of GT Visionz, which was the local production company that use to volunteer at when I was learning the ropes. He really taught me the technical aspects of film. I think the hands-on production stuff was way more valuable than going to film school.
“That reminds me of one of my first jobs. There was this chef and this upscale Mexican Taquiera that indirectly impacted my life as well. He said something to me while I was manning the phones: ‘Hey I’m thinking about learning how to make Japanese food.’
“Really,’ I said. “There’s the Japanese culinary school I heard about. “
‘No. I’m just going from Japanese restaurant to restaurant until someone hires me. I mean why pay someone to teach me when I can learn while getting paid.’
“It was a revelation. It’s just at this level consequences have huge risks that I can’t afford. So, I have to learn to think on my feet.”
Leaders always seem to find ways to overcome their weaknesses. Can you share one or two examples of how you work outside of your comfort zone to achieve success?
“One of the things that I needed to overcome that I consider a weakness was that I wasn’t a machine. I’m not a robot. I make mistakes. I can’t function as a human being from working non-stop.
“With that said I need to take time away from a project and unwind just like any other person. When I was younger I would work a week or two almost non-stop. I’m getting better and managing time (or at least I like to think) better to fit more time to just do something unrelated to Surreal Dreams Studios and blow off steam.
“So. the best way for me to overcome my weakness is kind of like resetting myself with something that doesn’t make me feel weak, or something where I can just zone out. Your readers probably know better about what they like than me, but don’t be afraid to think out the box. Do something you’ve always wanted to do but couldn’t.”
The concept of mind over matter has been around for years. A contemporary description of this is having mental toughness. Can you give us an example (or two) of obstacles you’ve overcome by getting your mind in the right place (some might call this reframing the situation)?
“This one is a tough one for me. Honestly, I feel like because of that mentality I got into more jams than successes. Don’t get me wrong, the same jam can usually be solved with the same mindset, but the biggest obstacle in that case would be to choose your battles. That typically helps you avoid incidents that may be hard to avoid.
“Oh! And don’t be afraid to say ‘no’ once you’ve got a way to execute a project and a process you’ve established that works well for you. Be more prone to put your foot down with collaborations and clients you may or may not want to do business with. Perseverance will always put your where you need to be in my experience.”
What are your “3 Lessons I Learned from My Most Memorable Failure”
1. The Power of saying ‘no.’
2. “Always feed and/or pay your team. (Typically depends on the project)
3. “Everyone wants to be the director, everyone thinks that can do your job better than you can, but no one can have your vision and if they want your job, great but not on your time.
“I hope the last one doesn’t sound like three answers in one. I learned that one from researching Coppiia in combination with my own experiences, so I won’t take credit for that one as much as I would like.”
What unfiltered advice can you give aspiring stars regarding how to avoid common mis-fires in starting their career?
“Mis-fires are just an essential part of finding success. They come and go. They’re hard to overcome but it’s only natural.
“Winners hate losing, so they have to lose a lot to learn to win. I know this because just like many of your readers I’ll get stuck in the mindset that I’ll never achieve the heights or notoriety that I fantasize about on the daily basis.
“But, to answer your question, just don’t be afraid to make mistakes, swallow your pride, and make a mental note not to do again on the next go-round. I think you’ll always get another shot if you keep actively pursuing one.”
What is the best lesson you learned from your worst boss?
“My Value. While growing up in my neighborhood it was really rough. I was around street gangs, violence, and poverty. The last thing is still something I struggle a bit between projects. But I still live and operate in the Bronx because I remember how hard it was to think I had anything to offer to people after kind of being desensitized by my environment.
“I’d love to change that while being a representative of the talent pool of hungry creatives out here that think they don’t have shot. I wasn’t good at sports. I was studying to maybe go into law, but I just lost interest. Music, pop culture, just entertainment in general, were where I found my creative sensibilities and it became an outlet for a lot of my anxieties and frustrations.
“I think that many people I worked for picked up on that and thought that because I was this articulate, but naïve Latino kid from the hood I’d be willing to work cheap if not free. I know it’s vague but a lot of times I felt people in charge typically were fixated on undermining every suggestion I was prone to make. It was frustrating and one of the reasons I had to strike out on my own. I wasn’t doing work I was proud of and I knew I could add more value to client projects than what I felt I was reduced to.
“It’s funny because I’ll ask people why they think they’re worth and they come up with something about years of experiences or something arbitrary like that. They don’t talk about the given landscape of their industry. I found out median ranges for what I was doing in my research and, given my experience, I would charge accordingly. I wouldn’t be able to do that as a director, filmmaker, etc. working for someone else.
“My value stems from bringing value and making sure that it continues to create value after I’m gone. That’s crucial for indie films to commercial projects.”
All actors or musicians have sleepless nights. We have a term we use with our clients called the “2 a.m. moment.” It’s when you’re wide awake and thinking not-so-positive thoughts about your business choices and future. Can you describe a 2 a.m. moment (or moments) you’ve had and how you overcame the challenges?
“I’m still overcoming them.
“What can start out as a normal night’s sleep can morph into a 2 a.m. night! Sometimes I just had to learn to accept that certain things were out of my control. Those sleeplessness nights made it hard to perform the next day when I had to be on my best game.”
What’s on the drawing board for your next venture?
“We’re in the process of building a social media presence and redoing the website to be more enterprise-centric. Then after all the fun red tape and paperwork is done, just getting back to creating and hustling. It really doesn’t get simpler than that.
“Then there’s just my dream of winning something like an independent spirit award or being recognized as prominent film director; whichever’s first. But, even then, that would be the tip of what I have planned for my domination of the industry!
“Most of it I’m not willing to talk about yet. But I would love to talk about it when I think the timing is more appropriate.”
What did we miss? Feel free to share any other thoughts or advice on overcoming failure, initiatives you’re currently supporting, any other relevant information you would like to share with the readers.
“My big thing has been proper representation in the media. That’s always been the cause I’ve supported, one of the things that would scratch at the back of my mind would be how many films I’ve watched but have never seen characters that spoke and looked like myself or my friends from the neighborhood. It’s funny because my partner and I have made it almost a sport to point out blatant stereotypes and clichés in advertising and commercial work.
“I mean it’s great to stand by your convictions and have voice and a message, but at the end of the day I have to remember that the goal is to entertain and attract new customers and fans to the Surreal Dreams brand and whatever other brand we’re working with.
“I like to think people are more receptive to the message or an idea if they can have fun with it and it sparks something that they talk about ad nauseum. So, for me story is king, entertainment comes first, but never at the expense of representing cultures, ethnicities, and another marginalized groups without nothing but respect for their past, reality, and input.”
What is the best way our readers can follow you on social media?
“Go to SurrealDreamsStudios.com and that should have most of my contact info, but if you’re looking for my studio you can find us on:
and my personal Twitter which I barely even use other than to rant about nerdy things and filmmaking:
This was really awesome! Thank you so much for joining us!
Originally published at medium.com