For those of you who are finding this post by searching for XOXO:
Hi, I’m Whit. I’m glad you found my blog. I’m a filmmaker living in Portland, currently working on my second film. I’ve worked on several campaigns since I raised $32K for my film Rolled in August of 2011. I also help other people crowdfund their projects. I’m not sure what that title is called yet – I’m open to suggestions. I’m currently helping a friend with a novel called Earth Alpha, which will be on Kickstarter in early October. I hope you will all help us spread the word!
For those of you who know me but don’t know XOXO:
As an independent filmmaker, and someone who helps others crowdfund their work, XOXO was pretty much a match made in heaven. The speakers were absolutely wonderful, but the festival as a whole was also amazing. I’ll quickly highlight a few speakers that I personally connected with, but then I’d like to speak more about the festival experience outside of the speaker lineup.
Jay Smooth of Ill Doctrine: I started watching Jay Smooth’s videos around 2006 when I first started producing web videos for the tech company Seesmic. I fell in love with the style of edits that he used to convey his message, and soon adopted his style for many of the videos I shot. I was honored to tell him that he had inspired me over the years.
Max Temkin: Like me, Max likes running around with Nerf guns and making up games. Max is most well known for creating Amazon’s number 1 – 3 best selling game and its expansion packs, “Cards Against Humanity”. His story of making a game really resonated with me as a creator. He explained that he went into the game creation process just wanting to make a game for himself and his friends. He didn’t know what he was getting himself into, but learned along the way. (Later I’ll explain how I got to play a card game with him and gave him a copy of my film Rolled; which i’m very excited for him to see.)
Erika Moen: Erika is best known for her autobiographical webcomic DAR! She showed and read her final comic of DAR!. It was the story of the six years that she produced the comic. Hearing her talk about how she started, her personal struggles and growth throughout the process was incredibly inspiring. I hope to track Erika down in Portland so I have the opportunity to personally thank her for telling her story at XOXO.
Christina Xu: Christina Xu is co-founder of ROFLcon as well as the “founding director for the Institute of Higher Awesome Studies, the nonprofit wing of the Awesome Foundation”, which is worth checking out if you’re a creator. Christina spoke about how BreadPig, the company she currently works for, helps creatives produce their products so the artist can focus on their work. This is something I’m currently trying to help others do too, so it was nice seeing a formal version of this be presented on stage at XOXO.
Cabel Sasser: In 2012 when I moved to Portland I wrote a blogpost about moving and looking for cool people to meet in Portland. A message was sent from a high school friend, followed by an introduction on Twitter to Cabel Sasser. Over the course of a year Cabel and I were not able to meet up, but after an introduction at XOXO and seeing him speak, I understand why it was suggested that I meet him. Cabel’s talk at XOXO was one of the most honest and inspired stories i’ve ever seen at a conference. I was literally fighting back tears. Cabel started a software development company called Panic which created products such as Transmit, Coda, and Status board. To many of you this means very little, to others, it means a whole lot.
I’ve been in search for a mentor for a year or so. It’s an odd thing searching for a mentor – that may be a whole other blog post. I’ll say this though: as creators, leaders in their field, Portlanders, and fathers, there are two people who I would be honored to call mentor. Cabel is one of them. The other is Andy Baio, one of the creators of XOXO. It’s possible that one or both of them will read this post, so I’m going to attempt to not sound creepy.
Andy Baio: Over the past few years it’s been pointed out to me that what I do best is bring groups of people together to do cool things. As I start exploring what this means for me and my future work, I see that I can now look to Andy for inspiration. Though he may lean a little more towards technology, while I lean towards film, I can see that he’s incredibly passionate about the people he surrounds himself with. Because of this, Andy (and Andy McMillan – another one of the XOXO organizers) has created one of the coolest festivals I’ve ever been too – and I’m incredibly impressed and inspired.
The Festival: XOXO isn’t just a conference with speakers. There is a Video Game Night that has a room full of indie games and gamers playing throughout the night. On Saturday night portions of several independently produced films were presented with the directors there to answer questions. Downstairs was a Game Room full of passionate people playing board games enthusiastically. As someone who is currently helping a friend crowdfund a board game, it’s very encouraging to see the enthusiasm of that Game Room.
A highlight: I took it upon myself to meet as many people as I could while I was at XOXO. At a party hosted by the ad agency Wieden + Kennedy, I found myself in line for beer with a very cool guy named Jordan. Jordan is a multimedia artist living in Boston; or at least that’s how he introduces himself. He’s much more than that… Anyway, I was hanging out with Jordan talking about a video we had seen in a presentation given by one of the speakers earlier that morning. When I asked how he thought the shot was executed his response was, “that was in Max’s presentation of Cards Against Humanity, and he’s right there.” I turned around to find Max standing right next to me. Max told me the answer I was looking for but then asked what I did. After telling him about Rolled, he asked how he could watch the film. My incredibly beautiful and ridiculously smart wife had suggested that I carry around DVDs with me at the conference – so I gave him a copy. He was super excited to receive it, and I know if he has the opportunity to watch it that he’ll like it. It’s right up his alley. But I digress.
The day before, I had been sitting at a table eating lunch. This is where I met Josh who introduced himself as an employee of Pixar, which is neat, but Josh has made a ton of cool stuff including a rotary dialer app for the iPhone, and is currently working on a card game, which I told him I wanted to try out sometime if we found a moment during the festival.
Let me back up one more connection. There were several parents with young children at XOXO. I made it a priority to introduce myself to anyone with an infant that looked about the same age as my son Rowan, who turned 5 months last weekend. One of the people I met this way was Jonathan Liu who writes for GeekDad (a Wired magazine offshoot), and is a serious gamer who blogs about board games.
I digress again. I’m chatting with Jordan when I bump into Max and give him a DVD. Nearby is Josh with his new card game, and just to my left is Jonathan of GeekDad board games. I ask Josh if he wants to teach us his game, and we invite both Max and Jonathan over to play. I’m not a super gamer, though I do like playing my fair share of games, so I ask a woman looking over our shoulders if she wants to join me as a teammate. Her name is Ginger, she works for Twitter and dabbles in laser cutting wood in San Francisco. Awesome.
I don’t need to describe the game, or how it went (though, in case Josh reads this – it was awesome and I want to play it again). I was just impressed with the group of people sitting at the table enjoying a great, brand new, test version of a card game, created by one of the people at the table. As I said, a highlight, and only one of many stories like it that I have to share.
So this is XOXO. A place to be inspired to keep on working on your own projects. A place where people want to know what you’re working on, and how they can help you succeed. XOXO is artists, producers, technologists, gamers, and people who believe that we can make cool things without having to be a part of a huge machine. I feel incredibly lucky to have been a part of this conference, and sincerely hope to have the opportunity to both be a part of it next year, and perhaps help in a deeper way than simply attending.