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In The Director’s Chair with Nick Nanton

03 February 2022

We’re thrilled and honored to welcome Emmy Award Winning Director Nick Nanton to the Sound Connections Podcast!

Nick has produced numerous award-winning documentaries featuring visionaries, such as Larry King and Rudy Ruettiger. In addition to his documentary work, Nick has been writing songs for over 2 decades and has had his songs recorded by top artists like Lee Brice, Joe Bryson, and Morgan Myles. His songs have also appeared on TV shows like Glee, New Girl, Hell’s Kitchen, and The Ghost Whisperer, and he’s been awarded multiple Gold records.

Emmy award winning director Nick Nanton on set

Somehow, in addition to all of that, Nick finds the time to host his own podcast. Now to Next with Nick Nanton is available wherever you listen to your favorite podcasts and gives Nick the opportunity to sit down with specialists from a wide variety of industries to discuss what’s happening and what the future holds.

Emmy award winning director Nick Nanton

About Nick Nanton

Nick Nanton is a powerhouse in the entertainment industry. As the CEO and Founding Partner of Astonish Entertainment, Nick is renowned for his Emmy® Award-winning work as a Director and Producer in film and Broadway. Additionally, he is a Wall Street Journal Best-Selling Author, known for his book 'StorySelling.' Based in Altamonte Springs, FL, Nick's professional endeavors span across Film, TV, and Broadway, as well as songwriting. He holds a BSBA in Finance and a JD from the University of Florida. Outside of his professional life, Nick finds joy in fishing and spending quality time with his family. He is deeply committed to impactful work, particularly in exposing human trafficking, addressing veterans' post-traumatic stress, and revealing the authentic human side of celebrities through his biographies. 

For more information on Nick, check out his website NickNanton.com and on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter.

Make sure to listen and subscribe to the Sound Connections podcast on your favorite podcasting apps including Apple PodcastsSpotify, and Google Podcasts!

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Transcript

Clinton

So welcome to another episode of Sound Connections. Thanks for tuning in and listening or watching if you're on YouTube. And today we got Nick Nanton with us, a guy I've known, sort of known, I guess. We've met like 24-ish years ago. I was doing some math earlier, which is crazy and so much has changed since then. And so, you know, normally I, like I said, a minute ago before we got started, normally I wouldn't, I would just have all this memorized, but you're a director producer with DNA Films US, created over 60 films and a sold out Broadway show, 22 time Emmy Award winner, unless you've won any more since then. And you've worked with people like Larry King and Rudy Runniger, and Peter DeMantis, songwriter, received three gold records. Songs have been featured on Glee, New Girl, House and others. And then you're a host of a podcast. You're a host of the Now to Next podcast With Nick Nanton, CEO of a Celebrity Branding agency and senior partner with Dix and Nanton PA. So, you know, I mean, I thought I was busy, but when do you sleep, man?

Nick

I sleep great, man. It's, you know, I've learned, it's really, it's something I've always known, but I feel like even more recently, like I've been reintroduced to the fact that just having great people on your team changes everything, you know? And it's so simple. You forget it sometimes, but I always have to remind myself there's like, I, even if I was the best in the world at one thing, even if I wasn't, I'm not sure I am, by the way, like that's a really big claim, like the best in the world at this, like, let's just say you focused and you were that good at that. Well, basically you could very easily admit that you're not the best in the world at everything else. And you're probably really bad at some things. And when you just hire somebody or, or partner with somebody who's great at it, like your life changes. Like, so my agency runs now, I've got a great staff. I mean, I do a couple hours of meetings a week with them, but they're better than me. So like, I'm glad to give them advice when they think they need it from me, but they're, I don't, they're just better than me. They just do what I do better than I can do, even if I was there. So it allows me to get a lot of things done.

Clinton

Nice. Nice. So it'll be interesting to see how you got there. I'm in that position too, but with just one company, well, sort of, I guess I've got a couple more, but yeah, I did. And I think in the back of my mind, I've always known that or learned that probably a while back, but it is hard. You gotta remind yourself often. So yeah. So, you know, we met 24 years ago. So through your cousin Shane. Yeah. Yeah. Right. So how's he doing?

Nick

He's doing great, man. He's got a, he's got a PhD in, I believe, human factors, psychology. He's a brilliant dude. And honestly, to this day, I would tell anybody, one of the best guitar players I've ever seen in my entire life.

Clinton

I was just going to ask if he's still playing guitar.

Nick

Oh my God. I mean, like, it was funny when I was in college, like he would always hit me up like, man, you should check out this gear. You should check out this gear. And I was working with bands that were starting to do pretty well. So I would call everybody, man. And I, that's one of the reasons I ended up meeting you. Like I would get like Dr. Z Amps would hook us up some stuff and full tone pedals. And like, I didn't, he was like the guy who was like in the forums learning about the best gear, Freightland pickups, like all this stuff. And so, yeah, so still see Shane, you know, multiple times a year. We all live here in the Orlando area, a lot of family here and he's just an insane guitar player.

Clinton

Yeah. So I think when we met, you kind of just made reference, but it was music first. So, so that's a question for later. But I'll just cover it now. But what came first, the music, the law, the films? Like where was your, where was your passion back then?

Nick

Very simple answers. I started playing guitar at six because my cousin, my uncle and stuff played, and I saw it and I just fell in love with it. To this day, I probably have an unhealthy relationship with music. Like my wife's like, can we just listen to something I've heard before? Cause like I'm always looking for what's next. Right. And so I started playing at six, started songwriting at 16, I put up my first record at 18, which was still about 800 copies under my parents' bed. And I'm glad, I want him to stay there. And then I went to undergrad. I mean, my, we're immigrants, right? So my parents told my brother and I like, “Hey, you can do anything you want in life. Just get a profession.” He's two years older than me. We're both like, no, like we're teenagers. Nah, it doesn't sound fun. Well, this guy goes to medical school, my brother, and I'm like, that's not going to happen. I finished undergrad in two and a half years. I had a bunch of credits from high school. I was good student because I had to be, that was expected of me. And I got through everything really fast. Cause I have ADD. I know it's a shocker to everyone watching. And I can only focus for so long. So like I would just rush through anything because I could, I could focus for like 10 or 15 minutes at a time, and I was done. But so he went to medical school. I finished my undergrad in about two and a half years, ended up staying one more semester to get scholarship money. And I took 12 hours of independent study in blues guitar from a friend of mine who's a professor. So anyway, that's, but that was just to get the money to keep the money coming in. And I went to law school because I knew it was good advice from my parents, and they certainly meant well. And I knew that at the time, I realized I wasn't going to be an artist. I love being a writer producer. But at the end of the day, I ended up managing a bunch of bands because I was pretty good at sort of business stuff. I got undergrad in finance and I was like, you know, probably want to run a record label one day. And I know a lot of heads of record labels and entertainment businesses are lawyers, right? And so I went to law school, hated pretty much every second of it. But I, so I, during law school, I had a studio in Gainesville. We worked with Sister Hazel back in the day. Then I still do a little bit of work with Stan Lynch, who's drummer from Time Picking the Heartbreakers. And so I got an awesome, like, street education in music. And then I got a law degree. And the weirdest thing that I honestly tell you about getting a law degree was I was the same guy the day before I went to law school and the day I started law school. But all of a sudden when I started like, cause I was constantly reaching out to A&R Raps and like doing, trying to do music deals. And all of a sudden I went from being a kid who represented and like worked with a bunch of, managed a bunch of garage bands to this kid in law school. And then so everyone took my call. They were like, oh, wait a second, he's in law school. He's not just desperate. Let's talk to him. So like, to this day, not practicing law is the best thing I've ever done with my law because in every room I'm pretty much the only lawyer. If I worked at a law firm, I'd be in a room full of lawyers. Right? So positioning, I learned a lot from that. And then I needed to make money. I got married after my first semester of law school, which I have my year anniversary coming up this July.

Clinton

Congratulations.

Nick

Yeah. Thank you. She still likes me. I think. And I had my first son a week after I took the bar exam. So life's just been like, go, right? And so my business partner who had helped me, he's 30 years older than me, would mentored me and helped me start the entertainment company. He's like, “look, man, I've been in a lot of businesses. This is a hard business to make money.” He's like, “why don't you take what you do for musicians and bands and do it for business people, entrepreneurs and professionals. Like you'll have fun. You'll make a lot of money and you’ll figure out what to do.” So we started the agency. It's been a great ride. But I did what any creative person does the moment that starts making enough money to pay the bills. I got right back to creative stuff. So I just decided so I still write. I do a lot of songwriting in Nashville. I was actually just there on Monday interviewing Kenny Chesney. I do a lot of songwriting, have a bunch of stuff out on Spotify. I got a song coming out on Canadian radio in a few weeks. And then I just tried my hand at documentary films. I literally said, “I mean, what music's really hard. What else could I try?” And I tried docs and it seemed to work.

Clinton

I mean, film though. So you don't have a film background. So you went from guitar player, lawyer or a law degree.

Nick

Yeah. I'm licensed.

Clinton

How do you go from like writing music to even helping businesses? Like to me, making a film seems scary.

Nick

It's funny. I think the thing I learned and the thing I love the most about filmmaking, I think when I'd gotten to that point, I had learned an awful lot about my shortcomings in music. And now like writing in Nashville, I don't take my guitar anymore. I started at six. I'm turning 42 this weekend. These people can play me into a corner in eight seconds. I have nothing to prove. If you're better than me, let's go with you. And so I had learned by the time I started making films, I'm starting to understand what my mentor Dan Sullivan calls “your unique ability.” What are you really good at? And you probably shouldn't do much else. And I just said, you know, I want to tell a story I like. I love people. I love great stories. Let me try this. And it's another story. But I Googled how to win an Emmy and follow the directions. And here we are. And so that—I but I basically just put together a team because I knew well, I could cut the deal. I can find the story. I think I can direct. I'm still not sure I even know what directing is. Although I directed a bunch of stuff. But it's just like team building. And I hired people who were who—I advice from a book called The Bezos Letters. You know, it's how Jeff Bezos built Amazon. A friend of mine, Steve Anderson, wrote it. And basically he says Jeff Bezos never hires someone he does not admire. And I now do the same. It could be an assistant. It could be a janitor. Like you should admire how much they really appreciate getting things the way you want them or whatever it is. Right. And so I hired a bunch of people who I admired who were up and comers. They weren't, they hadn’t won Emmys yet. Now we've won a bunch of Emmys together and stuff. But they were just really good people who are great at what they did. And I just let them do what they do. And so I did what I thought I could contribute. And we learned together and it worked. You know, and I think the only reason really worked because I don't work with people who have egos. Everyone is there for the better of the team. We have a no a-hole rule. We'll get rid of them real fast. Even clients, like just not our game. And everyone and like me, I just had a call with my editor on the way over here. He's won a ton of Emmys with me over the years and I don't know how he does what he does. I have no clue. I basically film. I have a crew who films everything with me. I hand them hard drives. I'm like, do your thing. And it's like sort of like, you know, Leonardo da Vinci with Marble. I'm like, just give me the best statue that's in the marble. Just give me the best doc that's on those drives. And I don't get in his way because he's amazing.

Clinton

Now, are you directing him in any way? Because if the story, if it's your story or maybe it's not your story, it might be somebody else's story you're telling. But you're the visionary here, right? You see the story going a certain way or want it told a certain way. So, or does he just get it like from the beginning?

Nick

He really just got it from the beginning. But I would say I really think that if someone else coined it that like in my conversations and docs that I bring heart and hope to every conversation, right? They said it, I liked it, so I stuck with it. And that's what we try to do. So I think there's a fabric to those interviews because I do them all, right? And there's definitely the threads are already being exposed. He weaves them really well. But I don't constrain him. I'm saying like, hey, if you find a thread I didn't find, let me know and I'll go back and get it or whatever. But now we've done, I mean, I think he's done every one of my docs since 2015. And so we've done so many projects together. And he's a great human being that I would trust with my family and just, we just think alike and we've worked enough. And like, look, we're working on doc right now on human trafficking, an organization that rescues religious minorities, Christians and Yazidis from ISIS in Iraq and the Middle East. So we went over and filmed, we actually were in Iraq filming the day the first COVID cases broke out in Iraq.

Clinton

I thought you made a promise to your wife. You weren't going to do that again.

Nick

I did. I didn't go back. That was original, we're still editing. Right. And so he sent it to me and I said, “man, this is really great,” but there's a couple of things that I remember getting that I think would really make it interesting. Like the main guy who took us over there. He's the guy who negotiated Captain Phillips off the boat. You've seen the movie where Tom Hanks plays Captain Phillips. And we didn't really cover that thread. I'm like, “I think that makes a guy more interesting.” He's like, all right, let me go back. He's like, yeah, you're right. And so we collaborate a lot, but there's, I probably have honestly three to four comments from every film he sends me. There's not much. It's just like, yeah, he gets it. You know,

Clinton

So that's good. You're lucky. I'm very lucky.

Nick

Yes. Very lucky. Yeah. But I also, I think he tells me he's lucky cause I'm not trying to do his job. Like, you know, you get a lot of people who want to put their fingerprints on things. It's like, well, why don't you do what you do and how about you let me do what I do and we'll, we'll both be better. And I think some people are just control freaks. I just, I learned a long time ago, man, that, I mean, the more other people are doing what they're supposed to be doing, and I can just do what I want to do. Like again, unique ability. It's a concept like what would you want to wake up and never want to retire from and just do one thing every day and you'd be more motivated by it. You'd be providing more value to the world. And if you want to, you could charge for it. For me, you could tell I've done enough work and spent enough money figuring it out. It's pretty esoteric. I try to have impactful conversations that lead to produced outcomes. So if you asked me to do it on a podcast, I would love to have an impactful conversation with Clinton. If you said, will you write a book for me, Clinton? I said, I'll say, I'm going to have an impactful conversation with the ghostwriter and they're going to produce that outcome for you or behind the camera in front of the camera in the podcast. Really, I spend my day having conversations with great human beings. So it's like, it's, I would, why would everyone want to stop that?

Clinton

So, well, so what is your, what are your days like now? So you're, you're making this film, you're having to travel to places like Iraq or, or other places around the world. Um, you've still got your law firm or?

Nick

Yeah, we do a little bit of IP work for people. I don't do any of it, of course. We have some, some really good partners and, and have counsel people, friends I went to law school with who are great at the work. I just may be better at bringing it in. Um, and so they do that. So we have that, but that's not real active. We do some stuff.

Clinton

I mean, you're doing your podcast, right? So, um, so, so what's a day like for you or a week like for you? Are you, are you, uh, this is.

Nick

So this would be a typical week right now. So I'll just, I'll tell you what I did this week. Um, I got a text from Kenny Chesney last week. I'm doing Dick Vital from ESPN's life story. They're very good friends. We were texting back and forth, trying to find a time for an interview. And he says he'd be in Nashville, uh, this week, Monday or Tuesday, we ended up saying, “Hey, Monday is actually better.” So me and one of my camera guys flew in Monday morning, landed about eight-thirty. Um, we had some lunch, got set up. I showed him a few Nashville spots. Kenny came into the interview at three o'clock. We were on a six-thirty flight back home. So I left the house at six AM was back at house by ten o'clock to watch the second half of the college football championship. A lot of times I can't get home the same night. That's how it happens. But I could. So I did, um. Tuesday, um, I had, uh, I had some meetings with my team cause I missed the Monday meetings. Um, I had a, um, had a pre-production meeting and then my son had a soccer, my, both of my boys, I have three kids, two boys, sixteen, fourteen, my daughter's ten. Both of my boys had soccer games in Lakeland yesterday. So I had some meetings throughout the day and I got to Lakeland. Um, I took some calls in the car. I worked out with my wife first. Uh, I don't start any meetings before 10:30. So we work out every day together. Uh, start meetings at 10:30, I always take lunch off because I think you should think you should enjoy food. I do. And then, uh, I typically have my last meeting by five. Uh, yesterday my parents live in the air. So they, we met at four o'clock. I had my last podcast at three o'clock. Uh, we met at four and at four o'clock they rode me to Lakeland. My wife took my daughter to a dance. My parents went with me. We watched two soccer games. I got home at 10:10. Uh, this morning I woke up and, uh, took, uh, one of my sons got in so late from the soccer game. He needed to sleep in a little bit. He's a junior and taking AP. So he did. So I took my son and his friend to school and actually ran five miles with a buddy of mine this morning. Then my wife and I, uh, walked a couple more and I've been in podcasts and meetings and phone conversations till till now. Uh, I drove over here, uh, to have this meeting with you at—I was a little bit late. It's supposed to be two o'clock. Uh, I have, I have my neck. I have calls at four and four on the way to Miami. Uh, I have a meeting tonight with a guy who's flying in from Ireland who wants to talk about doing some production work. I'll be back tomorrow for another podcast at one o'clock. And I, you know, I pretty much end every day at five or six at the latest. And I don't start a day before. I don't start my working day really before 10:30, but people get emails from me all hours of day or night or whatever, the normal stuff. But I, I, and other than when COVID hit and I got shut down, like we all like just got scared and couldn't do anything for awhile. Um, I'm getting back to normal, but prior to that for probably seven years before that, um, I don't travel. I'm not gone more than seven nights a month. And if I miss dinner, that's half a night. Like that's our formula. Like we had, I had to put guard rails on my life because I love a good adventure. Like I got a rule, one adventure a week. And if I don't get that adventure, I get antsy. So my wife kindly reminded me like, “Hey, I love that you're adventuring with everybody else, but you know, we sorta had children together and we have a relationship here too.” And thankfully it didn't get too far gone. And it's always been great, but she reminded me. And so we decided what would be fair. And seven nights a month is enough that it's like a night and a half a week. It's enough to be disruptive. Um, but it, but I get to travel and do what you do. But like, I've been to Ibiza for a night and flew back. Like I do all sorts of crazy flights. Um, but I just sleep on an airplane. I'm not working, I'm not flying. I'm just sleeping. Right. So anyway, that's a typical week. So I'm always, I, I get a lot of adventure, but I'm home a lot. And I, I spend, I go to every game, I go to every dance thing. I go, you know, I miss certain things. I never miss a birthday—mine or theirs. I never miss, um, any sort of championship games. And, uh, I never miss the first day of school, never miss the last day of school. Like we have, we have a system, right? And it's awesome. And it's so much fun. And I think, uh, were it not for having that, I would say most people's…my schedule is not for everybody, but having that level of balance is just super helpful.

Clinton

Now, I agree. I've got a good amount of balance in my life too. And I think, um, it kind of goes back to the team, right? So you, you've got these successful businesses and it's a trade off. So you can, you can make a little more money if you had a little less people, but, uh, but there's sacrifices you have to make.

Nick

And understanding that, you know, they're human beings too. They want time off. They want time with their families, you know, which is, um, it's just sometimes it's hard to figure out.

Clinton

Yeah. Yeah. So it sounds like, uh, you're, what I'm hearing is, is, uh, what you're getting energy from what you're doing daily, you know, um, as far as your work is your, is your podcast and your filmmaking. So talking to, you know, Kenny Chesney or, uh, a potential new client from Ireland. Um, but that's kind of your day-to-day. Yeah. I mean, creative working cause you're the, you're the guy doing the interviews.

Nick

Yeah. And so I'm working with my teams to make sure I have what I need from interviews cause I don't like preparing. So I outsource the preparation too, um, and we've got a system for that. And I have to cover that as well, but like, yeah.

Clinton

I like doing that either.

Nick

I don't do it. The way I do it is I tell them who I'm interviewing. Um, I have a couple of writers, my writer Katie does most of it. She's amazing. And I, she listens to all the podcasts they've been on. She reads the books or figures out what she needs to. And the way I do it, I say, give me an article, like, like, summarize it all into like, if it is, if they were being featured on the cover of People magazine. And then give, and then she gives me like a word article. I read it like 15 minutes before the interview, and I have every bit of context I need to have a conversation. I can go if they get excited, their eyes light up, and they want to go somewhere, but I always have somewhere to come back to. And so it really allows, to use a songwriting term—you know, a friend of mine a long time ago told me, “Nick, the goal as a songwriter, I know you've got ideas, but the goal is to write the best song in the room today.” Because Clinton has ideas and you're all here because you have got great ideas. Don't be ego driven. Just write the best song in the room today. Well, all I try to do is try to have the best conversation in the room that day. So like, I don't, obviously I get the easy part of this. I don't have to prepare for this. We're just going to talk about what's on my mind and what's on your mind. But so I outsource that preparation. But so my entire day really is spent having conversations. That's really all I do. I mean, I read emails, respond to emails, but like I'm, I'm having conversations all day long. Yeah.

Clinton

Yeah. Awesome. So, you know, you've worked with some pretty amazing people and, uh, I have to wonder, and I would imagine other people wonder too, like, how does that happen? So is it the work? Is it, is it networking? Is it connections? So, I mean, the people you're working with today obviously are maybe just for lack of a better description, much more high profile in the public eye than maybe what you were doing 15 years ago. Right. So how does, how did that happen?

Nick

So a couple of things. Um, uh, yes, they, they definitely are now have more high profile people than before, but also part of the thing I love is telling stories. You people, you have no idea who they are and all that, right? Like in the, in a hut in Iraq, right? So that's interesting and fascinating and it's human. Um, I never expected film has, at least the films I make—documentaries—have this really, for me at least, an unexpected unfair advantage. And the unfair advantage is when you, when you make quality films, and I can proudly say that cause it's not about me and my team is the best in the world. Like I could screw it up. They could still make a great film. They make great films despite me. We'll put it that way. And so, and when you do work that is impactful and it's, it's well done, it has heart to it. I don't do any like hit pieces. I'm not trying to get in. I just don't, I mean, some people deserve it, right? But it's just, that's, I don't want to spend my life doing that. I don't want to spend my life in that negative space. They really, they really appreciate it. And then when they, when they liked the way you have represented them and their story, whatever. First of all, like, Dick Vitale, I met him doing Rudy. So you meet like the network's insane. So when I'm doing Rudy's documentary, he's like, you got to interview Dickie V. So I interviewed Dickie V and then I was like, “man, who's told your stories? Like, no, I'm like, let me tell your story.” And then all of a sudden, so for Dickie V man, I'm interviewing, I mean, I just interviewed Kenny Chesney. I've got Shaq and Barkley coming up. I got LeBron James. I got, who's coming up. I've got, I've got coach Calipari. I've got coach K. I've got like, and then all of a sudden I get a text. It's me, Charles Barkley, Shaq and Dickie V. I'm like, did I just make the Mount Rushmore of NBA? Like what happened? But like all of a sudden when, when people feel like you are, you're professional, what you do, like, I'm not going to fanboy anybody. Like you're professional, what you do, and you're there to do a job. You're just in all of a sudden. And I honestly, to be dead honest, I really, for the first time in my life felt, really felt that and sort of recognized it like about a month ago. Like, “oh, I guess I'm in.” Cause I spent my whole life on the outside trying to get backstage. Right. Like we all do. But now all of a sudden from, and it's, it's, I, I don't know if it's a Zig Ziglar quote. I think he gets credited the most for it. People, I think mistakenly use it sometimes, but when you help enough other people get what they want, you get what you want. And so all I've really done is serve other people well. And so they become friends and supporters, and part of my, I don't hate the term networking, but part of my network. And so now if I like, I have a friend here to ask me, Hey man, could you help me get anything for like this charity auction? We're like, yeah, probably can. Like, let me text a couple of people, see who I can get. And I don't get mad if they can't do it. People are busy. I don't get mad if they don't respond. People are busy. They got other things going on. They might've seen it and been in the middle of shooting a scene and forgot like whatever. But, but yeah, it's just, it's just being kind and doing what you say you're going to do. And, and the unfair advantage is, everyone wants to introduce you to their really impressive friends. Not their friends in jail. It's like, “Hey, have you met my friend, the governor?” I'm like, well, no I haven't. You know? So like, and when you're doing a project and someone like Dickie V, he wants all the biggest names that he knows in his film. So all of a sudden it's just this cascading thing of big names. And then, you know, if you do your job well, you know, you start forging relationships with those people and they're like, “Oh, you know, we should call that guy Nick.” Like I have a rule with my crew. Like when we come into someone's home, particularly even an office, like we asked, well, first of all, you better bring your manners. Don't dress like you're homeless. Most crews dress like they're homeless. We don't have to be in a uniform, but like, let's look, let's look professional. And if we're going to move something, ask first, if you move it, make sure you move it back and ask, is this in the right place? But most film crews sort of have this God complex because they're, they're really taught that the most important thing is the shot and what we're getting and it is, but so they shirk everything else. They just don't even think it. So they dress homeless. They're practically rude to people. They leave it like, you know, the Tasmanian devil just came through. And so now we get a lot of people asking, “Hey, could you get Nick's crew back here?” Because, you know, the lady, the house, let's say is like, well, “these people who came in that I don't ever want them back again, because they weren't at all. They weren't at all like Nick's crew.” So it's just like, you know, the three rules of business, do what you say you're going to do. Yeah. Say please and thank you. Show up in time. Like you'll get a lot of business. And so I feel like we do that pretty well.

Clinton

Nice.

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Clinton

So I guess, you know, what I got out of that too is it's much like any business. I mean, you're working with people. I mean, I guess we all do really. But in our business, you know, our clients, it's building blocks, right? So, you know, when this business began over 30 years ago, you know, it built, right? And our reputation built. So that's what I'm getting out of it. Whether you're, you know, whether you're working with a real high-profile celebrity, but it's building blocks and you've earned this reputation and now people reach out to you.

Nick

Yeah. You earn a reputation for that. You're reliable. They can count on you and trust you because, you know, and I've seen it now too, because like, you know, most people would be like, so let's just say you got a famous person coming in here. I mean, everyone, you know, that if you're not famous, they're like, “hey, can I come?” You know, like that's like, it's a normal response, right? I'm not knocking anybody for that.

Clinton

I did have somebody that wanted to come and meet you, but he has the flu.

Nick

Oh, all right. Well, next time. That'll be a first. I'll take it. I'll come meet them. How about that? I'm a fan of that.

Clinton

He's, he's, he's, uh, he's also doing some filmmaking and music, and I think you guys would just get along.

Nick

We'll do lunch. Thanks. Whatever. That's great. Thank you. Um, so, you know, when, uh, when you do, um, when you do that, you know, it's a natural thing. There are celebrities and most people there. They're usually like, I don't work with celebrities. I work with what I call celebrity experts. They're so good at what they do. The world can't ignore them. And that could be a musician. That could be a whatever, right? It's not just like I'm famous cause I'm hot, or I don't know, whatever. It's just not my deal. And so what I've realized though, is like when I go into those situations now, like now that I'm in control of the situations, you really realize like, oh, this is—while I love all my friends and family, I wouldn't bring most people to this situation because it just would, it would offset the rapport I have that I'm trying to build on. So it's just learning how to, how to manage those relationships.

Clinton

It’s when it’s appropriate.

Nick

Right. And once you do that and people realize that, okay, he gets it. We're good. You know?

Clinton

Yeah. I think, I mean, maybe it's a thing that comes with age, but that's just kind of common sense.

Nick

It is, but I think it's also proving the fact that like, you're reliable and professional and you're going to do a good job. And like, oh, and what is going to lead you there is like, when, if someone asks me for something, like I want to refer them somebody who makes me look great. Right. So ideally what, if you want to grow your business, talk about business, like be so like, be the person that like people can't wait to refer, like, oh, they're going to think I'm a rockstar cause I know him. Yeah. I'm going to bring him in. Like I'm going to a meeting this afternoon in Miami, guys, friend of mine from Sarasota is like, “this guy's looking for a chief marketing officer who is a really good storyteller.” And I sort of told him “that's really not, what do you really want?” He really wants some like film type stuff. He's like, “Well, hey, how about this? What if I brought in my friend Nick, you know, and he built up my resume and what if we just let him tell your story?” And then I go hire your CMO and the guy's like, “you could get him to come?” You know, but like he, it was really great cause we've got a great relationship. He knows I'll deliver for him. So I'm driving out of Miami to go have dinner with these guys because he knows and I'm, I'll get business from it, whether I do or not, that's just the way it works sometimes. But he was proud to be able to refer me and bring me in on the deal. And that's what you want to be.

Clinton

Yeah. Yeah. I'm a big fan of that. Uh, this was in a previous podcast, but somebody accused me of, uh, being a connector. Yeah. And, I love it. I love it. So if I'm, you know, when I'll meet somebody that, that I think, uh, would click with you and I'll be, I'll, you know, I'll reach out and say, “Hey, you need to meet this person.” Or, or, um, just because, uh, you know, we, we have this other term that I use or maybe, and created called AV Karma. So it's, it's our industry thing. So when people reach out to me that want to work with us and if for some reason it's not a good fit, um, and in our line of business, that happens fairly often because of conflicts. Um, but I'm happy to refer them to all my competitors, and I'm friends with all my competitors. And I think it's just good. Like just, and then one day it, it, you know, maybe it'll come back, but you know, so, um, so yeah, so I, I think, uh, that makes sense. That makes sense.

Nick

Um, in, in those cases, it's funny. It's like, um, that's just in a lot of this is doing the right thing. And it will burn you every now and then, cause someone is not in it for the right reasons. But it's funny, like I'm a huge 40 Gators fan. My wife is the biggest probably 40 Gators fan, maybe in the world, like crazy born in Gainesville, only missed a handful of home games. I had to go to a wedding one time cause she didn't commit. I thought she was coming to the wedding with me. I had to go to the wedding. She went to the game like, you know, so, so anyway, just giving her due. And it's like, you know, as I'm traveling around, um, you know, doing this, this, this documentary and I'm interviewing a bunch of college basketball coaches. Now this again, I'm not that smart. Some things it takes me a long time to figure out. I should have learned this, like as a kid, but you forget sometimes, but it's just like, oh, this is just a coach doing his job. He's hired by this college, and this is a bunch of kids. Like, you know, even though they're at a school that I hate or whatever, right. It's just literally, and the same thing I'm sure you could say for people who work for your competitors, it's just a guy or a woman like you trying to feed their family, do the right thing. And you get some people in there who aren't like that, but for the most part, we're all just trying to make life better for those around us.

Clinton

And I'm nice to everybody, and I get along with everybody. Right. But, but, uh, but if you always do the right thing, it, it, it works out right. It really does. Uh, so, um, yeah, I think that's just a good rule of thumb for anything. So, um, you know, when, uh, we, I don't know if it was when we last spoke, but one of the things that stood out to me, um, in one of our conversations when we reconnected was, um, about, you know, you mentioned the word heart, um, but about, you know, some of your work like, uh, the, uh, Tucson Operation. Operation Tucson, um, like that film, um, you know, it wasn't just about making a film. It's about making a difference. Right. So, so, um, is that a big focus? I mean, it sounds like you're going, you know, the Iraq, you're, you're doing it all over again.

Nick

Yeah. So I did it. I'm not doing it again, but yes, I, uh…

Clinton

So that was that before, by the way, you made the, uh.

Nick

Tuscon was first and then I did Iraq after that.

Clinton

And when was that?

Nick

Uh, February 2020 of was Iraq.

Clinton

So like right as COVID was—

Nick

Yes, so you know, spiritually, I’m a Christian. I believe, you know, um, to whom much is given much is expected. And I think that's whether you believe that believe, you know, have my faith background or not, I think it's just a good thing to think that's a good way to think. And, um, I really have, I've always tried to just, um, say, okay, you know, from my framework, you do it how you want. Hey God, you put me in this position, like, what do you want me to do? And so I'm really sort of a big idiot who just keeps walking through the doors he opens. Right. But when people come to me with, you can't take on everything. But when people come to you with, you know, with opportunities that, um, that strike a chord, you go, and I've never been a person to like let money get in the way of anything. It's like, all right, was that something I’m supposed to do? If it is, the resources will come. And, and I was brought in by a friend. Uh, and by the way, I never named dropped, but I like to say, I like to give people credit where credit is due. So I guy named Russell Brunson, huge in the marketing world. He called me out of blue one day. He was like, Hey man, I'm working with this child sex trafficking organization. And I, I was trying to figure out how I could make a big difference for him. And he's like, uh, he's like, “man, I was praying about it.” And God just gave me your name. He's like, “Oh man, maybe Nick would help with this.” And he's like, so would you ever make a documentary about, you know, I'm like, I never thought about that. But like, I mean, if I feel like if I, if I wasn't willing to spread light on that and the gifts I've been given, like, it wouldn't be, that probably wouldn't end up good for me. Talking about karma, it wouldn't be very good. And so I'm like, yeah, let's talk about it. And so a little, I know, you know, 45 days later, I'm in a raid in Haiti in this. And so I just kept going quick. Yeah. Oh yeah. We made that document like 60 days almost because he called me, I believe right about October and he was trying to get it done to raise a bunch of money at his event, which was, if I'm not mistaken, was in February of well, so here, look, I got this, we got from the raid. Um, uh, so the raid was January of 2018. I got the first call right before Halloween of 2017. So yeah, so like it was end of October, some November, December, so middle of January. And then we had to have the doc ready to go by middle of February. And he raised a million dollars in two days with it, but it was like, you gotta be able to get, it's like, all right, we'll try. I've never done this, but we'll try. So, but I just kept going where the story went. But I mean, obviously you can't, you can't see something like that, whether it's on screen or in person and not, not be changed somehow. And it's, I now am on my fourth doc on trafficking. We did, we did the one in Haiti. We did one in, in Colombia where we, they actually, the organization filmed everything of the raids and we went back and retold the story. And that hit some film festivals, did really well. And now that's about to come out called Triple Take. It's about three raids at the same time in Colombia and different cities. Then there is another one we made what—for the Nazarene Fund. It's actually Glenn Beck who started the organization. And whether you're, I'm not into politics at all. I don't even know what most people stand, this is not my thing. Glenn Beck's a great human being from my interactions with him. And so we went over and told that story. And then I started talking about trafficking and learning so much about it. Where people just kept saying like, oh my gosh, that's so crazy. That's happening in Haiti or Colombia or Iraq. And I, and I literally said the words, “you don't understand it's happening right here.” So many times that I'm like, okay, making a film called It's Happening Right Here. And so I did at film festivals right now. And that's all about trafficking in America and how, I mean, to put it bluntly, kids from every neighborhood and every creed, race, color, and socioeconomic status are being, are being trafficked physically or digitally, just through, you know, being forced to do things against their will and videotape it either by themselves or with other people. And it's being sold or they're being blackmailed online because they felt typically because they fell for it when some really attractive, some person they found really attractive sort of courted them and started trading nude pictures with them. And then they find out that that's not really that person. It's a 47 year old man in Iowa. And now that I have naked pictures of you, here's what you're going to do. I'm going to put them on the internet. I'm going to send it to your parents. I'm sending everyone at your school. I'm going to post them up. I'm going to blah, blah, blah, blah. And all of a sudden, you know, a kid was typically what it is. I mean, but even as an adult, like they go, they have no idea what to do next because now they're now they feel really stupid. And in most cases, they don't feel like they could go talk to their parent or adult. So they make hundreds, if not thousands of really bad decisions after that, because they're being blackmailed. And so the film really sort of covers the different ways that happens through Instagram, TikTok, Fortnite, Roblox. I mean, anywhere two or more gathered there shall be traffic. Yeah. You know,

Clinton

So yeah, that's nuts.

Nick

It is not. So I try to do things like that because I think it's the right thing to do. And I'm just doing a doc on reading right now, which I was brought into and I have no idea.

Clinton

Reading?

Nick

I had no idea that there's illiteracy and there's what we call sub-literacy, which is sort of like food insecurity. Like you're not reading level you should be. I'm not going to get the stats exactly right because I haven't looked at them the last couple of weeks. I'm doing like eight things, but it's close to this. The entire United States of America, since we have been measuring reading proficiency of kids in school, we have never scored higher than I believe it's 43 or 46 percent passing rate basically of proficiency. So more than half of the country cannot read correctly, and you really don't know it because everyone hides it. And so at the lowest levels ends up in incarceration and those because if you can't read, you can't get a license, you can't work a job, you can't do pretty much anything. And then the sub-literacy levels of like for many reasons which are debatable but there's good arguments on both sides. Like keep matriculating kids up so they just graduate but they really are, you know, they're 18, they're reading at a second or third grade level or they're dyslexic and what. I mean it's a mess dude. Like so I was brought into it by this guy who is now in his 80s but he was a school teacher in California for 13 years and he could not read. And it's like wait are you, this can't be true. And so Oprah did a story on him, he was in Chicken Soup for the Soul, and I said I'm like wait tell me more. And as it turns out there's just a lot of, there's more than 15% of our students are falling through the cracks, and you really don't know about it because most people don't want to talk about it if their kid is struggling or if you were struggling you wouldn't, it's not something you talk about. So it's, my mind was blown. I'm like all right, I got to help spread this word because there's solutions. A lot of people think it's conspiracy or politics. Or I'm like look I got no dog in this hunt other than that. I want kids who feel they're like they're dumb because this isn't working for them. They know there's other solutions. I want adults who never learned to read who—we just we filmed the guy as he learned to read in one week. He's 63, he didn't know how to read, and he was an executive and just saw the weight lifted from his face and his whole life changed. So I want adults to think and to know it's never too late, and you're not dumb your brain is not broken. And the third one is I want people in lower socioeconomic situations—typically people of color. They get screwed the most because typically those school districts don't have any money, and they don't and just some familiar situations don't allow for extra tutoring or money to do it. So I want to help create awareness so they can get the resources. I'm not here to blame anybody but we can do a much better job.

Clinton

So how did this story come to you then? So did he find you or did you find him?

Nick

Like yeah so I did a documentary on my friend Jack Canfield. Jack wrote all the chicken soup of the soul books. Five million sold around the world. Yeah incredible story. Never will happen again I'm pretty sure. And so, I get an email from this guy John Corcoran and said “hey I'm friends with Jack Canfield you know I love what you did for him.” I told him I wanted to share my story in a bigger, more impactful way and he said “you know you I should reach out to you. Here's a video when I was on Oprah here's the whatever.” I watched it. I emailed back and said “you know man that's a really cool story. I just don't know that it's like you—sort of your story's been told I don't know it's big enough for a doc.” And sometimes, you know, sometimes you don't see it. Sometimes you're super busy sometimes you just want to make sure someone on the other side of the line has enough fight because if we're going if we're doing this it's a battle like you're working closely for a year, two years like you want to make sure it's not like a passing interest because I'm gonna spend my life doing it right.

Clinton

Right.

Nick

And it was really that I just wasn't sure when I was busy and I didn't know where funding would come from, I didn't know him at all. And he's like if you just give me like 30 minutes and let me share with you I think you're gonna see the story's way bigger than you think. And so like oh, now he's pitching me. Great, the guy's got a little tenacity to him. I mean he's a of Irish descent, he's a fighter for this cause for the last like 40 years, and so I got in the phone and I'm like wait you mean to tell me that I could go look at my own school district in an affluent area right now he's like go look at it—

Clinton

Go look.

Nick

Failing failing. I'm like—and I looked at him like and I…So I end up deciding to do the doc. We put out a press release about it, and I got like two the two main comments that stuck out to me my uncle actually said, “oh boy Nick you are gonna they're coming for you now like you are gonna get so much hate mail.” So I'm like as I'm like look that's possible but like I would totally expect that if I if I approach the story with with blame and and shame and vitriol but I'm not. I'm approaching it from like, “hey what's happened to get us here and what can we do better like that's really yeah.” And so that was number one. Number two, a friend of my son’s at school sent me a private message and said, “hey if you find anything that works let me know because we've been struggling for you know for a long time and cannot figure it out.” And as I go through these things—like there are, it's sort of um…As I said, I have ADD, my one of my son’s friends has ADHD, and you know when you are dealing with something that you don't…especially a child and you don't know how to fix it it doesn't matter if it lasts two days or two years it feels like hell the whole time. Yeah, and as soon as I saw multiple people, like this guy who is 63 years old comes and learns how to read in a week and his whole life changes. I'm like, “this is not… this is not a life sentence,” so like I have to tell the story and it's been mind-blowing just to see what happens in it yeah.

Clinton

So I just watched uh do you watch CBS Sunday Morning?

Nick

I don't.

Clinton

It's a great show. Probably don't have time.

Nick

There's always time.

Clinton

It's a great show but it's a it's i mean it's usually a feel-good show but they have really interesting stories and uh Sydney Potier oh my gosh he just did you know he couldn't read?

Nick

I saw that recently these people now sort of sending all the reading stuff right. So a lady, I think it was, met with him every day or a man every day

Clinton

Yeah I think it was a man so he worked in a restaurant, I think he was a dishwasher okay and he's an immigrant as well right from—I forget—one of the islands okay uh probably not far from you. Um so uh but yeah immigrated, and uh worked he worked uh when he grew up he worked in a restaurant as a dishwasher and um, and somebody made a comment about something in the newspaper, and he said “Well I you know I can't read it.” And, that person every day, every night after work after the restaurant closed would sit with him and teach him to read.

Nick

I mean that's see that's humanity right like that's my favorite thing on earth. It's like at the end of the day, you're a human being, I'm a human being, let's just let's just talk about it. Like how can I help you, and so to me the richest experiences in my life have always if—and especially I tell anyone if you don't know what to do next just serve somebody.

Clinton

Yeah.

Nick

You'll be shocked at the opportunity that comes your way because like you can't be creative in a state of of uh, of scarcity but when you open your mind to like first of all it's not about me anymore like if you hyper-focus on yourself you never solve anything when you've realized it's not about you there's a world that's going to live and breathe even after you die they're all I mean they're gonna be sad for a little bit it might be one person—might be nobody might be millions who cares but you're gone it doesn't matter. But man if you just find someone to serve like opportunity abundance creativity just like shows up. So I…those are the stories I love and why I love telling stories because there's way more of that going on in the world than anyone knows oh, because it's not it's not publicized yeah it's not right.

Clinton

And people typically don't talk about it absolutely so on another note if you want to be introduced I could introduce you to a friend of mine named Julia Young who runs a not-for-profit called Page 15.

Nick

Okay.

Clinton

Which is, you know, an organization dedicated to helping underprivileged kids get the tools and resources they need.

Nick

Anyone doing that I'd love to meet. You know I always say at this point who knows what happens so yes, please.

Clinton

And then—weird coincidence too—very much into music yeah and they're a big fundraiser they just did…I was there, they do it well. I think they had to take a couple years off because of COVID they just did just did it late last year. It's called Mixtape, and they—it's a concert.

Nick

Well I like all those things.

Clinton

Yeah so there's definitely some synergy there and they're super good people: her and her husband.

Nick

Cool yeah, please.

Clinton

Yeah so so what's next for you so I mean you're gonna keep making films but like yeah what's—is there anything sort of there's…

Nick

A few that I mean. So the agency that we have—I love serving the clients we serve. I just turned over the day-to-day to people who are better than me at it, so we'll continue to do that and help, you know, entrepreneurs [and] professionals find those opportunities to share their story because literally there are amazing people whether they ever will make it to, you know to Nobel Peace Prize status or not there's amazing people in every community who—sometimes they're just really great dentists, and they also do this but like everyone has a story to share, and I love helping those people share their stories so they can help more people. And then music, I just can't quit. It's just the drug of choice. So I'll continue to do that. I love doing that. It's interesting at first—well, forever I really shied away from the idea of writing any music for my documentaries because I thought it could be corny and one of my friends is like, “You're an idiot.” It's like so…I wrote, I wrote, co-wrote with a couple amazingly talented Grammy nominated buddies. I mean, I've been doing it so long now, my friends are great. And uh we wrote a song for my documentary about Folds of Honor who's given over a million in scholarships to the families of fallen soldiers. And of course, I wrote it with guys who are super talented. So the song came out great. And Lee Bryce just cut that for us. Um we have a song in our new human trafficking [documentary] we're working on getting cut. Um, we just wrote a song for the Dick Vitale documentary that has got…ESPN loves it. Like we're so…music is not and hopefully now I can do more of it together. And then filmmaking yeah, I don't know. Like, I don't—I'm honing in more and more. Like, I definitely now have quite a bit of experience doing the type of film I make. I'm really mostly interested in biographies. I'm just fascinated by people and some humanitarian stuff. When it gets more into activism, social justice, just things that I believe in, but I'm not I'm not fascinated by, I'm going to bring in other people to direct those sorts of things. But I still want to be able to—I still want to have the stories use those things and help and help put together, help make them make sure they happen, and then happen the right way. So we're building…I'm building a brand now called Astonish Entertainment, Astonish will be my uh…it's based on a Mark Twain quote, and it is a you know “do right always, it will gratify some and astonish the rest.” My my designer actually took Mark Twain's handwriting from different letters he'd written and put together it's pretty cool—

Clinton

That's cool.

Nick

So that's going to be really—that's where my life's work from here on out. It’s going to happen, there's music under that, there's film under that, we've got some based on true story rights to some life stories and we'll probably do some feature film work with…. So um you know I'm just uh just taking the next step, but I'm trying to make sure that I don't get lost in—I uh don't get lost in anything. I'm really just like staying within my unique ability because that's what serves me and everyone else best, I'm going to continue to have the best conversations I can have every day and try to figure out what's the most helpful outcome we could produce that would that would inspire other people, raise money, um teach people, show them there's hope whatever that is and just do that and don't get too don't get too caught up. Like I'm a big dreamer, of course, don't get too caught up like, “Oh I have to do it this way.” Because if I did that, I never would have started this agency, and that agency would never have given me the freedom to— because basically up to this point every film I've made, um every film I've made I wanted to make. Other than clients hiring me to make films, no one else just wrote me a check to make it like, “Hey make this movie.” Like, I'm about—we're starting to get there. We're having some conversations about taking me and some other things where there's like…some people were like, “Hey we want this film,” and that's great but I was always made the film because I wanted to make it. And I thought the message was important and I want to make it the way. I wanted to make it, and I didn't want someone else telling me how I need to add some negativity and some drama and some like whatever if it wasn't needed. And so, I've been really sort of a spoiled brat when it comes to making—I just made the films I want to make. And I had a lot of friends who are like, “Yeah we'll help you with that, no problem. We'll help fund it. We'll help do it. Whatever.” And so now I'm you know I'm turning 42, and uh I got the rest of my life to do this so I'm just gonna figure out how to do it. But I'm not gonna—I'm not gonna try to pigeonhole myself too much where I would not know where I'd miss a great opportunity because I didn't know to look for [it].

Clinton

Yeah it yeah, so where should people go to find your work? Is it Nicknanton.com or do you have…

Nick

Yeah that's a great place to start. We've got a ton of stuff on Amazon, got quite a bit on Youtube um we over—depending on the time frame you watch this, um sometimes we have stuff on Netflix. I'm sure sometimes we'll have some stuff on Hulu and all the others. Um, but nicknanton.com and then follow me on Instagram at Nicknanton. You'll know what I'm doing for the most part, and you know if I can be of help to anybody, you know, feel free to reach out. You know, I can't do everything but I'm happy to connect. I'm happy to share, I'm happy to connect people with other people, um you know I think that's uh—I hate the term self-made. I don't believe in it, I believe that we're all where we're at because whether you recognize it or saw it or not whether it's in front of you or in a back room, some people have been helping you your whole life. And so I would never be where I mean if there weren't enough people who are like, “You know what? Yeah I'll connect you, I'll make that I'll help you.” So I'm always happy to try to do that for other people.

Clinton

Great, great, well thank you all for joining us today and listening. Uh, hope you enjoyed this episode of Sound Connections and tune in next time.

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