building community

Transform you Career into a Gift

brett culp

I am a filmmaker. But I'm convinced that filmmaking skills & knowledge are only about 20% of my work. 

The other 80% is building relationships, finding the best in people, offering encouragement, listening, hugging, believing in what's possible, being nice, inviting people to be heroes in their communities, staying vulnerable, focusing on the values that matter to me, & dreaming of new ways to help others.

I spend very little time thinking about whether I should buy a new camera, and more time reading books & learning how to be better at the 80% stuff.

I think this way of seeing my career has allowed me to be a person who does MORE than make films. I hope it has allowed me to make an IMPACT. And that's the legacy I want to build. 

The fine details of your craft are important. Devote yourself to being the best you can. But don't neglect the other essential skills that transform your work into a gift that makes a lasting, positive impact.

Building Connection in the Midst of Division

Last night, I sat in a living room with 10 people of diverse viewpoints sharing their hearts.  They talked openly about their struggles and fears.  My wife Tricia & I were invited to facilitate the discussion, but we cried right along with them. 

I wish you could have been there.  My heart was filled with hope watching these people build connection with each other from love, even when they knew they didn’t agree on everything.

Healthy relationships and communities are built on speaking and listening well.  I believe the events of the past week are an opportunity for all of us to do this together.  Right now, some of our deepest beliefs and anxieties are coming to the surface. 

Whatever your opinions are, whomever you voted for, you have a choice to make today… Will you use this moment to stoke the fires of endless debate and separation?  Or will you create environments that help EVERYONE speak their hearts, feel known, and recognize that they are absolutely loved and valued?

Here’s a thought that might help:

In counseling sessions, therapists recommend speaking from your experience.  For example, your instinct might be to say “You don’t respect me.”  And maybe that’s true.  Perhaps the person you are speaking to doesn’t respect you.  But the bigger goal is beyond simply speaking the truth.  You want to create understanding, because relationships are built on connection, not information. 

You could choose to shift your words to “I FEEL like you don’t respect me” or “When you did this I SAW it as disrespect”.  Rather than condemning, you are sharing your experience and inviting me to listen and join you in it.  This opens the door for empathy. 

I love your heart, and your voice matters.  The good news is that being yourself doesn’t require attacking or shaming others.  It doesn’t have to be “you” against “them”.  You can invite people to understand your story and expand their own story in the process.  This is the essence of real community. 

Dear friend, thank you for being so beautiful.  I am honored to be on your side.  

Connect With People Where They Are

At my son's 8th grade graduation ceremony, a student diagnosed with autism made it to the stairs but was uncomfortable to get up on the stage when his name was called. Without hesitation, the team of school administrators walked down the stairs and presented his certificate exactly as they would have if he was on stage. They were willing to meet him where he was.

We all encounter situations where people are unable to live up to the systems or standards we have set. Your instinct might be to judge them until they change. But the more compassionate decision is usually to love them right where they are.

So Many Good People

After filming for a corporate project today, my hands were full as I rolled 2 big equipment cases through the lobby of an office building. I was headed toward the exit, and a woman I didn’t know was walking about 20 feet in front of me. She was moving quickly – clearly on a mission - and talking on her phone as she pushed a door open to let herself out. Then, while outside the building, she leaned over without breaking stride and pressed the button that automatically opened the double doors.

I thought, “That’s strange. Why did she press that button? She’s already outside!”

Then I realized… She pressed it for ME.

It didn’t cost her any time. It was just an awareness of the needs of someone around her.

And I remembered how many good people there are in the world. And I smiled.

Here's what I learned from sharing my thoughts about Batman v Superman

A few weeks ago I recorded a video of myself talking about a superhero film. Here’s the link: https://youtu.be/rKRmMQaLZz8. Many of the reviews for Batman v Superman were negative, and online discussions quickly became a battlefield. For some reason, I felt compelled to share my personal response to the film. In my mind, the only goal was to discuss a movie.

The clip I posted broke nearly every ‘rule’ for online video:

  • At 18 minutes, it was far too long. 
  • It was visually boring. No slick effects or editing. Just one guy talking with no additional shots or camera angles. It was probably the simplest video I have ever produced.
  • There were no funny cats, cute kids, or clever click-bait. It was just me. Talking. For 18 minutes.

But, within 3 days the video had over 100,000 views across multiple platforms. It has more than 1,600 comments on YouTube. Famous people shared it. It has been subtitled into multiple languages and reposted, and I gave my heart-felt blessing for people to do it.

After 3 week of reflection, here’s the MOST IMPORTANT THING to me about this experience:

In life, I often feel like I am surrounded by voices that are trying to control my behavior. Politics, marketing, work, social media. These voices want to shape my behavior by manipulating me with fear, pride, and desire.

My continual longing is for connections that are REAL. I don’t want to be managed, I want to truly see people and be truly seen. I think the best comes out in me when I am able to live and work in environments where I feel safe to be myself. And I instantly love people who show me their heart and encourage me to show mine without judgment.

Although it wasn’t my plan, I somehow managed to create an 18-minute glimpse of this. And people felt invited to join. Not simply to talk about a movie but to celebrate the real opportunity we have to show weakness, embrace brokenness, and gain strength from each other. In this kind of space, we can uncover the highest potential in our own lives and for the world.

For the past 3 weeks, I’ve been dreaming about what we could accomplish together if we committed ourselves to creating loving environments in our families, our workplaces, and online. And then we chose to share our hearts authentically and openly within those safe settings.

In a world like that, I believe all of us would be free to become the superheroes we were born to be. I want to keep contributing to spaces where we can be real together. Thanks for continuing to join me!

Emotional Authenticity is POWERFUL

Yesterday, I shared an emotional video about my personal reaction to Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (watch it: bit.ly/1ogtJEI). This video has sparked a strong positive reaction, and it has reminded me of something very important:

For the past week, superhero fans have been ripping each other apart about this film. Disagreement has led to insults & hatred. We feel that we are supposed to 'win' the argument, and the world teaches us that loud words & anger are the best way to achieve that. But, in the end, we disconnect from each other, & everyone loses.

In my little video, I unintentionally did something that changed the discussion for many: I showed my heart. I chose to be vulnerable. In an effort to help people connect, I shared weakness. I let people see me cry. And the impact has astonished me, including members of the cast & crew of Batman v Superman sharing the video on social media.  

From the article in ComicBook.com: "We see so many reviews and movie analysis on the internet nowadays, that it's rare for one, in particular, to reach through all the noise and really speak to you. That said, it is exactly what Brett Culp, of The Rising Heroes Project, manages to do. Cyborg actor Ray Fisher shared the heartfelt review of his Instagram, adding 'Here's a link to a touching interpretation of the heart of Batman V Superman.'"

Emotional Authenticity is POWERFUL. And I think the reason is simple… I’m not particularly excited about your opinions. I’m not drawn to what you think. But I am deeply interested in YOU. Your heart is beautiful. It matters to me. And when I see it, I am reminded of why I LOVE YOU SO MUCH. It allows me to see once again that ‘our mothers have the same name’.

Living with an open heart is sometimes painful. Exposing the REAL YOU can lead to hurt & rejection. It’s risky. But the world needs your heart. And, deep inside, you need to share it.

Thanks for being a superhero.

Be Curious

Today, I am filming a volunteer effort to restore the windows of a historic church building in Tampa.

I've never personally restored a historic building, but a big part of my job is learning about new things. I always need to stay curious. To get to the heart of the story, I am constantly asking people what the experience means to them & why it matters. I'm more interested in how people are feeling than the facts & information.

Relationships are often like this. To connect with others, you must develop a compassionate curiosity. Truly understanding someone is more than knowing the list of their favorite things... It's asking WHY they love them & quieting your own thoughts to hear their answer. Real connection is a loving pursuit that shows someone you are deeply interested in who they are & who they are becoming.

So, as I explore this beautiful experience today, I am reminded of the incredible stories that live inside each of us. And I'm even more inspired to hear & share them.

(Thanks to my buddy Steve Quillian for organizing this event & inviting me to be part of it.)

Becoming a "Love Monster"

When my son Logan was little, he asked me how Cookie Monster got his name.  I said that he was obsessed with cookies. They are all he thought about. They are his primary focus. So, they call him a “Cookie Monster”.

Logan said, “Does that mean we should start calling you WORK MONSTER?”

His innocent question really made me think.  I love my work. I get such delight from capturing incredible weddings & events, creating stories for not-for-profits & companies, and producing superhero films to inspire. But I continue to see the danger of allowing my work to DEFINE me.

There have been times when I couldn’t separate what I DO from who I AM. I was a “human doing” rather than a “human being”. This hurt my heart and negatively impacted my relationships.

I recommend finding a mission you are excited about & pursuing it with great passion. But let it be an expression of yourself, not the core of your identity. Let it be your gift to the world, not the core of your existence.

Be known in the world as a “Love Monster”.

Creating Safe Spaces

I’m in NYC on a filming trip. The rental car company gave me an EasyPass so I could move quickly through the tolls. At the 1st booth I encountered, I discovered mine did NOT work properly. The gate didn’t lift, & there was no way to pay manually. I couldn’t back up - there were already 8 cars behind me.

As I tried to figure out what to do, the honking began. Then unkind hand gestures. Then someone screaming out their window. I started to get anxious, & I had no way to solve the problem.

After a minute, a police officer came out from one of the booths. I braced myself emotionally to get yelled at. (I’m in NYC, right?) He walked up to my window & said, “Just a sec.” Then he moved down the line of cars, shouting to all the people behind me: “This guy’s doing the best he can! Stop honking your horns & shut up or I will give all of you tickets!” He came back to my window & calmly said, “Let’s fix this.” Within 30 seconds, the gate was lifted, & I was rolling again.

In that moment, he did more than solve my problem. He became my PROTECTOR. Beyond fixing the issue, he made me feel safe in a moment when I was powerless to take care of myself.

FEELING SAFE in vulnerable places is a gift. If you have the opportunity to give it, please do. And if you have protectors in your life, you are blessed… be grateful.

Next time I encounter someone in a vulnerable space, I want to do more than fix their problem. I want to use it as an opportunity to help them feel LOVED.

The most important applause

standing ovation.jpg

Right before the world premiere of Legends of the Knight, we had a special dinner party. 

My Dad gave a speech. He said to me, "My son, I have watched you do many great things. But this is what you were born to do. You will help the world with this film. I am so proud of you."

This photo is of the standing ovation at the end of that premiere screening of the film. Looking back, the applause from the audience is NOT what has had the most lasting emotional impact. My Dad's private speech has resonated more deeply. 

Fathers, your words matter. When the world's applause fades, your voice is still heard. And when the world is unkind, your faith is a light. 

I've watched my Dad do many great things. But that night, affirming his son is what he was born to do. 

Love you, Dad. Happy Father's Day.

Your Story is a Key for Others

In a recent presentation to a group of young people, I chose to be vulnerable & share a personal story that was painful to me.

I recently received a note from the mother of one of the young people in that room. Her son connected with the story, and it helped him know he wasn’t alone. She said he’s been telling the story to others, and, in the process, making it his own. The story has become a place of strength & freedom for him.

Vulnerability is hard. But it’s how we connect with each other. Authenticity allows us to know & inspire each other real ways.

Don’t be afraid to share your journey with someone else. Your story is the key that can unlock someone else’s prison.

Chase Connection

Judah & I love the Buzz Lightyear ride at Disney World. 

When we started riding it together, I was focused on getting the highest score possible. But, I realized that I was missing the MOST important thing. While I was trying to get a high score, I missed experiencing the ride with my son. And that was the most important thing. 

So, now I don't even touch my laser gun while riding. I help him get the highest score he can. We do it together. And sometimes we totally blow away the scoreboard... like this!

In every aspect of life, don't let chasing the high score get in the way of cherishing the experiences & the people that matter. 

We had a great time riding today. And Judah has a new hat to prove it. 

Saying "I'm Sorry"

I say "I'm sorry" a lot. Often, it's for things that I wasn't involved in. People typically respond with: "It's not your fault. You don't need to apologize for a problem that isn't yours."

In his recent blog post, Seth Godin explains why I will keep saying "I'm sorry", even when people don't always understand why: There are two kinds of, "I'm sorry." The first kind is the apology of responsibility, of blame and of litigation. It is the four-year old saying to his brother, "I'm sorry I hit you in the face." And it is the apology of the surgeon who forgot to insert sterile dressings and almost killed you.

The other kind of sorry is an expression of humanity. It says, "I SEE YOU and I SEE YOUR PAIN." This is the sorry we utter at a funeral, or when we hear that someone has stumbled. You don't have to be in charge to say you're sorry. You don't even have to be responsible. All you need to do is care. In this case, "I'm sorry," is precisely the opposite of, "I'm sorry you feel that way," which of course pushes the other person away, often forever.

As we've been busy commercializing, industrializing and lawyering the world, countless bureaucrats have forgotten what it means to be human, and have forgotten how much it means to us to hear someone say it, and mean it. "I'm sorry you missed your flight, and I can only imagine how screwed up the rest of your trip is going to be because of it."

"I SEE YOU," is what we crave.

Read Seth's blog post at: http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2015/03/sorry-confusion.html