Why am I a filmmaker?
As far back as I can remember I've always felt like an outsider.
Sure there were some obvious things like my hippie parents naming me Zeke, being the shortest kid in any class, or being the poor, brown, kid from a single parent family in lily white Manhattan Beach, CA but none of that was something I could hide from everyone. Now my Brazilian immigrant mom and her kookiness … that's another story.
I’ve always wanted to be an entertainer but growing up in the mid eighties and watching TV I didn’t see a lot of positive role models that looked like me. As we’ve learned, representation matters. Especially since my dream of working somewhere in showbiz felt like an impossible mission.
God bless my mom who encouraged me to pursue the arts as a hobby with acting classes and guitar lessons but the immigrant mentality of a solid fallback plan just in case it didn’t work out was front and center.
It’s like she knew that the odds of being a successful filmmaker were impossible and weren’t going to lead to the american dream she envisioned for all of her kids.
My approach to storytelling has been shaped by a number of experiences that some might view as formative (or traumatic depending on commitment to therapy, 12 step programs, or mental health). For me I can now appreciate and find comedy in the experience of getting sober at 23 (and staying sober 19 years+), watching both of my parents die from cancer before I was 30, support my grandmother through the last 12 years of her life and still find time to get married, divorced, and have a satisfying career.
This is all to say that none of these things define me, but they all have an impact on the way I approach story. That means comedy with heart. That means classic hero’s journey against seemingly impossible odds. Most importantly, finding levity and gratitude through tragedy.
* Graduated from Boston College in 2001 with a degree in International Studies (Pre-Law) with an unofficial minor in Golden Eye, Mario Kart and bong rips.
* Played volleyball for BC my freshman and sophomore years and later during my junior year abroad at Lancaster University in England, but I was far from an elite volleyball setter despite my Mira Costa High School volleyball pedigree.
* Grew up playing soccer and volleyball in Hermosa Beach and was a two sport varsity athlete at Mira Costa High School.
* In the pre-online video days of 2001-2007, I trained in improv/sketch, auditioned, and occasionally booked work as an actor. My early YouTube work was not great, but if nothing else, I was prolific.
* Took up MMA in 2008 as a way of coping with the death of my father. Ultimately met my creative partner Jarrett Sleeper in training.
* My first break in new media came when I directed and produced (along with Jarrett Sleeper) one of the biggest viral videos of 2012, How to Pick Up a Girl at the Gym. It hit viral benchmarks of 1 MM views in a day, 9 MM in a week and went on to be featured on The Today Show, Google Zeitgeist, and MTV's Ridiculousness.
* We repeated viral success the following year with Typical CrossFit Workout that crossed the 100 MM Facebook views mark and was licensed for international TV.
* Worked for DEFY, BlackBoxTV, EGO360 in producing, directing, and writing roles.
* Started strength and conditioning company Poseidon Performance Training in 2018 as an expression of my commitment to fitness and my love of athletics and coaching.
I co-founded Mindjam Media in 2018 with my creative partner of over a decade Jarrett Sleeper where we've produced work with ViacomCBS/Paramount+, Columbia Records, Justice, American Public Media, and Elevate Pictures. We also produce a number of popular podcasts including top 5 science podcast Ologies with Alie Ward and her spin off show smOlogies.