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Life & Work with Phil Svitek

Today we’d like to introduce you to Phil Svitek.

Hi Phil, thanks for sharing your story with us. To start, maybe you can tell our readers some of your backstory.
At my high school in Branford, CT, there was a video production class taught by Mrs. Paskiewicz. I was interested in movies so I took it. Mrs. Paskiewicz really empowered all of her students and that confidence and encouragement made me fall in love with the craft.

I was lucky too because in my hometown was also the first Hospice in America. They were looking to film a documentary to honor their 30-year anniversary. When an opportunity to be involved came up, I took it right away. I was able to film many events, interviews and other kinds of footage. Then, I had a chance to be involved with editing the project. This experience was so formative, both in terms of learning production and also personally.

After high school, I attended Emerson College, focusing on film editing. While there, I had a chance work on Erik Osterholm’s documentary about the history of skiing in Tuckerman’s Ravine—a mecca for backcountry skiers located in New Hampshire. I also had a chance to work closely and learn from amazing mentors such as Kevin S. Bright, one of the executive producers of Friends, post-production facilities supervisor Pete Chvany, and professor Robert Patton-Spruill with whom I worked on his series Garden Girl.

Following college, I worked with another Emerson alum, Maria Menounos, on her feature called Adventures of Serial Buddies. I started off as DIT and eventually became an editor as well as a producer on the project. The director of the movie, Keven Undergaro, and I bonded while working. Afterward, he wanted to start a podcast network with the goal of talking about TV shows. He asked me to be a part of it and I said yes. This was in 2011 when podcasts where nascent and TV after-shows didn’t exist. Collectively, we grew AfterBuzz TV to become a multi-platform studio that produced an average of 150 shows a week.

In 2018, I celebrated my 30th birthday. As I reflected, I felt AfterBuzz was thriving and I could step away and refocus on my filmmaking aspirations. And so I did.

Since leaving, I’ve made two feature films (Love Market and A Bogotá Trip), several short films and was able to work with friends on their projects. And, because of my time with AfterBuzz, I discovered a passion for helping aspiring artists which is why I started my own podcast series (A Phil Svitek Podcast). On that podcast, I give daily tips on how to succeed in the entertainment business. I’ve also written a book called Master Mental Fortitude: A Guide To Achieving Your Creative Ambitions that has 35 lessons any artist can apply to their work.

Today, my creative pursuits are wide-ranging because I’ve realized I simply love to make stuff. I’ve written a novel called Elan, Elan and am working on a second one called In Search of Sunrise. Likewise, I’m developing an animated trilogy of movies called The Arbiters and continue to work in podcasting and digital production. I’m also the newest board member for the Financially Fit Foundation, an organization that teaches financially literacy to people.

I’m sure you wouldn’t say it’s been obstacle free, but so far would you say the journey have been a fairly smooth road?
I’ve never heard of a smooth road when it comes to the entertainment industry. If it exists, I’ve certainly not experienced it. That’s why I’m an advocate of people not just learning the right skill set, but also mastering mental fortitude. This business can be brutal and if someone isn’t prepared, they’ll suffer. I know I have.

There’s been many moments of rejection, whether it be from agents, studios, film festivals, etc, that made me question my self-worth. There’s also been a lot of instances where a task or project seems impossible. It could be because of a lack of time, money, resources, people and so on.

But that’s why therapy has been so vital to me in the past five years. It has allowed me to get past my limiting beliefs and find solutions. As I look back, I wish I had started therapy sooner. Outside of therapy, I also read a lot of self-help books. My favorite ones come from Ryan Holiday, Byron Katie and Don Miguel Ruiz. Although, my favorite one still remains The Tao of Pooh.

Another way I’ve been able to overcome struggles in by leaning on my friends and collaborators for support. Too many times, I noticed we’re all afraid to ask for help. I know for me it was because I didn’t want to bother people and take up their time. But I was always happy to help people that meant a lot to me in my life and I realized in a way, I was robbing them of the same. If you have a true friendship with somebody, one where you’re there for them and supporting them, then they’ll be glad to help. And if someone doesn’t, that’s okay too. Just seek help from someone else. That’s why forming a community of like-minded people (at least when it comes to values and principles) matters a lot.

Thanks for sharing that. So, maybe next you can tell us a bit more about your work?
I’m most proud of the fact that people know as the person to “get stuff done.” It’s really important to me that if I say I’m going to do something, I actually do it.

I remember calling my friend Cody Schram, who has been a composer on several of my movies. I told him I wanted to go film a feature film in Colombia and he laughed. When I asked him, “Why are you laughing,” he responded with, “Because I know you’ll do it.”

And I, along with an incredible yet small team, did. We made A Bogotá Trip.

That for me is the most fun—coming up with an idea that seems crazy to most and going for it. In my day to day, I speak with a lot of artists, whether musicians, hosts, podcasters, filmmakers, and so on. Sadly, I recognize a lot of fear in them. Fear that prevents them from taking a step forward and going for their dreams. In my own small way, I want to set an example that if you set your mind to it, it is possible.

One of my friends asked me why I chose to make a movie in Colombia. I said, “Because I could.” This answer, I’ve learned, isn’t satisfying to most. That’s because those people fail to see the genius in the simplicity. All one has to do is choose to move forward with something. This eliminates thousands of decisions based purely from fear. Instead, the mind can shift focus into coming up with solutions to problems along the way because it knows you’re not wavering.

I think that’s what sets me apart from others in my field—I’m able to combine technical theory with practice, along with personal development skills that are directly related to what it takes to be successful as an artist.

What’s next?
At the moment, I’m excited to continue promoting my latest feature film, A Bogotá Trip, through its film festival circuit and beyond.

But I’m also looking ahead of what’s next for me creatively. Right now, the two major projects are In Search of Sunrise and The Arbiters. The former is a science fiction novel about a young artist who enters her father’s dreamweaving virtual reality to destroy it from within before he unleashes it upon the world. Think Ex-Machina meets A Scanner Darkly. Then the latter is an animated trilogy that’s best describer as Hayao Miyazaki mixed with Marvel’s Infinity War. It draws from various mythologies and ultimately aims to offer hope in a time when it’s most needed.

I’ll also continue doing my daily podcast, A Phil Svitek Podcast, teaching artists how to navigate and succeed in the entertainment industry by sharing the knowledge and experiences I’ve gained.

Contact Info:

Image Credits
Steve Escarcera

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