Interviews: Kevin Reilly, Harrison Barton & Skin

In this post, you will find three interviews with three entrepreneurs. They were created to reflect on the possible parallel between entrepreneurship and the mythic structure of the journey of the hero, as articulated by Joseph Campbell. These interviews were conducted as part of the Arts Entrepreneurship program. 

Kevin Reilly

  1. In your process of entrepreneurship, can you describe three significant obstacles you faced and how you overcame them?

The first large obstacle I faced was settling on a story. I could not, for the life of me, pick one I wanted to
write and tell the world. I have all the time in the world to mKevin Reillyake things for others… I might as well make something 100% for me. So, I settled on a super complicated, ambitious script that I might have been able to produce had it not been for a few… a lot of hang ups. I overcame this by writing a new script the semester I was to shoot.

The second large obstacle was finding crew. I was purposely waiting to “lock” people in because I didn’t know if the shoot dates would change for any reason and then I would’ve stopped people from going on other sets that weekend or limited other people who were shootings’ crew. Basically, it’s really hard to get people to commit to 36 hours of set if they haven’t done it a month or so in advance. If we had had more crew, things probably would have gone a bit more smoothly and it would’ve been less stressful to get everything set up. On the other hand, we got it done with what we had.

The third large obstacle is still going on: Its money. I got the money from my parents and myself. I worked in the school for a year doing some editing work so I was able to pay for about a third of the cost. Despite that, there are still little costs cropping up here and there. Basically, I should’ve gotten the money BEFORE I made the movie. I guess I solved that problem by working and earning cash myself.

  1. Were there any moments of your entrepreneurial process when you considered giving up or were there moments when there “seemed to be no light?”

During pre-production I frequently thought about giving up. I lost my production designer early on and I had no clue where to go from there. I called up everyone I knew, asking if they had anybody they could throw my way for the… second weekend of February. Those dates were locked early on because of my cinematographer’s schedule so I was working around them. Because I lost my production designer, I decided the only way I was going to make my movie was to shelve it for a later date. So, I made something else and it went very well. Again, it would have been impossible to do the other film justice right now. It’s locked in the vault until I get the skills to make it how I want.

  1. What role has change played in your process, if any? Have you changed?

Change has played a huge role in my filmmaking process. Things change as often as every minute… rarely, but it happens. If I’m not willing to accept that something has changed, nothing will progress. I can’t have everything go my way… the logistics of that are impossible. So you just go with it. If something changes, great. If it doesn’t work out there is usually something else you can do about it and if you can’t, so be it. Worse things are out there.

4. What key takeaway or knowledge have you gained as a result of your experience?

Listen and respect everyone you work with. Even if their ideas do not work, considering them is better than dismissing them. I don’t know everything and filmmaking is absolutely a collaborative effort. So, yeah, listening is key.

Harrison Barton Harrison Barton

  1. In your process of entrepreneurship, can you describe three significant obstacles you faced and how you overcame them?

Three obstacles that I encountered while making games. Well, I can think of one being just, time. Because making games takes a lot of it and, you have to really manage your time well in order to get things done and be able to priorities some tasks over others. Another obstacle is just the pitching process. Like I guess you could say thinking of ideas and seeing ideas through to actually making them. Sometimes, when you are pitching ideas to other people, it can be kind of difficult and that can be an obstacle. The last obstacle I can think of would be just producing. It is something that I have a hard time with. I’m a decent producer, but when it comes to managing other people, I have a hard time getting on peoples’ cases — when they don’t do work and I end up just doing it, which I don’t mind, but that is something I need to get better at if I want to be a producer for other projects.

  1. Were there any moments of your entrepreneurial process when you considered giving up or were there moments when there “seemed to be no light?”

No not really. There have been times where making games has been difficult and very time consuming, especially when it’s down to bug fixing as opposed to doing fun stuff like designing. I’ve never really considered giving up. I never have.

  1. What role has change played in your process, if any? Have you changed?

Change is probably the most important part of my process, I would say. I enjoy changing as a creator and I enjoy making projects about change. A lot of games that I have made have been about my own change like on a personal level and that they reflect in that way. The last game I made, “Lines of Symmetry”, was actually an interactive fiction-based game about change, interestingly enough. It was about my experiences in high school and how I changed going into college and how my outlook on life changed.

4. What key takeaway or knowledge have you gained as a result of your experience?

I have learned a lot from making games. I’ve learned to not get too attached to your ideas because you never know if they are good or not till you try them out. I’ve also learned to accept criticism, which I wasn’t good at probably five or six years ago. But as I’ve started to make games, I’ve gotten better at taking constructive criticism and even destructive criticism uh you know, if developed a thick skin about it and I’m able to sometimes separate the work — depends on the project. Some are more personal than others, but a lot of times I’m able to separate the work and be able to just focus on things to improve it and that is mostly as a result of making games.

Skin Skin

  1. In your process of entrepreneurship, can you describe three significant obstacles you faced and how you overcame them?

For me, I feel the main obstacle was chosen musical direction. I’m a black female. In the nineties it was quite unheard of to have someone like me fronting a rock band. We overcame this by blind ambition and accentuating our differences, instead of being crushed by them.

The second biggest obstacle was choosing the right team, first with management, the band members, then the US labels. Finding the right people to work and for, with you, I think is the single most important obstacle that any entrepreneur can face, especially if you’re starting something brand new with no track record. One thing you don’t know until you’re on tour is you spend huge amounts of time with your band members. They are not colleagues. They are friends. They see you at your best and at your worst. They become family, but it only takes one rotten egg to spoil the whole cake.

The final obstacle we faced was maintaining success through the Internet boom. In only a few short years illegal downloading wiped out 75% of monies earned from selling music, but you still have to make an album to promote so you can sell a tour. We got through this by adapting ourselves to a changing market, looking for new ways to earn enough money to record an album and earn a living. It’s vital we stay on top of new technologies. Instead of seeing the internet, as an enemy, we see it as a friend. We’ve adapted ourselves to make it work hard for us, not against us, and in the end, the internet has given us far more control over our own music and brand than old style Record Company.

  1. Were there any moments of your entrepreneurial process when you considered giving up or were there moments when there “seemed to be no light?”

We had a seven-year break; we were exhausted and so let our band be poisoned by the usual suspects: domineering girlfriends, substance abuse and egomania. Being in a huge successful band is what all of us wanted, but nothing prepares you for the crazy ways in which your mind can be twisted. For me, the darkest time was the two years after the spilt. My own tour ‘family’ was gone and I was on my own. I wanted to make a solo record, but had no idea how to make it. 3. What role has change played in your process, if any? Have you changed?

Yes, I have changed in huge amounts. I control all aspects of my life now. For years I’d never made my own bed, booked a flight and travelled alone or even a made a cup of tea! J So, I’ve changed on some very basic practical levels.

The influence new technology has had on me is enlightening. I have now become a prolific DJ and have started to produce my own electronic music, I made my first film as an actress, I continue to model for brands, I collaborate and write for other artists.

  1. What key takeaway or knowledge have you gained as a result of your experience? 

I’ve learned not to put myself in a box labeled ‘Lead Singer of Skunk Anansie’ and to expand by talents and see my horizons as unlimited. But the main thing I’ve learned is to relax, stay in the moment, enjoy it and have fun. Now I stop to take in all the good things that happen to me as they are happening. Life is so much more fun that way.

Interview Analysis by JP Buxbaum

The entrepreneur and the hero are two creatures that have very similar attributes. For a hero there is a structure that can be seen in almost all mythical stories. The philosopher Joseph Campbell saw a pattern, mythological heroes, and wrote many theories on this pattern. The pattern starts with separation, in which the hero is separated from his normal surroundings and must enter this new world to begin his journey. The second step is initiation where the hero has entered this new world and must face trial and tribulations or as Joseph Campbell puts it they must enter the belly of the whale where much of the darkness on their journey can be seen. Then the final step in the journey is the return, where the hero returns to his old world but with an elixir that he has gained through his journey. Three participants have been interviewed about their entrepreneurial experiences and will have their experiences compared to that of the mythical hero. The three entrepreneurs that were interviewed were Harrison Barton a game designer, Skin a rock star/DJ, and Kevin Riley a film maker.

The first step on the journey to being a hero is that of separation. All three of the participants in the interview have experienced, in some way, a separation from their old world. For Harrison his separation began early in his life. From the time he was little he loved the idea of making video games and he separated himself from the ordinary world of life as a child and began to make video games. Skin also had a separation. Her separation was that of leading a normal life to that of a rock star. Her life as a rock star was drastically different than how she lived before and was a new secret world to her. Kevin also had a separation. His came in the form of college. When he entered college he decided that movie making was the path he wanted to take. From there he entered this secret world of movie making and gained many mentors in the form of professors at his school.

All three of the interviewees also took part in the step of initiation. Some of them had larger tests, while entering the belly of the whale, while others did not have as large of challenges. Harrison has had many challenges that he has faced but he always saw the light at the end of the tunnel. He said that he never felt like giving up but he did face many challenges such as managing other people on his development team and managing his time. Skin found that there were some very testing times for her. At one point, her band had disbanded for seven years because of these challenges. She said that some of her greatest challenges that she had to overcome were her image of being a black lesbian lead singer to a rock group in the 90’s and the boom of the internet that allowed around 75% of their songs to be pirated. With sheer determination and adaptiveness, her band was able to make it through this dark time and eventually regroup. Kevin also had many challenges that he had to face. For him, some of the most difficult challenges he faced were finding others to work on his projects with him, funding his projects and not having the resources to create exactly what he wants. As far as finding people to work on his projects, he has been able to get people but his schedule and time line needed to change to accommodate these new members. As for the funding of his project, he was able to procure funds through hard work and help from his family. As for the resources to create his movie, he has just had to work on other movies instead of the one he really wants to do until he can do it justice.

As for the return, none of them have really experienced an overall return in their journeys, but have gained many skills from their journeys to help them continue. Harrison said that through making video games he has changed and gained many new skills. He said that one of the most important things that he has gained is the ability to separate yourself from your works and the ability to accept criticism. He said that by gaining these abilities it has really helped him to create games that are overall better. Skin said that she had learned how to relax more and live in the moment and also expand her talents through being part of this band. Kevin said that what he gained was the ability to listen. He said that it was an important trait and that going through this process of making a movie, he was able to use this ability to make himself better.

So overall, these three interviewees did have a lot in common with the hero’s journey. They, in some way, went through all of the steps. The only area where they seem not to match up so well was in the return phase of the journey. The reason why they do not match up so well in this section is because they are still in the initiation stage. Skin would be the only one who had really gone through the whole journey because both Harrison and Kevin are still in the infant stages of their journey. But judging by many other entrepreneurs’ journeys, they should eventually enter the return stage. After looking at this information, it is fair to say that the journey of an entrepreneur is very similar to that of a mythical hero.

These interviews and analyses were conducted by student JP Buxbaum for the Arts Entrepreneurship program at Meadows School of the Arts, SMU. They were created for the class Entrepreneurship and the Hero Adventure and are part of a blog series called Heroes Among Us.

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