Pro Advice

Grad Damian Cardona On Business, Creativity, and Being in Charge

After starting a production company with a few fellow Full Sail Film grads, Damian Cardona quickly realized that someone needed to handle the business side of things.

“We worked on every project together during the [Film] program, and we all had our own areas of expertise, but no one wanted to focus on the business end,” says Damian. “This is understandable, since it tends to be the least creative aspect of filmmaking, but there comes a point when you have to turn a hobby into a business in order to make money. I took the role of leading the business side of things, and after a few months, thought it would be best to be formally educated in that role.”

Damian is a co-owner and producer at Unknown Media, an Orlando-based digital creative agency specializing in storytelling through digital media. While he still works on creative concepts, Damian’s role at Unknown is a more entrepreneurial and branding one. He’s putting his Entertainment Business Master’s and Media Design degrees to work to communicate with current clients and seek out new ones, and handle the crew, location, and equipment logistics on shoots.

“I’ve improved upon the template we’ve created for proposals, and you wouldn’t believe how much it helps you and your business to tailor something that the client feels is customized and personal, and not just some plain old boring texts and tables,” he says.

In just a few short years, the three-person team at Unknown has shifted from production company to creative agency (“production companies tend to get hired to film an idea that’s presented to them, and we want to be involved in the entire process,” says Damian), and has amassed a pretty impressive client list that includes heavy hitters like Marvel, Verizon, and Doritos. They’ve shot commercials, infomercials, and other promotional materials, and have handled a number of animation, photography, and web design projects as well.

“Our bigger clients have mostly been referrals or collaborations with existing clients,” says Damian. “For instance, we ended up shooting a video for Google’s Web Developers site after creating dozens of videos for local programming company Code School.”

Damian and Unknown have also helped launch Sharity, a social-good concept conceived by public relations professional Kevin Cate that allows website owners to embed a social media widget on their site to boosts shares on Facebook and Twitter for a cause. Any time a post is shared using the widget, $1 is donated to the nonprofit organization or campaign of the website’s choice. Unknown Media designed the widget.

“Sharity is more of a side project for us,” says Damian, “but it’d be great if it becomes widely used and helps out a number of deserving causes.”

In the future, Damian says Unknown Media hopes to grow its team and branch out into the feature film industry. By making full-length movies or continuing to complete commercial work for notable and high-profile clients, Damian hopes he and the company will move toward their goal of achieving even more creative freedom.

“I know it’s not for everyone, but that’s my advice for current students as well: to strive to be above-the-line,” Damian says. “It can be okay for a bit to constantly work on other people’s projects, but after awhile it just feels so much better to work on your project. It’s so much more rewarding in the end.”

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