Nick Nanton – Emmy Nominated Filmmaker
As a winner of 22 Emmy Awards, Movie Producer Nick Nanton has a great understanding of the arts and how to captivate the audience. His secret for doing such amazing work is surrounding himself with experts and allowing them to do their jobs. Listen to this American Dreams Episode to learn how he was able to do it.
Nick Nanton – Emmy Nominated Filmmaker
Alan Olsen: Welcome to American Dreams. My guest today is Nick Nanton. Nick, welcome to today’s show. Can you share with the audience how you got your start and how you got to where you are today?
Nick Nanton: My parents essentially said, Hey, Nick, you can have anything you want in life as long as you can earn it, because we’re just trying to hold on here.
So I learned pretty young that if you could provide value to other people they would give you money, it didn’t matter how old you were, I started teaching tennis lessons, I learned that if I could teach 10 kids at one time, for five bucks, I can make 50 bucks in a half an hour or an hour, I did the things a lot of other people do.
In school sold candy. I did a lot of different things, went on to University of Florida studied finance. Got my law degree, but never wanted to practice law. I really want to be an entertainment. I partnered up with my business partner, who’s 30 years older than me, I’ve always known that mentors are the secret to shortcuts, success definitely leaves clues.
And, he and I tried to build entertainment company, and he said, Man, Nick, this is the hardest business I have ever been involved in.
But essentially, at the time, he said, Nick, if you did the same thing for entrepreneurs and professionals that you were doing for bands, which are sort of creating their brands from scratch, helping them produce video, audio, whatever, said you would make a lot more money, you would be happier. So it sounds great.
So we started on that path. We built what is now known as the celebrity branding agency, we’ve served more than 3000 clients in 63 countries across the globe, helping them build their their platforms or credibility, working on their media, marketing, PR.
And then I did what any artistic person does, when they start making money, I started spending it doing what I wanted, again, which is back into art. I started working on music, again, started producing films, documentary films.
And it I think, because of the lumps I’d taken in the rest of my life, how difficult some other things were, for me, filmmaking really became team building, as the easiest thing I feel like I’ve ever done. Now I have directed more than 60 documentaries. One, I think 40 something Emmy nominations, 22 wins.
And now essentially, we have our agency, that I have a team that runs the agency, I’m still involved, but I do maybe a couple hours a week with guiding the agency. And I spend 90% of my time in personal development and groups with you, Alan, you know, doing things like strategic coach and, and Genius Network and some other networks.
I’m a part of just growing, meeting learning. And that’s where I find stories to by the way. And the rest of my time I spend sharing stories of humanitarian efforts, nonprofits and creating biographies.
Alan Olsen: I’d like to walk through a process that you do band comes to you and says, Hey, Nick, we want to get known we want to throw our brand out there. What is the process that you start with a group? How does this all come about?
Nick Nanton: So the first thing they’ve got to do is their music has to be good. And so one of the things that I learned a long time ago, when I happen to myself, I wrote my first song, and of course that process of creating is challenging, it’s adrenaline, it’s,… but when you finish, you create something from nothing, I don’t care.
You can use a table, whether you’re a painter, a writer, a poet, a script writer, a book writer, you know, you finish in your you just gave birth to the world something that in many cases, you can’t wait for the world to see.
Sometimes you get a sort of just discouraging, but for the most part, your very first one, when you finish it, you feel like it’s done, you’re ready to show the world that what you don’t want to hear is the truth is that it probably sucks.
It’s probably not great. I mean, and I tell people when they come to me and I share with them honest feedback on a project, whether it’s their first or their 10th, I’ll say hey, here’s the deal. Don’t be don’t be down on me. If I told you that that first song that first painting that first script, that first poem, was the best you were ever going to do.
Would that be uplifting or depressing? And everyone pretty much admits that’d be pretty depressing. That’s exactly so this is all about a journey, you’re gonna get better. It’s all about learning your weaknesses, exposing those words and getting better.
So how about we just be honest with each other and I share with you it’s only one opinion but it’s my opinion, writing doing anything by yourself, Alan, and getting better at it is really, really difficult. The best way to get better is to surround yourself people who are way better than you. Like me. I still celebrate a lot right now.
I’ve had songs cut by some of the biggest artists in the world and country Lee Brice Darius Rucker, most people know him from hooting the blowfish. And I’ve had over 2 million streams on Spotify. And that’s not a lot but it’s you know, some people have listened, right? But I write with writers who are way better than me, I’m okay meaning it.
I’m taking my time refining my skill set and bringing other things to the table, different ideas, different connections. I write with guys who write two songs a day every day. And there’s I don’t do that. There’s no way I can get it without doing it.
But you get better by collaborating. So first thing I do is I typically try to help these bands collaborate with great writers, great producers, great photographers, like we have to compete in the marketplace. It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to be do what everyone else is.
Because if you try to create something that’s blowing up right now on the radio or on Spotify, or on the Internet, that was probably started. I mean, the timeframes are getting shorter with instant publishing. But it’s probably at least started a couple months ago. So you’re two months behind. So it’s like, let’s find your sound, let’s find what’s original.
But let’s find who you are, but let’s do that with a team of experts that are we are proven, we can experiment, but we know that they’ve gone within the boundaries of success.
So the first thing I tried to get him to collaborate with people who are great in every aspect of what we need to do, because at the end of the day, we’ve got to compete in the marketplace for people’s attention. And that attention is here.
If it’s a band, you’re competing with, whether you want to or not, you’re competing with Coldplay or Kenny Chesney, or Garth Brooks, people selling out stadiums, you’re competing for attention. So should you try to be them? No. Should you try to beat them? Probably not. But how are you going to be different? How are you going to?
How are you going to stand up alongside them. And that starts with, you know, quality on your from A to Z. So we really start there and started and start looking at who would be even though most bands hate being compared to someone else?
It’s sort of I was asked the question, would you like your 75 year old aunt to try to explain to someone to her friend’s grandson, what your band sounds like? No, you wouldn’t. So you need to give them the language you need to share with them who you are. Well we’re sort of a mix between whatever Garth Brooks and Coldplay to us two examples.
Whatever it is, like, you got to start finding a niche, you got to start finding an audience finding a voice and a lot that there’s no substitute for experience. But we we sort of started at those things Alan.
Alan Olsen: So in the branding field, it’s mainly you’re helping the right, introduce them to agencies or venues that that can get messaging out. Is that a fair statement? Do you do a lot of video?
Nick Nanton: Yes. So it’s interesting, I encourage everyone to do video. I do a fair amount of music. Maybe 10 or 20% of what I do is music, and I still advise and guide up and coming acts, and of course for me video The Tick Tock all the all these things are, they’re real, they’re here. On the business side, and on the documentary side.
I mean, that’s my, our secret weapon, we’re able to take human stories and make them emotional. And there’s a couple of things that even when I approach celebrities, sometimes about telling their stories, a lot of times the you know, thankfully most people are not narcissistic egomaniac, so they don’t go.
Yes, I’ve been waiting to do like, I’m not sure I have a story that’s worth telling. I’m not you know, that’s a typical, very typical response from an entrepreneur or a celebrity. And I had to stop and say, Well, look, have you experienced ups, downs, things that you think other people could learn from?
And of course, everyone says yes, so Well, great, well, so let’s reframe it: If we were telling your story, to blow up your ego, or as a puff piece, it wouldn’t be worth doing. Nobody would care. But it’s not about you, when we if we can make your story about other people. And it’s a learning experience where you can share what you have learned.
And help them to avoid some of your mistakes, teach them some of your shortcuts, and ultimately inspire them to do more and be better and make the world a better place. Then what your story be worth telling you.
They’re like, oh, so when the first things I tell people understand is that your story is really not about you, which is a really different way of looking at things typically most people think gave us normal. Well, it’s all about me. It’s sort of myopic, it’s like, well, yeah, that’s not that interesting. Well, no, it’s not.
Your story is about how you can transform other people’s lives. And when you take it from that perspective, that’s when it opens all the doors, and a lot of people are super self conscious about and I tell him, Look, when your ego is ready to step out of the way, and you understand that what you have experienced is going to be valuable to other people.
You’ll just it doesn’t matter if you’re not a great speaker, doesn’t matter. If you’re not that eloquent, it doesn’t matter. If you don’t love the way you look, it doesn’t matter if you want to lose 30 pounds first, that it goes away.
And all of a sudden, you realize that your message is more important than your ego, and you’ll just start sharing it. And that’s when we see the transformation really start to happen.
Alan Olsen: What was your first documentary that you did?
Nick Nanton: I met a guy in an airport. And I was looking for a story to tell, I really wanted to make a documentary I really wanted I wanted to try this art form.
And I knew that a great story is where it started because the new technology 12 years ago, like DSLR is like I’m actually using a second edition for my webcam now because these things are worth nothing, but they’re great quality.
So DSLRs and all the new technology nonlinear editing, Final Cut, you know iMovie you’ll allow people like me who didn’t have millions of dollars to go make something. So I met a guy that airport whose I saw a picture on his laptop of a little kid you know A baseball portrait. And I said Man is that your son said yes to this beautiful kid.
He said thank you. He has Down syndrome. I said, Yeah, I have some cousins who do I could recognize sort of the traits but he looks so happy we got to talking him. Somehow he ended up asking me I was doing entertainment work at the time, he told me about an auction they had in his area in Indiana for Down syndrome.
So I sent him some celebrity memorabilia, some I got Rascal Flatts to sign some stuff, I got some different acts, I need to do some stuff. And then I sent it to him. And a couple months later, he sent me a story his wife had written about his son’s experiences first season in a small town in Indiana called Floyds.
knobs, playing T ball, they had two older children who were young, who did not have Down syndrome. So they were concerned about putting their youngest son, their baby who also happen to have Down Syndrome into baseball. And then the transformation of the journey from the coach to the players and it just was a heartwarming story.
And I read it and brought tears to my eyes. And I said this amazing said, Hey, don’t share it publicly. Because it’s gonna come out the newspaper in a week or so. So great. So it’s coming out in the town is called Floyds knobs Indiana was coming out in the I don’t know, the Floyds knobs Gazette, whatever, right?
So limited audience, I forwarded it to my dad, my business partner who were both about 30 years older than me. At the time, I don’t even know they knew how to use email. But they both said that what a great story. And then they CC’D like 100 people. I’m like, Oops, a nobody share this beyond this. But I realized like this was the start of something literally viral.
It was a it was a heartwarming story with a message that people wanted to share us. Ah, this is my story. So I didn’t know how to do it. So I asked a lot of questions.
So I went and I found people like, I had shot things before I had edited things before I’d written stuff before, but I knew it was not my gift. I didn’t wake up every morning going I gotta shoot something today, I got to edit something today, I gotta write somebody just not me.
I always wake up going, Man, I want to learn and grow and meet new people and ask him questions like that drives me. So as you know, Dan Sullivan, our mutual mentors concept, unique ability, that’s all I do.
My unique ability is having meaningful conversations that lead to produce outcomes, and is all I do in front of the camera, behind the camera, on podcasts, with clients, whatever, right with most of my team.
So I found people who are great at what they did a great cinematographer, great editor, great writer, and I went out, and I, I went to some of my clients said, hey, if I have been valuable to you (and if not, that’s okay) but if I have, I’m going to try to do this, would you contribute with me, I’m not going to allow you to invest, because I don’t know how that’s gonna work.
I will only allow you to contribute. And when you contribute, I’m at, here’s what I’m gonna do for you. I’m gonna make you an executive producer on the film. I’m gonna let you come to a premiere. If we get a nomination for an Emmy, which I was angling for, I’ll invite you to the Emmys. Yo, I’m gonna make an experience for you.
And add enough clients you said, Sure. We’ll we’ll support you in that. And you know, I don’t know who the real quote is from but often attributed to Zig Ziglar, “If you help enough other people get what they want. They’ll be getting what you want” It was a classic case of that. We made it it was a seven minute short film.
It made everybody cry, we raised some money for special needs kids. And I was nominated for two Emmys and won one of them. And so that sort of started my film career. Just did another fungicide story. I think the answers to what you’re looking for in the world very often exist. You know, it’s not rocket science.
And I literally Googled how to win an Emmy, and I followed the directions. And so that’s what I was trying to do. And lo and behold, it worked. And so that was my first film.
You can still see it. At the website jacobsturn.com, heartwarming story about a little kid I we’ve gotten technically more proficient than then we’ve gotten better equipment since then. But still a story that will stand the test of time.
Alan Olsen: Excellent. So in addition to Jacob’s story, or Jacob’s turn the other documentary has been the most fun one that you’ve worked on?
Nick Nanton: Oh my gosh, like he asked me to pick a favorite child. So I’m doing Dick Vitals life story right now, which is mind blowing. I mean, I I knew he was a legend in the world of college basketball, but I honestly have a pretty bad call. I’m a casual college basketball fan. I’m a Florida Gators fan. And when we’re good I watch.
I’m like a really good college football fan. I watch a lot of games, whether we’re playing or not. But I really didn’t understand how much he had impacted the game of basketball and I didn’t know his story of he has one eye.
He coached middle school to the NBA seven year journey to get from starting coaching a middle school to becoming a high school’s back to back state championship coach, a college coach and then an NBA coach and then and then he got unceremoniously fired and started his real career was the last 40 years of broadcasting.
He’s done I think 18 Hall of Fame’s for it. That’s been great. My story on Peter Diamandis, you know, the founder of the XPRIZE, who created the first private spaceflight was incredible. I did Rudy’s documentary.
As you know, the football movie Rudy, I did Larry King’s life story was blessed enough to work with Larry and partner with him before he passed away. So they’ve been so many, most what I think what’s most memorable is most everyone I’ve gotten the opportunity to work with.
And it’s a laundry list by now has been really good people really kind really nice people. And I’m super thankful for that.
Alan Olsen: Typical distribution for the documentaries are you using Netflix or other media sources
Nick Nanton: We’ve had stuff on netflix, we’ve had stuff on Amazon Prime. We, there’s Dick Vitale documentary, I can’t name it yet, people could probably guess, but just sold it to a very large sports network. So you know, distribution is a funny thing. And so I’ll tell you this.
I have chosen to not allow like most people pitch a film, and then try to get funding and then go make it I’m I’ve been really blessed. I’ve had clients, I’ve done the same thing over and over. I’ve never allowed a single investment in my films, only contributions and great journeys, and great value to those who are willing to step up at home support what I’m doing.
And I have, I have never wanted to allow a network or a streaming company to decide what stories that I want to tell. So I got to tell them anyway, I see where they belong, if they belong, if someone thinks they belong, there’s politics there’s whatever at Netflix Great, I’ll end up there if not, there’s plenty of other outlets.
I mean, the the beauty of the world we live in now, there’s a lot of self serve platforms. Microsoft has one, Apple has one Amazon has one you can get YouTube is the greatest distribution in the world in the touch of a button.
So yes, I have had films on the bigger platforms, they don’t always end up there. And I’m okay with that. You know, if I make a film that makes one person reconsider, suicide or donate $10 to stopping human trafficking was worth the time to me.
Alan Olsen: So Nick, how does a person go about contacting you?
Nick Nanton: You can find me pretty much all the socials at @nicknanton just my name is we spell it right. It’s all ends as a and then nicknanton.com you can sign up to sort of follow along with what we’re doing. Yeah, and that’s how people find me.
Alan Olsen: All right. Well, I appreciate you being on today’s show. It’s been fun visiting with you. And for the listeners will have posted in the interviewer the the link to Nick’s website and and also can they find other documentaries that you’ve done on that that site?
Nick Nanton: Yeah, they can and most of my stuff is on Amazon and if you check like IMDB Internet Movie Database, you can see a list of what’s out as well as what’s upcoming.
We hope you enjoyed this interview; “Nick Nanton – Emmy Nominated Filmmaker”.
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This transcript was generated by software and may not accurately reflect exactly what was said.
Alan Olsen, is the Host of the American Dreams Show and the Managing Partner of GROCO.com. GROCO is a premier family office and tax advisory firm located in the San Francisco Bay area serving clients all over the world.
Alan L. Olsen, CPA, Wikipedia Bio
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Nick Nanton Biography
From the slums of Port au Prince Haiti with special forces raiding a sex trafficking ring and freeing children to the Virgin Galactic Space Port in Mojave with Sir Richard Branson, 22-Time Emmy Award Winning Director/Producer, Nick Nanton, has become known for telling stories that connect.
Why? Because he focuses on the most fascinating subject in the world: PEOPLE. As a storyteller and Best-Selling Author, Nick has shared his message with millions of people through his documentaries, speeches, blogs, lectures, and best-selling books.
Nick’s book StorySelling hit the Wall Street Journal Best-Seller list and is available on Audible as an audio book.
Nick has directed more than 60 documentaries and a sold out Broadway Show (garnering 43 Emmy nominations in multiple regions and 22 wins), including: DREAM BIG: Rudy Ruettiger LIVE on Broadway, Visioneer: The Peter Diamandis Story, Rudy Ruettiger: The Walk On, Operation Toussaint and The Rebound.
Nick has shared the stage, co-authored books, and made films featuring: Larry King, Dick Vitale, Kenny Chesney, Charles Barkley, Coach Mike Krzyzewksi, Jack Nicklaus, Tony Robbins, Steve Forbes, will.i.am, Sir Richard Branson, Dean Kamen, Ray Kurzweil, Lisa Nichols, Peter Diamandis, and many more.
Nick specializes in bringing the element of human connection to every viewer, no matter the subject. He is currently directing and hosting the series “In Case You Didn’t Know” (Season 1 Executive produced by Larry King), featuring legends in the worlds or business, entrepreneurship, personal development, technology, and sports.