A Tweet is worth a thousand words! Just ask this week’s “Working Girl” Casey Johnson. After taking a leap of faith, Casey discovered her true calling in film – working to help give independent filmmakers a voice while serving her community.
Name: Casey Johnson-Aksoy
Location: Brooklyn, NY
Profession: Director, Social Media & Marketing at the Bushwick Film Festival
How did you get started?
I’ve always had a love for film since I could remember. After high school, I attended the University of North Carolina School of the Arts, School of Filmmaking where I studied film producing. When I moved to New York, I started working at a film production company in their TV commercial department as the receptionist and eventually worked my way to being the office manager. I was there for five years, and in those five years I learned so much about producing commercials. I was pretty certain that this was going to be my path to becoming a film producer. It made total sense. I was familiar with the production process, I had made many contacts, and I knew there was good money to be made in TV commercial production; however the more I thought about it, I knew that becoming a commercial producer wasn’t for me. I loved filmmaking too much so I decided to leave my job. When I quit my job it was really scary. I had no idea what I wanted to do, but whatever it was, it had to be in the film industry. I would write scripts, and toy around with the possibility of making a film, but at the time it just didn’t feel right. At the same time I was getting more and more into technology, social media, and researching how filmmakers could utilize it when building an audience for their film.
I began to brainstorm how I could bring all my skills together and social media, film, and writing seemed to be the three things I concentrated the most on. Eventually, this is how my blog So This Is Filmmaking was born. Blogging seemed to be a natural step towards building career skills I might need in the future, so my friend, Katherine Murray-Satchell and I got to work. I found being a blogger was a great excuse to meet some amazing people, because everyone wants to get their story out into the world. This is actually how I met my current business partner, Kweighbaye Kottee, Founder and Director of Programming at the Bushwick Film Festival. She really amazed me with her can-do attitude and the love she had for the festival was like none I had ever seen. I knew I had to work with her in some capacity, but just wasn’t sure how. Little did I know that two years later I would be working alongside her to build an amazing up and coming film festival. While I was still working on my blog, I used it as an opportunity to learn more about Tumblr and Facebook. I think this is where my interest in social media really began to grow, but it wasn’t until I interned at über producer, Pharrell Williams’ innovative multimedia site, iamOTHER, did my understanding and appreciation for it really bloom. While interning with iamOTHER, I worked closely with the Director of Digital Media. I learned so much about content, and how to spread that content via YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr. It was an invaluable experience and definitely prepared me for the role I now play at the festival. Last year I reached out to Kweighbaye about the festival’s social media. They really lacked an online presence, and I thought this was the perfect opportunity to really hone in on my skills. A year later I am now the Director of Social Media & Marketing, and a business partner. I truly love what I do because this position has allowed me to explore two of my loves, film and social media. It’s an interesting marriage, but it makes total sense. Filmmakers are constantly trying to find ways to attract and engage their audience. Social media allows them the opportunity to do that and so much more.
What’s an average day like?
I wake up at 6am, drag myself out of bed, and take my dog to the park with my husband. I love Brooklyn’s Prospect Park in the morning. It’s quiet, the sun is shining, the trees are beautiful, nothing but wide open space. And to top it off you have tons of cute little dogs running around trying to make your acquaintance. The park has become my morning meditation. When we return home, I take my time getting ready. I make my coffee, do some breathing exercises, and write in my journal. All of these things are a must, especially my breathing exercises. If I don’t attempt to get at least a half hour to an hour of alone time, it usually throws my entire day off. When you’re super busy with family, work, and adult duties, it’s so easy to forget about you. That’s why I set out designated time in the morning to concentrate on myself and my intentions for the day. Once I do, I check my email, take a shower and head out to work. When I arrive at work, it usually takes me a second to get started. I catch up with the Founder of the festival, Kweighbaye Kotee, and that usually consists of us laughing or talking about something we read or saw the night before. Then our Director of New Media, Meenakshi Thirukode, joins us and we have our morning meeting. After our meeting the first thing I do, is schedule tweets. This is so important for me. I have so many things on my plate throughout the day; things tend to fall through the cracks. Thank goodness for programs like Hootsuite which help schedule Facebook posts and tweets, because believe it or not, it can become time consuming. On any given day, I’m in meetings discussing press for the festival, press for filmmakers and panelists, details for the event such as what time a film will screen, selling tickets or drafting newsletters. The list can seem never-ending. Working at a startup is amazing, you are constantly thinking on your toes. It forces you to have a can-do attitude, because if you don’t, nothing gets done. So one minute I could be emailing an up and coming director about being on a panel, and the next contacting local businesses about sponsorships. My job description is blurred all the time, in fact I don’t think I have one.
Why do you do it?
For me it’s simple, I love film, I love talking about them, and I love supporting the filmmakers who work so hard to see a project through. For me social media and marketing is more than talking at people (which tends to happen a lot) it’s about starting a conversation. Finding out what matters to others, and then making it happen. I find twitter to be a great source when finding out what is happening in the world of independent filmmaking. There is a constant conversation about the lack of funds, or the lack of support, or the lack of distribution. Many filmmakers tend to feel their voices are drowned out by the person who has the most money. If I can make a difference by helping them build their audience, giving them the best festival experience they’ve ever encountered and making myself available to them and their film, I feel I’ve done my job.
Ups and downs you sometimes face on the job:
Again – working at a startup is super awesome, but at the same time it can be very tiring. We have a small staff of six that does absolutely everything which I enjoy, because there is no sense of hierarchy. The end goal is to put on a successful festival so we are there to give it our all. One of the many ups that I’ve personally experienced so far is the generosity of people. Whenever I send out an email, whether it be to a potential sponsor or partner, I expect them to automatically say “no”. When I receive an email with a “yes” and asking if we need anything else, it’s like a breath of fresh air. It’s nice to see that other people believe in your endeavor, and want to see you succeed. It makes all the endless days and sleepless nights worth it.
Your greatest achievement so far?
Quitting my 9-5 job to concentrate on what I really wanted in not just my career, but my life. I’ve always wanted to be my own boss, but the security of having a job always kept me from taking the leap. Once I understood all the possibilities I’d be creating for myself, I took that first step and never looked back. I now work at my dream job with five amazing women. My two partners, Kweighbaye Kotee and Meenakshi Thirukode, are above and beyond. We have become good friends in a matter of months. That in itself has made all the uncertainty worth it.
What might be next for you?
Taking the festival to the next level! We have accomplished so much in the past few months, and we can’t wait to see the spoils of our labor at the 6th Annual Bushwick Film Festival, which will happen October 3-6th. After the festival, I’ll be taking a two week hiatus to recoup, start planning next year’s festival, raise money, and watch a lot of movies. I also intend to cook, eat and blog (not necessarily in that order). Besides that, who knows!
What are your top 5 hair tips?
- Being Natural may not be for everyone, but if you’re toying with the idea, just go for it! After going back and forth for months, I finally went natural this year, and I am proud to say my hair is au natural. It has been an amazing change for me, I was scared at first because I didn’t know what people were going to say, but I no longer care. I feel more beautiful now, than I have ever felt.
- Baking Soda and Apple Cider Vinegar has been a lifesaver. My friend had been trying to get me to wash my hair with both forever. I kept waving her off cause it sounded like an awful idea. Boy was I wrong. The combination of both makes my hair super soft, and brings out my curls. For the baking soda, I mix two tablespoons with a cup of warm water. Pour it in my hair, massage my scalp, then rinse it out. For the apple cider vinegar I use ¼ cup vinegar and ¼ cup warm water. I usually place it in a spray bottle, spray it on my hair, massage it into my scalp, then rinse it out. I follow it up with Miss Jessie Curl Cleanse Cream to condition. Then I get out of the shower and go. That’s the best thing about my hair now, I can wash and go!
- Have fun with your hair! Don’t take it too seriously. My hair used to rule my mood. If I was having a great hair day, I was having a great day and vice versa. I was putting too much power into my hair, which most of us do. Relax, hair is just hair and there are tons of options out there. Find the one that best suits you and run with it.
- Don’t forget to trim your ends! I am the worst at remembering to do this, and I end up chopping of more hair than I wanted to. I’ve started to put my trims into my calendar with a timer for once a month. Thank goodness for iCal.
- Be gentle to your hair! We do so much to it, and it works so hard for us. Give your hair and scalp a holiday. Not going anywhere this weekend? Let your hair go wild. It’s actually very freeing.
Fun Fact: Casey was once a competitive ice skater for six years, but stopped competing to focus on just being a kid at the time. Casey still has her ice skates, which still fit her perfectly! Every once in awhile she goes ice skating, and impresses everyone with her moves. Casey also has a talent for making ice cream!