Ali Liebert, Nicholas Carella and Michelle Ouellet: Today’s Notable Young Entrepreneurs

Today’s Notable Young Entrepreneurs are Ali Liebert, Nicholas Carella and Michelle Ouellet, who launched Sociable Films as a community approach to filmmaking. What was the inspiration behind their idea? Find out in today’s profile…

Elevator Pitch: Describe your business in a nutshell.
Sociable Films is a community disguised as a business. The idea is that everyone has a hook-up and if you team up with your friends, then your hook-ups become their hook-ups too and vice versa. By approaching filmmaking as a community, these massive undertakings quickly become attainable, everyone chipping in a little and getting a little in return. Sometimes more than a little in return.

Why did you start your business, what was the inspiration?
We formed Sociable Films originally because the three of us wanted to make one movie together, and as we searched for that one script we had this fantasy about being able to dictate our own careers. Why wait for that breakout role/project/opportunity to come around when you’re as smart or ambitious or creative as the people you’re trying to convince to give you that chance? In Vancouver, we are surrounded by a TON of wonderfully creative and talented and ambitious friends and colleagues. We already have everything we need to be successful at making good films… RIGHT IN FRONT OF US! So we thought, “Hey, what the heck? Let’s do this!” We’ll figure out soon enough if it was a bad idea.

What is the best part of what you do on a day-to-day basis? The most challenging part?
The best part is seeing the enthusiasm in our community for what we are trying to do. It’s sort of what we gambled on – that the Vancouver film community was actually as supportive as it appeared to be. We’ve been really fortunate that, like us, folks around here just like making movies. If your career is your hobby, you never work a day in your life, right? Another gratifying element is that you are always working toward an end. Eventually your movie is done and you get to step back for a second and say, “We made this. This didn’t EXIST before and now it does.”

The biggest challenge thus far is that we have been responsible for the lion’s share of operating costs (though that is quickly changing) for the last two years along with the fact that we have a staff of THREE working for Sociable Films. At least on the day-to-day stuff; the unglamorous stuff, like applications and press kits and filing taxes and returning emails and all that. The challenge is that no matter how many hours you work, you will always be behind, so it’s more of a game of “what am I willing to let slide this week.”

Where do you see your business going in five years?
Well, we are currently working on formalizing a slate of Sociable Films to be shot and released over the next five years. A good chunk of the financing is in place and we will be making a formal announcement in regards to those projects early next year. We are really proud of the films we are about to make. In five years’ time, we see Sociable Films perhaps being a one-stop shop for film development, production, post-production and perhaps even distribution. That last part may be year seven, but we always round in our own favour.

What does success look like to you?
Success is waking up and doing exactly what you want to do. For Sociable Films, the company is successful if we are proud of every film we make and the people that invest their money, time and energy are happy they were involved. We are trying really hard to leave no one with a bitter taste in their mouths.

What is the most memorable milestone in your career?
For Sociable Films that milestone actually just passed, at The Whistler Film Festival, where screened our first film, Afterparty.

Do you have any advice for other young professionals?
Do what you love and stick with it. Running a business is a marathon, not a sprint, and there are as many lows as there are highs. Sticking with your business philosophy is key. I think of all my friends that I grew up with who are professional lawyers, for example, it will take them at least 10 years to make partner. It’s the same thing for freelance work; on average it takes 10 years to get to the top of your field. It’s all about the long game.

Do you support any charities? If so, which one(s) and why is that important to you?
We are big supporters of the IT GETS BETTER PROJECT. We agree that gay rights are very important to us, but in reality, HUMAN rights are very important to us. If more people looked at bullying and segregation and abuse and prejudice as a human problem, very few could justify being polarized on these issues. Locally, in Vancouver, the work Maureen Webb and Donalda Weaver are doing with THE PROJECT LIME LIGHT SOCIETY; providing children in East Vancouver the opportunity to be creative is pretty inspiring as well. In our society, being an artist is seen as a privilege and they are showing that perhaps there are intrinsic merits to making art a part of a child’s development.

What is Notable to you?
Having the ability to be your own biggest fan and your own harshest critic and to stand by your work because YOU think it’s good. Not in a delusional sense, but in a way where you don’t need the validation of others. Knowing something’s good before someone else is the definition of cool.

Blackberry, iPhone, Android, or Other?
iPhone. It makes sense since all our other systems are Apple products.

How do you keep active, energetic, and vibrant?
Vancouver is a small enough city that you can walk anywhere you need to go. If you have 45 minutes and feet, you can get there.

Photo by Jessie Robertson