How To Balance Your Creativity & Your Business w/ Mo Scarpelli

March 12, 2018

Are you willing to be weird, risky, and brave enough to make films you produce come alive? Today’s guest does all of those things plus a lot more when it comes to the documentaries she directs, produces, and, sometimes, edits herself. She shares with us what it takes to create moving feature-length films, from the artistic to the funding, and everything in between.

Mo Scarpelli is a director, producer, and cinematographer for documentaries that explore human identity and the forces that inform, conflict, and construe it. Her award-winning debut feature-length documentary, Frame by Frame, has been screened all over the world and her writing, short documentaries, and photojournalism have been published with top names like The New Yorker, BBC, CNN, and The Wall Street Journal. She’s a no-nonsense, raw, authentic creator who embraces her “weird” and it’s no surprise that she makes some amazing work because of it.

We get into the ins and outs of getting grants for your films and why America isn’t the best place to get them, what the first step is when you are deciding on a film project idea, and why collaboration allows you to focus on your strongest skill set, keeps you accountable and on track, and is the best way to maintain your happiness and sanity throughout the entire filmmaking process. If you are struggling with an idea or trying to take on everything yourself then this will be an eye-opening episode for you.

Do you feel like you take enough risks in your passion projects and films? What project has made you feel the most alive and fulfilled? Leave us a comment below!

In this episode:

  • Why not knowing everything before diving into a project can actually breed creativity and can create your biggest successes
  • The importance of knowing who your ideal clients are and how that directly relates to your happiness and business success
  • How truly amazing films are made through teamwork and why filmmaking is inherently collaborative
  • Why building relationships and connecting with people will get you more work than any film reel or marketing you have in place
  • The ins and outs of getting funding for your films
  • How to get started with a new film project idea
  • How being a woman filmmaker has affected her career


“A lot of my creativity comes from ‘I don’t know anything,’ and it’s the discovery of ‘I have a question about the world,’ and my films are really the act of trying to discover the answer to that question. And I probably never get an answer because the world is complicated and beautiful in that way but striving for that answer is usually what my independent films…that’s the journey of it. And, that’s what makes it so emotional and cathartic, and hopefully, that shows in the films.” (8:58)

“ Creative collaboration is very beautiful but it is also very dicey and varied because if you are truly doing something that you feel in your bones that you need to do and want to make and it’s coming from your soul, then the people you are collaborating with, they need to be on your level when it comes to how you think and how you communicate.” (18:20)

“Choose one thing even if it’s for one year, if you’re like I really want to be a DP, then go be a DP for a year and see if you love it and if you don’t then pick another role. Don’t do the ‘I have to do everything all myself’ because not only are you selling yourself short in the work because you probably aren’t going to be really great at anything if you do it that way. On top of that, you are missing out on this really cool part about filmmaking which is that it’s inherently collaborative.” (23:30)

“My biggest advice on starting a project is if you have an idea for a story you need to go out and find out if that idea is worth spending a lot of years of your life on.” (38:48)


Mo Scarpelli

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Rake Films

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Frame by Frame

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