Making It: Pierce Kavanagh

Introducing a new blog feature entitled “Making It,” an interview series where outdoorsy creatives talk about turning their passions into business in hard times. This first feature begins with filmmaker Pierce Kavanagh of “Manufacturing Stoke” who is currently hosting the first annual San Diego Surf Film Festival at Bird’s Surf Shed.

You’ve been a busy man lately. Tell us about all the things you’ve got your fingers in these days.

Yes, pretty busy but that’s a good thing.  I am a founder of the San Diego Surf Film Festival which has been all consuming for the past several months so juggling other projects has been a bit more difficult.  Really stoked on the festival though, I hope it will have a long lasting impression on surf cinema and how our surf culture is being represented.

Besides that, we (Misfit Pictures) are working on our new film “What the Sea Gives Me,” which delves into individuals unique relationship with the ocean. We have a really busy shooting schedule that should keep us moving around quite a bit this summer.

How do you run your business? Is it a family thing, a collective or are you a lone wolf?

Hahahaha…my wife is in charge of everything.  She often wonders how I survived before her.  She is amazing. But as far as Misfit Pictures, I have a really good core group of friends that I work with.  They just happen to be extremely talented filmmakers, musicians, artists, etc who all enjoy collaborating together.  They have always been there for me and really keep the creative process alive.  My best advice would be to surround yourself with genius.   

What keeps you motivated?

Improvement. It’s good to watch your work develop over the years.  I want to be a better filmmaker and get better waves so I am willing to work hard for both.

Sounds like your passions and work are pretty closely related. Talk about balancing your play time with work time. Do you feel like you’re in a good spot?

Yes, I am in a really good spot. I have pretty much tried to gain as much control of my life as possible.  I figured out early on that I like to be my own boss.  Actually, I love the fact that this is called “Making It” because yes, in a sense I am completely making it…I can surf everyday and most of my work revolves around being in the water but the reality is I still pay rent, live check to check and am always saving for that new expensive camera gear.  So it depends on your definition, but I feel like I am making it.

What lessons have you learned through the years about business that you’d like to impart on younger people looking to follow their dreams?

I try to promote and mentor young filmmakers and photographers as much as possible.  It is a lot easier to believe in yourself if you have some support.  But as you state in the question, it is a business and transforming your hobby into a livelihood is a pretty difficult task.  You need to be a well-rounded individual.  You not only need to be able to create amazing work, you have to market it and yourself as well.  But anyone can do it, I was once a scrawny, red-headed freckle faced boogie boarder and last night I got to hang out with Skip Frye and Mike Hynson.

Photos by Mark Samala & Gage Hingeley