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Peter Maiden: “Don’t expect anyone to do anything for you”

Don’t expect anyone to do anything for you. If you want something done, figure out how to get it done. As we have grown, we have built a team who trusts each other. Now, I know our team will get it done — but we had to build that culture, one person, and one project at a time. […]

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Don’t expect anyone to do anything for you. If you want something done, figure out how to get it done. As we have grown, we have built a team who trusts each other. Now, I know our team will get it done — but we had to build that culture, one person, and one project at a time.


As a part of our series about “Filmmakers Making A Social Impact” I had the pleasure of interviewing Peter Maiden.

Peter Maiden is the founder, CEO and troublemaker-in-chief at CONVICTS, a leading digital media brand and creative studio that aims to create a better world through original storytelling. Since launching CONVICTS in 2015, Maiden has grown the purpose-driven studio into an internationally renowned brand that produces original short-form films and series that spotlight the creators, characters, and movements making the right kind of trouble in culture. To that end, Maiden leads his team with conviction and compassion to develop and distribute meaningful content that encourages positive conversation, connection and amplifies the voices of those who inspire them. Under Maiden’s leadership, CONVICTS has successfully built a global audience of socially-minded tastemakers with a shared desire to leave this world better than we found it. So, if you’re interested in the stories of good people, read on and share.


Thank you so much for doing this interview with us! Before we dive in, our readers would love to get to know you a bit. Can you share your “backstory” that brought you to this career?

I left the small farm I grew up on in Australia to attend Cal Berkeley for undergrad. I rowed crew, studied sociology and — like many people — left uni with a ‘save the world’ mentality. Upon graduation from Berkeley, I got an internship at Rolling Stone Magazine…and became a cast member on MTV’s show “I’m From Rolling Stone,” where I had a chance to win a full-time position. Although I didn’t win, I created a strong relationship with the staff and the magazine’s founder Jann Wenner, who took a chance on me and gave me my first job out of college. I ended up working at Rolling Stone for 4 years, hosting and producing videos for RollingStone.com. While I was there, I interviewed hundreds of bands, artists and interesting people. It was a pivotal experience and shaped my desire to create a unique voice in culture.

I started my own production company but soon realized that what I really wanted was a medium to celebrate the movers and makers shaking up the status-quo. So in 2015, I launched CONVICTS to do just that. As a digital media brand and creative studio we aim to make the world a better place through original storytelling. Since our early days, we’ve been about making the right kind of trouble. To that end, we develop and distribute original content and programming about the creators, characters and movements making the right kind of troublein culture. We also work with brands to help sharpen their edge. Whether it’s our own editorial films or our client work, we are always looking to put meaningful content that encourages conversation, connection and amplifies the voices of those who inspire us.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that occurred to you in the course of your filmmaking career?

Aside from the time Jay-Z misunderstood my Aussie-accented introduction and called me “Payton Manning” for the duration of an interview…some of the most interesting, humorous and frankly concerning moments of my career came during the 2016 election cycle.

We teamed up with Australian Comedian Scott Dooley to create a series around the election. Little did we know, we would end up at the center of America’s political circus. When we arrived at the GOP Convention in Cleveland, we decided against filming inside. Instead, we took to the streets interviewing activists, locals and characters on every side of the most pressing issues. We wanted to understand why these citizens voted the way they voted. We experienced every emotion across the spectrum and tried our best to add a little non-judgmental humor. You can see the series here: http://convicts.nyc/profiles/voters/. We are taking Scott back out to meet the Voters in the coming months so stay tuned for more adventure.

Who are some of the most interesting people you have interacted with? What was that like? Do you have any stories?

I am immensely grateful to all the incredible people who have supported me over the years. Jann Wenner took a chance on me at Rolling Stone, where I discovered the passion that continues to fuel my work today. Ned McNeilage — an incredibly talented creative and friend who is currently the CCO at BBH in LA — has been a wonderful mentor and supporter over the years. He has always encouraged strong company culture and being good to each other, and it has helped me to foster a great team and community at CONVICTS. I’ve also had the opportunity to work with some prolific personalities along the way. One of whom is Ian Schrager, a true industry pioneer and incredible businessman. We’ve collaborated on films over the past four years for his hotels and I’ve learned so much from him throughout that process. Ian always pushes us to produce our best work and his eye for detail never ceases to amaze me. Most importantly, I love that Ian always carves out time for a good laugh…especially when the stress levels are running high.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?

At CONVICTS, we believe in creating with conviction and making trouble in service of the greater good. To that end, we’ve created a series of PSA-style films that aim to celebrate, protest or comment on the cultural moments, injustices, natural disasters and humanitarian challenges of our time — in our distinct CONVICTS style. Through these films, we hope to inject positivity into our audience’s perspectives while also delivering engaging content. We like to think that encouraging a positive shift in perspective is a real step towards a better world.

Recently, we had the opportunity to collaborate with the Office of Governor Cuomo. We collaborated on a PSA-style film to encourage the public to stay home and filmed remotely with healthcare workers across New York City’s hospitals. It was a profound experience and we were deeply honored to support Cuomo’s team in getting this vital message out when our city needed it most.

During that same time, we also worked with Mount Sinai Hospital in New York on a film to raise funds for the hospital and support its frontline workers and healthcare heroes. This incredibly powerful and rewarding experience challenged us in more ways than one. You can see the film here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cYB4wJrc0bg

In short, our team is always looking for ways to apply our skills and resources to the relevant issues in culture that we’re passionate about.

Which people in history inspire you the most? Why?

My wife and I have been fortunate enough to have had very intimate experiences with Native cultures in both the USA and Australia. Together, she and I made a film about five years ago travelling through Navajo Nation and the Four Corners region of the US. We learned about Hopi cultural traditions from one silversmith who explained to us the importance of only taking what you need from the natural resources you have available. My wife’s grandfather is partly Native American and worked at Mesa Verde for 20+ years. Though he’s retired, he took us back and shared with us some other deeply inspiring stories from his cultural history. Additionally, my wife and I spent our honeymoon camping around the center of Australia. When we visited Uluru and Kata Tjuta, I was inspired and humbled by the idea that we should not look to conquer nature (climb Uluru), but rather connect with nature. Walking around Uluru at sunrise — instead of climbing to its top — is a very powerful experience. The rock feels alive, because it is alive.

Day to day, though, it is always my team who inspires me the most.

Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview, how are you using your success to bring goodness to the world? Can you share with us the meaningful or exciting social impact causes you are working on right now?

We try to apply our minds and talents to issues that are passion points for our team. We have an open pitch meeting on Tuesdays where anyone in the company can pitch ideas about the pressing issues and the changemakers who are shaking things up for the better. If we believe in something, and think we can bring a fresh, unique perspective to it…we make it. There are a lot of challenges in the world, so we try to focus on the ones that are not only close to our team, but also where we feel our skills can do the most good.

Very sadly, some of our team have lost close friends and family to suicide in recent months. That’s why, we recently released a short film on mental health in conjunction with National Suicide Prevention week.

We also have a COVID-19-related feature-length documentary which will feature the stories of those on the frontlines of the pandemic in New York City. It’s currently in post-production and we’re eager to share it with the world.

Many of us have ideas, dreams, and passions, but never manifest it. But you did. Was there an “Aha Moment” that made you decide that you were actually going to step up and take action for this cause? What was that final trigger?

Luckily, I feel like we have these moments with our team weekly. Every cause and project has an “aha” moment. And frankly, these aha moments always feel overwhelming at the start. But as we run the idea through our creative and production process and take things one step at a time, we end up with tangible results. The important thing we’ve learned is: if you’re passionate enough about something and get the process started…you can make it happen.

Can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your cause?

In March this year, I was introduced to Chaplain Ingrid Martin, the Brooklyn Borough Vice President. We started talking about ways we could help her and her community Brooklyn. When the Black Lives Matter protests began, we connected again. Ingrid brought herself and black members of the community into our weekly pitch meetings to help us figure out a responsible and useful way to help with the cause. We collaborated on a number of pieces of content with them and are now friends.

Are there three things that individuals, society or the government can do to support you in this effort?

Vote.

Be kind to each other.

Educate yourself.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

Keep evolving. We have refined and redefined our purpose statement through the years. As culture moves, so must we.

Don’t expect anyone to do anything for you. If you want something done, figure out how to get it done. As we have grown, we have built a team who trusts each other. Now, I know our team will get it done — but we had to build that culture, one person, and one project at a time.

Ask people to be honest about what they want. It’s ok to have an agenda. If you get that out of the way, then you can figure out a way to work together (if, of course, it’s a fit). I like the New York business-style of getting to the point faster.

There is no secret to success. For me, it is and always has been, hard work and persistence. You always hope that you’ll have a lucky day when it all just takes off. That hasn’t been my experience, though. You have to keep grinding everyday, because you’re only as good as your last film.

As a founder and leader of a team, I have to push everyone creatively but also be patient and compassionate. When we have issues, I try to put myself in their shoes, understand other perspectives and empathize with the realities being dealt with.

If you could tell other young people one thing about why they should consider making a positive impact on our environment or society, like you, what would you tell them?

Because the time is now. Find something that is very important, relative and personal to you. You are going to need to truly care to make something of it. Then find the people and organizations involved then PICK UP THE PHONE, call them and ask how you can get involved.

We are very blessed that many other Social Impact Heroes read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, whom you would like to collaborate with, and why? He or she might see this. 🙂

I’d like to make Joe Biden an ad/PSA for this upcoming election. I wouldn’t mind having a coffee with Shonda Rhimes and Richard Branson — they both get A LOT done and must have some amazing advice on how to manage time, teams, and still have families.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Get Amongst It.” Very Aussie, very self explanatory.

How can our readers follow you online?

You can visit our editorial site here at convicts.nyc or follow us on Instagram at @convicts where we post new films, collaborations and feature those shaking up the status quo. We also have a great weekly newsletter called ‘The Cure’ — it’s our way of contributing to the world’s optimism deficiency, one email at a time. We provide some good resources, a good laugh and if nothing else, a healthy dose of what we hope is inspirational content.

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