MediaStorm’s Eric Maierson advises students to ‘f*ck the fear – be awesome’

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It was a privilege to meet Eric Maierson, MediaStorm producer, tonight at UNC Chapel Hill during UNC’s esteemed PhotoNight speaker series. Back in 2009 I featured him in my “Innovative Individuals” series, and stayed in touch with him online ever since. His profanity-laced talk was full of passion and enthusiasm. My favorite quote from his talk was, “You never know where you’re going to end up so the important thing is the absorb what you can along the way.”

Eric’s list of projects at MediaStorm is extensive. Of the 34 client, workshop and partner projects he has produced in the last six years, Eric highlighted Kingsley’s Crossing and Bloodline from 2006, Driftless from 2009, Undesired from 2010, and A Darkness Visible from 2011.

A Darkness Visible was “by far the most complicated project I’ve worked on,” Eric said. In total, he said there were 25,000 selects — not the raw takes — and 30 hours of video and interviews. It took them three months to “wrap their head around the content” and six more months to edit it down to a more manageable 25-minute video presented in five chapters. “I felt lucky to be there at the end of that production … it just ended up in my lap.” Eric said photographer Danny Wilcox Frazier did a number of things right in this production, including hiring a musician and videographer who all worked together to ensure a seamless package.

Joe Soll has spent half of his life searching for his birth parents, in the process he uncovered a mystery that’s haunted him for years. See the project at

Eric then discussed MediaStorm’s workshop projects and spoke about the difficulty of producing “Broken Lines” simply because most of the story was shot in one location and most of the action occurred in the past. I hadn’t seen this story before now, and was fascinated by the story line that unraveled throughout the ten minute narrative. Eric advised students that “If you are going to talk about the past and you don’t have footage of the past, it’s really important that your content is imaginative and lyrical enough so that it doesn’t have to represent specifically what you’re talking about.”

Eric’s talk to the room full of UNC students was comically titled “F*ck the fear – be awesome.” Eric said he has garnered most of his inspiration from the book “The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles” by Steven Pressfield, where he learned to embrace uncertainty. He says that you have to be on the lookout for fear, as it shows up in surprising places.

In particular, Eric urged the students to quit saying “I need …” and “But there’s someone better” and rather “embrace the gap” (credited to Ira Glass) so that you can see the difference between what you realize and what you had hoped to realize. At the same time, he openly admits he hasn’t figured this entirely out himself, noting that the organizational layout of his Final Cut Pro timeline affects his state of mind where a cluttered timeline totally stresses him out.

Eric credited former colleague and UNC professor Chad Stevens‘ noteworthy advice that it’s a freeing experience when you realize you can stop comparing yourself to others because then you can focus on yourself and what you can do.

Advice Eric practices himself to deal with stress and continually innovate include:

1. Make something every day, which gives you the ability to experiment without the pressure
2. Work with limitations
3. Steal (not wholesale, but take ideas with the ability to make something old your own)
4. Be bold
5. ‘Stay golden, ponyboy’ and JFDI (appropriately practicing #3 and stolen from Richard Koci Hernandez, “Just f*cking do it”)

To learn more about Eric, follow him on Twitter @gboy check out his profile on LinkedIn and read his blog.

Homepage photo credit: Mountain Workshops

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