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Meet Jeff and Danni Gadigan of AminoCat Entertainment in Hollywood

Today we’d like to introduce you to Jeff and Danni Gadigan of AminoCat Entertainment.

So, before we jump into specific questions, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
Jeff – I started in theater as an actor and improvisor. Danni and I both started off as actors. I met Danni on the set of my friend Nate Golon’s web-series “Workshop: The Series”. Working with Nate was my first experience with a fellow actor on producing their own content. I think working on Nate’s project was what really convinced me that I could possibly start my own small production company.

Through that experience, I was able to create more contacts with like-minded creatives and soon gained enough confidence to self-produce and write my own projects. I was developing a web-series and at the same time, I wanted to write something for Danni to star in. I ended up producing a short film called “No Sugar Added”. It was a rom-com about a socially awkward, diabetic, baby-store owner who hires a quirky head-in-the-clouds employee. It was basically just a compilation of how Danni and my relationship came to be in story form with some creative liberties. This was the first short I ever completed and where I found that I enjoyed producing. I was able to assemble the crew from various cast and crew and work with a lot of the same people to this day. Working with the same people also gave us a platform to help artists just starting out learn the ropes or get more experience.

We both worked hard with our creative family to try to produce a variety of shorts and other independent projects for the first few years and we still do, however we wanted a way to figure out how to monetize what we do. We did not want to have to take on survivor jobs since we wanted ultimate flexibility to go to auditions, so after a while Danni found a way to market to different entrepreneurs and we slowly started getting repeat customers to create photo ads and advertisements for a wide variety of small businesses.

This was ideal for us because we are able to have our business supplement us while we go to auditions and pursue our acting dream.

We incorporated in January of 2019 and were able to hire our first official employees in November or December of 2019.

Danni – Yes, we both moved from theatre into film, TV and commercials. Fun fact; Nate Golon has the same birthday as our daughter! It’s amazing things like this that we have seen in our journey as actors have really encouraged us to press on. We’ve seen so many blessings and know God has a purpose for us where he placed us. Jeff and I are so different in so many ways but we both hope to help as many people in the entertainment industry as possible as we do what we love. We hope to always be able to create opportunities, encourage other artists, and connect others to the community of amazing friends in the industry who have helped us along the way.

As for No Sugar Added, I’m so happy Jeff was able to produce this, it gave me valuable insight outside of being an actress. I was able to help produce and experience wearing the different hats that producer often needs to wear. I loved learning from this experience it opened up a whole world of possibilities for me. It set the stage for our production company that we have now.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
Jeff – I don’t think anything worth doing is a “smooth road”. We’ve had quite a few major and minor struggles. It’s challenging to try to have a startup production company and even more challenging to try to run a company with your significant other.

During the first couple of years of our company starting, Danni moved to China for a year and was a weather girl and their local stations there. I had no idea if she was going to come back or not and had no idea, no matter how hard I wanted to; how I was going to keep the relationship going. That was I think the first major hurdle for us to overcome. We had just started dating and I was still in LA writing and auditioning. But luckily, I was persistent and she was able to come back.

One thing I knew when I decided to pursue acting as career was that it was super unstable and it was not easy. So dealing with that type of rejection day to day, I was constantly trying to find ways to keep myself busy in the more often than not “downtime”. I spent quite some time developing a lot of productions with friends, writing and taking various acting classes.

In 2015, Danni and I got married, so adjusting and learning to live the married life and working on keeping our dreams alive were challenging as well. We still work on this every day.

On a more recent note, we had our 1st child mid-2019, so we had to learn to adjust running the company with an infant who is now a toddler. So we do have some interesting shoot days and workdays since we also work out of our home studio.

Ever since I started in this industry, I was always hearing about how things were impossible and I really appreciated it when my managers or colleagues would tell me I have a very slim chance because it caused me to be more creative with the way I approach things. I ended up having a wider more versatile view of what “success” means. I believe I had to view it creatively, since growing up, you wouldn’t see too many people that look like me on the big or little screen. In the relatively many years, I’ve been in this industry, it is only recently that you are beginning to see more representation for Asian Americans and other minorities. For me personally growing up in the 80’s and 90’s in Arizona, I didn’t see too many people that looked like me in general either. It wasn’t until I moved back to California that I realized how sparse our representation was in the entertainment industry and exactly how difficult it was to find those roles for Asian-Americans. So that is a very real and difficult barrier to overcome for both Danni and I. But we did find a way to overcome it, through creating our own content as well as collaborating with like-minded people and companies.

So it hasn’t been smooth, but through the grace of God, we were and are still able to overcome and take on many of these hurdles that we encounter.

Our most recent struggles have been AB5 and the COVID virus. But it looks like we are going to get through it.

Danni – The biggest struggle for me along the way is rejection. Rejection is one of the hardest things for anyone to deal with, but as an actor, rejection is particularly hard because every actor gets rejected somewhere in their journey. You can’t help but wonder what is wrong with you when you put yourself out there again and again, and you don’t hear back from casting. Sometimes you watch a film, show or commercial that you auditioned for and you watch a role that wanted so badly go to another person and it can make you crazy with envy. You doubt your identity, the very thing that you need to succeed. When I first started, I felt so free, like this is exactly where I was meant to be, then I got to a point where I was so frustrated that I wasn’t further along. After hearing a beautiful sermon about it not being about you, I wanted to live like that, because I was miserable as I was constantly making everything about me. I loved the message that God gives us our gifts for us to then use our gifts to help others. It helped me take the focus off of me and gave me a renewed purpose.

Each season of my life is so different, and I’m even grateful for the struggles because I wouldn’t have learned what I know now if I didn’t go through it. Now I can say I’m genuinely enjoying the process and when I’m not working, I’m always grateful with the time I get to spend time with my loved ones. I look forward to weekly Dungeons and Dragons and game nights with Jeff and our friends, I treasure the time that we have when we get to spend time with our family and friends, and I love being a mommy more than I ever could have imagined. I honestly think that we are prepared to level up when we go through the struggles we face. The rejection I’ve experienced as an actor really prepared for the marketing that I do for our production company. I know we are building something special with our team and that the rejection and challenges come with the territory, but it won’t stop us from pushing through to the wins.

Jeff and I definitely have had challenges working together, and we are learning how to communicate with each other better, but in the end I’m grateful that I’m with someone that supports me as an artist and entrepreneur and we are able to move forward together and build a meaningful business together. When our production company lands a big account, and when we book something as a family, it’s such a blessing to share it with Jeff, because we are each other’s biggest fans and because of that mutual understanding.

Please tell us about Aminocat Entertainment.
Our company is AminoCat Entertainment. First, I guess I’ll give an abbreviated version of what an “AminoCat” is.

It doesn’t have anything to do with Amino Acids. Danni and I were on the phone when we were dating early in our relationship and she used to watch her friend Gretchen’s dog. While she was walking him, she would talk to me on the phone and take him into the alley behind her apartment building in Hollywood. There was a cat that lived back there that would harass the dog and Danni would always say, “There’s a mean old cat back here.” After she said it a few times, I just asked her, “What’s an Amino Cat??” And that ended up being the name of our company. AminoCat Entertainment.

AminoCat collaborates with a lot of other companies and we make everything from Commercial ads to crowdfunding videos to short films and eventually, we want to produce features. Currently, as it stands our bread and butter comes from being a one stop shop for product photography and promotional videos (crowdfunding, spoof videos and advertisements). Our long-term plan is to solidify this part of our business to fund our theatrical projects. We also have a few shorts under our belt and I have Co-produced and associate produced a couple of features individually.

I am really proud of the fact that our small little crew essentially functions like a small tight little diverse family. We started off as just a group of friends who wanted to make films, when we started having success with marketing and advertisements we didn’t want to lose our sense of creativity, so we try to make sure we put story first and inject it into everything, not just narrative work. We do everything from a 25-30 second ad to longer running shorts, we try to pitch ourselves in a way where we can craft a final piece that is still captivating and still tells an entertaining story. I believe based on our client feedback that this is unique and refreshing. The culture we try to cultivate at AminoCat is that of an extended family and we pride ourselves on giving our creatives an opportunity to stretch their creative legs from concept to post-production.

Narratively, we love all great stories any stories, we strive to keep our portfolio as diverse as can be and I believe that stems from Danni and I both being Asian- Americans and not seeing a lot of people who look like us on screen growing up. Throughout the years, we have collaborated with a very diverse group of people and we have tried to utilize everyone’s talent to tell those diverse stories.

Danni – Aminocat specializes in story-driven commercials and films. We love being able to bring our client’s vision to life through the campaigns that we manage and we love finding ways to make a product or company shine by showcasing the story behind it. Each project starts a collaborative and creative effort between Jeff, the creative directors of Aminocat, Paden Burger and James Kaluger, and I. Then we bring in other talent such as cast and crew to bring the story to life. As for films, we tell diverse stories, including Paper Children, a short about the Chinese Exclusion Act. This piece was a collaborative effort between an incredible team and an extremely diverse crew. I’m super proud of our team and what we’ve accomplished in such a short amount of time. We are very fortunate to get to work with such incredibly talented individuals that bring in their different strengths and are not afraid to give each other honest feedback, making it a safe place to share, grow, and dream. I love the fun that we have on set, it’s work, but it doesn’t feel like it. I’m so grateful to be working with people that I respect and care about.

If you had to start over, what would you have done differently?
Jeff – I try not to re-evaluate the past, simply because to me, my mistakes are a big part of what brought me here and has kept me humble. Danni and I are in a unique position because I believe we have to continue to make our company work and function while caring for and maintaining our relationship and family as well as our acting careers. If I have to answer, I definitely would work on and improve how I communicate with my wife, not only in our marriage but for the way I communicate when we talk business.

Danni – If I had to start over, I would have enjoyed the journey more. I spent a lot of time wishing I was somewhere other than I actually was, instead of making the best of where I was and enjoying the blessings in my life. Embracing the process is always a work in progress. Jeff told me that he knows how I was before, and now I have peace with my journey, that meant a lot to me.

Another thing I would’ve done if I had to start over would been to give myself permission to be unapologetically me without judging myself so harshly! I still struggle with this, but I’m definitely getting much better in this area. I feel the most free when I’m not busy hiding who I really am, and by doing so, I make it safe for others to be themselves as well.

God gave me the role of a lifetime when I was born, I just need to embrace my role as Danni and all the ups and downs that come with it!

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Image Credit:
V4,V6,V9: Credit: Adrian Sidney; V8,V10: Credit: Chrissy Cruz; V1, V2, V3: Credit: Alexis Totty; V9: Charlize Lynn; V11: Georgia Yeh

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