What volunteering at the Capital City Film Festival helped me realize

When someone asks you…


How would spend your time if money didn’t matter?


…how do you answer?


There’s loads of things I enjoy spending time on — growing my business, music, writing — but I always circle back to one in particular; film.


I find just being a part of the filmmaking process to be exhilarating. My sisters and I used to perform in our high school plays, and my mom was in charge of the crew for set design. My high school buddies and I used to make silly short videos, and I got even more involved with independent film and acting in college.


And then it stopped…I’m not sure why.


But really, who cares why it stopped? To me, it’s more important to find a way to get involved with it again.


The Capital City Film Festival (CCFF) was this past weekend here in Lansing. It was the first time I volunteered for it. Hell, it was my first time attending it.


The people who put on CCFF are awesome. I’ve known a few of them from other events — particularly Payal Ravani from working with her on the ScrapFest committee, and the Lansing Public Media Center gang from when they made a kick-ass video for Friedland for Silver Bells in the City — but this was my first time hanging out with them on their own turf.


I was overwhelmed with how welcoming they were. All I had to do was express the least bit of interest in getting back into filmmaking and helping with the festival, and they immediately embraced me. They told me about a bunch of opportunities and resources available right here in Lansing. (Read the PS for one example.)


Then, of course, they put me to work!


At that point, I made a conscious decision to enthusiastically say YES to everything that was asked of me. This involved everything from covering entry, to concessions, to vacuuming, to standing outside in the sleet to show people where to park (I even wore a nifty poncho!).


And you know what…?


It’s the most fulfilled I’ve felt in a long time.


Why, you ask?


Hmm…that’s a great question.


Well, volunteering or giving back or whatever you want to call it feels rewarding, regardless. It’s the ol’ when you give, you get sentiment. That’s all true, but it felt different this time.


It’s not only because I volunteered for something. It’s because I volunteered for something I truly give a shit about.


Don’t get me wrong. There’s plenty of worthy causes out there. You could volunteer in a field you’ve never experienced before, and find out it opens up another world for you. That’s happened to me before, too.


I just think it’s worth being honest with yourself about what you love. If you love cars, volunteer at the Detroit Auto Show and see where it leads you.


By volunteering for something in a field that I love, I got to know some really amazing people and be a part of something special.


#CCFF106, y'all!

#CCFF16 concession duty, y’all!


I hope to be even more involved next year. And who knows, if some of the people I meet along the way decide to make a movie, maybe they’ll ask me to participate. Maybe I’ll make one and ask them to participate. Either way, it just feels awesome to rekindle something I’m passionate about.


What’s the takeaway?


So, why do I bring this up in a blog about growing a business? How does it relate?


Glad you asked. 🙂


I feel like for whatever we pursue in life — building a startup, a career in acting, writing a book, or all of the above — there will inevitably be a large amount of pro bono time we put in. Deep down, we know when we’re making the right choices because the massive amount of time spent without getting paid doesn’t feel like it costs us. Rather, it feels like it adds to our lives.


There’s plenty of things we could pursue or volunteer for and feel like we’ve completely wasted our time, so it’s important to notice when it feels right.


In this way, the decision-making process for pursuing a career and for volunteering feel the same to me. Both involve making a choice about how we spend our time.


Personally, I like putting in hours to see if I can grow a profitable business that benefits people. I like writing this blog. I like writing music. I could be doing the gruntiest of grunt work on a film set and would still love it. [Bonus points for making gruntiest a new word. Boom!]


So, just my two cents here, but when it comes to how you spend your time, consider this…


Whether pursuing a career or volunteering for something, spend time on things you actually care about. You’ll feel an entirely different level of fulfillment.


Tell me in the comments below. If money didn’t matter, how would you spend your time? Whatever your answer is, have you pursued it as a career before? If so, what happened when you did?


Stay fulfilled,



A very long PS for film nerds —


First, here’s an awesome resource through the Lansing Public Media Center.


Turns out the LPMC holds classes once a month on filmmaking, with a yearly membership for $50. As part of your membership, you can check out a bag of professional equipment any time for making a video.


$50 per year??? That’s crazy inexpensive!


Now about CCFF.


CCFF, itself, is amazing. The amount of filmmaking talent that exists in the world is mind-boggling, and CCFF does a great job showcasing it.


The festival opened with Symphonic Cinema, where the Lansing Symphony Orchestra performed live to a series of old Disney shorts called Silly Symphonies. It was awesome!


The festival also includes a competition called Fortnight, where teams get two weeks to make a short film or a video game, and then the best projects are screened and placed (1st, 2nd, 3rd, and People’s Choice) during the festival.


Fortnight blew me away. There’s so much talent here in Lansing. The short films were great, and the video games were insanely creative! One team made a video game called You Complete Me, where the object is to build a snowman in the right order through various courses.



You Complete Me…making Jerry Maguire proud.


A few directors and actors also came to the event to hang out and take questions after the screening of their movies.


One of whom is Nick Eyde, a Lansing local!


Nick’s a rad dude. He co-stars in The Funeral Guest with Julianna Robinson (directed by Matthew Kohnen, produced by Sean Kohnen). His brothers, Matt and Nathaniel, are also in the film. It was the last screening of the weekend. They all stuck around afterward, giving insight as to how the film was made and answering people’s questions. Nick also recently got a role on Chicago Fire. Go Nick! [Side note: Nick and I briefly performed together in East Lansing High School’s Camelot way back in the day!]


Another director, Kantu Lentz, created a short film called Up Here, which screened as part of the AFI Conservatory Directing Workshop for Women. She stuck around after the screening and answered people’s questions. Kantu’s storytelling ability is stellar. Definitely worth checking out her heart-warming short film.


Keith Arem is another incredibly talented director. As President of PCB Productions, he’s directed a ton of games, including the Call of Duty series, Titanfall, and Tony Hawk Pro Skater. His feature film, The Phoenix Incident, screened at the festival. It’s a fictional movie based around an allegedly real UFO sighting in Phoenix, Arizona in the 1990s. This “found footage” film is meant to look like a documentary (kind of a similar format as The Blair Witch Project). I haven’t had a chance to see it yet, but it looks awesome! The CCFF staff is showing all of the films again for the volunteers, so I’m looking forward to it!


6 thoughts on “What volunteering at the Capital City Film Festival helped me realize

  1. I double down on the comments above, crazy giving of yourself for something you believe in leads to incredible giveback by the other people with you deep in the trenches of service to your fellow human, together we amplify the vibe until everyone has a positive life altering experience or perspective change at the Capital City Film Festival. The fact that we get to participate in a great event is the cherry on top, thank you to everyone involved in helping me (and everyone) have a great time at the fest too!

    • Great words, Jason, much agreed! One definitely gets the vibe throughout the festival that everyone involved would be doing this in their spare time, and just happy to be there. It’s like creating the festival gives everyone a great excuse to hang out and watch movies, haha. Thanks for being awesome!

  2. Thanks for everything Mike, you were a HUGE part of making the festival a success this year. And your kindness & enthusiasm were infectious!

    • Thank YOU, Dom! You and the rest of the crew are doing an amazing job and bringing out the hidden talent right here in Lansing. Really looking forward to next year!

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