The MAST lab “Business of the Business,” led by writer, director and producer Jerusha Hess.

MAST: Empowering the Artist Entrepreneur

Art

Miles Romney found himself in the concrete jungle of Los Angeles trying to make a name for young, eclectic filmmakers. But the city, having little patience for developing artists, ignored and displaced his work with a preference for larger, mass-marketed titles done by already known and renowned figures. Disgruntled, he took a step back to recollect his thoughts and reevaluate his efforts. After some time, his interests would eventually cross with those of the Salt Lake Film Society (SLFS). Both he and SLFS wanted to create a platform for developing filmmakers to make original content. They would decide to combine their efforts and together founded the media-studio accelerator MAST.

Today, MAST is a program put on by SLFS and is driven to help young filmmakers and artists hone their craft and to become “artist entrepreneurs”—fledgling filmmakers who know how to construct a proper business plan in distributing their work, which is a skill many creators today lack. “Successful artists must be entrepreneurs,” says Romney, “but art schools rarely teach business-survival skills like marketing, networking, brand-building, accounting or even how to build a business plan. That’s where we come in.”

MAST offers grants, networks, labs, fellowships and an impressive group of advisors and mentors consisting of Richard Scott (Dean of Salt Lake Community College’s School of Arts, Communication and Media), Jon Beutler (Alumni Manager at Goldman Sachs’ 10,000 Small Businesses), Eric Doctorow (former President of Paramount Pictures Worldwide Home Entertainment) and Jared and Jerusha Hess (directors of Napoleon Dynamite), among others. These resources and mentors give the artist entrepreneurs an opportunity to work in a professional setting alongside seasoned professionals of the arts and learn what the industry actually looks like.

"Art schools rarely teach business-survival skills like marketing, networking, brand-building, accounting or even how to build a business plan. That’s where we come in.”

[caption id="attachment_103796" align="alignright" width="400"]A still from one of Gabriela Badillo's animated productions for MAST. Photo courtesy of MAST[/caption]

Romney says they find their art entrepreneurs through MAST’s own networks. Examples include Springboard contests they hold a handful of times every year, their labs and by having artists simply reach out to the organization with an interest in learning how to distribute their work better. One of their current entrepreneurs is Gabriela Badillo, an animator whom they found through SLFSFilméxico program in 2018. She also was a winner for MAST’s Voices Seen project—a contest and now-upcoming animated short film Romney calls a “phenomenal” opportunity for young animators—having entered her short film, Matlatzinca. She is now working under a fellowship for MAST, continuing to work on the Voices Seen project, as well as projects of her own design.

Before joining MAST, Badillo had been working on her 68 VOCES project, which is centered around the idea of preserving 68 indigenous languages of Mexico, some of which are at a high risk of disappearing from the country altogether. The project, a series of 36 (of the 68 languages) animated short films, is an effort to preserve and stop discrimination against these languages, as well as trying to get people to understand what they can lose, even if they aren’t aware that it exists in the first place. She says the series has developed on the premise that “no one can love what they don’t know.”

MAST, for me is an incredible initiative of the Salt Lake Film Society to help artists to grow, connect and be better.”

One interesting thing about Badillo is that she doesn’t view herself as an artist, but rather as someone who uses art as a form of communication. “I love the idea of being able to communicate ideas through a graphic [medium],” she says, “and making it my main [form] of communication.” For her, art is a way to override communication breakdowns and transcend to something relatable. “I think art opens doors and helps us to cross boundaries, as it is a universal language and helps us to get deeper when it really connects,” says Badillo.

She is continuing her fellowship with MAST by working as an animator on the Voices Seen short animated film, directed by Jared and Jerusha and starring Tim Blake Nelson (Ballad of Buster Scruggs). Badillo hopes to keep MAST at the heart of her work. She and the organization are working to develop two more short films for her 68 VOCES series, covering two more indigenous languages of Mexico.

MAST hopes that it can continue to provide aid to young artists and the greater Salt Lake City area in curating new and eclectic content. “MAST, for me is an incredible initiative of the Salt Lake Film Society to help artists to grow, connect and be better,” says Badillo, “not only artists, but entrepreneurs, helping also with growth in the film industry and the reach of the art itself, everywhere.”

The Voices Seen film can be previewed at maststudio.org, along with more of MAST’s contest entries, programs, labs and the many other exciting projects and events the organization and its fellows are working on. And for anyone interested in more of Badillo’s work, visit holacombo.com and 68voces.mx, or wait for it to be curated through the media studio accelerator.


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Utah's Filmmaking Future – The Artist Foundry Giving Salt Lake's Youth a Voice: Spy Hop's Film Program