On this podcast, we explore the art of narrative crafting and how it shapes the way we convey people, places, or experiences. We grapple with the challenge of ensuring that our storytelling is not about us, but about the people and places we visit. Join us as we introduce our special guest, Jake Viramontez, an inspiring filmmaker who creates commercials and films for nonprofits at no cost. Listen in as we discuss Jake's work, his approach to storytelling and the motivations that drive him, and gain insights on how to craft a compelling narrative.
In the second half of this episode, we share how understanding the structure of a story as a filmmaker has influenced the way we craft our personal narratives. Reflecting on my Jake's journey from rejected admission into film school to moving to Los Angeles and creating digital content, we explore the valuable lessons learned from the act of creating, rather than just focusing on the outcome. We also explore the importance of accepting our unique perspectives and talents, and how they can be of service to others.
The final segment of our episode takes a thoughtful look at the power of giving freely, of our time, energy, and resources without expecting a monetary exchange in return. I share my personal experience with Sony, a dream client turned major partner, and the immeasurable return on investment I've experienced as a result of this selfless generosity. We conclude by emphasizing the importance of telling a story of abundance and how this can open up opportunities beyond our wildest dreams. So, sit back and join us for an inspiring journey into storytelling, creativity, and the power of giving back.
Jake's Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/jakeviramontez (@jakeviramontez)
Sown's Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/sownforgood (@sownforgood)
Checkout some of Sown's films: https://www.sownforgood.com/films
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/chrisandsara_ | @chrisandsara_
Call or text us a question or comment: +1 (423) 825-9572
Get inspired by world travelers Chris and Sara with "What No One Tells You," their conversational podcast. Each episode is a fun chat with friends sharing personal experiences, insider tips, and riveting stories. The show is elevated by amazing guests from Youtubers, ultra marathoners, bloggers, and adventurers who bring their unique energy and perspectives to the table. With Chris and Sara, you're sure to feel a part of the group, ready to embark on a new adventure. Explore the world one story at a time and join the conversation today.
Hey y'all! We're Chris + Sara (or as you know us, Let’s Be Us), a husband and wife digital nomad travel duo currently working and traveling full time with our pup, Kramer. We've always dreamed of traveling full time, and in May of 2018 we took the leap and made it happen! Today we're balancing work and fun everywhere between the Pacific and Atlantic. From hiking and cycling to tacos and coffee, we're trying to see and experience as much of this world as we can! While our home is currently on wheels in our DIY Sprinter van, our travels take us all around the world.Be sure to hit subscribe here on Youtube and follow along on Instagram for more daily fun! Oh, and be sure to say hi while you're here. :)
NOTE: There were 3 speakers identified in this transcript. Speaker separation errors can arise when multiple speakers speak simultaneously.
0:00:00 - Chris
One of the hardest things about creating, especially for YouTube, is trying to create a good story or invite people alongside our story.
0:00:10 - Sara
Yeah, that's definitely one of the hardest things, but that's what drives us, I feel like, is the story, because the story can be an in-depth look at the place or, more often, the people or the experience. It's crafting that story and that narrative and trying to communicate to the world. This is what it felt like, this is what they're like, this is what we experienced, because a lot of the people are watching our videos or Instagram photos, or whatever it is, and trying to create. It takes a lot of intentionality to create a story that properly conveys who that person is or what that story is.
0:00:46 - Chris
Especially when you're online with social media, it can quickly become about me, me, me, or about us, us, us. It's like look at our adventures, look what we accomplished, look where we have been. Something that Sarah and I often struggle with and we try to do it well is not to make it about us, but to make it about the people and the places that we visit.
0:01:09 - Sara
That's not something we're perfect at by any means because more often than not, it is about a story about us. We're the common thread in all of our content. We always want to pursue something a little bit more. It's something from the very get-go of our channel. In fact, I think our third video on our YouTube channel was sharing one of our friend's stories of how she was trying to get out and travel and she has physical disabilities From the get-go. We wanted our channel to be something about. Let's share stories of people. That's grown and developed as we've gone. We haven't found the perfect system yet, but we continue to experiment with it. The idea is that when you guys watch our channel, is that you meet someone new or you see something different and you learn about something that you may never have heard of otherwise. Maybe we're there and we're guiding you through it, giving you a fun experience through the story, but the hope is that we can draw attention to people who are different than ourselves.
We really love people. I know that sounds so cheesy and we've said that for so long, but people are the heart of what we do. We love seeing people in places. That's really when we say we're travel vloggers. I feel like sometimes we're like that's not really what we want to be, because you really want to be storytellers but we're not really filmmakers yet, we're not really fully vloggers. It's finding that happy medium. We say all this to say that. One we still are figuring out who we are and what we are, but thank you for sticking with us. Two somebody reached out to us over on Instagram. Thank you, john, for reaching out. He said what's your approach to storytelling? What cues do you look for in building a said story? When he asked that, we both instantly thought Jake. We need to have our friend Jake on, because Jake is a master storyteller, both commercially and for nonprofits.
0:02:51 - Chris
Yeah, he has an amazing story. And two, he is a part of so many different people's stories and he's getting to impact people all over the world and we get to be just a little part of that and part of his organization. We can't wait to share more with you. Not only has he created commercials and he's this amazing filmmaker, but he travels the world and he films and documents for nonprofits for free and he gives these videos and these assets and all of these things for these nonprofits who may not otherwise have the money or could raise the money for it. He comes alongside them, he partners with them, he tells their story and it's really amazing what he's able to do.
0:03:35 - Sara
Jake's a talented filmmaker and he's somebody who's using his passions for good, and when you guys hear this podcast, it's going to be coming out alongside our videos from Guatemala, and we are going to Guatemala partially for fun. We already had this trip planned and then, when we met Jake earlier this year, he mentioned that he was working with a nonprofit in Guatemala and we said, hey, can we do something with that? We are working together in Guatemala a month from when we're recording this, but in the lifetime of when you guys are watching our Guatemala videos on YouTube. That is how we met Jake. Through the whole filmmaking network, we thought he would be the perfect person to talk to about storytelling because we've watched his films incredibly inspiring. We're going to link them all down below, or some of them down below. He has a lot of them but the idea is that he's going to talk to us about why he pursues good stories, what drives him, how to craft a good story, and we're just going to let the conversation go wherever it goes.
0:04:33 - Chris
Yeah, that's what we love about this, so let's just dive right in. We've been talking for the last five minutes and, jake, we're just so thankful that you're here on this podcast because, one, you're an amazing storyteller, you know how to tell stories, and then, two, your work, it inspires Sarah and I I mean we, sarah and me. Sorry, that was grammatically incorrect what I said. We love what you do. First of all, thanks for being here.
0:05:05 - Jake
Of course, I know I'm so happy that I've been watching your guys' podcast and it's an honor to be on here with you guys because you keep good company, so I feel thankful to be included in this.
0:05:16 - Sara
Thank you for being here. We're excited. So somebody sent in a question for us and their question was entirely about how to tell a good story. And when they asked us this question, we thought Jake has to be the person to help us answer this, because you are a professional storyteller, both commercially, for nonprofits. So we're going to just kind of let the conversation go wherever it goes and where it ends up. It ends up so, but the main idea here is pursuing a good story, whether that's on camera or off camera, because I feel like story I mean your life is a story in general. So for us and you, a lot of that is on camera, but I feel like how you live your life is probably also impacting what you're creating on camera. So just dive in, tell us who you are, where you're from and maybe how you got going in all of this.
0:05:58 - Jake
Yeah, I think that I mean, that's such a massive story. I could probably just riff for about an hour on this idea that your life is a story and that understanding the structure of a story as a filmmaker has really influenced a lot of ways that I've sort of crafted what I want to present to the world about my personal story and that might sound weird, of like oh you're, you're crafting your story and it's like, well, if you look at your life, your life is actually not that interesting if you were just to watch it unedited. And a lot of what is fascinating is to say what do I really want people to know about me? And when someone says what's Jake's story, I want someone else to be able to answer that question and I want them to be able to answer it in a way that I'm proud, right, and so you have to kind of live a story. That makes it easy for someone to say Jake runs a nonprofit, he gives away stories for free around the world and he's trying to make an impact with storytelling. That's what I hope people say about me. But people aren't going to say that if I'm just sitting at my computer wishing that, they'll say that I have to go out and I have to start living the story that I want people to talk about, and so it's. It's kind of reverse engineering, of like what kind of story do I want to live? Okay, and then what steps do I need to take for me to actualize that story in my own life? But that's, we'll get to that. So to get you up the speed of who I am, how I got here I live in Sonoma County.
I I spent, I grew up in San Jose originally, and when I was 19, I moved down to Los Angeles to pursue filmmaking. I just knew I wanted to be a filmmaker. I discovered film in high school and I was doing documentaries and I was like I want to do this for a living. And so I kind of just collected all my things, said bye to my parents and drove down to LA with no real plan. I had been rejected from every film school I applied to. Oh my gosh, I had terrible grades growing up, and so I knew that if I was going to go to film school, I only wanted to go to a select few. It was either USC, ucla, nyu or AFI, and I got rejected from all four of those film schools because they wanted to see the NYU, usc and UCLA wanted to see my grades and I had terrible. I had a bad GPA. I wasn't a school guy growing up and so when they looked at my transcripts it was kind of an easy no for them because they had such a huge influx of applicants every year. I'm sure it was sort of like, oh, that's an easy out, he's just not up to par from a GPA standpoint.
Afi was a graduate program and I was still an undergrad, so that didn't materialize and so I said, fine, I'll just move to Los Angeles and I'll do it myself. And so I moved down there and I went on Craigslist and I was like I'll take whatever I can find. And I saw that there was a guy who was looking for a cinematographer to travel from LA to Panama taking public transportation with him, and I was like that's my guy, and so I reached out to him and then, after some back and forth, he decided that I would be the right guy to go and so I started traveling and over two months we forged a really strong friendship and relationship and that series is on YouTube. Actually it's like one of the earlier YouTube travel series. It's called Intransit, and we documented the whole process, showing people how to do it on a cheap budget, how to do it if you have no money staying in hostels, eating street food, hitching rides in the back of people's trucks, like just doing it whatever way we could.
And so it was a really, really fun journey for me and in a lot of ways it acted like a rite of passage for me, where it was this stage of my life where I had just been fully rejected by all of these threshold guardians of entering into the film world and I was taking a much different route. I was entering by way of this digital content creation route, which at that time was not popular. People weren't saying I want to be a YouTuber. That wasn't the most popular profession coming out of high school, and whereas now that's what most of the world wants to do coming out of high school they're like I just want to be a YouTuber, which is great, but at that time it was sort of like serious filmmakers looked at that and they said, oh, youtube, right, okay, so you're just uploading on this little tiny platform.
And for me, the experience of doing that trip really shaped me and it taught me a really important lesson at a young age, which was the experience of what you're creating, is the value. The outcome of what you create is important, and you want to make sure that you make good material and that you make things that you're proud of, that people want to share and want to watch. But, at the end of the day, who you become along the way is the most valuable piece of the puzzle, because we're on this journey of self discovery. Whether you're a filmmaker, or you're a chef, or you're an accountant, or you find yourself as an intern for a company, what we're doing is we're trying to wake up every day with a sense of purpose and a sense of meaning and a sense of like. This is why I'm here, this is why I've been put in this position, in this corner of the world that I've been put in, and I think that that really helped me understand, like when I travel and when I create, I feel alive and I feel like it shapes me into the person that I want to become, and so I left that trip as a 19 year old kid and I'd like to say I came back as a 20 year old man.
It is weird, as that sounds right, like we don't have a lot of rite of passages in our culture that we've upheld. Lot of traditions historically have had rites of passage that are very distinct, where the young boys are taken at a very specific age out of the tribe and into this initiation, and young women, by way of their natural rhythms of their body, are kind of initiated into a female hood and we just we don't have a lot of ceremony in our culture around that, and so it was cool to go on this trip at 19 years old and feel myself changing and shifting. And so, long story short, I got home and I decided that I didn't want to for for go formal education entirely. So I applied to the art center in Pasadena. They didn't care about my transcript, they didn't care about my GPA. They said show us your work. And so I sent the film that I just made traveling through Mexico, central America, and I got in and I finished my. I got my BFA in film production with a focus on directing, from the art center in Pasadena, and I graduated in 2010 or 2011, I think.
So it was a really it was a really interesting kind of meandering journey, but it it was a big part of who I ended up becoming, which is somebody who cared about travel, who cared about living out a story of my own that wasn't necessarily just following in the footsteps of what is traditionally been called the right way to do it and kind of figuring it out one day at a time and ultimately landing in a place where I am now, which is taking all of that education and working as a commercial director and getting more into the commercial side of filmmaking and then ultimately deciding to go back to travel documentary with my nonprofit, but this time focusing specifically on nonprofits and focusing specifically on organizations that are doing good in the world.
So it's still a heavy travel component. There's still a heavy sort of self discovery component, but now I'm doing it on behalf of organizations to try and help them, to try and use storytelling so that way they can make an impact in the world and that our films can make an impact on behalf of them. So there's a lot in there and there's a lot in between all that, but that's kind of the rough.
0:14:24 - Sara
Okay, that gives me so many questions, I'm not really sure where to start. I guess my first question is did the way that you got to where you are today, you know that sort of winding path that you weren't expecting? That's not traditional. Do you think the way that you went through self-discovery helps you better understand how to tell other people's stories around the world? Like, maybe it's an uncommon approach. Do you think that how you found yourself helps you tell their story better, or at least understand them better?
0:14:49 - Jake
It's a kind of deep question in that it is making me reflect on what I've learned along the way of traveling. I've been to 60 countries at this point and interacted with so many different kinds of people, so many different echelons of individuals, from doing projects on a helicopter with Nick Jonas all the way to doing a, you know, working in a small village in Morocco and having an old woman invite me in to have me try her goat cheese. You know, like there's just so many layers of humanity that I've been afforded the opportunity to experience. And so I think that what it's inherently done for me is it's it's cracked open the sense of curiosity about people. Why are you the way you are? How do you operate? What is life like for you and how'd you get here? What's your backstory and where are you trying to go? What's your vision of the future and your corner of the world that you're in? And I think that those are just human questions, but it all starts from a place of curiosity, and I think, the more people that I've met, what travel has done for me is it's caused me to just be more and more curious every time. The more you travel, the more you realize that things are even more complex and unknowable than you thought going into it, and that all you can do is just learn one conversation at a time, one person at a time, by digging into their story. So I do think that has made me a better storyteller, because I think my questions have just gotten better. I think I've just gotten better at asking questions that bring out the fullness of somebody's story, and that goes back to how I structure all of my films.
When I'm making a film on behalf of a nonprofit, it always starts with how'd you get here? Why are you doing this? Most people, if they're doing something that is noteworthy, there's been multiple points along the way where they probably should have given up, where they probably should have quit, but they didn't, and so knowing why they didn't quit is really valuable, and knowing what helped them persevere and get to where they are now is really valuable, and it sheds a lot of insight into that person and what makes them them, and even though that's unique to them, that's probably going to be a universal truth for the audience. We all understand what it's like to come up against a hardship and to have to push through it or have to get creative about how to maneuver around it, and the more specific you get with the people that you interact with, the more it resonates deeply with everybody listening and watching. And yeah, so I think that that is a really important thing.
And also understanding like how'd you get here? What are you doing with your time and your life now? What does your day to day look like? And really exploring that and then, where do you hope to go from here? You've gotten all the way up to right now and now what are you hoping to accomplish going forward?
And those three questions are the most valuable questions for shaping a story. How did you become the person that you are today? What are you doing today in your life now? And usually that's very impressive. That's why you have a camera on them in the first place. And so then you show all the beautiful work or accomplishments or beauty that they're creating today, but then not ending there and saying well, where are you going from here? Right, cast us a vision, show us what the world looks like in the future and take us there mentally.
And I always love ending that way in a film, because it allows the audience to say let's dream together, or to invites the audience in to say how can I help, how can I get involved?
I want to be a part of the beautiful work that you're doing today and also helping you accomplish the goals that you have for tomorrow, and that, to me, is just the simplest way to think about it, and I do it whether I meet someone at a bar or I meet someone that I'm filming on camera.
It's this question of who are you, how did you get here, what does your day-to-day look like and where are we going. And sometimes it's painfully boring and sad to hear some people answer that question, and not as a judgment on their life, but you can just hear, when they respond, this overwhelming sense of apathy about their current space and where the vision that they hold for the future and some people you talk to, and you would never expect it, but they have this magnificent backstory that's coloring their future and shaping where they're going, and it's just a tool and a tactic that I use all the time and one that I try and put back on myself of how can you clearly explain where you came from and what shaped you, how do you explain to people what you're doing right now and then how do you help them get excited about the vision that you see for tomorrow, and I'm trying to use that in my own nonprofit to help people understand my story.
0:20:03 - Sara
I love that I was just going to say. When we first met you, we just randomly sat down at your table over lunch and you just happened to be sitting there and I remember you just like instantly, like where did you guys come from? And like I think it took us like five minutes to be like he's cool, like we like him, like we instantly connected over a couple of things.
And so like your question, asking like it was very apparent, but it was also like very genuine, like what's your story? Like how did you guys get here, what do you guys do, kind of thing. So, I mean instantly, like we felt connected. I think it's an amazing practice. But let's, I'm going to let you talk, because I've already asked all the questions. I talk a lot.
0:20:35 - Chris
I feel like we're in this intensive right now because I feel like I should be taking notes. I'm like oh yeah, that was really good.
0:20:41 - Sara
We'll transcribe it.
0:20:41 - Chris
Yeah, we'll transcribe it so, but I want to. There's so many different way where parts were we could go. But I want to jump back to when you were 19 and you hopped on this bus. Like when I hear that story from you, I hear young and dumb, there's no risk, right, like I mean there's. Just, you know, there's no risk. And when I say no risk I mean there's no consequence, there's no really consequence. Like you could do it, like you could afford it, afford to fail, kind of thing.
0:21:10 - Sara
Yeah, it's just you, you're 19.
0:21:12 - Chris
Correct, you've got your wife ahead of you, but now you're, you know, older, you have a child, you have a family, you know, and people that are listening to this. I'll be honest, Our demographic is what. The 13 to 18 year old is non-existent on our channels and nobody that young listens.
So everybody is like starting to we're starting to, but they're everybody that it's in their 20s and 30s and 40s. So when it comes to like crafting a better story or living a better story, I know that how could somebody do that? That's already established?
who is already living in suburbia or they already have the routines you know how, because as difficult as that was or as exciting as that was for you to do that, I think it's hard for people to relate to be able to jump on a bus and go film or, you know, do something 100%. So how, like, how can Joe Schmoe mow in the lawn on a Tuesday afternoon? Yeah, I think that's a good way to do it create a better story.
0:22:15 - Jake
I think that's such a that's a good question, because I think it feels really daunting or maybe even like there's some imposter syndrome going on when you start thinking about crafting your story, Like I'm just Joe Shmoe mowing the lawn, like I don't have a story, and I'd feel a little fraudulent if I tried to act like I have a story worth telling. And I think that that's probably the first barrier to get over is just first accepting that, like I'm a unique individual that's been designed specifically with my own perspective on life and my own given talents and abilities and that's valuable and that can be of service to other people. And that can be of value to other people, whether I'm getting paid for it or not. And I think it's important to accept that, even if your life doesn't feel like it's a magnificent tale, that there is a story worth telling and a story worth sharing about who you are and who you're becoming, even if it's not on a massive scale, even if it's just to your family, right? I think about my son and I think about the story that I want to tell for him, just specifically for him, not necessarily for the world to know about me, but I want my son to know that I'm someone who took risks, who took intelligent risks, that I want him to grow up thinking that his dad was a compassionate guy that took a little extra time to be of service for somebody else. I want him to know that I was somebody who upheld quality time, that put adventure on a pedestal in our life, right. So the story doesn't have to be this thing that is written up in a magazine or is on national television. It can be as simple as something of what does your wife say about you? What does your brother say about you? What does your son say about your daughter?
And I think that that's probably the most important story that we tell. It's a story that we tell to ourselves about who we are and the value that we bring to the world, but it's also the story that we're crafting as an example for the people closest to us. Right, it's like you get, I think about. I think about when I got married nine years ago now, in 2014,. The guy that got married in 2014 is not the guy that's sitting in front of you today, and that person changed along the way, and some of the changes that happened I'm really proud of, and some of the changes I'm not so proud of and I've had to work through and I've had to reconcile and make apologies for, and I've had to embrace the fact that that's who I was but that's not who I'm becoming. And I think that to think that we are going to be who we are in 10 years, who we are today, is just not true. We're always becoming, and so that's why I think it's so important to decide right now who is the person that I'm becoming, who is the person that I wanna show up as and begin now crafting that narrative that in 10 years you look back on and you're proud of. And so I think one of the practical ways that I could drill down into that is looking at my own life.
When the pandemic hit, I had been directing commercials for about seven years. I had been working with big brands around the world and agencies around the world, and so I was making a living and it was good. It was kind of where I wanted to get in my career when I graduated from film school and when the pandemic hit, everything obviously shut down and everything. No one was traveling, and that was 95% of my work was traveling and doing stories about people. And so when I wasn't doing that, I was not making money and I wasn't really sure where money was gonna come from. But what it did was it just stopped all the chaos and the noise around me of like, do this to make this paycheck, to get to this point in your career, to get repped by this agency or on the roster of this production company. All of that noise just kind of quieted down and I was able to ask myself the question of are you happy? Is this who you wanted to become? You've been grinding for seven years doing this and now you've reached some of the checkpoints that you set out for yourself. And are you fulfilled? And the truth was I wasn't. I was happy that I was providing for my family, but I wasn't happy with my day-to-day output of what I was creating in the world and the impact that I felt like I was having.
And so, in the midst of that pandemic was when I decided to start my nonprofit, where I decided I'm just gonna give away films for free to organizations anywhere in the world and I'll just come out of pocket. I sat down with my wife and I said babe, and we were like six months pregnant when I had this idea, I was like I wanna give away films for free. And she was like but she's also someone who's so in tune with me and with just like life that she sensed that this was something bigger than just a financial hit to us. She could tell that there was something like really necessary going on inside of me that I needed to pursue, and so she supported that, and so I decided to start giving away films for free. And so when I did that, the first film that I did down in Los Angeles created so much community with the people that I was working with. I didn't get paid a dollar. I paid to go down to LA. I didn't make a cent for my time. All the editing time Nobody was applauding me, nobody was giving me a pat on the back, but I felt so in rhythm with my purpose and I was like wow, the irony of the fact that no one's paying me and no one's applauding me and I'm not getting an award for this. And yet I feel so much more fulfilled than I have in the past seven years of doing commercial work. And as I did that more and more with other nonprofits, I got introduced to more and more people. My community started to grow. I got introduced to Sony. They decided to create a campaign and they paid me to make films for nonprofits around the country. It opened up this whole world. We met the three of us met at a Sony event because of this one small decision to start giving away films.
And so when I think about the life that you want to craft for yourself, sometimes it starts out very nonchalant, it starts out very simple and it feels small and contained. But what I believe to be true is that if you purpose your life around other people, if you set an intention for all right, maybe the story of my life isn't supposed to be about me, maybe the story of my life that I'm crafting should actually be more focused on somebody else. That the secret is that it fills up your inner world, that all of a sudden, this sense of generosity and capacity to give to another person makes you feel abundant and it makes you feel full. That's what happened to me, and so I'm just a firm believer that now, looking back after two and a half years of starting that small idea, watching it grow into this massive organization, that now I have an office that's been donated to me because people are getting behind the concept. I have filmmakers who are top tier cinematographers, filmmakers like you guys that wanna go out on assignment because you're like I wanna do something that's bigger than myself.
That's the key, in my opinion, of how to craft a life story. If you're sitting on your lawn mower on a Tuesday going what is my story, maybe the biggest insight that you can have is that it's not your story, it's someone else's story and you get to be an active role in that, and that the ripple effect of that will find you and all of a sudden, your story will become so apparent. I think that, living in a world where we're constantly putting out onto social media who we are, what we've accomplished, how great we are and that's fine I do wanna share my accomplishments with people and I do wanna share exciting news with people. I'm not judging that, but I think that it can create a psychological hamster wheel of self importance and I think when you turn the lens outward and you say, how can I make someone else important, how can I make someone else the hero of my story and help someone else get to where they're trying to go, it unlocks this deep well of meaning and purpose in your own personal life. I mean, that's good.
0:31:07 - Sara
It's so good I mean again, I have so many things and I'm like I wanna talk about this. I think one of the things that you said is just back to Joe Schmoe is that it's about the people in your life and I think for me even I mean, chris, and I talked about this before of like I wish I could tell so many people who have crossed paths with in the past how much of an impact they've had on my life. They may not even realize it may be like a smallest thing, like sometimes it's the quiet, unseen moments that those people haven't impact on me. And then I look and I think, well, how am I having an impact on other people? It may not be grand and it may not be in front of somebody, but I'm impacting somebody, whether that's my neighbor next door or somebody via YouTube or whatever that is and I think that's a part of making a story too is it doesn't have to be in front of somebody.
So if Joe Schmoe is on his lawn more he can have just as much of an impact as somebody with millions on YouTube.
0:31:57 - Chris
Yeah, just think, if you mowed your neighbor's lawn, how that could impact your neighbor right now. That would be such a beautiful thing.
0:32:02 - Jake
100% yeah, so they're like or they're like, get off my property. What?
0:32:07 - Chris
are you doing? You're like no, no, no, I'm building a life story, I'm building a narrative. You're doing it for the story, and I love the way that you talk, jake, because I can tell that you're a storyteller at heart because you're answering the question and then you divert, you bring us on this journey and then all of a sudden you bring it back home and then you take us out and, like I feel the Pixar effect totally when you talk, and which is beautiful.
0:32:32 - Jake
That's also a compliment to your imagination, chris. It's a compliment to you being a good steward of the narrative, because you're creating that on your side.
0:32:41 - Sara
Yeah, no, it's great, okay. So where should we go from this Cause? I feel like you mentioned your nonprofit, which obviously is how we sort of connected is just learning about what you do, which is something that we've been really passionate about our whole lives, our whole marriage. So we got married seven years ago this month and within two months we were working with the nonprofit overseas doing it was our first like filming and photo kind of gig. I mean, obviously we've progressed a lot Since then. We have a lot to learn, but that was our first real taste of like we really want to do this together. Like this is. We love telling stories together and shedding light on a different way of living. I mean there's a whole lot of things we loved about it, but we love what you're about and it inspires us.
0:33:20 - Chris
So with your nonprofit you're giving away films for free. Obviously, that is a skill set that you have honed and, like you can, that is something that you can give back and then it seems to be successful. I feel like people, especially nonprofits. They don't have a lot of money. They primarily are awful at social media or like communicating.
0:33:46 - Jake
Like or websites, just bad content in general.
0:33:49 - Chris
Yeah, so you're providing something that connects a story to everybody, I guess. Explain to me what Sohn does and like, why you know and how it is effective.
0:34:00 - Jake
The name Sohn came from this concept that I believe that you know we're sowing these seeds of storytelling into the ground. Right, it's like when you put the act of sowing a seed is an act of faith, in that you put a seed in the ground and you don't expect one seed to come back in a year's time. You expect that seed to get broken open by the soil and the sort of life force that is going to pass through it that will give way, ultimately, to so much fruit and so much abundance, and that there is a compound effect of that single seed, that that single seed could feed a whole village for, you know, decades if it's tended to. And so I believe that these films that we're making are like these seeds in the soil that will give way to so much more than we could ever imagine in that one singular act of making the film I've seen as a film that we made in Tanzania was leveraged and used to raise money to build a school that was just finished this year, and there's kids going through those halls right now. And so when I think about this concept of what fruit it will bear, we don't know if the next president of Tanzania is going to go through that school. We don't know if the next head of the United Nations will find its educational roots in Tanzania, in Arusha, at that school, but we simply set in motion a ripple effect with that film that made it possible for all of the other amazing opportunities that will happen within that school, or a water well that we were able to raise money for and build in Paraguay.
I made a film in Paraguay after I met a community that didn't have water and in 18 hours we had raised the funds to build that. Well, I went back and I documented as they turned on the faucet. You guys have seen the film. I know you have seen the footage of that. It's so impactful to see as these kids rush to drink the water and just the fact that their most basic human need is now met. Imagine what they're able to accomplish or ideate on or create because they're not spending time in hospital beds because of the waterborne illnesses or they don't have to spend all the time walking to the nearest clean water source or even boiling the water before they have to drink it. All these little micro winds for a community that has fresh water has a ripple effect and we're a part of that.
Our films are a part of that ultimate story that's being crafted, and that's what I love especially as a storyteller, is that we're a kernel of a humongous story and I know that every film that we make, every person that joins in this mission of giving their time and energy to go tell a story for a nonprofit, every single life that gets engaged in this, is an ingredient in this magnificent narrative that's taking place. We don't know even the wholeness and the fullness of this story, but we are playing a super significant part in that. We are a very real piece of that puzzle because without our films and without our story, it's really hard for these organizations to share what they do. You have to literally do it verbally or, if you're lucky, get a couple iPhone photos that maybe you can put on social, maybe you can put on your website and maybe someone will go to it. But when you have these films and I've been able to connect with creators like yourself I went to India with Jevin Dovey last year I mean Jevin's got almost a million subscribers that watch his channel and he's able to reach such a vast crowd in such an important way and we were able to take that film and with him, using his audience and his own passion for changing the world for the better, we've been able to raise over $100,000 for these group of families to get them out of a trash dump and into a home, so these kids can have a safe place to grow up and not have to grow up in a trash dump.
I mean, it doesn't take really anyone from any part of the world to have any understanding to know that that is not how you should be living your life, that you don't deserve to be living in a trash dump. You're meant for something greater than this, and so these films have been able to provide that on behalf of these non-profits. And so, as I look towards my own future, I'm going to be able to have a vision for the future. I see this thing becoming something so much bigger than me. I was just the little faint whisper that knocked over the first domino that is sending what feels to me a gigantic worldwide ripple effect.
I have a filmmaker in Australia who I'm sending to Mozambique later this year. He found me by way of another creator who posted about me and said I want to go and he's bringing his whole red setup and all the cinema lenses and bringing this magnificent commercial grade film to this organization in Mozambique that would never be able to afford him, that wouldn't even know where to start to look for him. But I'm just connecting the dots. I'm creating a tapestry for filmmakers who are at the top of their class to say I want to do this, I want to give away my skills and talents for free, and I'm allowing for nonprofits to submit and apply so that way they could have their story told.
And I'm just connecting the pieces and I'm helping those filmmakers mine for the right story with a nonprofit and helping them shape it and craft that story and setting them up for success and then getting out of the way and trusting the creative force within each filmmaker to find that story, to unearth it. And what's beautiful is that each film is a story. That's not just a story, but each film is uniquely that film because the person behind the camera brought forth their own DNA in the story and so no two films will ever feel exactly the same, because how I approach a film is different than how you approach a film. It's different than the way that our Australian filmmakers going to approach a film, and that's what makes us beautiful is that it takes all of us that there's no right way to do it. There is only a forward progress of sharing these stories to try and make a difference, to try and change someone's life for the better.
0:40:11 - Sara
You've touched on. You know your story and you know when we're looking at like first person, like our story. But you started to touch a little bit on the people who are on the other side of the film, like who you're documenting, for those are the stories. One thing that always comes to mind is those people are many of them are in very vulnerable situations, whether it's you know safety or you know food security, whatever that could be. For us, like, one thing we always try to be very careful of is giving those people dignity. Like you know, we always want to share their story accurately. But how do you do that in a way that you know, once they come on the other side of the experience and maybe it's they grow, and if they were to see the movie, how can they be proud of what you've captured? Is there a certain way you go about capturing it to give them dignity on the other side of the lens?
0:40:54 - Jake
Well, there's two responses One is a tactical response and one is a philosophical response. So the tactical response is to show, when I'm there making the film and I've got my gimbal and it's in slow motion and I've got the beautiful lighting that I know is going to be, you know, worth keeping in the final film, I'll get this hero shot of them and then I'll turn it around and I'll show it to them and they light up and all the kids pile on and they can't wait to get involved and the inclusion of the subject in the process is so vital. You know, I think a lot of people, when they go to a country that they've never been to before, they're interacting with a group of people that they've never interacted before. There's a sort of psychological wall up between there's an us and there's a them, but the faster you can put that wall down and say it's all us. I might not speak your language, I might not be where you're from, I might not look like you or sound like you, but I care about you and I think you care about me and let's create something beautiful together that uplifts you and gets you to where you're trying to get to.
And let me show you what I'm creating along the way. Let me invite you into my process as it's happening and then they watch it and then they trust you because they're like whoa, I look cool right there, like I look like a hero, I look like somebody with dignity. I look like, even though I might be living in a trash dump, even though I might have flies swarming around me, I don't see the flies in the trash. I see myself with my chin held high and I'm proud of myself and I like how I look. And that's such a cool thing to be able to give somebody who doesn't get that opportunity, where even mirrors are hard to come by, you know, it's like to be able to show them with a cinematic quality.
Hey, this is how I see you, this is what you look like to me, and you look like somebody that should be celebrated and like somebody that's full of power and full of strength, and I just want you to know that this is how I see you. And then they trust you because you're observing them with compassionate eyes. I think a lot of people go into these projects without compassionate eyes. I think they go into it with objective eyes. What can I take from you as a community that's hurting and struggling and have that, in some weird way, benefit me as a filmmaker or as a storyteller.
0:43:16 - Chris
Say, I feel like people are like that even in real life with personal relationships is like what, instead of? The only reason that Sarah and I are successful at anything that we do is because we make relationships Like we act. I feel like maybe it's a very. I feel like a lot of people view their relationships as transactional and instead of a relationship like they want something out of them, and so I feel like that's true for anybody's relationship with anyone, if that makes sense, yeah.
0:43:46 - Sara
Yeah, but I think with second you take it and you recognize that they're people and they have their own story too. It's not just about you creating your own story, but you're a part of somebody else's story and some capacity Like that's when, I think it keeps you a little bit humble and it's easy to forget that, but it helps you to see a different angle and that impacts the story. Yeah.
0:44:04 - Jake
Yeah, and I I think that that's. I think that that's where it goes back to like the personal story of you as the person you know. Going to this space to tell someone else's story is like the more that you can cultivate a sense of compassion, the more that you can cultivate a sense of sort of softness like check, check your Ego at the door, check your cultural beliefs at the door, check your comfort zone at the door, check your you know, all of the, all of the Insulation that we build around ourselves. If you can just leave some of that behind and step into a space a little bit more vulnerable, I Think that gives permission to the people who you're working with to also let down their guard and also feel like this is somebody who feels very open-hearted in front of me and and very willing to just be with me and sit with me.
A Lot of times when I get into a community, it's like I don't take my camera out right away, I just go and I play with the kids and I I'm not afraid of eye contact, I'm not afraid of really connecting with the person who I know I'm going to be working with, and and silence, especially if you don't speak the language, it's okay. I've sat in silence next to kids for like 20 minutes when I could tell they just want to sit next to me and I just want to sit next to them and we have no way of talking to each other and that's a really special moment that you can't you know you can't pay for that, you can't take a Viking cruise. That you know Provides that for you. You got to just go and and be uncomfortable for a little bit and just rest in the uncomfort and eventually that uncomfort Gives way to something really deep and meaningful. And I think that if you can go and you know getting back to the original idea of like dignifying the person and showing them that you see them a certain way, that that helps them kind of come along for the ride. But then my philosophical answer to it was that you know you have to believe in the future of somebody you can't. I'm not a believer in like.
The story is about their pain. The story might partially be about their pain, but the story has to find its way to where they're going, the hope for their future and the potential of what they can become. Because if that is what's guiding you, then you can touch on someone's pain without condescending them, without being an Observer from outside in, if you can be with them in their struggle, knowing that where we're going is someplace hopeful, then I think that I Think that I don't know. I just think that's a healthier perspective. Then just saying, how can I show the pain and suffering of somebody and leave the audience with that and hope someone donates because their life is miserable? That's not me. If someone's life looks miserable, then what that means is that maybe a basic need isn't being met and that might be holding them back from their full potential. So let's focus on meeting their basic needs so that we can help them fulfill their ultimate story, and that, to me, is a more valuable place to approach a story than just wallowing in someone's pain.
0:47:24 - Sara
I love that all of this can be applied to filmmaking, but also in just life in general, which, because I don't know how many people listening are going to be making videos at all. But I know that everybody has a life and I think that there's something to be gained.
0:47:35 - Chris
Yeah well, and it helps you interact with people who are on the same level as you or less, fortunately, on all sorts of different levels of the relationship dichotomy, and it's just a really good practice to go, go forth, I think I mean not to throw them under the bus, but like you know, sarah McLachlan, and like the sad dogs and just like in the Arms of an angel.
0:47:59 - Sara
You know it doesn't. Because they feel guilty. They don't want to see it.
0:48:04 - Chris
Yeah, I don't want to see that. I want to turn the channel. I don't want to talk about that sad dog, like it's just. I Don't like that. But you showing people with dignity and showing the joy or the the, the humaneness behind it, the hope behind it, that's something that sticks with me.
0:48:20 - Jake
I think it's trusting your audience too, because, like you know, the lowest common denominator is fear. Right, that's a, that's a emotion that everybody feels. Everybody's motivated by fear, everybody's motivated by trying to push away pain and keep pain at bay. And so you can, you can draw upon those base universal human connectors. But I don't think that that's a creative space. I think that that is a survival space, and when you're in survival, it's been proven that our brain functioning Becomes tunneled and that we actually we lose our capacity to see the whole picture when we're in survival mode. We have to have Vision that is going to get us away from whatever's chasing us away from whatever the Predatory experience is, so that way we can experience a place of safety again.
And I think that if you, if you invite people into a more elevated experience of, like a potential for what someone's story could be, or a compassionate space, that's a much more creative space. So if someone's watching, they may not go. Oh, let me just put a dollar on this campaign, so that way I can cover up this, this fear or this sadness that I'm feeling. If you invite them into a compassionate place, they might be in a more creative space to say, oh, maybe I can connect a dot from this part of my world to this and that can actually be of more value than just putting a dollar on it, that there's actually more value in people on the audience side being in a creative headspace when they watch something, and you can't be in a creative headspace when you're afraid or you're scared, and so I think it's important to invite your audience into something that's not rooted in fear, but it's rooted in compassion. I think that's much more creative and more productive 100% agree with that.
0:50:16 - Sara
It's really good. Yeah, I'm sitting here. So we, when we were recording the introduction before we actually got on the call with you, we were kind of putting together the dots of when this podcast episode comes out, we're gonna actually be releasing our Guatemala videos. So we're in filming this. We're a month out from going to Guatemala and working with zone and I'm just taking notes of like okay, well, like, how would Jake do this if we're, you know, if you were there? So it's gonna be. I mean, we've done a little bit of this in the past like that, you know, filmmaking with nonprofits and that kind of stuff. But man, this is all such good stuff.
0:50:45 - Chris
Yeah, this is really good.
0:50:46 - Sara
I'm trying to figure out like how? I know we're running short on time here, but I'm trying to let me.
0:50:50 - Jake
Let me add one thing that I think might be valuable to add for For soon, and as it relates to you guys. So finding filmmakers like you guys to go out on assignment around the world is Critical to what we're doing. So if there's other filmmakers out there that are watching this, that are feeling this, this voice inside of them saying I want to give my skills and talents for free, they can do that, like they can do what you guys are doing in Guatemala and what you guys will have accomplished by Using your skills and your talents to make an impact in the world around you. And they can do that on our website. They can go to sewnforgoodcom and they can see how to apply, because it's so important that I only have one me and I have a limited time. I have to make a living, I have to raise my son and I have to be with my wife and have my family, and so I.
It takes all of us to make an impact, and so you guys are proving that it is possible, that there are storytellers with great influence and great talent that are willing to go and do this, and so if there's anybody watching this right now, I would just urge them if there's that little voice saying pursue this, to go and to explore it and look on our site and see this is something that you want to be considered for and, if it Materializes them, will connect you with an organization around the world. Send you on assignment, send you on an adventure and you'll come back changed. There's no if, ands or buts. You will be changed and and that's what we're excited about.
0:52:21 - Sara
Yeah, we're gonna link everything down below some of your past videos, your website, all the information. But this has been so good, do you have? Any other questions before we let him go, because I know we're running short on time.
0:52:31 - Chris
Well, from a practical standpoint for the nonprofit side. You You're not taking pay from their non-prime, because a lot of nonprofits they take they have like an admin fee. Right, you know, and all that, and so you like. The way that sewn works is that you're inviting other creators in. They go out and film for free, like some of their expenses are paid, like some of their travel expenses, but for the most part they're like they're not getting paid. You know thousands of dollars to go shoot this video. That's right. So as why Like? Well, why is that your?
0:53:04 - Jake
model? That's a great question. I'm so glad you asked that because I've talked to other organizations who have kind of contemplated this approach to giving away films to organizations. They try and pay the filmmakers or the people working on the projects to do it and I get that. What Sony has really meant for is for people who have been in their career for some time and they're making. Financially speaking, their needs are met. But what I want Sony to represent for storytellers and filmmakers is an opportunity and an outlet to fulfill a sense of purpose and meaning in your life.
This isn't about the money. I think that when you go out on an assignment like this this is what I've experienced, because not only do I not take money from the organization, but I actually am the biggest donator of the organization. I put the most amount of money into this thing personally, to fund all these projects, because I believe that when you give of your time and you give of your resource and you give of your energy with no monetary exchange, you are putting so much gas into this cosmic tank of return on investment, where I am putting in my time, energy and resource into each one of these films and what I have experienced over the two years. You can't even quantify, I can't even say it's like 2x or 3x my time investment. I have seen so much opportunity find my life. That's not why I do it, it's just the fact. The fact of the matter is is that when you give freely, with no strings attached, you activate joy and purpose in your own life. But you're also investing into this incredible mathematical equation called generosity and what comes back to you is, frankly, mind blowing. I have Sony as one of my biggest clients now. Before I started this nonprofit, that would have been a dream client. I've made 17 films with them. Now it's looking like I'm going to make 30 by the end of next year, like it is consistent and it's creating community and it's creating opportunity.
I got invited to speak on a TED stage TEDx in Long Beach Because of the work that, all of the sudden, this thing that was having no immediate return was opening up doors that have opened up doors that have opened up doors that have yielded great treasure.
And so it's important to tell yourself this story of abundance. I am enough, I have enough that if you get nothing in return, you get everything in return, and so if it's people that are listening going. I don't have that luxury. I understand that when I first got married I was still overdrafting my bank account. I would not have been capable of doing one of these trips necessarily. But I have gotten to a point in my career where I can take five days of my time, I can take a week of my time and I can give that without a financial return, and that's something that I'm willing to give, and the message that I am sending is that that is more powerful than if I was getting my base financial needs met. So that's my philosophy of why it is the way it is, and I'm a firm believer in it.
0:56:28 - Sara
It's a good way to end this episode. I think, that's great, jake. Thank you so much. I mean, you've given us so much to think about and I'm sure other people are going to get a lot out of this. Just, I feel inspired to go live life a little cooler now.
0:56:39 - Chris
So if people want to get involved or they want to know more about you, where can they go?
0:56:44 - Jake
So the sewn website is sownforgood.com, the Instagram handle is @sownforgood. That's probably the best way to stay up to speed on what we're doing. And then my personal is just Jake Veramontes and that's kind of a mix of everything All things not nonprofit things nonprofit and everything in between. So those are the best ways to stay plugged in and get connected.
0:57:07 - Chris
Jake, thank, you so much.
0:57:09 - Sara
Always at the same time. I'm sorry, no. Thank you so much. It was good talking to you and I'm sure we'll talk soon.
0:57:15 - Jake
And let's go to Guatemala and get it.
0:57:17 - Sara
Yes, let's go. I'm excited, I am so excited.
0:57:20 - Chris
0:57:22 - Sara
Thanks for listening to what no One Tells you with Chris and Sarah. If you have a comment or question that you want answered on the air, be sure to send us a message to hello at chrisandsarah.com, or you can call or text our phone number at 423-825-9572. Thanks for listening.
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