Jesse Szymanski – CEO and Founder of Modern Muse Media - Edmonton Short Film Festival

What can  you share your experiences as Producer of a successful television series?
I spent eight-years and five seasons as Co-Executive Producer of the award-winning television series, Blackstone. The positives were sky-high. The negatives were that it was a very chaotic,very busy life. Not one that aligned with having a family, which was where I was at with my life. The experience of sitting in the first few rows at the Canadian Screen Awards, being nominated for Best Dramatic Series against some of the icons that I had witnessed growing up was like no other. I felt like I was walking the clouds.

Dealing with some of the challenges and the fires that I had to put out is what a producer is really, a professional firefighter. It is something that I couldn’t have prepared for. The experiences that I dealt with as a professional, award-winning producer has molded me. I’m grateful for those that were positive and negative because they have prepared me for everything that I needed to have started my own company.

What are some of the environments that you have worked in?
In my twenty-two-year career in television, a feature film is the only thing that I have not done. I have been in front of the camera as an entertainment reporter, I have done oil and gas, I have done commercials. I started out doing City Ford on the St. Albert Trail, I have produced hundreds of those ads. I am building my company so that they’ll be a revenue stream one day so I can support a feature film.

What advice can you share with content creators who want to move into a television series?
It is going to take waaaaayy longer than you can imagine. It is a fight, especially in this day and age. We have moved from something called the “Broadcast era” to the “Digital/Oral era” where oral storytelling is what is prevalent and what people are consuming. As the dinosaur that was the Broadcast era crumbles, we are all waiting through unnavigable waters to find our way. I can’t tell you what that looks like because nobody can.

I can tell you the competition is stiff. The greenlights on licenses from broadcasters is tough. You might want to look at alternative ways of finding funding or getting your message out there because no matter what you have something to say and there are people out there who want to hear it.

Can you tell us about Modern Muse Media?
I started Modern Muse Media three-and-a-half years ago. We are a video production company that rimarily focus on training people, individuals, companies to create their own video content for social media. We have everything from beginner workshopson a mobile phone to an awesome thirty-hour, twelve module curricula where we work with companies to shoot, edit, angles, lighting, B-roll, sound, and we teach them how to create content to feed that beast. Do that on their own accord so they can capture that corporate culture. There is cost-efficiency because sourcing that out can be very cost-prohibitive. We mentor, train, and empower them to do social media and take their social media to the next level.

What inspired you to start Modern Muse Media?
There are a couple things that influenced me to start Modern Muse Media. When I was on the show, Blackstone, the Canadian Media Fund mandated that we had to have a digital media component. None of us knew what that was. We started a Facebook page, Instagram wasn’t even a thing then, and we had to figure this out. They wanted us to get eyeballs through social media platforms to the broadcast. We ended up falling down a lot of times but creating this short-form, behind-the-scenes content, that went from 0 to 50,000 fans online. This was when Facebook was for friends and family. This was unheard of. I fell in love with the short-form ontent.

When Blackstone was done, someone looked at me and said “Wow, you’re thirty-five years old and you’ve hit the peak of your career! What are you going to do now?”. For me, that was gasoline and I just needed to figure it out. It took me leaving the industry and hitting rock bottom. Literally, I was on the floor in a heap, crying. “What am I doing?!”. From that crux Modern Muse Media was born. I made the decision I was going to start a company that was going to be the new way of video brand storytelling.

What are some of the success stories from Modern Muse Media?
The success stories from Modern Muse Media are endless because we really do empower people to share their own story through video-storytelling. When I go to industry events through film and television, there was a bit of a judgement. I come from what was an Emmy of Canada, for a television series. I get to empower companies, most of them non-profits, to share their own story through video.

One of our clients is Win House and they are going to start creating videos of the women that have gone through their program and their lives have changed. Their children’s lives have been saved from domestic violence. There is so much power that I am giving people that I feel this is my legacy. I have taken twenty-two years of experience in an industry that many feel is out-of-reach, it is overwhelming for a lot of companies, and I provide a solution to that, where they can share their story. That has been incredibly fulfilling so the entire journey of Modern Muse Media is a success story for me.

Can you tell us about your project Edmonton Women: Untold Stories?
I love that you asked this question. When I decided to take the leap, I was working outside of industry. It was through my contacts and sphere of influence that I got the project called Edmonton Women: Untold Stories. This was the project that allowed me to leave my day job and purse Modern Muse Media full-time. It was a small contract but for me it was huge. It was $10,000. It gave me the opportunity and vision of the company. The idea was to interview women who were doing amazing things in the city that nobody knew about. We executed it really well, we went way over budget and that was okay.

I so believe when you pursue your souls’ purpose and you walk down that path, it widens. It inspired me to start my web series, which is on YouTube, called, Life of a Producer. It’s where I interview these amazing women who do wonderful things in the city so I kind of jumped kicked-off that wonderful project and created something of my own that is incredibly inspiring for a lot of people..

What are some strategies you would suggest to emerging content creators?
When I was in my practicum in school I had to work like a dog. I would offer to clean the washrooms, take out the garbage cans, and organize the stationary cabinets. There weren’t smartphones or the internet. Unfortunately, there are a lot of distractions. I’ve mentored and trained a lot of young women, primarily, that have come up to my organization. I’ve had to have conversations about work ethic. Everybody thinks it’s so easy because there is so much opportunity for female filmmakers.

The best advice I can give to someone emerging is that this is hard work. My question for you is how badly do you want it? How have you seen the media landscape change over the next few years? People are choosing to consume their own content on their own platforms. Whether that be desktop, television, or mobile. Here’s a fact: attention is the new currency. People get to choose which television shows they watch, consume, and share, they are no longer being told.

If you are going to be competitive in the Digital/Oral era you need to be compelling, provide value, and be entertaining.

What is an interesting fact about you?
I’m very much a hippy at heart. I don’t come across that way. I’m a yippy or yuppy. I look like I’m a business, conservative person. I would like to go with the flow and be out in nature.