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Meet Scott Damian of Branded Maverick Entertainment in Sherman Oaks

Today we’d like to introduce you to Scott Damian.

Thanks for sharing your story with us Scott. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
According to pathologists, I wasn’t supposed to speak. As a youth, I battled a severe stutter which forced me into an unprecedented silence. Yet I had three saving graces at my disposal:

The first came in the form of a city that I grew up in. Being born and raised in New Orleans, I had the privilege of being inundated by a plethora of cultures: Black-Creole, Cajun, Irish, Italian, French and Spanish, to name a few. New Orleans is a true melting pot, layered with unique and lush cultures. Within these cultures came rich stories. As a kid, I was subjected to the writings of Tennessee Williams, who wrote many of his notable plays in the heart of the French Quarter, as well as Faulkner and John Kennedy Toole’s, “A Confederacy of Dunces.” These stories swept me away into a world where I forgot about my speech impediment. For a few hours, I was part of a story bigger than I. Which leads me to my second saving grace…

Writing and performing. As a young stutterer, I would spend many days in my room, weaving and cultivating stories of my own. With pen and paper, I would write down my own epic stories of galactic warfare or heroes saving damsels in distress. Then, I would sketch how these “heroes and villains” appeared in real life. After, I would read the stories out loud, embodying the voice and characteristics of my creations. The ironic thing about stuttering is that when a stutterer speaks and reads alone, fluency unusually occurs. This makes sense, psychologically. It’s because the stutterer is not subjected to judging ears and eyes. Free of self-doubt, the stutterer isn’t concerned about how the listener views him or her, and the usual physical attributes which accompanies a severe stutter: the jittery voice, the shaking of the head and the grunting in the back of the throat to push the word out. So, I would relish in these times of solace and safety, where my voice matched my imagination.

My third saving grace came in the form of two fantastic parents, my no-nonsense mother and a Guatemalan immigrant whom I called Pop. Since immigrating to New Orleans in the mid-50’s, my father pursued his American Dream by becoming a US Marine and, along with my Mom, owned and operated a successful mechanic shop. As I changed oils and mopped floors, my Mom and Pop taught me the value of hard work, the art of discipline, and never feeling sorry for yourself. Like he did by overcoming racism and the societal stigmata that came with being an immigrant, Pop inspired me to push myself out of my comfort zone and to face the thing that scared me the most. “Prove your worth, son.”

As I entered high school, I found that singing also helped with my fluency. Clinically, singing and speaking in dialects help words flow out of the stutterer’s mouth. Both tools force the stutterer to get out of his or her own head. I discovered these wonderful avenues in high school when I appeared in various musicals. My confidence in expressing myself in front of others grew, but a gnawing question still percolated in my head: What would happen if I needed to express myself without the singing and the usage of a dialect? What would happen when I had to use my own voice? How would the real world embrace that?

Once graduating Loyola of New Orleans in Writing and Literature and appearing in regional plays, I moved to LA. I hid as long as I could behind characters and dialects while pursue acting, where I was fortunate enough to appear in various film and TV roles, and ultimately, I found fluency. But I realized that my talents truly lied elsewhere, in the medium that saved me as a kid.

When Hurricane Katrina ripped through my hometown, I turned to my love of writing to help sift through the grief. Thus, I wrote a play, “Coffee Stains,” centering on a New Orleans family who must face their truths and buried secrets with the approach of a catastrophic hurricane. With successful readings of “Coffee Stains” in the LA area and a partnership with Florida State University—thanks to a fantastic producer—I joined forces with Broadway, Tony-nominated and said producer, Heather Provost. Since then, writing has led me to some remarkable opportunities. Along with Heather, I served as co-writer for “A Joyous Christmas” which premiered on Hallmark Movies & Mysteries Channel starring Natalie Knepp, Michael Rady, and Bonnie Bedelia. I also co-wrote the Hallmark summer hit “Season for Love” starring Autumn Reeser and Marc Blucas.

Through my production company Branded Maverick Entertainment (BME), and partnering with Provost Entertainment, I have co-directed and co-produced the feature film “Racing Colt,” which I penned; the film had a special sneak-peek screening at Stan Lee’s Comic-Con in Los Angeles, as well as premiering in select theaters and can be seen on most streaming platforms. I am currently in active development on multiple projects for Hallmark, MarVista, and other production companies. We are also in development on the Southern thriller/suspense feature film, “Among.”

On the publishing side, my memoir, “Voice: A Stutterer’s Odyssey” (Behler Publications) chronicles my struggles as a severe stutterer, and how I overcame this impediment through the arts. I also narrated the audiobook for the memoir. Currently, I am working on the suspense novel, “The Lioness of Algiers.” A two-time recipient of The Converting Awareness into Action Award from the Stuttering Foundation in NYC, I wrote, directed and produced the award-winning short film “Snapper” under the BME banner, which won Best Drama Short at the Prometheus Film Festival.

Working extensively with Disney Imagineers, I served as Creative Consultant for a highly-anticipated experience which premiered at “Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge” at the Disneyland Resort.

I guess you can say I turned my dysfunction into a blessing, and that is what life is all about. Facing the things that scare us the most, reigning in that fear, and using it as a source of good. When I speak to kids or up-and-coming writers who want to tell their story, I implore them to speak from their heart. Have a sense of vulnerability. Be brave to find their unique voice. Take chances! While on that journey, we find ourselves and help others find their way. And there is where the magic really resides.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
We all have struggles and roadblocks. My obstacles materialized from my own fears, which, in turn, embodied into an eating disorder in my early twenties. With my stuttering came an impractical longing to be perfect on the outside. If I couldn’t control my voice, maybe I could control other things that made me appear like the perfect guy. I was bulimic for a few months, until I realized that I had to stop running away from my true self and embrace me…the real me, faults in all. That little voice in the back of my head still whispers that I’m not enough. When I’m on set, or staring at an empty page, I hear that voice of resistance. I recognize the lie, shove it away, and carry on. Each day we have to battle that dragon called resistance, and she comes in many forms, and in many lies.

Expectation is another obstacle I contend with. Expecting to be at a certain spot in my career or personal life at a particular age. This mindset is littered with disaster. The constant pressure that we put on ourselves can be unrealistic. I believe in being patient, doing everything you can do, and becoming the best version of ourselves each and every day are the only elements we have control over. The hardest law to follow is that we are not in control. The only thing we are in control of is how we face obstacles and how much we want to learn from them. It’s about letting go, surrendering and enjoying the process. One of my favorite books, “The Alchemist,” shines light on this very theme: The treasure is in the journey, not the end result.

Branded Maverick Entertainment – what should we know? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
I truly believe in the power of storytelling. Stories change lives and shifts hearts. Cultures and societies have been shaped by the stories of their time. I always wanted to be a part of that. Not for my own adulation or self-recognition, but to inspire and create opportunities for others. What more can you ask for than by making a living by telling stories. That is something I never take for granted. To sit at a laptop and carve out stories that will bring a message of hope is something I look forward to when I wake up. Even in my gritty thrillers or heavy dramas, I make sure there is a story of redemption to be found. I try not to pigeon hole myself into one genre. Now, some say that you should focus on one and master it. I believe that there is truth in that. But if you look at some of our greatest stories, they are weaved with a variety of genres. And that excites me. For instance, in one of my favorite movies, “The Champ,” the 1979 version, the writer, Walter Newman (based on Frances Marlon’s 1931 script) found four different genres in the remarkable script: a sports tale, a love story, a dysfunctional family story, and, ultimately, a coming-of-age story.

Human nature is a very complex study. It is full of contradictory facets that can be investigated and brought to life. I try to inject those facets into stories. In one of our scripts, which we have currently adapted from my play of the same name, the pre-Katrina drama, “Coffee Stains,” there is a love story, a crime story, a father-son story, a historical story, and a husband-wife story, all interwoven that leads to a redemptive outcome. Life isn’t just one genre. It’s a tapestry of many themes, and when you expound on those human elements, you find the irony in life, and that’s when you bring a reality and approachability to your story. That’s what excites me as a writer, because real life is just that: full of complexities and ironies.

On a typical day, I’ll be working on a rom-com in the morning and then a crime-thriller in the evening. Even though the genres are different, the characters have something intrinsically in common. A through-line. A commonality that comes with being human—wants, needs, fears, passions, and goals.

I’m most proud of how we have created opportunities for others. I’m also proud at how we collaborate with a bevy of artists. The written word is just the first step. Bringing the stories to life means working alongside artists and technicians who provide answers to problems I cannot solve alone. True art as well as true success is found in collaboration. When directing a scene, I’m open to all suggestions that come my way. Whenever I enter a development meeting or a set, I look forward to the suggestions that are shared. I may not agree with an initial note, but usually that one note leads to a bigger epiphany and a better script/story. It is all about the story. No ego. No pride. It’s all about making the story the best it can be. Story comes first! Progression has no time for ego. No idea is a bad idea. All leads to a greater good.

What is “success” or “successful” for you?
True success is how you give back, how you build people up around you, and how you conquer your own fears to attain the impossible. Our talents and opportunities are not just our own. We have an obligation to share that wealth of knowledge with others. That’s why I make it a priority to give back to those voices who long to be heard. Kids who don’t have the opportunity to express themselves. I have been working with a few outreach programs that help underprivileged teens learn how to write scripts, compose novels and organize their thoughts on paper and in visual mediums. It’s exciting to see their self-worth escalate and attain something that they once thought was unattainable. It’s about ownership. Plus, these teens find an avenue to express their fears and troubling pasts. In the end, we all become better people, learning from one another. During the process, the kids teach me invaluable lessons as well. The learning is constantly back and forth, cyclical.

Build people up around you. This is pretty self-explanatory. Too many times I have heard some people in authority try to break others down by curt tones and insensitive words. You can clearly express yourself and your views without being harsh. This doesn’t mean you can’t be direct. But there is a certain responsibility we all have in building people up, even if it’s a quick hello. My dad always said to treat the janitor and the CEO just the same. A genuine “Good Morning,” or “How are you?” goes a long way. Gratitude is a key component to this, and to success. We are all replaceable, and I’ve seen so many talented people lose their shot because they were difficult to work with by letting their insecurities and fears get the better part of them. Consistency leads to a long career. Self-sabotage is a killer. Kindness and gratitude are win-wins in any situation. It is our duty to conquer our own fears and pride. This is an everyday battle, which means every day we are successful when we step toe-to-toe with the resistance in our heads, have gratitude in the forefront of our minds and set the time to pursue our dreams. That can mean one hour on the laptop, writing that one chapter we have been so scared to put on paper. Or that one hour of research to develop a skill we have been so afraid to sharpen. Because, usually, that one hour turns into two hours the next week, and then three hours the following week, until it becomes a habit.

Not to sound like a guru, but I believe that one step leads to the next and then to the next, and before you know it, you’re running a marathon. It’s scary to go after a dream. But it’s scarier to live with regret. What I’m trying to say is, success means not living with regret and giving it your all, no matter the outcome.

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Image Credit:
Paul Smith in mirror/CU one.
Bobby Guillard on two other professional shots

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