IFH 336

IFH 336: Personal Branding and Why I Legally Changed My Name


Right-click here to download the MP3

In today’s world, personal branding is more important than ever. I wanted to discuss what personal branding is, how to go about it and examples of how other world-famous filmmakers branded themselves. What is the definition of personal branding?

Personal branding is the practice of marketing people and their careers as brands. It is an ongoing process of developing and maintaining a reputation and impression of an individual, group, or organization. Whereas some self-help practices focus on self-improvement, personal branding defines success as a form of self-packaging. The term is thought to have originated from an article written by Tom Peters in 1997. In Be, Your Own Brand, first published in 1999, marketers David McNally and Karl Speak wrote: “Your brand is a perception or emotion, maintained by somebody other than you, that describes the total experience of having a relationship with you.”

Individuals sometimes associate personal names or pseudonyms with their businesses. Celebrities may also leverage their social status to support organizations for financial or social gain. For example, Kim Kardashian endorses brands and products through her media influence. – Wikipedia

I also discuss why I legally changed my name to Alex Ferrari when I was 18 years old. I hope you start thinking of not only what your personal brand is but also how to build it. Enjoy!

Alex Ferrari 2:00
Now guys, today is a special episode because I'm going to talk about something that I have never publicly talked about. And it's something that I've been asked a bunch of times in the course of my career, but I've always been kind of cagey about it and just never really never thought it was anybody's business. But I really thought that this, this information needed to get out there. And you guys know me to be very honest and straightforward and, and transparent with you guys. And today we're going to talk about personal branding. And how a personal brand yourself as a filmmaker, as a businessman as a film to printer, and all those and all of the above. And the one thing that I have been asked a ton in my my entire career is my last name. People always ask me about Ferrari Alex, how did Where did you get that name? Like how is that possible? You're Cuban guy from South Florida? How do you have a last name Ferrari. And I'm gonna say it now I've never said this story publicly before but I legally changed my name. When I was 18 years old on I think close to my 18 year old 18th birthday, I went down to the courthouse and change my last name to Ferrari. Now my original last name is very similar to Ferrari just a little bit different. But Ferrari was a name that was always, always in my head rattling around. And instinctively, I knew that having a name like Ferrari would make me stand out of the crowd. And I didn't want to, you know, have a stage name or something like that. Because I was 18 years old, I would there's no reason to have a stage name for God's sakes. But I knew instinctively that I wanted something to make me pop, especially when you were looking at a ton of resumes, or you are looking at a reel, that last name would stick out and people would remember you. And that's exactly why I did it. I originally was thinking about marketing. I was I was thinking about branding, and the name Ferrari which again was similar to my original last name, but I just thought it would make me stand out and guess what guys it did. I've gotten so much work over the years purely because of name recognition, because it made me stand out is is an extreme case of branding and personal branding. I am not suggesting that you go out and legally change your name to a cool last name or something like that. Don't go out and call yourself a Porsche or Lamborghini got I've heard that joke too many times in my life. But it was just something that made sense for me. And I was very, very happy that I've done it. I've never looked back I have now be I've been a Ferrari much longer than I was my original last name and by the way, my parents were not happy at all. About Me changing my name, you know, my dad, my mom, they were very, very, very upset about it. But I'm the kind of guy that just, you know, plays by my own rules, if you will, and just dance dance to my own beat. And it was just something that made sense to me. And it was something that something that rang true to me that I'm like, Oh, this is supposed to be my name, I have to be this name. And it has been, again, I can't tell you how much work I've gotten because of that name change. It has been, even when I was pa ng, and I was, you know, starting up and coming up in the business. I mean, I remember being on set as a PA or an intern, and people would just call me I Ferrari go over here, Ferrari over this Ferrari over that. And it was such a powerful thing for me. And I'm telling you this story, because I want to talk about personal branding in this episode. And better no better way to do it than to talk about my own personal branding and how I was able to brand myself as a filmmaker. And now as a host, and a podcaster, and author and a director and, and all the other things that I do. That name has really helped me out a lot. And oddly enough, Ferrari is not a name that's associated with the film industry. In the least it's no, it's associated with a car, and very famous, and very high end cars. So again, that association does help. I didn't call myself the Nova or the Pinto, Alex Pinto probably wouldn't have worked as well as Alex Ferrari. But again, it was just a name that, that I've been thinking about and dreaming about, honestly, for years prior to me making that decision. And it was a very, very serious decision to change your name legally, but and I had to go through a lot of hoops to do so. But I did. Now let's look at personal branding, what is the definition of personal branding? Personal Branding is the practice of marketing yourself, or your career as a brand. And that is so important in today's world, in the world of social media, and the world of getting jobs, people are always looking at your personal brand. So let me give you an example of a personal brand. If you have a Facebook account, a Twitter account, Instagram account, and you're a new, you know, you're you're an up and coming filmmaker who's trying to get a job as an editor somewhere, people are going to do checks on you. And they're going to look at what you're posting how you're posting, and whatever you're posting out there. Whatever you're putting out into the world that's associated with you in your name, people are going to associate with it. So if you're out there, on your Facebook page, and you're drinking and having parties and you know, acting a fool and doing foolish things, chances are when a potential employer or client looks you up and sees what you've been doing, they're probably not going to give you the job. So you have to think about these things. When you post stuff, when you express yourself on social media, in your website, things like that, whatever that brand might be, your brand might be the crazy guy who goes around, you know, shooting, you know, scare videos, or whatever that is, that might be a brand that you know, people have made millions of dollars on YouTube doing that, you've just have to watch you in this episode to kind of sit down and think about what is my personal brand? What do I want to associate myself with? And what is the end game of my personal brand? And it doesn't mean that you have to have a podcast, it doesn't mean that you're going to be a you know, a huge brand that's going to be worth millions of dollars? No, it could be it's like as micro as how am I gonna present myself to the world to get a job to build a build a business to get clients to, you know, to get that internship, how would you want to present yourself by building that website by putting out your social media, you have to think about these things. I took it to an extreme with, you know, changing my name legally to Alex Ferrari. And by that association, that name alone brought images of high end quality, power, speed, all sorts of things based on the Association of the term Ferrari, which is based on of course, the Ferrari Motor Company, and I started to leverage that image over the course of my career people would you know, on a subconscious level, associate My name with that. And then when they would look me up on either social media back then it would be like MySpace or something like that. But whenever they looked up social media or they went to my website, I would project a very polished, very professional, slick looking You know, image on my website on the websites design on the the clients that I've worked with all of that kind of stuff. These are things you need to think about when you're putting out a personal brand. Now, one other thing I'm going to talk about about your personal brand is how you can leverage other brands to help build your own brand. So I've told this story, I think once before, but I'll tell it again when I was when I came out to LA for the first time. years ago, when I got here over a decade ago, I was offered a job to color Grade A music video for no money. They're like, Look, man, we have no money, but Snoop Dogg is in the mute. It's a music videos and music video for Snoop Dogg. And I was like, Yes, I'll do it. And it cost me a day day and a half of my time. But then I was able to put Snoop Dogg front and center on my company's website on my own personal website, as well, like, hey, I've worked with this caliber of artists. And because of that association, automatically, I started getting bigger jobs, more, getting more money, all of these things because I did one free job. And I was leveraging Snoop Dogg's. Snoop Dogg's credibility, Snoop Dogg's fame and all those kind of things. And you could do the same thing with as an editor, I did it early on in my career with my my spec demo reel, where I leveraged a bunch of highly produced footage that I edited together to make fake commercial, then I would slap a Nike logo at the end of it. And I would put it up as my work. I did the work. But I didn't actually work for Nike, but it was called a spec reel. And when people asked, I always told the truth. But when they didn't ask, I just let them assume this way you did when you started out, you know, you fake it till you make it, and a whole episode on how to fake it till you make it. But that is also branding, so that those associations helped my personal brand as a editor coming up in the Miami editing market back in the 90s. Because of the association, I was able to do, and there was nobody else doing that back then. So I was able to stand out. So not only my name, but also the Association of the projects I was able to create and put out helped my brand. So if you have a Facebook account, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter accounts, or any other social media counseling, then and so on, by posting these projects with these higher end people that you're able to get sometimes for free, sometimes paid gigs, when you're starting out that association really build your personal brand, or your company's brand, your production company's brand, your post production company's brand, whatever that brand might be. So I again, this episode's about you thinking, I want you to start thinking about who you are as a personal brand. And if you think for a second that it doesn't matter, you're wrong. I'm sorry to tell you that you are wrong. In today's world, and in the world that we're walking into over the next 10 or 15 years, how much do you think your personal brand is going to matter? about getting from getting a job? How much do you think that personal brand is going to matter when you're trying to court a new client for your production company or trying to get a new gig, it's going to mean a lot guys, it's going to mean a tremendous amount. So if you start building that personal brand now, building that company brand now, that is going to be so valuable to you. And the people who aren't doing it are going to be left behind. And I know a lot of people listening right now go look Alex Willis, I have a I have a production company, I have a company that I build their, their their branding, I brand the company, I don't want to brand myself, on a micro level, you know, you need to brand yourself as something of quality of the kind of projects you do. If you're a creative, you got to brand yourself. If you're behind the scenes, you're branding yourself just based on the kind of projects you're working on. I know people who work than I did this early on is you would start doing work on any low budget thing that came your way. And at the beginning, you have to do that. But at a certain point you need to shift that if you don't, you're going to be working on those kinds of projects for the rest of your life. So you essentially start have to shift that personal brand, you got to shift the branding and the association were like, Oh, this guy, he doesn't do movies for $1,000 to color great an entire movie. He's going to be paid 10 or $15,000 if not 30 or $40,000 to color great a movie if not even more depending on how much of a prestigious brand you are building. I want you to just think about it, guys. Think about your branding. Think about your company's branding. Think about your your own branding. And also think about your movie and projects, branding, and how those projects that you're working on are building, how they affect your brand. So if all of a sudden, I start directing porn for no apparent reason, and I'm like, Hey, guys, I'm really into porn right now. That's probably going to change my brand. Does that make sense? I'm gonna start being known as Oh, Alex. Alex Ferrari. Yeah, he's a porn director. Now. You know, that's what he does. He used to direct movies and independent films, but for whatever reason, he's doing porn. Now. That's going to change my personal brand, completely. Am I right? You know, ask yourself the question. If I started changing and started doing those kind of movies, that's the kind of brand I'm building. You know. I'm going to talk about an amazing horror director by the name of Wes Craven. Now, Wes, if you don't know who West is, is in his work. He was the one that came up with Nightmare on Elm Street. It hills have two eyes are a thing. Yeah, hills had two eyes and a house around the corner, the scream franchise, all of these amazing films that were all horror. And he when he originally got into the business, he didn't particularly want to do horror movies. It just kind of he just kind of fell into doing horror movies. And for the rest of his career, he tried to break out of that branding that personal brand. People just knew him as the horror guy. And he could he never was able to break out of that he tried once. I think he leveraged the sequel to scream like, if you want me to do the sequel of scream, you got to give me music of the heart, which was a movie with Meryl Streep and Gloria Estefan about violins in a school system. And it was a beautiful movie. But people just didn't care. Because Wes is not known for that it's hard to break through that branding, you know, and he didn't think about that when he was coming up. So he was kind of stuck in that branding for the rest of his life. Unlike the Coen Brothers, whose first film was this dark, gritty blood simple this like, new or a film noir slash slacker film, kindness, it was like a weird combination of stuff. And that was their first film. And people were like, Oh, that's the kind of filmmakers they are, well, they threw everybody on the on the top of their head when their second film came out was raising Arizona. So now the Coen Brothers brand is that they can do whatever the heck they want, they could do a serious drama, they can do comedy, they can jump back and forth, they could combine the two, whatever, it doesn't matter, because that's the brand that they were able to create for themselves. So think about those kind of that kind of branding for you in your career. So I hope this episode helped you guys just begin to think about personal branding, company branding, just branding in general for yourself, for your companies, for your films, because it is so so, so important. And where we are going with all the social media with all the access and the and the lack of privacy that we're going to be going into and are already in becoming a personal brand and building a personal brand. Whatever your values are, whatever kind of projects you want to work on whatever kind of stories you want to tell, you better start thinking about it and branding yourself. And, in guys, if you don't have a personal website, for God's sakes, go get a personal website, you got to build a personal website for yourself. Even if you're just a first ad, just if you're a you know, a PA started up, get your URL for your name, and build a website and and just tell people what you're doing. It's invaluable guys. So I hope this helped out a lot. If you want a link to a couple of books on personal branding, I'm gonna put them in the show notes at indiefilmhustle.com/336. And guys next week, I'm going to be doing an announcement a large announcement that announcement I've been talking about for a while. Again, it's not as big as filmtrepreneur. But it is fairly big. It's something I've never done before for the tribe. So keep an ear out and watch social media and all sorts of stuff. I'm going to be announcing something fairly large next week. So check it out. Oh, by the way, also on August 16, I'm going to be speaking with my brother from another mother are be from states that are too at the holly shorts Film Festival at 6pm. I'm gonna put links to getting tickets in the show notes. And I'm also possibly going to be doing a whole other section or another talk on filmtrepreneur on how to become a entrepreneurial filmmaker also on Holly shorts, but we haven't set up the date yet. So we're hopefully getting that done as soon as possible. So thanks again for listening guys. I really hope this episode helps you out and makes you start thinking about your own personal brand. As always, keep that hustle going Keep that dream alive and I'll talk to you soon.

Free Training of The Week


How to Produce a Profitable Low Budget Feature Film

By Suzanne Lyons

Join veteran producer Suzanne Lyons as she shows you the three key secrets to produce a successful and profitable independent film.