Grey Goose Notable: Billie Mintz

Notable.ca has partnered with Grey Goose, the World’s Best Tasting Vodka, to celebrate an exclusive series of Grey Goose Notables: young professionals and entrepreneurs who are influential taste-makers. For the next 10 weeks, we will feature two unique Notables who have made it – young professionals who have reached success beyond their years. We’ll show you how these Notables enjoy what they’ve earned – how they entertain friends, where they travel, what drives them from the office to the golf course – and how they celebrate life and all it has to offer. So, raise a glass as we toast to the Grey Goose Notables…

Billie Mintz started ARC (Artists Raising Consciousness) Institute in 1999, and since has used the art of storytelling to raise awareness on issues not typically being addressed by society’s collective. ARC’s implementation and execution of Advomentaries (Advocacy Documentaries) has helped bring to light the struggles of disenfranchised groups and social causes surrounding many of our society’s issues. Billie Mintz also runs a boutique agency called imagin8r, where he continues his love of storytelling by creating video content for brands online. It’s just another one of his avenues for showcasing his talents. His own story is one that is inspiring and worthy of note.

Billie spent a short period of time at Trent University in Native Studies, learning how the government dealt with Native issues and the extent of this group’s marginalization. He gained a sincere interest in how this disenfranchised group was underrepresented in our media and in our day-to-day conversations, and this struck a chord and led to a profound realization: Billie wanted to be a storyteller.

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After leaving Trent, a chance encounter started his new journey. Billie met Raul, the “Superdancer of the World,” on the streets of Toronto, where Raul would perform for passersby. Billie was inspired by this 69-year-old Inca native, and he began working with Raul in a managerial role, helping to bring him further into the world of performance and story-telling, and putting on guerilla theatre in public and producing a series of films that garnered acclaim at various festivals. Billie says, “Every project since that one was in spirit of what I learned from Raul.”

From here, ARC was born and in 2005 really came to fruition, with Billie’s career as a purveyor of social advocacy messaging via film and differing forms of media showing exemplary promise. In 2005, Billie met Myles McLellan, who was suffering from a brain tumour and because of how he talked and his physical appearance due to treatment became isolated from society. His story needed to be told, and so Billie did what he does best, he created cantcatchcancer.com and gave Myles representation, helping to get his story across so no other child would have to go through what Myles had to endure. This journey was documented and brought forth in Surviving the Treatment: The Return of Myles McLellan, a very touching advomentary (you can watch it here, and we highly recommend spending an hour getting to know Myles) about Myles’ final year. (Subsequently, Billie produced, co-wrote, and co-directed The Long Journey Home, an animated fable inspired by Myles’ story.)

Part of Billie’s inherent need to provide a voice for the voiceless is because there’s “a lot of purpose within these people. Some of the biggest mysteries of life and answers to our confusion lie within them.” Through ARC’s films and use of social media – notably the recent Message In The Bottle campaign to raise awareness about responsible drinking in a truly modern and telling way – Billie has brought discussion to some of the most needed societal issues. “I don’t determine success by how many people see my work. My focus is on doing the best I can to provide a resource, and when an issue directly impacts someone, they’re thankful someone else recognizes it. It’s how I have built my legacy, how I have helped contribute to creating a healthy society…When people see our work, it opens them.”

billie mintz

Billie and ARC can be looked at as conduits for the messages they bring to the forefront. The use of others’ stories allows them to greater affect an overall conversation surrounding a given issue.

When talking with Billie, it’s clear he has a passion for what he does, and he gets no greater satisfaction than being able to use his work to give a megaphone to the tiniest of voices. ARC has recently switched its model and has become a non-profit organization, and is now working with charitable and funding organizations to be able to move more towards focusing on the human condition. “In order to change behaviour, we need to focus on humans and why we do what we do. We need to create healthier human beings, who are more hospitable, generous, and empathetic.” We have no doubt that with Billie and ARC Institute at the helm of this endeavour, a change will surely begin to be seen.

Billie Mintz is a notable, and to him, notable is “something that brings us together for a shared experience; things that are enjoyed equally amongst each other that cause excitement.”

What is your general life philosophy? / What advice would you want to share with others?
Don’t provoke and don’t be provoked. People don’t get along when they break these rules. The ultimate goal in life is to get along with others the best you can. Aside from that, have faith that everything will work out and when it doesn’t, know that opportunity will come along. It’s important to replace negative thoughts with better, more positive ones, because if you dwell on the negative they will grow in your mind; it’s important not to feed them. You need to practice diligence to replace these thoughts with healthier ones. It’s like driving a car: If you let go of the wheel, the car will drift to the side of the road; keep both hands on the wheel as much as you can.

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The best advice I have ever received is from my father. He taught me you need three traits to “succeed in this world” as a “man”: kindness, kindness, and kindness. There isn’t a person on the planet who has met my father who doesn’t express words of love about this man. He is a retired principal and if I were to meet any of his former students they would say “I love Mr. Mintz!” when many other students never even met their principal. If I ask him about a particular student I meet, he most always remembers them – even 20 years later. I know in my own personal and professional life, when I feel like I am channeling my father, I feel I am doing something right.

What is it about you that you feel attracts others to you?
I think people are attracted to my energy and enthusiasm about life and about their own lives. I see that we are all mirrors of each other that give glimpses into ourselves, so when someone’s life story excites me for the inspiration I receive from it, they are then able to see how exciting their own life is in turn. As a storyteller, I see the sacred journey in all our own experiences and am excited to illustrate that to others. At the same time, a lot of feedback I get from people is my ability to be quiet and still. People feel comfortable in my presence because my stillness allows them to come forward. There is nothing I enjoy more than watching people come out of their shell and share their story.

Someone once told me that my eternal optimism is like a mental illness because I always look at the positive side of things. If something goes sour, then I immediately try to put both a healthy spin on it and see how I can come out ahead. In my film The Ponzi Scheme, I lost my life savings along with hundreds of other people around the globe that amassed to over a $200 million collective loss. Immediately I saw the opportunity in telling such a story and knew that my loss was an investment in a good and important tale. I ended up profiting from the loss well beyond what I invested from both life experience and the proceeds from the film.

Why were the early stages of your career (which can be some of the toughest years of any successful business person’s life) worth what you are now able to enjoy?
The beginning of my business is a story like none other: I met a man on the street named Raul who believed he was the “Superdancer of the World.” Many people walked by him thinking he was crazy. He was 69 at the time, and thought he was famous. He had asked me to be his manager, and recognizing the potential of this story I entered his fantasy world full-time for three years. I would meet with him in 24-hour donut shops and help him achieve his dreams. I figured if I can make Raul famous, then I can do anything. As I was only 21, I wrestled with both finding the story and wondering if I was crazy or not. They were very tough years as I struggled both financially and creatively to find the story and meaning of this very special man. It was a nut (literally), that was hard to crack.

But this is what people now hire me for – to figure out the story in complex issues. Luckily I was able to listen to a voice inside me that said to my 21-year-old self at the time: “stick with this. It’s brilliant. You will learn a lot.” Raul became my mentor and to this day his lessons resonate within my work. I ended up writing a play and it was produced at the Tarragon Theatre to rave reviews. I am currently retelling the story in screenplay format.

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How do you enjoy life? What are some of your life indulgences?
Life enjoyment is a common pursuit yet many people, if they were really honest past their pursuit of enjoyment, they would admit to a thick layer of unhappiness that they are trying to mask. I have been learning the art of stillness and acceptance: Regardless of things not working out the way you want it to, enjoyment comes from within. I have become a much happier person since I learned to accept reality as opposed to pursuing some concept of “enjoyment that is fleeting and at surface level.” True enjoyment is not something you do but rather a way of being. I indulge in psycho-therapy and the works of Edmund Bergler, a student of Freud. His method, I truly believe, is the solution to happiness and enjoyment. Everyone should check out what they can about his work because if we were all living with some basic rules, like “What you do [our actions and the things we say] should not hurt ourselves or other people,” then we would be much better off and life itself and our interactions would be more enjoyable.

The most important part of life enjoyment to me is recognizing the story that I am living and what part of the story I am in. Story is a technology; a tool that helps answer the greatest question of life: “Why am I here?” Every story I write and hear fulfils a little piece of this puzzle, and I receive great joy from this. I can’t not mention Facebook as far as indulgence goes. Facebook changed my life. We have an ability to share and communicate with people like never before and I receive great enjoyment from my online interactions that lead to offline acquaintances.

What do you do to keep active, healthy, and vibrant?
I started taking physical exercise very seriously in the last couple years. Currently, I am training with Wil McLean in his own gym above the Double Deuce Bar in Queen West. This man is amazing and has transformed my body in the time I have been with him. I also have a part-time band where I write and play music. I have an album coming out this fall. This type of creative pursuit brings great joy to me.

Any personal entertaining secrets you’d care to share with us?
I am a homebody, so there is nothing I like more than having people over. I love to cook, I love to tell stories, and I love most of all to entertain. When a guest is in my house they are treated like an ambassador from another country and they are the most important person in the world to me at that moment. My intent is to have them leave my place thinking, “Wow. I had such a great time.”

As well, I always like to have a certain amount of preparedness in my apartment for when unexpected entertaining might take place. A bottle of champagne in the fridge, food, mix, ice in the freezer. You never know when you are out who you will run into and who will end up coming back to your place. It always pays off when a group of people come back to your home and you have all the ingredients ready to host an impromptu gathering in the late hours of the night.

Do you cook? If yes, what is your best dish? If no, what is your favourite dish to be cooked for you?
I have been able to convince many people that I am a great cook when really I just have a couple tricks. I have my “dishes” that I have become pretty good at making but the trick behind everything is: 1. Miso, and 2. Use it on everything. I find consistency of flavour in your sauces through all the dishes helps bring a meal together very well.

What is your favourite drink? / What is the best drink that you make?
I make a mean breakfast shake. Almond butter, dates, almond milk, bananas, and whatever supplements help you get through the day.