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Creator Spotlight: Cleo Abram Finds the Truth

Creator Spotlight - Cleo Abrams Finds the Truth

Cleo Abram knew she wanted to solve big problems when she grew up. Maybe she’d work for the Foreign Service, or become a lawyer. Maybe she’d even become (gasp!) a politician.

But then she asked herself how she could still be part of the solution without having to be any one of those things.

The answer?

Become a journalist. There was just one big glaring problem:

She didn’t have any experience. At all.  But did she let that stop her?

Hardly.

The Obstacle is the Way

What Cleo Abram did have however was business sense. Right after a successful run at Columbia University, she worked for Precision Strategies, a marketing and strategy agency that worked on everything from presidential election campaigns to branding for Fortune 50 companies. It was here she cut her teeth on the world of dealing with brands, clients, and solving big marketing problems.

But something was missing: it just wasn’t that creative. It didn’t satisfy her urge to make stuff. It wasn’t Big Enough.

So when she got an opportunity in 2016 to become Senior Manager of Development at Vox, she jumped on it.  It was this habit of diving into the unknown that has since become her trademark: seeing opportunities then going out and making things happen.

As Senior Manager of Development, her job was to find great projects for producers to work on. She was always thinking about new projects for others to make –  including podcasts, tweaking the Vox website, new  shows, new ad campaigns, all the stuff.  Still though, she wasn’t making the content herself.  So she sucked it up and went to night school at the School for Visual Arts, where she learned to edit and animate videos.

The obstacle in her way was the fact she didn’t have experience. Rather than run from it, she ran towards it. Full speed.

The obstacle didn’t stand a chance.

Creator Spotlight - Cleo Abrams Finds the Truth

Turning Dreams into Action

It’s one thing thinking about doing something, and another actually doing it. With her new found editing skills, the asked the producers at Vox if they would allowed her to make some videos as a side hustle to her development work – as long as it didn’t interfere with her day job.

They said ‘yes’.

So she went and made a series about political issues within fashion and how models are taken advantage of. This did well, so then she doubled down and and started making more videos in her spare time on nights and weekends. She worked harder. She worked smarter.

She believed her goals into existence by doing the work.

Because of that, people slowly started to think of her less as someone in development, and more as a producer.  And as a producer, she was allowed to pitch a concept to Netflix called ‘Diamonds Explained’. Yep, it was a long shot. Nope, she didn’t exactly have the credentials. But she went for it anyway.

You guessed it. Netflix said ‘yes’. The show was greenlit.

Then she went ahead and hit it out of the park.

That single falling domino set the rest of her career in motion.

Creator Spotlight - Cleo Abrams Finds the Truth

Why Cleo Abram Loves Video Production

Cleo Abram never thought she’d get this far. But her secret?

Starting small.

Here’s her own words, taken from an article she wrote for ‘Into the Gloss’:

The reason why I love video production, as opposed to being a text journalist, is that it’s like doing a Rubik’s Cube. What you’re hearing and what you’re seeing should be different, and each gives a viewer additional pieces of information. The best advice for anyone who wants to do a creative job is to try to do it on your own for a while. Instead of watching a bunch of videos about editing in Premiere, make a little video for your sister, interview your family, cut it together in Premiere, and add a soundtrack.

Even if you’re new to video production, you know there are a lot of things you need for success. If you’re a writer, all you need is a good idea and a computer.

But if you’re making videos, you need a good idea, a camera, sound gear, some lights, maybe a friend or two to help, some music, maybe some graphics – and a computer. Lots of things to wrangle.

It can be a lot. The end result though, with a little practice, can be golden. Don’t get discouraged.

Think big. But start small.

Learn about another cool creator, Michelle Khare, here. 

Creator Spotlight - Cleo Abrams Finds the Truth

Moving on from Vox

There is one word that best describes Cleo Abram’s decision to leave Vox.

And that word is optimism.

At Vox, she loved what she did. She worked with great people. She honed her mad creative skills. It was a dream job come true.

That said, she knew there was more. She wanted to approach all her stories with a sense of optimism, believing that things like technology could actually make the world a better place. Especially with a little love, guidance, and proper intentions.

Sure, if you watch TikTok for 10 minutes or read the headlines, you might think we’re all doomed. She wanted to change that. With optimism. We have real problems to fix and we can fix them. 

Her journalism skills combined with her video skills were the perfect match for that. So she went independent and started a new show, called Huge.

5 Lessons We Can Learn from Cleo Abram

There’s a lot more than 5 things we can learn from Cleo Abram. Let us count the ways. But here’s just 5, if you remember nothing else:

  1. Think Big, Start Small: The best way to overcome obstacles is by breaking them down into small pieces. Then solve one piece, then another, then another. Don’t be afraid if the first stuff you make isn’t perfect, or even good. Just keep trying to solve the problem.
  2. Work Your Butt Off: Night school. Working on weekends. Doing extra work when no one asked her to. Developing new ideas. Honing her craft. It was easy. But it was mandatory. Especially if she wanted to level-up and go big. Even after making her way into a sweet gig at Vox, Cleo kept pushing.
  3. Obstacles are Good: If there’s an obstacle in your way, that’s a good thing. Because most people who want the same thing you do will be be discouraged by them and stop. But not you. You’ll blast through them, and turn obstacles into stepping stones.
  4. Life is Messy: Life never happens in a straight line. In fact, life is messy. When you can accept this, you’ll free yourself from perfection, allow yourself to experiment, and be less afraid of going into the unknown.
  5. Be Curious: There’s a little secret to life, and that is be as interested as you are interesting. Go out and strive to learn new things. Read. Write. Talk to people with other opinions. Learn. And above all else: don’t believe everything you think.
  6. Optimism Can Change the World: There are only two types of people in the world. Those who believe the headlines and think we’re doomed. And those who look for solutions and believe in a brighter future. There is no in-between place. So why not choose optimism and light. Happiness is most often a choice.

These are also two other the truths that Cleo Abram thinks we should all embrace:

  • There’s always a way to practice the skill you want without anyone else’s permission. Always.
  • Making things in public is infinitely more helpful than keeping them to yourself.

Yep, she is working hard to make the world a better place. That should be the goal of any content creator, and if you’re looking for a North Star, this should be it.

Go out and make it happen.

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