Film Courage: Where did you grow up?
Erman Baradi: I was born and raised in Virginia Beach, Virginia. This is the epitome of suburban life. I think a magazine ranked it #1 one year as a city to raise a family. We are known for our oceanfront/boardwalk scene which draws a ton of tourists. It’s definitely a place you want to get out of when you grow up but you miss while you’re away. So, basically we’re known for beaches and Pharrell. I can say our entertainment scene is growing in music and film and television.
Film Courage: Which of your parents do you resemble most?
Erman: That’s hard to say because I believe I takes attributes from both. I have a twin brother and on a facial aspect he has our father’s traits and I take from my mom. But we all have this strong-willed audacity. It could be a Filipino thing. We’re so full of pride, and I don’t mean that in a bad way or to the point of stubbornness. It’s that “we’re going to do it till we make it” mentality.
Film Courage: Did your parents lend support toward creativity or encourage another type of career/focus?
Erman: Ladies and gentlemen, I’m going to tell you something shocking…yes, they did. As an Asian American you get the stereotype of being driven to pursue a career in medicine. That’s what I got when I was younger, but when I was a kid I thought I wanted it, too. I found it alluring to be “the man” and have patients look up to you. But when you grow up you understand life and mortality and well-being more and I was turned off from having to give answers to people with a smile on your face. How do go about telling people they’re not okay and then offer them lollipops on their way out? I even went to a high school who had a medical program. At this time, I found an interest in the entertainment world and when I was a senior I told my parents that I wanted to go to film school. They’d say no, right? Holy hell, it was simple as that. They rocked with it. You’d think it’d be harder but no, they were totally down. I was surprised. So, to this down whenever I have something going down in LA or NYC they’re all for it. Plus, they’re the ones who pushed us to get involved in the local Filipino community here, which help me stay rooted with my people.
Film Courage: Biggest takeaway from 4 years of college?
Erman: I won’t forget it. My very first course in my freshmen year at Regent University’s film school was Screenwriting and it was with my very professor ever. His name is Kevin Crawford and he’s the first person to ever tell me that I was good. It wasn’t in the way a teacher would tell all his students so they feel good about themselves. It was in the “dude, you have to pursue this” type of way. Seven years later we still chat through email. I just spoke to him the other day actually about my LA event and he said if he didn’t have a teacher summit or whatnot that he’d be tempted to buy a plane ticket. That’s sick. Honestly, my biggest takeaway from four years of college is – and this may upset people but it’s the harsh reality, especially in our major – you graduate after four years to own a single sheet of paper. Frankly, I don’t even know where mine is. I’m not going to lie and say I have all the answers or that “I made it.” However, I can say I went to Hollywood firsthand. All the things they teach you in school to pass a test is irrelevant compared to what you learn up close and personal. I network with agents and managers and publicists all day long and they’ve told me more than what any thirty-year-old textbook will tell you.
Film Courage: How old were you when you wrote your first short story, script, poem, etc?
Erman: It must have been between 13 to 15 years old, sometime in that time frame.
Film Courage: What prompted this first writing?
Erman: I tell people this from time to time. In middle school I wanted to take acting as an elective but since I didn’t see a lot of Asians on TV I kind of just dropped it. So, I started writing instead. I’d be in math class or science (I sucked at both) and I’d jot down quotes I came up in my head or plot points. Mind you I went to a magnet school with kids who were apparently a lot smarter than I was academically. I had to be good at something. By high school, I started winning all the monthly writing contests for the school’s magazine. Then, when I was in my sophomore year people started to take note of all my skits. In English class specifically we had skits all the time and everyone loved mine. Once, my English teacher, Ms. Schwartz, stopped the class after a presentation to tell my classmates to look out for me on TV one day. I think she said SNL. I can’t remember, but it was still epic. I wrote my first screenplay that year, devoting a lot of my nights after school to it. The story itself was pretty good but the writing was mediocre, of course. It was a “talky” film and it centered on characters in high school who were like Juno from Juno. That’s all I can remember!
Film Courage: What’s one thing you’d like to change about yourself?
Erman: I need to be more in the moment. I’ll be honest with you, if you’re talking about what I learned about myself, it’s very hard for me to simply hang out with people nowadays. And I don’t mean that in a cynical or “I’m better than everyone else” type of way. My Friday nights look like my Monday nights and that might be why I am where I am today. Think about it. Add up the time you hung out with friends or went to the beach or went to the club. That’s time I use accomplishing a task or if not, I’ll sit in my room staring at the ceiling and I could be like, “God, what’s my next move? How do you want me to get there?” So, I guess when I’m in private I’m just thinking about my next moves. Even when I do hang out with people that’s what I’m doing in case you find me oddly quiet and to myself or I’m on my emails, and I don’t do that to be disrespectful. Even when I’m on social media or surfing the web I consider it research. I’m never just wasting hours online. I’m finding out what’s buzzing or trending, who’s in, what’s tomorrow’s story, which artists/actors/writers/directors should I reach out to next, etc. I need to just let go and enjoy the moment for what it’s worth and not make everything about career.
Film Courage: What’s important in your life?
Erman: How cliché is this answer: family. I’m trying to get what’s mine, yes, but like a lot of other people I want to have the best career ever in order for my family not to worry anymore. I want that mansion for my parents. I want the endless travels and vacations because our time is so miniscule here. Why work your entire life and not enjoy what’s out there? The older you get, the shorter life gets.
Film Courage: What’s the best and worst job you’ve held?
Erman: Crazy thing. I’ve never had a “job” I didn’t appreciate because everything has been in line with a career in entertainment. I will say this though. I’ve never had a 9-5. I’ve never done food or retail, so I can’t tell you the horror stories my friends tell me. I did, however, have an office job at my college that allowed me to come in whenever I wanted for extra pay and I came up with my own hours. Let’s just say I was young and dumb. One day I worked there, and the next I didn’t. Let’s leave it at that. But I’m not knocking them. They were the kindest people ever. Yet, I’m glad I stopped working there because three months later began my journey to where I am four years later.
Film Courage: What do you still want to accomplish?
Erman: I still want to be a signed/repped screenwriter! I know too many people not to be. I’m still 25 though so I’m sure my time will come and that I’ll be better at the craft. If you ask me today I would be blunt and say I’m not ready. Ask me tomorrow I may give you a different answer. There’s just so much that can be done in this world. I think leaving behind a legacy is what separates you from the next guy. Sometimes, I’ll be at a community event and someone I’ve never had a conversation with before asks for an autograph. I’ll think, “Ok, this dude is just patronizing me.” But later on they’ll ask again and I’m like, “Oh shoot, they’re for real.” Obviously, somebody out there finds what I’m doing inspirational. This is like my tenth interview in two years and I don’t even have a Hollywood credit to my name. I’m not signed yet! I don’t even have a publicist. But hey, if I’m inspiring someone then why not. I started writing when I was sixteen. I want to be a lot further in nine years than I was nine years ago. I want to create and innovate. I want to get that Oscar one day then hang out with, I don’t know, at-risk kids the next day. It all has to mean something in the end. I want to represent Asian Americans. I don’t want to simply create a website. I want to create the concept of Internet. I don’t want to create a clothing line. I want to create the concept of fashion. There’s so much to explore out there, you know?
Film Courage: What inspired the idea for your event ‘The Rel/event” series, a celebration of buzzworthy projects and individuals in entertainment in 2015-2016’?
Erman: Money. No, just kidding. First off, I’m like any other aspiring schmuck in the world. I’m unsigned. I’m some kid from Virginia who’s putting together an event in LA for people who already live there. I’m on the same boat as them. I’m trying to make it, too. The difference is I happen to know people in high places. I’m trying to learn and cultivate my own craft. And it’s about the networking. What if I – or another attendee – lands a job with one of these big time execs? I held a panel event in Downtown LA back in May and a little after one of the guest speakers asked to connect with another. How cool would it be if two filmmakers or filmmakers and talent connected at one of my events and a big project came of it? They better thank me at the Oscars. On a selfish level, I’d love for something to happen to my career because of it. Like, I had a guest speaker last time – very cool and laid back guy – who directs House of Cards on Netflix. Months later, news broke that he’s set to direct the Fifty Shades of Grey sequel. Seriously? I want in on that! So, the idea spawned from what most movies ask: What if? For Rel/event specific, the play on words is perfect. It’s an event that brings together industry pros involved with some of the most hyped projects this year and next. It’s an easy ticket seller of course but I envision it in a decade to be a big convention where you get the scoop before a film or television series debuts.
Film Courage: When will it be held/where can one purchase tickets?
Erman: It will be at The Attic at 1643 Cosmo Street in Los Angeles. Our Eventbrite page is TheRelevent.eventbrite.com.
Film Courage: How long was the idea floating around in your head before putting the event together?
Erman: I met cool people at my May event and it actually conceptualized immediately after. My friend who I crashed with, we were working another event in Burbank a week after our first panel ended. We like excuses to be in LA so we decided to partner up for The Rel/event. We figured TV shows begin premiering in late September/early October so hopefully some of these speakers see it as a PR move to partake in the event.
Film Courage: Is this first event that you’ve planned? How many other panels/events?
Erman: I like to do events that mix indie and mainstream. For example, I partnered with ScreenCraft for a NYC panel event in 2013. It was at the Writers Guild of America, East, and the topic was digital distribution. We had speakers from Google/YouTube but we also had folks representing Cinedigm, Seed & Spark, etc. I was also the Director of Execution Relations for The Great American PitchFest in 2013, 2014, 2015. My position was to rally up literary agents, managers, producers, and movie execs to hear pitches from aspiring screenwriters. The goal is 120 of them each time. You know how hard that is to do from the other side of the country? Thank you, internet. That’s not my event but I help produce that part of the conference, I suppose. Then, there’s a digital magazine I write for that I partnered with for my LA panel in May. That was as mainstream as you can get. We had reps from Straight Outta Compton, Sons of Anarchy, Breaking Bad, Better Call Saul, The Walking Dead, Justified, House of Cards…damn, that was a good night.
Film Courage: Who are your speakers?
Erman: The night includes a special Q&A with film producer Lauren Shuler Donner (“Gambit,” “Deadpool,” “X-Men: Apocalypse”); “Jane the Virgin” EP Gary Pearl, “Scream Queens” producer Jessica Sharzer, TV director/choreographer John Carrafa (“Empire,” “Transparent”), cinematographer Sid Sidell (“Empire”), and “The Maze Runner” franchise producer Ellen Goldsmith-Vein on our Film and TV Production panel; talent agent Stella Alex of Savage Agency (Shailene Woodley, Ross and Riker Lynch) and her colleague AJ Harris (literary), CAA agent Rick Lucas (Neil Patrick Harris, Lena Headey, Taylor Kitsch, Dave Franco), commercial talent agent Liz Dalling of Special Artists Agency (Tom Hardy, Ruby Rose, Henry Cavill, Kerry Washington), and Peggy Walter, VP of Celebrity Services at Leo Burnett on our Talent Agents panel; casting associate Jackie Sollitto of David Rapaport Casting (DC’s “Legends of Tomorrow,” “Supergirl,” “The Flash,” “Arrow”) and casting director April Webster (“Star Trek Beyond,” “Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens”) for our Casting Directors panel; and actors Lorenzo James Henrie (“Fear the Walking Dead”), Gilbert Saldivar (“East Los High”), Christina Wren (“Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice”), Annika Marks (“The Fosters”), and Corina Calderon (“Suicide Squad”) for our Talents to Watch panel.
Film Courage: Why were these speakers chosen?
Erman: Ah man! Imagine the producers who can’t attend because of scheduling. I’m talking Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens. Star Trek Beyond. Batman vs. Superman. Suicide Squad. Captain America: Civil War. The Hunger Games. The Walking Dead. Crimson Peak. Heroes Reborn. X-Files Revival (stick around for a spring follow up event). Yet, I’m beyond thrilled with who are available to set aside a few hours from their Friday night to deliver invaluable tips to attendees. I’ll be taking notes for myself! I think it’s natural to come up with a dream team in your head of people you’d personally like to hear from as well as who you think audiences would like to hear from. I wish I had more reps from the digital space but you can’t win all of them over.
Film Courage: What’s something you learned running an event (and maybe didn’t execute as well as you would have liked) that will be an area of emphasis on your next one?
Erman: A client told me once that he doesn’t trust people but he has faith in them, and that’s powerful to me. You can trust someone and he can still do you wrong or fail you. On the flip side, not having trust in someone has held me back from going bigger and badder. All my events so far, despite the big projects attached, have been on smaller scales. Think filled rooms of 100-200 people instead of convention centers with 1,000 people. If I get a lot more help with people who say they can contribute something great, then maybe next time I’ll do a larger scale event. However, I just don’t trust a lot of people. So, perhaps a bigger convention next time.
Film Courage: Would you recommend other people enter into an internship program?
Erman: Hell yes. Back in 2012 right after I graduated I had $15 to my name when I decided to fly across the country for an unpaid internship for two months. Listen, when you’re dead broke you become more resourceful, more imaginative. I’m a fan of backing myself into a corner and figuring my way out. I recommend internships because you’re not making in dollar bills you’re making in resources. There were times when I did things for people for free in exchange for contacts. It works. I think any gig, as long as it caters to your career growth, is worth it. This past summer I was able to read scripts for WWE Studios. Today, I’m with the International Screenwriters’ Association helping with their social media, podcast interviews with industry pros, etc. It’s not an internship, but who knows where this will take me next. Think of every piece as a puzzle. Or, if you’re a nerd, I’ll just say one day I’ll capture Zelda and win the game.
Film Courage: What did completing an internship program teach you?
Erman: I had a better understanding of the industry altogether. You think everyone in Hollywood is making bank? At the same time, you think all executives are assholes? I once saw an assistant shed a tear over her paycheck while working for a millionaire. It’s hustle. Yet, I came across really nice millionaires. You come in thinking one thing about a group of people but you can’t hate them. They’re part of a machine you’re dying to be a part of. One time, as an intern I was asked to drive to a manager’s apartment – whom I never even had a conversation with – to walk her dog. No one asked me if I was allergic to dogs. I’m not, but what if I was? It’s so maddening because you love it and hate it at the same time. I was in the office of the freakin’ producers who produced The Dark Knight franchise. Like, seriously? They didn’t know me from the next Joe but I’m breathing their air. I will tell you, though, I made shitty coffee. I was never asked to make coffee again.
Film Courage: Tell us what you’ve learned working for a high-profile musician?
Erman: Smoke and mirrors. Not everything is glamorous like you’d think. Just because you’re on television doesn’t mean you don’t have to fight to eat. I work with Emmy-nominated T.O.N.E.-z from the FX show Justified. He made the theme song for it. I intended the season 5 premiere and literally every single TV actor I met was so humble and real. There were no gimmicks or reputations to uphold. They were regular people who just happened to be on screen. No one rolled up in a limo, to my knowledge. I remember going to the writers room at Sony a few days later and Timothy Olyphant spotted me and said he recognized me from the premiere. I was like, no shit? For real? I got my first gig ever with No Malice from the rap duo The Clipse. “Grindin’” came out in ’02 and Justin Timberlake’s “Like I Love You” came out the same year. Like everyone else from Virginia Beach, I was proud the two were from my backyard. Nine years later, I’d work with one of the brothers. Dude is so real. He’s just a regular, down to earth guy. Sometimes, he’d call me over to his crib. I’m thinking we’re working on something, but then all we’d do is drive around in my car talking about God. How cool is that? What I learned from these two is that the industry won’t change you if you don’t let it.
Film Courage: If you were an instructor, what 5 films would you show to a college class on film theory?
Erman: Good question! I can go more than five. You know what? I’m going to avoid the usual suspects like The Godfather and anything Spielberg or Scorcese. Let’s mix it up a bit. I’ll go with anything del Toro, and visually I’d go with Libatique (Filipino, woot woot!) or Deakins. I say this all the time but His Girl Friday came out in 1940 and still has some of the best executed dialogue I’ve ever heard. I’m a dialogue fan. Speaking of 40’s, you can watch It’s A Wonderful Life regardless of season and feel all gooey inside. And speaking of dialogue, if you’re a mumblecore fan watch the Before Sunrise series by Linklater. I’m captivated by seemingly regular people talking about seemingly regular life. That fascinates me more than anything tentpole. I can go on about different movies so you should stop me now.
Film Courage: Do you do other creative things?
Erman: I like bird watching. No, just kidding. I have a life. I’m part of a hip hop dance crew on the side. It’s a hobby not a career thing so I’m not extra dope. It’s just fun for me. It’s storytelling through movement. I just started a Tumblr where I post short pieces of randomness in the form of poetry and short stories. Check it out at TheRabbitHoleWeGo.tumblr.com.
Film Courage: Where do you develop your best ideas?
Erman: You know the moment right before you sleep as you doze off? That’s when it hits. I’ll be lucky sometimes to have the will to wake myself up and right ideas down. Other times I suck at life and fail to write them.
Film Courage: Who’s had the greatest influence on your life and why?
Erman: My parents, of course. They are part of the American Dream. My parents and grandparents on both sides came from the Philippines. They took handouts from no one.
Film Courage: What principles have guided your life?
Erman: Before anything else I’m a Christian. I was born Catholic. I know that doesn’t always blend well with Hollywood and the media, but that doesn’t matter to me. What’s the point of having a belief system if you don’t stick to it?
Film Courage: Quote or mantra that you live by?
Erman: I don’t know if I heard this from somewhere or if I came up with it, but it’s simple: A U-Haul doesn’t follow your hearse. The physical possessions we have don’t matter in the end. You can’t take them to heaven. When you do something meaningful and it impacts the world, then you get to live forever. So what if you own this many chains and this many cars. The physical can get lost, stolen, and broken.
Film Courage: Of the 200 plus celebrities and people of note you’ve interviewed, what was the most fascinating thing said?
Erman: For me, it wasn’t a quote or a story that sticks out the most. There was an interview a few months back that sort of made me uncomfortable because I looked at it from the celebrity’s perspective. It was a cover story with Christina Milian for Endee Magazine, and coincidentally this was the same week she and Lil Wayne finally put a label to their relationship. Up until then they tried to be as private as possible but the timing was right to bring it up. She had her reality show, her new single, magazine covers, and TV show announcements all around this time, and to top it off I was going to ask about love. Come on, it was the perfect time. The question revolved around her romantic life and I did what I could to ask it without mentioning Wayne’s name. Luckily, she was very open about it and talked about it. Yet, it kind of made me empathetic about a public figure’s private life and how we tend to disregard their emotions and their happiness for the sake of a story.
Film Courage: How do you get a reluctant interview subject to open up with you?
Erman: Treat them like best friends at the beginning of the interview! Once they get more comfy, you can literally ask them anything. If it’s a question they don’t want to answer, they’ll politely decline to answer rather than call you a jerk.
Film Courage: How has your entertainment background helped you plan events?
Erman: Once again, it comes down to networking. I could be like, “Hey, [name here]. It’s Erman from [whatever they know me from].” Once I lock in the people I do know I can tackle the speakers who don’t know me personally yet but are enticed by the current lineup. I think people take me more seriously knowing my background. Literally as of five minutes ago our event is now a partner with NYC Television Week and its Next TV Summit.
Film Courage: You’ve just received news about NYC Television Week and its Next TV Summit. How did this come about and what does this mean for you moving forward?
Erman: I reached out to them prior to cross-promote a previous event. We reconnected and they were amazed at the lineup so they got back to me with deliverables for a partnership. This just solidifies what I’m trying to do with my personal brand. This particular event has an in with the tech world, which I currently do not. So, I hope this begins relationships with those in the entertainment-tech-digital sphere.
Film Courage: What’s next for you creatively and for future events?
Erman: I plan to collaborate with some friends from my hometown to work on some shorts. One of them is going to be my acting debut so that’ll be interesting. As for future events, I would like to do some on the east coast – here in Virginia and in Miami. Only time will tell.
Virginia Beach-based Erman Baradi began his entertainment career in 2011. While attending Regent University, on a recommendation he was introduced to Grammy-nominated artist No Malice – formerly Malice of the acclaimed hip hop duo The Clipse alongside Pusha T (signed to Pharrell Williams’ Star Trek label). For the next fewyears, Erman has remained No Malice’s right hand man in endeavors ranging from music videos to vlogs and events.
After completing a West Hollywood internship with Mosaic Media Group/Atlas Entertainment, Erman returned to Virginia while strategically networkingwith writers and filmmakers via social media, landing him gigs with various screenwriting-centered organizations. Erman became the Director of Executive Relations for The Great American PitchFest, a screenwriting festival in which he helped to recruit attending film companies and agencies, including William Morris Endeavor, Paradigm, Fox Television Studios, Overbrook Entertainment, APA Talent & Literary Agency, The CW Network, Atlas Entertainment, Disruption Entertainment, Madhouse Entertainment, Sierra/Affinity, Phoenix Pictures, One Three Media, and over 120 other entertainment companies. Erman was recruited into the leading LA-based script consultancy ScreenCraft as reader of first round scripts for its frequent screenplay contests, which many outlets have noted to be the best in the industry. With them, he co-produced an entertainment panel event at the Writers Guild of America East called “Digital Discourse” in 2014 with speakers from Google/YouTube, Cinedigm, and more to discuss the future of media distribution and content creation pertinent to the future of filmmaking. The event was covered by Filmmaker Magazine and Indiewire. He also currently works for the International Screenwriters’ Association, a community dedicated to providing aspiring screenwriters resources and tools necessary to break into the business, acquiring industry interviews for its popular podcast. Additionally, he is a script reader for WWE Studios.
As an aspiring screenwriter and filmmaker, a short Erman co-wrote cracked the top 20 finals of legendary director Ron Howard’s Canon Imaginat10n 2013 contest. Today, Erman serves as a celebrity interviewer and writer for Vents Magazine and Endee Magazine, having interviewed over 200 directors, producers, screenwriters, reality stars, actors, and emerging and established music artists. Meanwhile, Erman is business partners with Emmy-nominated T.O.N.E.-z of the hit FX Network drama series ‘Justified’, who is the very first rapper nominated for the illustrious Main Theme Song award. You can catch Erman today producing the best up-and-coming Hollywood events. In the summer of 2015, Erman co-produced the inaugural Three Cities Festival, a one-of-a-kind digital film festival, taking place over a span of three different cities. The conference highligthed guest speakers representing projects like ‘House of Cards,’‘Straight Outta Compton,’ ‘Sons of Anarchy,’ ‘Big Hero 6,’ ‘The Walking Dead,’ ‘Breaking Bad,’‘American Horror Story,’ and more. In the fall of 2015, Erman is producing his second Hollywood event, “The Rel/event Series,” highlighting the industry’s most buzzed about individuals and projects in 2015-2016, with speakers from ‘Deadpool,’ ‘Gambit,’ ‘Fear the Walking Dead,’ ‘Suicide Squad,’ ‘Batman vs. Superman,’ ‘Supergirl,’ ‘The Flash,’ ‘Arrow,’ ‘Scream Queens,’ and ‘X-Men: Apocalypse,’ to name a few.