This is a guest post from Cami, our Community Plug.
Taking a leap of faith to follow your dreams is always scary. Trusting your talent while society is telling you that school is the only way to be financially successful is something that many would love to do, but haven’t been able to do. Our community plug Cami linked up with Bay Area directors Keoni and David Camarena to discuss their art, and how they found a way to do what they love, in a world that is constantly telling them not to.
While sifting through artist to find an interesting story that could be inspiring, I stumbled upon Keoni’s videos on YouTube. I had met Keoni a few times but never got the chance to talk to him until really recently and I’m so glad I did because this guy’s story sounds straight out of a movie. 25 year old Oakland/SF native Keoni might be the next star behind the camera from the Bay.
Keoni Marcelo went to college on and off but only accumulated 3 semesters worth. He got “stuck” working at a PF Changs full time after he stopped going to community college. He was at Heald College for Dental Assisting and quit after he had to inspect a mouth.
“Working a 9-5 wasn’t something I wanted. But I do know how to survive and taking care of life’s responsibilities is just as important as chasing the dream so I worked for a while and earned money while I was practicing my video work. In about 8 months after I picked up the camera work started coming in for me. One day I was scrubbing down a nasty fridge at work and I’m getting a bunch of text messages to film an event that night for lil Wayne and I couldn’t go cause I was stuck at work. This happened a few times where I couldn’t go do something because of my obligation with my job. But that day when I was cleaning the fridge, I had enough. I wasn’t going to miss any more opportunities for myself and my craft. So I walked out during my shift and never came back. That’s the last time I had a job. I feel bad for never calling them or letting them know I quit, but I’m sure they got the message!”
“My friends were always supportive with whatever I did. My family, specifically my parents were very skeptical at first for a long while actually. I proved myself to them though, I’ve been living on my own since I was 19 so I showed my parents I can survive and take care of myself. After my first big break with Ryan Leslie, in which I went on a 3 month long Europe tour in Fall 2012 and Fall 2013. Numerous gigs started coming in from local artists to well known artists like Fabolous, Wale, Ab-soul, Adrian Marcel, Red Cafe, and more. My parents saw my small scale of success and started to believe in everything I was doing and they began to support me full scale.”
I asked Keoni, as a successful entrepreneur and freelancer, what he would say to others who hope to follow a similar path of self employment.
“My suggestion is to make sure to be able to handle regular life responsibilities so you can really focus on the dream, timing is everything and the time for you to quit your job and chase your dream is different for everyone, but once the time comes you’ll know. Just don’t be afraid to take the risk, anything worth gaining is a risk waiting to be taken.”
“2016 started a little slow but it’s ramping up fast, I just wrapped up a project with Philthy Rich and Young Dolph, I have another project coming up with Dej Load, Yo Gotti, and G Eazy, I’m going on a national tour with Anjali to handle her creative direction with visuals, I have to shoot a commercial starring Christina Millian, I’m focused on shooting my first short film that I wrote, and 1 feature film that I’m also shooting this year. There’s quite a few local artists I’m working with that are really dope and we got some crazy visuals coming.”
You can follow Keoni @keonimars to keep up with what he’s doing.
22 year old director/editor David Camarena first picked up a camera at a ripe age of 18 and has worked with P-lo, Kehlani, Wiz Khalifa, Kool John, Iamsu + many more. He first picked up a camera when he got surgery on his arm and couldn’t play baseball the summer after his senior year. I remember him telling me this story for the first time while we were smashing to the airport to make sure he didn’t miss his flight. I remember sitting there thinking, how crazy it was that he just picked up a camera and started messing around because he was injured and look where it took him. David was attending Chabot College and played baseball while trying to be creative and pursue his art when he “took a leap of faith” and dropped all his classes and quit baseball for his art.
Although he has been super successful in and out of the Bay, one can only imagine what it must have been like at first to quit everything that was going on in your life and take this risk.
“Shit was hard at first cuz my parents were mad and upset and I still wasn’t making no money. Things just take time and I really felt the passion so I knew I wasn’t trippin. I decided I wanted to Pursue videos cuz I didn’t wanna do anything else haha it was so new and fun to me. It still is. If I never got injured idk if I woulda discovered I loved doin this. It was fasho hard staying disciplined . I had a baseball coach/great friend one time tell me, ‘you gotta give up something to get something’ basically just meaning you have to sacrifice.”
It’s safe to say David has been successful and his leap of faith paid off. He went on tour with 20 year old Grammy Nominated and Bay Area native Kehlani, and has made a name for himself as an artist. A message from David to artists:
“Fuck all social media shit and followers and all that. Focus on putting out solid, consistent work and trusting yourself and everything else will come. People will catch on and communication and relationships with people will take you a long way.”
Follow David @davidcamarena