Andrew Gunn was living his dream life as a director of high end TV and film in the UK. Suddenly, the work started drying up and he knew he had to find another way to make a living and to support his family. He used his project management skills to create a business based on online marketing and in the process ended up finding a whole new passion.
Here’s his story
Andrew: I decided when I was a very young boy that I wanted to be a filmmaker, and specifically I wanted to direct movies. Eventually, after many years of training and pursuing and determination and persistence, I managed to break into the film and television industry and eventually became a director of high-end television drama in the U.K.
Now that particular career, if you like, is not an easy one to get into, and it does take a lot of determination and persistence and hard work, often unpaid hard work for many, many years. I pursued that with vigor. I went to film school, you know, and I got all the qualifications and worked very hard at it making my own films, spending a lot of my own money and pursuing that career and it eventually took off.
One thing I should say actually or sort of mention is that it came to a natural end, but it actually became for me several factors, which I’ll go into as briefly as I can. There was a point where I wasn’t actually enjoying it anymore, and what I found is my career kind of took off. It hit a peak and then kind of leveled out. Then as you’ll often find in the media careers, often you can level out and then sometimes you can drop into a trough, you know, and your career goes up and down, up and down. I think there are very few particularly directors in the industry who constantly work and constantly maintain a level of work and a quality of work. I think it’s quite rare.
In my case what happened was that the gaps between my contracts as a director were becoming larger and larger. I think it has a lot to do with economics, and the credit crunch. It has a lot to do with the nature of the film and television world. It is actually, you know, it shifts all the time. Like a lot of media industries it is subject to fashion and taste, and whether you’re the hot new thing, or whether you’ve done the latest hot thing on television.
I found I was beginning to struggle with my career. I wasn’t getting the kind of work that I wanted to be doing. I didn’t have that kind of privilege of choice. The gaps, as I say, were becoming larger to the point where I’d be out of work for several months at a time. Those gaps got larger and larger and it began to occur to me that I didn’t really have control over my career. I didn’t have control over when I worked. I didn’t have any control over it, and that was a bit of a shock to me after many years of pursing my passion as a filmmaker. I suddenly realized that it wasn’t what I expected it to be when I was a young filmmaker. It wasn’t exactly the way I expected it to be.
There’s also, as there are in many industries, a lot of politics and I found that not only frustrating, but difficult to handle, because I’m a fairly plain-talking collaborative kind of person and of course film and television production is a highly collaborative industry, which I had a lot of love and passion for. My job as a filmmaker storyteller is predominantly creative, and to a certain extent technical, but I always struggled with the, sort of, political side of the hierarchy, and didn’t always know how to handle it, which got me into a few scrapes. I don’t mean that I got into fights with producers and executives, I just didn’t see things coming and in a highly collaborative sort of environment like that, and also highly competitive. When you’re talking about huge sums of money being spent on television production, and there are time constraints, it’s very, very high pressure.
Now I coped with that absolutely fine, in fact I thrived on that but what I began to realize was that your career in a sense could just come to a grinding halt and there wasn’t much control you had over it. Eventually what happened is that I got into financial difficulty and my family began to suffer. There was a point at which I thought, “What am I going to do?” Now, although I kept my head and didn’t panic, I suddenly realized that the job and the career that I’d been pursuing from the age of 10 was, you know, just wasn’t what I expected anymore, and it wasn’t happening the way I’d hoped. It didn’t seem to matter what I did, how hard I worked, how many contacts I had, you know, it didn’t really seem to make any difference. It’s almost as if it had kind of just died out and that was a bit of a shock, because I did then think, “Well, what am I going to do?” because film and television directing is a very, very specific, skilled job. The skills that you have as a director aren’t necessarily very transferrable into another career.
Filmmaking and directing is very, very specialized, and I thought, “Well, what am I going to do? If I’m not getting the contracts that I used to get, and I’m not getting the work then I don’t have the income that comes from that, what am I going to do?” There was a moment there for me of not so much panic, because I think in that situation if you panic, then you’re in serious trouble. You really have to try to keep your wits about you. There was a point that I had to make a decision about what to do, not only for myself, but for my family, you know, because we were in serious trouble financially, and that’s not a good thing. To find yourself in that position very, very quickly, isn’t something you expect to happen to you. You know, financial difficulty is something that happens to other people. It happened to me, it happened to my family, big shock. Really, that crisis really wakes you up to your career, your life, your work, everything that you do.
Interviewer: Tell us a bit about where you went next, what led you into, sort of, doing what you’re doing now?
Andrew: Well what actually happened because of the financial crisis, we had to clear our debts. We didn’t have huge debts, but of course like most people the biggest debt that you have is your mortgage. Unfortunately, rather sadly, we had to put our house up for sale. We sold and then were able to clear, you know, are now debt free, which a lot of people would be very happy to be debt free. I can safely say I’m debt free.
It was only at that point when I had managed to get through the difficulties, and clear all the debts and say, “Right we’ve got some money in the bank. We can now figure out what’s going to happen.” Of course for me, I had a lot of questions to ask myself, which is, you know, what are you going to do now? You’ve pursued this career for 25 years. It’s been your income, it’s been your passion, your vocation. It now seems to have died, it’s gone.
I also came to the conclusion that the passion I had had gone, you know. The realities of that career and fact that it was unreliable, as far as I was concerned, I’d fallen out of love with it. To be a filmmaker, to live that kind of lifestyle away from home working very long hours and sometimes under very difficult circumstances, you have to really, really love that job and I’d fallen out of love with it. I no longer wanted to do it. It wasn’t being kind to me, and it wasn’t looking after me and my family, you know, and that’s fairly serious.
At that point I did for the first time panic, because I thought, “Well what are you going to do?” You can’t go and just do any job, because you don’t have a CV, you don’t have a resume, you know. You don’t have the qualifications. You’ve always been self employed, you’ve always been your own boss. Yes, you’ve worked for employers in terms of television broadcasters and production companies, but you’ve kind of worked in a freelance way. You can’t just walk into a job. I don’t think there’s a job that I could do that would pay enough for me to even come close to taking care of my family, because as a director you earn fairly good money, you know. I was accustomed to that, and how can you maintain that lifestyle?
I’m not talking about a rich lifestyle. I’m talking about a fairly comfortable lifestyle in terms of what you can afford, and what you can afford to buy, and how you can take care of your children, and whether you can afford to pay your mortgage. However, that was the time I panicked, and I thought, “Okay, what are you going to do? I really for a few days, you know, got quite depressed about it, because I really couldn’t see how I could move on. I was a filmmaker, a director, how do you go and do something else? You know, I’m not qualified to do anything else. It’s very, very specialized, what I do.
Andrew: I then came across, was actually on my way to a film festival in Leeds in Yorkshire, in the U.K. A film of mine was showing there, and I was just about to jump on the train and I came across a book in the coffee shop. It stood out to me on the bookshelf, because it was quite a bright cover, and it just said, “Copy This Idea.” I normally don’t buy books in train stations, but I just pulled it off the shelf and I read the cover. It had been written by a multimillionaire entrepreneur. He is now a multimillionaire entrepreneur, but I think he was probably in the same position as I was when he started and his name is Andrew Reynolds.
You may have heard of him. He’s made millions from direct marketing and internet marketing. I thought, well this is interesting, you know, and of course there was the usual sort of hypey blurb on the jacket of the book. I thought, you know, I’ve got a few hours on the train, and this might be interesting to read. I wasn’t actually thinking about myself, I was actually thinking about my wife at the time, who was looking for a way of generating her own income, working from home.
I bought this book, and I ended up reading the entire thing, and that was the turning point. I didn’t really understand a lot of the methods and the business models in the book, but essentially it just opened the door to me realizing that I could work from home, using the internet, and I could make potentially very large sums of money. It was just those three things that started the journey, and that was actually not that long ago, it was probably just a little over 12 months ago.
Interviewer: Right, so from your story what I was reading on your site, you are very keen on the idea of helping people in a similar position that you found yourself in, that they can earn their own living using these online tools. Tell us how you went from that initial discovery to where you are now.
Andrew: The book inspired me. I then started just intensively researching the whole concept of using the internet as a way of working. I’m surprised I didn’t think of it before, but like most people I’d always used the Internet to waste my time, buy some stuff, you know, and Google around. Suddenly it sort of opened up this whole new world, and it was a eureka moment. I thought, “I don’t know anything about this. I’m going to have to learn, I’m going to have to teach myself or I’m going to have to find somebody who will show me how it’s done.” I actually signed up for further training with Andrew Reynolds, you know, who now teaches people how to make money online and using direct marketing and email marketing and all that, so I’m being trained remotely, if you like, by him and various other people.
I just started looking around, and then I started to realize that actually my experience of working almost narrow-mindedly and passionately in one specific industry, in one specific career, which then had changed and the fact that I had gone through a huge kind of life crisis, a financial crisis, family crisis, and then although it was early days, kind of come out of the other end of the tunnel and realized that there was something I could potentially do to make a living, yes, to begin with but also something that I could probably get quite excited about. Then hopefully pass on my knowledge, really not the knowledge of how to make money online, because you can find that out from pretty much anywhere, you know. It’s how you do it and whether you do it right, and whether you get the right mentors and coaches to help you do that, which I’m doing. You know, that’s a kind of journey that you have to go on yourself.
Really, to show people that if you lose your job or you have financial difficulty, or you think it’s the end of the world, it isn’t and that you can pick yourself up and do something about it, that you can actually take control and that it’s okay to ask people to help you. I’m talking about coaches and mentors, and of course you have to pay some money to get that kind of support and training, but it’s well worth it.
I think for me I’m developing in terms of hopefully becoming, like the people who are helping me, an “expert” in the field of social media marketing. In the last 12 months I’ve pretty much spent every single day, you know, 18 hours a day training myself and being trained by people who have been very successful in that and I am already offering advice, you know, even to my own family who have said, “You know, I need to put an, for example, I need to put an unpublished ad on Facebook, will you show me how to do it?” I can say, yeah, I know exactly how to do it and then I know how to target it for a niche audience and get the ad in front of the right people, and hopefully make a sale.
I think it’s early days in terms of helping large groups of people, but for me it’s more. It’s helping people with the initial, if you like, panic of “What do I do now that I have no job, or what do I do now that I’m changing my career, or you know, this income stream has gone?” That actually you can say, “Well actually, you can in 30 minutes or an hour set yourself up as an affiliate marketer and with a bit of coaching and a bit of advice and a bit of guidance you can actually start making money online.”
When people realize that, you know, when I made my first few dollars online I thought, and I didn’t really know what I was doing, but I made money. I thought, “Okay, I now can see how you can leverage the power of the internet to make money.” Hopefully if I can pass that on to other people, because it’s actually quite daunting and scary to begin with. You know, the internet is huge and you go, “How do I do this. How do I do this? Because it’s invisible, it’s almost intangible. How can I make money?” When you begin to see all the different ways you can do it, and you begin to find things that appeal to you, it becomes very, very exciting.
If you like, my passion for film and television went away. I left my passion to pursue something that I didn’t really know or understand, and now a year later it’s become my passion and hopefully I can pass that on to other people and say, “You can do it, too.”
Favorite Book: Copy This Idea: How One Man from Sussex Earned a Fortune from His Laptop and How You Can Do the Same – from Home, the Beach or Anywhere You Choose by Andrew Reynolds.
Want to get a free audiobook version of the book recommended by this week’s guest? Click here to download it.
In no particular order: Entrepreneur, Filmmaker, Business Owner, Arty-type, Outdoorsy-type, Mountain Biker, Dad.
Bragging rights – I nearly died in the French Alps with celebrated mountaineer Chris Bonington by my side! I survived a face-off with 8 Daleks (Doctor Who). Really!
You can also find me on my new Twitter account – @VlDEOPRENEUR
[smart_podcast_player url="http://ic.instantcustomer.com/instantcasts/feed/podcast/b73e1c68b8dcbd3a779ada4e46c02210" color="3B9400" show_name="Paycheck To Passion Podcast" ]