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Rick Wayne: “Say yes to all reasonable invitations”

I’ve always been the biggest Batman fan — I’ve always loved superheroes. Over the course of our interviews with these incredible humans, one word was stuck in my mind “hero.” My very definition of a hero changed, as I discovered that these acts, no matter the size, had a significant impact on their community. It was the […]

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I’ve always been the biggest Batman fan — I’ve always loved superheroes. Over the course of our interviews with these incredible humans, one word was stuck in my mind “hero.” My very definition of a hero changed, as I discovered that these acts, no matter the size, had a significant impact on their community. It was the same cause/effect I’d witnessed in every superhero narrative.


As part of my series about people who stepped up to make a difference during the COVID19 Pandemic, I had the pleasure of interviewing Rick Wayne.

Rick Wayne is an Emmy-nominated director of commercials, television, and digital content. A midwestern boy from Chicago who spent his formative years as creative director for an advertising agency. In 2006, he resigned to chase his dreams and founded Underscore Films, a boutique production company whose clients include McDonald’s, Nike, Google, Netflix, Visa, NFL, and more.

Rick is a natural leader and has directed Hollywood’s elite actors, celebrities, and Grammy-winning-musicians. His passion is developing uniquely purposeful content that drives real-world change. He recently co-directed a social cause documentary called “Everyday Heroes”, which tells the story of 50+ selfless individuals from around the world, stepping up in their local community during the COVID-19 pandemic.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit. Can you tell us a bit about how and where you grew up?

I am always grateful for my upbringing, it shaped me into who I am today. I grew up in the northwest suburbs of Chicago with two incredibly supportive parents and a little sister who taught me about responsibility, love, and respect.

Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

The Four Agreements and The Art of Happiness. I’m a sucker for self-improvement through the lens of empathy and life values. They helped me re-evaluate what is important in my life and the legacy I want to leave behind.

Do you have a favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life or your work?

Less of a lesson and more of a principal. “Say yes to all reasonable invitations.” Every time I didn’t want to go to an event and pushed myself to, I wound up a better human with a great story on the other side.

Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. You are currently leading a social impact organization that has stepped up during the COVID-19 Pandemic. Can you tell us a bit about what you and your organization are trying to address?

I think we all just want to show up and provide value however we can during the pandemic. As the pandemic took hold of the world, my co-director, Brad Johnson and I found ourselves overwhelmed with heartbreaking news. Without our typical workload or social gatherings to occupy our time, we tumbled into distressing articles day after day. We could only imagine if we were feeling this way, there were millions of others like us and we wanted to help. We contacted filmmakers from the other hard-hit countries and asked them to share stories that would uplift others. We conducted interviews with selfless humans around the globe and began to discover something greater was taking shape — it became a much larger project and responsibility than we initially expected. Eventually, we were able to shape 50+ interviews in many languages into a documentary we call “Everyday Heroes,” which presents our common humanity that came to light during the pandemic.

In your opinion, what does it mean to be a hero?

I’ve always been the biggest Batman fan — I’ve always loved superheroes. Over the course of our interviews with these incredible humans, one word was stuck in my mind “hero.” My very definition of a hero changed, as I discovered that these acts, no matter the size, had a significant impact on their community. It was the same cause/effect I’d witnessed in every superhero narrative.

In your opinion or experience, what are “5 characteristics of a hero? Please share a story or example for each.

  1. Integrity. My morals and principals were generously passed down to me from my parents, Rick Sr. and Kathy. I wouldn’t be the man I am today without their upbringing and support.
  2. Selflessness. I’m unaware of any superhero tale that had the protagonist put themselves first. And there have been a lot of superhero tales.
  3. Empathy. “Before you criticize a man, walk a mile in his shoes. That way, when you do criticize him, you’ll be a mile away and have his shoes.” — Steve Martin
  4. Courage. The willingness to actually act on all these characteristics is arguably the hardest part. I think we’ve all got a little Cowardly Lion in us. The yellow brick road is long, winding and we often find ourselves lost along with it. Our dreams, our Oz, always reside on the other side of fear.
  5. And more now than ever, a mask. Not all heroes wear capes, but in 2020, anyone who wears a mask for the respect of another human is a hero in my heart.

If heroism is rooted in doing something difficult, scary, or even self-sacrificing, what do you think drives some people — ordinary people — to become heroes?

I believe there is an innate desire within us as a species to support our tribe, family our kind. I believe the COVID-19 pandemic stripped us down to our common humanity and challenged us to set aside our differences. The bell has been rung and I’m hopeful we’ll see 2020 as not only the year of the pandemic but the year the walls between us began to show their cracks.

What was the specific catalyst for you or your organization to take heroic action? At what point did you personally decide that heroic action needed to be taken?

I was afraid of the horrifying news I was seeing every day. I called my business partner and said “we need to do something to give the world some hope.” We chase a silver lining, contacting filmmakers around the world to help us source stories from their own communities. Everyone was so selfless and excited to take part. There’s strength in numbers and we hope this film can be a reminder, a time capsule, of how the world came together to overcome this crisis.

Who are your heroes, or who do you see as heroes today?

Anyone with integrity, selflessness, empathy, and the courage to help their fellow human (or animal!).

Let’s talk a bit about what is happening in the world today. What specifically frightened or frightens you most about the pandemic?

What frightens me the most is what saddens me the most. This virus does not see race, religion, class, or identity. The only way we’ll overcome this is for each and every one of us to show up as a HERO.

Despite that, what gives you hope for the future? Can you explain why?

We’ve never in history experienced such a unifying global event. I was fortunate enough to witness a glimpse of the world coming together as one species. I know it’s possible. I believe there are great things for us as a singular human race on the horizon.

What has inspired you the most about the behavior of people during the pandemic, and what behaviors do you find most disappointing?

I’m grateful to be introduced to so many amazing humans from around the world. I’m not sure this ever would have happened without the pandemic. It allowed me to, in a few months, virtually travel the globe and get an authentic look inside the lives of heroes.

Has this crisis caused you to reassess your view of the world or of society? We would love to hear what you mean.

It has certainly shifted the way I see others. Before the pandemic, I would try to understand one’s identity or individuality — what makes them tick, what made them unique. Now I look for the underlying common ground between us which has lead to more in-depth and rewarding conversations.

What permanent societal changes would you like to see come out of this crisis?

Equal rights for all. More common ground and empathy in politics. Love and respect for our fellow humans. And when this is all said and done, to not take ourselves so seriously. Life’s too short to not laugh until our cheeks hurt.

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?

I’ve become a more spiritual person in the last few years. One thing I am certain of is the more gratitude, selflessness, and manifestation I’ve practiced, the more the universe has delivered.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start 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. 🙂

I strongly believe we need to reevaluate the underlying common denominator between humans in this country and around the world. That goes across politics, religion, and human rights. I would stress that we find a way to celebrate our commonalities, rather than divide ourselves from indifference.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US, with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

It’s a toss-up but since Steve Jobs has passed, I would choose Barack Obama. Politics aside, I’m a Chicago kid who watched a black man in my backyard face all adversity and achieve one of the highest honors on the planet. Can we grab a beer?

How can our readers follow you online?

I’m a visual artist, therefor I’m most active on Instagram: @rick_wayne and my co-director/best friend Brad Johnson is @producedbybrad. You can watch our film, “Everyday Heroes”, on our website (www.underscorefilms.com) and Facebook page (Underscore Films). I love constructive criticism and good conversation.

This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!

Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to share our story. This was our goal in creating Everyday Heroes.


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