56: "The Young Leaders" - Ramaa Mosley & Aniya Wolfe

Capture.JPG

"The Young Leaders"

Adolescent Content believes that content intended for youth would be more impactful if it was conceived and created by youth. Their creators, and directors are as young as 11. They have developed work for iconic brands, shot feature films and given TED talks.   Ramaa and I were joined by one of her directors, sixteen year-old Aniya Wolfe, who is a member of Gen Z, which.  The oldest member of Gen Z is 21. As Aniya shows in our conversation, this generation is coming of age much much earlier than that.


Three Takeaways

  • A willingness to look for a better answer even if it means sometimes you have to break the rules.
  • The capacity to trust without having all the evidence.
  • The desire to make a difference. 

"FEARLESS CREATIVE LEADERSHIP" PODCAST - TRANSCRIPT

Episode 56: "The Young Leaders" Ramaa Mosley & Aniya Wolfe 

I’m Charles Day and this is Fearless!!

This week, my conversation with Ramaa Mosley and Aniya Wolfe of Adolescent, a Gen Z and Millennial production studio, focused on creating content for youth by youth. 

So, this episode is called:

The Young Leaders

“about ... six years ago, I was mentoring a 12 year old, a 14 year old and a 19 year old. The work that they were making was just incredible and I thought, why are brands and entertainment hiring adults to make content that is aimed at youth? Why not hire the creators that are the age range of the viewers?”
“How often are you the youngest person on set? 
Aniya Wolfe:    I'm always the youngest person on set. I really see that changing especially with companies like adolescent which it's rare but it's happening.” 

If you’ve listened to this podcast before, you’ll know what I think about creativity. 

That it’s an awesome force, capable of changing the world in a moment. And that in today’s business world, it is the most significant competitive advantage. 

Which makes the people tasked with leading those businesses and unlocking creativity's extraordinary potential, the most valuable members of today’s high-demand talent.

These leaders have developed some rare skills. And are increasingly confident in how they use them.

What I find is they do not hope. They act. 

They have learned to expect and demand more from creativity. They see it as ubiquitous but not rare. They see it as valuable but not precious.

They are open-minded. And filled with expectations. And optimism.

And they see the possibility of creativity, in everyone and anyone.

What kind of creative leader are you? And are you open minded about where creativity exists, in your company? 

I had never heard of Adolescent Content until a few weeks ago. Not surprising since I’m not their target, either in terms of clients or talent. This company is the idea of the filmmaker Ramaa Mosley, and is based on the simple insight that content intended for youth would be more impactful if it was conceived and created by youth. Their creators, directors and photographers are as young as 11. They have, developed marketing concepts and content for iconic brands, shot feature films and given TED talks. 

Ramaa and I were joined by one of her directors, sixteen year-old Aniya Wolfe.

Aniya is a member of Gen Z, which, as she reminds us, is the largest generation in history.  The oldest member of Gen Z is 21. As Aniya shows in our conversation, this generation is coming of age much much earlier than that.

Here are Ramaa Mosley and Aniya Wolfe.

Charles:

Ramaa, Aniya, welcome Fearless. Thank you so much for being here.

Ramaa Mosley:

Thank you.

Aniya Wolfe:

We're happy to be here.

Ramaa Mosley:

Thanks for having us.

Aniya Wolfe:

Yeah.

Charles:

All right, so let me ask you the question that I'd like to start each episode with. Ramaa, let’s start with you. What's your first memory of something being creative? When do you first remember creativity showing up in your life?

Ramaa Mosley:

I remember being four and I decided I wanted to make a play and so I forced my friends to play the part and I came up with an idea of what it was going to be and it was actually a wedding. I decided there was a whole wedding thing and I was going to marry these two people and there was going to be this whole big tragedy. I did the whole thing, I got the flowers, I cast the people, I told them what to do, they didn't want to marry each other. It was a big drama. That was my first memory and I actually put the play up in front of my parents.

Aniya Wolfe:

How old were you?

Ramaa Mosley:

Four.

Charles:

How was it received?

Ramaa Mosley:

Of course, everyone like the adults were clapping. I mean, my friends were pretty upset about that, but it was my first real experience.

Charles:

Aniya, what about you? When did creativity first show up in your life, that you're conscious of?

Aniya Wolfe:

I think creativity first showed up in my life probably with dolls. Just having doll houses and different barbie dolls and just creating scenarios and this character would say this and Barbie will get mad because Ken did this. I remember having a doll house actually the size of me, when I was six in third grade. It was literally this big and from there, I think that also probably was my early journey in being a director.

Charles:

Where did you grow up?

Aniya Wolfe:

I grew up in Philadelphia, I just moved here eight months ago.

Charles:

How did you go from Philadelphia to LA? What made you decide to make that jump?

Aniya Wolfe:

Basically, I had created a feature length film before I met Adolescent and Ramaa and all the positive energy here. I had created a feature like film that I wrote, directed, produced, casted along with my mother and we did a premier and over 400 people came out. Ramaa actually sponsored and helped us put together the event from across the country, LA to Phili. Then we just decided it's time to sacrifice and if this is something I really want to do, my parents are so supportive. We sacrificed everything we had in 12 days and drove across the country so without my passion of tapping into people's minds. It's been fun. It's been definitely something.

Charles:

What was the spark behind the feature? How did you become a director? How did that become your calling?

Aniya Wolfe:

Well, I loved acting and like a lot of directors, they started off like in front of the camera. I always had an interest for how things worked in just cinematically like how ... when you go to movies and you go into a movie theater and you just feel so changed or just emotionally disturbed or challenged mentally to think, I just decided that the power like after recognizing the power of film, we should use that to our advantage.

After figuring out that chemistry and how it works, I grabbed the camera, my iPhone camera and just started making stuff. From there, you grow, you learn off the YouTube, just being young. It's rare that we have places like Adolescent, that support the youth into having professional opportunities. I'm just really glad we stumbled across each other and have this kind of support to back me up to be creatively free.

Charles:

How old were you when you first started filming?

Aniya Wolfe:

I was 13 years old. Yeah, in middle school it was during our recess period. I made a trailer with my phone and now I'm out in LA, three years later filming on great projects that I would never imagined.

Charles:

You said your mother co-produced the film with you?

Aniya Wolfe:

Yes, so she has no experience in film production. She's actually a cosmetologist so we learning together. My parents are very invested because of their hard past where being in the foster care system, being homeless, being sexually abused both of them. They just really want to see the best for me. We just learned as we go and I wouldn't want it any other way honestly.

Charles:

You've learnt through as you said, personal experience, obviously, trial and error I'm assuming. Also, you mentioned YouTube as a real reference source for you, as reference point.

Aniya Wolfe:

Right, and I think that is the future for the youth. We used to have, in our capital system, we have the idea that we have to have a degree. That we have to go to college to learn what we want to know and with the advancement of technology and just being connected and having so many different resources and companies that are devoted to helping the youth.

The college degree is slowly ... I just personally feel like it's slowly losing its value. Maybe when it comes to the creativity side. Just taking advantage of personal experience, so we have these cameras at our fingertips and reaching out to people on social media which is similar to how I got a lot of the cast, a lot of the crew for my upcoming project. Just taking a bit into everything. That's really the future there, I think for the youth.

Charles:

Where does the story come from? What's the prompt behind the story that you want to tell as a film maker?

Aniya Wolfe:

That's a good question because it's constantly evolving. I think as I grow and as I meet new people. For me, I realized that, I find the inspiration for my new projects through talking to people. I love hearing different people's perspective in what they've been through and where they want to go and what they're going through now. Just having that well-rounded perspective from everyone else who's been to places, done different things than me.

It scopes on what I want to tackle as a film maker. Just being so young too and not having all the experience that the world does and the internet. Just the world around me. I really just get inspiration from that and tackling social issues that are really prevalent. Yeah, that will affect the future from generation Z's perspective.

Charles:

That's really your focal point? Is primarily is talking about and creating films around social issues?

Aniya Wolfe:

Yeah, social issues, but like edutainment for the youth but you don't really know that you're being educated though entertainment. Just really, I love movies like the Matrix and Inception that are more closer to home, just so we understand each other. I feel like we understand and we're just not so eager to assume a lot of conflicts that we have could probably be avoided or easily, more easily solved, easily. Yeah, that kind of point.

Charles:

How do you describe your directing style? What's your approach when you're planning out the film or the piece of content that you're creating?

Aniya Wolfe:

Definitely through emotion. I really ... that's the biggest thing like feeling. I think that a big part of the human experience is feeling. When I shoot and I'm talking to my DP in cinematographer, I really tackle on, what do we want the person to feel? What do we want them to live with? Then just the movement and emotion, they're just so intertwined. That's really just my style, but it's really what works with the story and it's different every time. It's really about what works.

Charles:

When you are working with talent, how do you reach them? How do you communicate with them? How do you find a connection with them? What are you looking for in talent?

Aniya Wolfe:

I'm definitely still learning. That's something I talk to people like Ramaa and other mentor and other directors at Adolescent to grow and learn from them. Then my favorite directors like, Ron Howard, he has a mastery class. Again, I just love listening to other people's perspective. So, I'll usually listen to the talent and see where is this connection, where can I stab you at?

Where do you connect to them? From there we go and music is also a big influence. I usually tell the actor to listen to a song that they relate, that they're familiar with to the situation. Have them play it, have them zone out. Music is energy, that has a really big influence on their performance I find.

Charles:

It's fantastic. Ramaa, before we talk about how and why you created Adolescent, just tell us a little bit about your background. What drew you to film making as a focal point?

Ramaa Mosley:

Yeah, so I knew I wanted to be a director from the time I was 13 and was really super focused on how to get there. I just didn't have anyone in my life that was in the industry. My mom's a teacher, my dad was a mechanic at the time.

I just would go to movies and just wish and wish and wish. Then one day, I was walking on the street in my small town and I saw a film crew, and they were making a movie. I ended up going on set and finding the director like I can tell it was this guy, this white guy who's pointing at everyone and telling them what to do.

I walked up and I asked him if he would allow me to stay on set and follow them. He agreed, and so I spend about three months with him and he took me on as his mentee. I made my first documentary at the age of five and started directing professionally when I was 16 years old. That's been now over 20 years and I've directed hundreds of commercials, a number of documentaries and two feature films.

Charles:

What was it about film making? What was the emotional connection for you?

Ramaa Mosley:

The emotional connection for me was the power to inspire and motivate. Much like Aniya, I wanted to do work that would make a difference in the world. In fact, my first documentary that I made was called, We Can Make a Difference, and it was about the environment problems and how they affect children and, that was ... it was always cause driven work. I never imagine that I would actually commercials. I didn't know there was a career so just commercial directing. That first spark really wanting to make work that people would see and be affected by led me to realizing there's actually, it was a job I could also make money doing.

Charles:

You've bounced your life between commercials and documentaries. Where has your focus been? Where has the emphasis been?

Ramaa Mosley:

The focus is being on commercials but every now and then I will do a documentary. The most recent one I did was I directed the Afghanistan's segment of Girl Rising. When I feel very drawn to material, I'll approach it. Otherwise, it's been, commercials and then features. I directed the movie, The Brass Teapot starring Juno Temple. Most recently, I directed the film called Tatterdemalion, which is starring Leven Rambin which is coming out in the fall. It was short in the Ozarks.

Charles:

What approaches are you drawn to? Is there a genre? Is there a-?

Ramaa Mosley:

Yeah, there is a genre. I am drawn to Si-Fi, Supernatural and action movies. My dream would be to direct a Marvel comic, DC comic film. It's the big movies that really get me going.

Charles:

Tell us about where the inspiration, were the idea for Adolescent came from.

Ramaa Mosley:

The inspiration for Adolescent came from the fact that I have a mentor and that person was very instrumental in helping me start my carrier and as I got older, the people that I started mentoring became younger. At first, I was mentoring people that were older than me and then as I got older, they got younger and younger until I was mentoring about ... six years ago, I was mentoring a 12 year old, a 14 year old and a 19 year old.

The work that they were making was just incredible and I thought, why are brands and entertainment hiring adults to make content that is aimed at youth? Why not hire the creators that are the age range of the viewers? I was just curious, like how would this change and disrupt the space? Founded the company, started signing teen directors, turns out there's a lot.

Then the whole thing just started growing and blossoming. It began really as this initiative to sign and represent teen directors and then we started getting approached to do ideation and actually come up with the campaigns and the essential scripts for projects. I realized that it's not just that we represent or create or to go out and execute a script or agree, it's that we actually represent our [inaudible], like Aniya, who come up with the ideas and then go out and make them too.

Charles:

When you're meeting talents and looking for talent, what are the characteristics you are looking for? What kind of talent have you found work in this kind of environment?

Ramaa Mosley:

I'm looking for creators who are passionate about story telling. Now, that's not always a director who can write or even a photographer who's got the best shooting skills, but it's somebody who's passionate about the medium of using visuals to tell a story. Ideally, I'm looking for someone who knows that this is their life-long career and when I can find them young, as young as possible, it's better because it gives us a longer chance to really help develop their careers.

One of our first directors we signed was Emilia Conway when she was 11, and she's now 15 and we've gotten her a lot of work because we've had all this time to help develop her talent. It's like this funny gauge between age versus story telling abilities, versus what they currently have. This is going to sound a little bit ages but it's just a fact and the process of this company, is that, well sometimes I'll see a 23 year old who'll send us work and they'll have done a lovely short film.

But everyone in their family would say, it's really great. You know what? I know Aniya just made a kick ass, like feature film and when I think about creators, I'm constantly having to weigh age versus, talent versus what have they actually done?

Charles:

Have you been doing this long enough to know where directors in your roaster age out? I mean, will Aniya get to the point where she's too old to satisfy the needs of this particular company or can is it Aniya's spirit that you're looking for?

Ramaa Mosley:

It's really Aniya's spirit. It would be like an end game. There would be no great game here if everyone aged out. Essentially what happens is when people get to a place where they're like going into their mid-20s, then they really move onto our mastery division. We have people who have won like the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance and best director.

That's really what we're looking for. We're looking to create the next Ava DuVernay, Lena Dunham, Steven Spielberg. That's the ultimate road and right now, is this awesome opportunity to be able to help brands with a real problem which is how to reach the Gen Z audience by utilizing Gen Z creators.

Charles:

As you're dealing with brands, what are you hearing back in terms of how they react and respond to this kind of content, to these insights?

Ramaa Mosley:

If I can get directly to the brand, like the brand manager or the CMO, then I immediately I'm able to make a connection and they will hire us, because they know what the problem is. When they see the work, they see the quality of the work, the work, they're so excited. We have people constantly in our office, in pre-production meetings like actually, their eyes swell with tears. Because when you are a brand, you are really attached, I mean "you're drinking the cool aid" right?

You have to be all in on that brand, that product. When they meet a team, who is also all in on that product and so excited to work on it whether it's Canvass, or Target or any number of brands, it's very moving as opposed to an older director who's like, "I'm paying my mortgage." That said, we always have to answer the issues of logistics like, how do we take care of our kids? How long are they allowed to work? Work permits, making sure that they work the proper amount of hours and no more that they have a studio teacher onset, all of these things that are really important, in terms of the welfare of every child and that's our primary concern, is really the welfare of each of our young people?

Charles:

What about the technical side of the business because obviously, I mean, the technology has changed dramatically, right? Over the last 20 years. I mean, Aniya picked up her phone to demonstrate to me what she's ... so I was shooting on that, that wasn't even possible 10 years ago. Now, you can shoot high def movies, right? Of [inaudible].

Ramaa Mosley:

It's crazy.

Charles:

But there're nevertheless, real technical issues that come with experience and come with understanding. How do you unlock the talents of somebody like Aniya while giving her the protection of, here are the technical things we have to make sure we've checked against?

Ramaa Mosley:

Okay, so really, it's based on the size of the project. But we have a team of people who track our talent through every project. If it's a very large project like, we did a major Target campaign that was back to school a year ago and that was quite large. Then we used around one of the very best crews, crews that I would work with. These are adults who have a lot of experience working in the industry for decades. If it's a project where it's like a social media asset and it's smaller and the budget it's smaller, then potentially we pair Aniya with a producer and it's that person who's going to help her.

We are here to make sure that every project succeeds. I went out when I was 15 and 16 and made lots of content and I failed. I had mistakes happen, things weren't exposed right. We never let our young people who were working on a paid brand job experience that. That said, Aniya, before she signed with us, had a very real experience on her own when she's making a movie that you can try talk about hitting that technical issue.

Aniya Wolfe:

Yeah. Sure, so being technical. I mean, as far as being young and then having really ... like in Philadelphia, there's not a real film industry there. I mean it exists, but it's not like Los Angeles. The resources were pretty limited in terms of getting crew and equipment. Really just the ... what was the question?

Ramaa Mosley:

You had told me how when you were doing the sound, you didn't realize that you needed to sync it.

Aniya Wolfe:

Right. Yeah, my process is trial and error experience. Thinking sound and stuff, there's a lot of stuff you can't learn on YouTube, you just have to learn with experience and it gets tricky and just because, since I'm a visual artist, I'm not worried about like sound is crucial but I'm not passionate about sound. Just having like Ramaa and her crew, and a foundation to lean back on that can handle the logistics and the network and the planning and the business and all that, it really alleviates me from so much stress and I can could just focus on what I want to communicate which is usually a positive message and change and inspiration. It's really great.

Charles:

I'm fascinated by this and drawn to is as a concept and a construct. I've spent a lot of time on sets myself and worked with iconic directors and the classic director model is the director is ... sorry, the classic director model is the director was king or queen depending on, right? On the set. Everything they say happens or doesn't happen and we've all lived through that reality. Is this more collaborative than that? If I walked on to your set with that and have that experience as my background, what would I see that was different about this experience?

Ramaa Mosley:

I don't think you would experience and it's more collaborative necessarily because I think Aniya is very specific about what she's after.

Aniya Wolfe:

Yeah, it's both. I mean, because I understand that ... with directing and story telling, it does come from a lot of experience. As far as how an actor would ... a character would react in certain situations, and how they would feel. I am open minded to hearing everyone, even from a production assistant to ... just everyone's thoughts and then I zone out. I can pick and choose but I think it's really crucial to not just like feed into your ego I guess. You just have to ... it comes with the growing and experience, but it's a mixture of both. I'm definitely still learning as I go but it depends on the situation really.

Charles:

As you're planning a shooting day, right? Because as you said, you learn by trial and error, right? Which is obviously I think for a lot of us, me included, the way that we learn, but you're also trying to deliver a certain number of shots and you're trying to deliver concepts, trying to deliver this side of expectations this side of deliverables at the end of the day. How do you plan out your day? Are you giving yourself the time and the latitude to be able to try stuff along the way? Talk to us about how you construct a shoot day.

Aniya Wolfe:

Yeah. So, I'm actually in the midst of this project right now and it's the first time where I'm actually like ... I'm a little bit more than a director, I'm very involved with the producing aspect of it and with this project, I am creating a shot list ... there's actually this great website online, it's for free and it's really made for the independent film maker that just goes out and do it.

It's called studio Binder. You have your shot list and your story like you're scheduling. It's really team effort because the film can't be done solely of which I had my mom. It's really just a lot of communication which with our new technology, just text messages, face times on screen steps, screen recording to have our instant communication when we need something done.

It really ... it's a lot of communication being thorough. I'm learning organization, I'm bouncing with school and making sure that you're staying balanced because if you're not balanced, you'll see everything else is becoming unbalanced and it's just really important that you have a sense of self and mindfulness before you jump into something like directing. Yeah, for sure, that's my process.

Charles:

As you're putting crew together, what are the characteristics you are looking for as you go through the various departments?

Aniya Wolfe:

Definitely passion. Similar to Ramaa, it's all about just making sure that you guys have the same vision. Even if you don't have the same vision, I feel like you can use that to your advantage and challenge your own vision and perspective and then make it even stronger. You can hit a wider demographic in different people. Really, just people that are mindful similar like to me and they have their values in line.

Let's see, they have just passion, yeah. It's really just passion, I think. The willingness like the eagerness to grow. They look at it bigger then just personally, just like the bigger picture in what we're trying to achieve and a personal relationship, I think that's special. It make you, can tell your project because things will just flow better easier and feels good.

Charles:

How often are you the youngest person on set?

Aniya Wolfe:

I'm always the youngest person on set. I really see that changing especially with companies like adolescent which it's rare but it's happening. You see, they reached out for me from Philadelphia to LA. I'm constantly the youngest person on set, and because I'm online schooled, I'm not isolated, but I don't have as much experience with peers my age. When we link up I'm the type to shake their hands. When we meet I'm like, "Hi I'm Aniya." And then after I remember, or like, "Oh wait, do you guys probably don't this." I know this because I watch movies.

Ramaa Mosley:

You learn how to interact with the teams from all of the movies. That's hilarious.

Aniya Wolfe:

Yes, 80s theme movies, they're my favorite genre. Actually, just a little vintage [inaudible] yeah, you learn from movies.

Ramaa Mosley:

You are, oh my God, you look cute.

Aniya Wolfe:

Thanks [inaudible].

Charles:

Ramaa, as you are putting projects together what are you conscious off in terms of how you cast a project?

Ramaa Mosley:

You mean from an actor's standpoint or from the crew?

Charles:

Mostly crew, I think actually both is interesting.

Ramaa Mosley:

When I'm putting together a crew, I'm looking for people who are nice and good at what they do. I mean, it just really comes down to that. Are they really good at what they do and also pleasant to be around. I've worked with a lot of people that are really good at what they do and not pleasant to be around and that's not worth it.

That said, there are so many incredibly talented people in this industry all over the United States and the world. I've worked in Asia. I've worked Europe, all over Europe, all over central America. I think that's always the thing is that I'm looking for somebody who has a kind disposition and capable. In terms of ... and also quick. I'm pretty impatient as a director. I don't like to sit around and wait for things. That's the hardest thing especially making a movie.

My first movie I had the experience of waiting a lot for the technical parts and that was frustrating. With my second movie, I chose a DP who is much quicker and who used natural light. I was able to just spend a lot more time shooting as opposed to waiting and lighting. In terms of cast, I look for people who are really believe in the skill and the training of their work and the craft. I'm not looking for people who are famous, people who are celebrities.

That's like a producer mind that sometimes I have to put on the producer hat but in general, what I'm looking for is, is that person going to bring all the skill ... Do they have skill? Have they done training? I have been lucky enough to work with two leading actresses now from my movies who are both highly trained.

Do you know [inaudible]? Who trained in the UK and Leven Rambin who trained in Brooklyn at this amazing actress academy and really who are so devoted to their craft and so, and also like Leven's example, I needed to make sure could go on this crazy journey because we short in the Ozarks in the middle of August.

In 98-degree weather in the woods with ticks and [inaudible] and it was not really a very easy experience. We had only [inaudible] no trailers, so that was really rough. I needed to have the full buy in, which I think in general as a director, all you really want, is you want to know that the talent is going to follow you and collaborate, but also really want to serve the vision and not mindlessly because everyone needs to participate and offer their perspective but, when you are on set and there's an actor who has a very different vision and really doesn't want to follow what you are saying, it becomes extremely conscious.

Yeah, it's a very big-time suck and so, at this point, which I think I'm early in my pitch or directing carrier, establishing my commercials carrier. I'm looking for people who are going to believe in me and put their energy and invest.

Charles:

When you were building Adolescent, did you find that there were certain crew who were uncomfortable working with an 11, 12, 13 year old director? I mean have you been conscious of we have to ... there are some people we just can't bring into these kinds of jobs is because they don't take it seriously or they don't see this is credible whatever the amount of influence?

Ramaa Mosley:

Yeah, so my business partner and co-founder Hope Farley, has been my longtime line producer. We've worked for about nine years and she's got over 12 years experience and she and I between the two of us have worked with great people and so we really tapped into those crews explain the premise of what we're doing and then put them on sets with our teams and in every situation like literally every situation they all walk away completely impressed.

We don't work with regular kids. Just like Aniya said, she shakes people's hands, she watches movies to figure out how high school students relate. Our kids are super kids, they started directing at five. The average story is actually that. They made the first stop motion film or film at five or six and they've been making films ever since. We work with super protégées and it's immediately apparent any crew that worked with us is immediately impressed because they come very prepared, they're eloquent, they are interactive and they're knowledgeable.

Now, they don't know everything clearly. They don't know how to, what light to call for or they don't have experience with Moco in visual effects necessarily. They have a strong point of view.

Charles:

Aniya now, have you encountered any situations in which your age has been a problem for somebody working around you?

Aniya Wolfe:

At first, I think I tried to be understanding and I really do think it's about your perspective like the way you see things as your reality. It's because I'm just naturally so understanding, I'm like, listen, I get, it's fine. If I keep my presence and I'm just mindful and I'm just making sure that I'm here with a good heart.

Usually I see the attitude change and it doesn't really bother me because I just understand it doesn't ... it'll only affect me if I let it and I know that I have such a supportive background and I know there're people that trust in my vision, like my parents and my grandma. I just forget about it. What you focus on is really what's present.

Charles:

You haven't felt you needed to call anybody out specifically. You move them to your point of view through a positive intention and energy.

Aniya Wolfe:

I think this is something I'm actually I'm going on right now at the moment, like what to do in these kinds of situations. Usually I just brush it off like I'm just ... then I'll see the energy change once I brush it off and I focus not so much on getting them to like me but just being myself. Just trying to ignore all of that stuff and then it'ill happen for me. Yeah.

Charles:

Ramaa, what have you seen from your side of that equation as you're watching young directors develop their ability to pull a crew together?

Ramaa Mosley:

What I noticed is that there're some young people who have been taught that they're not supposed to be commanding around an adult and that adults have a seniority and there's a respect that needs to be inherit in that relationship. That is important. I do believe that is important, but when it comes to running a set, you have to be willing to tell adults what to do.

There's a number of our directors who are, I would say like, their personalities are a little bit more shy and I've had to work with them on teaching them that they're there to tell the adults what to do. They're being hired to direct, to lead. That is a learning curve. I would say that the whole process of the business side of getting jobs is a learning curve for all of our directors. From how do you do a good conference call? How do you do a good presentation meeting? How do you do a great treatment?

All these things are things that these kids are as genius as they are, they don't become boring with all these abilities. We teach them how to do that, we prepare them. How to run your set like things like when you show up on set, if you have ... if you're doing a commercial, you go to your, you say good morning to your AD, you talk through things with your crew, you go up to your client when they arrive, you welcome them and walk them through with the days and you start to work.

There's just certain protocol in advertising that I'm very familiar with, that I can teach. That's really important and ultimately, I've seen so many of our directors like blossom from being shy and not wanting to say things or turning to me to give the direction. Or in a couple of cases actually I've had it happened when I'm on set just to be observant that sometimes the DP will speak to me and instead of speaking to-

Aniya Wolfe:

Yeah, the talent.

Ramaa Mosley:

Yeah, to the director. I'll just look at the director and-

Aniya Wolfe:

I think yeah, and coming back to that question, I have forgotten what I wanted to say but I think directing ... because this is a skill. I mean you're not really born with the skill to direct, it's really the qualities I say like leadership qualities maybe. Coming, like hearing Ramaa say this, like I can come to people here and ask questions and study their craft and I just have that YouTube just like screen, the screen connect. I can sit there and ask you and really grow, it's more comfortable and I think more that way.

Charles:

Aniya when you get to the end of a shoot, what do you look back on? What are you trying to learn from the end of that process?

Charles:

When you get to the end of a shoot, you look back and say, " That was a success." What makes it successful?

Aniya Wolfe:

What makes it successful? A good question. I think what makes it successful is you got the emotion ... that's hard. That's a good question. You accomplished the emotion that you wanted to communicate. Yeah, I think that's what I have so far. I'm thinking so far from my sets. We got everything done on time. That's good, we got the shots that we want, we didn't sacrifice too much.

Sometimes you have to sacrifice because of time crunch, but when you look back on it and you just see ... I don't know, you just you see that you've got the variety of what you want. I don't know, maybe that feels good, that feels really good. Yeah.

Ramaa Mosley:

Yeah, I would say same thing. I would say when I feel like I got the emotion I want to get, I got the shots I wanted to get, I came in on time. That's really the addiction of direction it's that buzz of creation when everyone comes together and make something and you really believe it's good.

Aniya Wolfe:

Yeah.

Charles:

Aniya, what do you want ... you rolled for the year, what would you like to have accomplished a year from now?

Aniya Wolfe:

A year from now. These kinds of questions are crazy because, I don't know, I feel like I always have a solid ... my goals are constantly evolving and into bigger and more thoughtful things. I think from a year from now, I would like to graduate school because I just feel like the high school system doesn't support my dream. If I pass this seventh-grade year and I would just love to be on set.

I know from a couple of years from now, I see myself travelling similar to Ramaa and just gaining different perspectives and meeting different people, capturing different places because there's so much more than the United States. And, Los Angeles is beautiful but Los Angeles is this big compared to everything else. I want to shoot on the moon.

This a goal of mine. I want to do the first commercial on the moon. I feel it will be easy to get products because who doesn't want their product on the moon? You had that kind of history like Coca-Cola or it would be something maybe more impactful, but it sounds cool. I think I would like to do that. I hope there's technology like that. Virtual reality is amazing too. I think, I wonder ... I constantly ponder what's the future of virtual reality? Being in a state ... like am I actually here right now? I don't know like AI and stuff. It's cool to explore.

Charles:

I think virtual is interesting but I think putting the first product on the moon that's a thing, right? That's a thing. That's a great thing. Ramaa when you set this up, what did you think it was going to be like? How is it ... what's the experience been of actually building and running this business? How different is it from what you thought it was going to be?

Ramaa Mosley:

When in first started it in the first year, I thought it was going to be solely about directors, teen directors. Then it very quickly shifted to being not only about teen directors but about ideas and the original IP and the creation of web series, TV series and a lot more than just commercials and branded content. That was surprising to me and also exciting and I didn't realize that as a director, I had so much entrepreneurial drive.

I will say, I've also been completely surprised with just the quantity and the quality of the creators, the Gen Z creators. I thought in the beginning that it was going to be a highly curated group of like 12 to 15 teen directors and that, that in itself was going to be amazing. We now have 500 creators all over the world. From China, to Germany, to Russia, to South America.

We're making content with these creators for brands and for entertainment on a daily basis and that's something that I didn't perceive in the first month or two, but then it all just started happening, because we started getting request ... It's amazing how this company is so scalable and how even at least 500 creators that we now work with, I predict that it's going to be closer to 10, 000.

That what we're able to do because this is the next generation and they're highly tech savvy and highly creative and real taste makers. That we're going to be able to create incredible content to serve this thirst for media, for youth and that's what I'm most exited about.

Aniya Wolfe:

Yeah, you saying that, I'm just thinking like even being a part of the team, I'm a big fan of the concept like the team is they ... it's articles online and things that I'm genuinely interested about that I find other kids across the country, even though we're from different places, we still have the same spirit and we're wondering about the same things like regardless of culture and all that.

They come to a place where you have that well-rounded perspective and just kids from different areas. You feel connected. I don't know, it's wonderful. It's not just visuals, it's articles and questionnaires and news and things that we're generally interested in.

Ramaa Mosley:

What Aniya is-

Charles:

It's a community. It's a true community.

Ramaa Mosley:

It's a community. Yeah, and that is actually, so in addition to everything I told you about that we've talked about today like the research and ideation think tank production company, we have additional platform that's all content made by youth for youth. We give out micro-grants to creators to write articles, to make [inaudible] experiment videos.

We're putting out about two three pieces of content a day on adolescent.net. What's incredible is just the diversity of content that kids want to make, that young to make. It's everything from social justice to entertainment to LGBTQ, to art and it's all completely authentic and every time we post a piece of content, so now let's say we put three pieces of content on our dot net and there's three to four posts on our social channels, we're getting probably six submissions.

We are getting about 30-40 submissions a day from people who want to contribute and it just snowballs and the community grows and grows and grows.

Aniya Wolfe:

Yeah, and when she says authentic, it's authentic. It's almost, it's even whether it could be considered taboo, which is so freeing. It's really healthy for spirit and for the youth because we have so much going on, so many different changes. They come to a place like that, it just ... it feels so good.

Charles:

What's the risk of this business model?

Ramaa Mosley:

I would say the risk is to not grow and develop all of our other ways that we can develop. I think quite frankly, I've been very protective of the company and we've had a number of people come to us about investing. What I've learned is that the idea that we have here is really special and we are the first movers in the space and really the risk is that, really is losing that first position.

Everything I do is sort of motivated by getting to really what I think is going to be the ultimate game and doing it as quickly and really with as much integrity as I want it to be. That isn't necessarily, that risk is not necessarily the idea. It's really just the growing of the business and launching the business. I'm learning that I need to, being the director that I am, I like to hold on to the creative. But I'm learning that we're going need to have partners and take on new partners and potentially take on money to be able to grow so that we are dominating the world.

Aniya Wolfe:

Yeah.

Charles:

I have one last question for you and then I have a question for each of you as a wrap up. You've talked a little bit about the fact that you've extended upwards in the food chain in terms of the ideation of food chain instead of just directing you're now contributing from an ideation standpoint. People are coming to your brand and just saying help us ... develop concepts for us. Do you think that's the future of modern marketing? Do you think that this ought to the ability to both conceive and express and create is the future of where modern communication is going?

Ramaa Mosley:

I do. I think it is. I think that the 86% of teens will say that they will only believe and buy and follow and trust what their peers are doing. Really the only way to reach them is through their peers. The peer to peer content is king and like a queen. I think that there's always going to be a necessity for really good mature creatives to help everyone do the best work.

When we do think tank work, we work in what's called a digital brain trust which is like a proprietary digital space which we bring in young people to ideate and it's through a process of putting their ideas down and what people comment on, the best ideas rise to the top, but we always still have people who are experienced and trained in advertising, overseeing the process and helping.

I think that there'll always be a need for in the Gen Z space, there will always be a need for those very experienced great copy writers and art directors, but it's essential that content for youth be made by youth, ideated by youth in order to not completely lose this audience because you know what? Brands are competing with their eyeballs. They're basically competing with their platforms.

Aniya Wolfe:

It's ridiculous.

Ramaa Mosley:

Yeah, every brand is competing with Aniya's Instagram or her friend's Instagram. You want to compete, then you have to grab Aniya and get her to help you launch your message in a meaningful way. That's the biggest competition that I see and a thing that brands really need to start to understand.

Aniya Wolfe:

I think this is generation Z, if I'm not wrong, I read this fact. We're the biggest generation yet in human history. It's like we are the future here. We're very ... brands are going to take advantage because we are the biggest of the biggest, they feed of us to get money and so you can tell.

Ramaa Mosley:

Well, you're ... this generation is distinguished by the most discerning. Having the highest sensitivity to content that's not authentic, it's like-

Aniya Wolfe:

Yeah.

Ramaa Mosley:

You know millennials, yes that's true but Gen Z type are true.

Aniya Wolfe:

Mm-hmm (affirmative)-

Ramaa Mosley:

And really caring about kindness and doing good work. This is the generation of change makers.

Aniya Wolfe:

Right. We are the first generation to be encouraged to use our voices. I find the change, and because we have these platforms now, it's more ... It feels good because we're more connected with what's going on and we can see ... We are aware of what's going to happen in the future, like global warming, climate change, the effects of our current president. We understand that.

Ramaa Mosley:

It's happening because it's so much a part of who they are, it's so much a part of who Aniya is, that she wouldn't even separate from who she is, right? And when she's talking about her content that she's making, the films, if you hear what the stories are, it's all social justice. It's so much who she is, that what I notice is just, “duh,” It's obvious, of course, which is very different than any other generation and I think probably since my mom's generation in the 70s where they were evolved and students for democratic society were protesting, I think this is the next wave of-

Aniya Wolfe:

Sure.

Ramaa Mosley:

People are going to make change.

Aniya Wolfe:

Yes, it's so un-normal not to be woke, not to know what's going on. It's like, “Hold on, you're not hit? Let's walk you through this.” It's a little ... You should be, that's how this generation is.

Charles:

One of the labels attached to both your generation Aniya and I think to gen Y is the slash generation. People want to be CMOs/chefs. I've experienced that myself. You have people who are very highly skilled, passionate about one particular area, professional area and they also want to do something that is completely disconnected from that reality and they want both with equal passion. Is there anything else that you are equally passionate about as well as directing and film making?

Aniya Wolfe:

Yeah. I think visually ... Well, is there? I think because I'm exposed to so many new ideas everyday through social media and stuff, I don't think there is anything I'm equally passionate about when it comes to visuals, but there's things that I want to explore, like I'm interested in archery and just ... I don't know. I think for me personally I love visuals. I think this is the only thing I can see myself doing for the rest of my life, but because of what I do which is story telling. I feel like I have to dip and experience mother things and have maybe a little bit of passion for other things.

Charles:

Mm-hmm (affirmative)-

Aniya Wolfe:

So it comes to life.

Ramaa Mosley:

Knowing Aniya I just have tell you this is what she is, she's a director/writer/producer/editor/show runner slash slash slash.

Aniya Wolfe:

Right.

Ramaa Mosley:

If any of our creators ... Oh my God, she's constantly like, “Okay. I'm putting together this show and I've got these actors. I've already cast the whole thing and I've written it and I'm going to be editing it.” And I'm like oh my gosh. Within the industry she is a slash slash slash.

Aniya Wolfe:

And they keep me balanced because you can definitely burnout, so to have someone to check in and let you know that you may be doing so much something and to have different eyes and visions on it can affect a bigger audience and just not what you think it is. Keep it well rounded. I appreciate it, but it's just ingrained in me just to do it.

Charles:

Yes, that comes across for sure. Two last questions, how do you lead?

Aniya Wolfe:

How do I lead? I lead by connection first, being kind, like Ramaa said, working with the ... Actually going back to your similar question, I just thought your last question. I just thought about what I am passionate about, I love philosophy and thinking, kind of like Physics, how things work. I do have equal passion for understanding, which I feel you can tell, but how do I lead? I lead by connection, like Ms. Ramaa said, working with people who are kind and have similar visions, I tap into that way. I listen to everybody and I'm just kind. I think that's the number one thing, when you listen, that's so important, when you just don't talk, because then you'll have results faster and a better attitude when people feel understood, you know how to work with them.

Charles:

Mm-hmm (affirmative)-

Aniya Wolfe:

So yeah, listening number one.

Charles:

Ramaa what about you? How do you lead?

Ramaa Mosley:

I lead with exuberance. I really like to tap into people's sense of play and to enroll them in an adventure in which there's plenty of time, plenty of light and plenty of creativity to be able to make the work that we need to work. That is, I'm constantly pushing away from the stress factor that I see a lot of people start to engage with on set, because I find it really anti-

Aniya Wolfe:

Productive.

Ramaa Mosley:

Productive, antithetical anti whatever to creativity. So, the way I lead is through a spirit of play and then I'm also very clear about what I want. It's not by committee, there's no committee. I do believe in listening to ideas but really at the end of the day if there's not time I'm not going to spend my time doing that because at the end of the day whether it's good or bad it's on my shoulders.

Aniya Wolfe:

Right.

Charles:

Ramaa, what are you afraid of?

Ramaa Mosley:

I am afraid of not achieving my dreams as a director. When you talk about the slash culture I feel like I'm right on the edge, and because I've started this business which is so meaningful to me and I as an incredible entrepreneurial opportunity. I sometimes wonder can I do it all? Which is I guess is the big question that everyone has to ask themselves, but when I started this journey at 13 years old, my goal was to make movies that inspired and motivated people and that was seen by large audiences. You know, [inaudible] or studio movies and that is still really my goal, and so my biggest fear is that I don't accomplish that dream.

Charles:

And Aniya what are you afraid of?

Aniya Wolfe:

Thinking into space, because I have to say, to be ... I'm transparent, and I think I'm growing out of this. I conquer this fear every time I release a film, but just that it's, it doesn't seem what one-sided. I guess I care what people think about it, and if I screen a film and nobody in the audience agrees with the message I'm trying to portray, that's scary, but I think I can conquer that, [inaudible] just staying educated, knowledgeable. Making sure when I was in creation my heart was in the right space. That kind of scares me. Just to screen a film and no one ... It's just quiet and silent, I have chest pains a little bit. It's scary, but I think I conquer all the time and I've never had that experience. It's just made up. I think that's an artist thing, maybe, we all go through the process of that feeling.

Charles:

Mm-hmm (affirmative) fantastic.

Aniya Wolfe:

It's short-lived.

Charles:

I wrap every episode with three takeaways that I've heard that strike me as being important to your success and so let me try these, and I actually think I have three that apply to both of you. We'll see whether these resonate with you. The first I think is an absolute fearlessness for want for a better word, to break the rules or I don't think either of you really cared very much about what the rules are and what's supposed to happen, or who's suppose to do what. You're just looking at what's the better answer and let's just do that, right? So that's really powerful.

I think. Second is, you both have an extraordinary sense of trust in things that a lot of people wouldn't have trust in, so Ramaa you clearly trust people who are theoretically much too young to be able to do this kinds of things and proving that that's not true, and Aniya you clearly have enormous trust in Ramaa and the people that are at Adolescent to be able to help you realize your goals and you didn't have a ton of evidence to support that and yet you moved across the country in support of that. I think that that's really powerful when people are willing to lean into those instincts without the evidence necessarily to back it up yet.

The third thing I think that ties the both of you together I think as part of your success is the fact that you're clearly both trying to make a difference. You both talked about [inaudible 00:59:35] humanity and the spirit, the difference you want to make in the world, the way you tap into people and care about what matters to them. I think that is a characteristic that I hear increasingly in the most successful creative leaders, and I think it's clearly a driving force for both of you. How do those resonate with you?

Ramaa Mosley:

Oh my God, yes.

Aniya Wolfe:

Yes. That's right.

Ramaa Mosley:

You got it right. Well done. I think that's absolutely correct-

Aniya Wolfe:

Yeah.

Ramaa Mosley:

And it's so beautiful to hear it back-

Aniya Wolfe:

Yes it is.

Ramaa Mosley:

And actually I'm inspired right now.

Aniya Wolfe:

It does feel good. I haven't heard that, to hear it from ... Can I ask did you go to school? What is your degree in? I'm just wondering.

Charles:

Oh my God. My degree ... No one's asked me that for a long time. My degree was in economics and management and I scrambled out of college with a two point three GPA and barely graduated so-

Aniya Wolfe:

Wow.

Charles:

I don't learn academically I realized and I learn through experience. So, my journey is definitely not an academic centered one.

Aniya Wolfe:

Yeah. That's how we connect. That's cool.

Ramaa Mosley:

Very cool.

Charles:

I think that's nice really. Thank you both so much for joining me. This has just been a fantastic conversation, and liberating and eye-opening both.

Ramaa Mosley:

Thank you.

Aniya Wolfe:

Thank you, it was nice.

Charles:

You've been listening to Fearless, the Art of Creative Leadership. If you like what you heard, please go to iTunes spend a moment and leave us a rating and join us next week when we'll have more. Thanks again for listening. Thank you both so much.