“I used to believe that anyone who was further along in their career had all the answers, but like a parent, they don’t. You’ll also find that the higher up some folks go, the more insecure they become, and their feedback isn’t alway helpful. Trust your gut just as much as their advice. You got to where you are for a reason, so don’t discount your own wisdom.”
I had the pleasure of interviewing Richard Andreoli, an author, screenwriter, and social media brand marketing expert. Richard has written for magazines and television shows, and launched multiple pop culture websites. An early adopter of social media as a means of reaching new audiences, he currently uses his writing skills and social media marketing experience as the creative director for TV4 Entertainment, the global leader in OTT streaming with more than 30 genre-focused channels. His newest book, Battle at the Comic Expo, is a dark comedy/thriller that draws upon his years of working at San Diego Comic-Con. It is an ode to comics, artists and fans.
What is your “backstory”?
I grew up in a small, middle-class family in San Diego. There were eight of us at home: my grandmother, parents, and five children, and I was the youngest. Even though we didn’t have a lot of money, my parents supported my love of literature, comic books, attending plays, and eventually pursuing a career in entertainment.
I attended UCLA for English Literature and creative writing, and the day after graduation I got a job at a production company. That was a blessing and a curse: I was immediately working on movies and TV shows, but I wasn’t writing my own projects.
Fun fact: You will never meet a more bitter person than a writer who spends all of his time helping other writers sell their projects.
So, rather than have a pity party or try to force a career I didn’t love, I started taking every paid writing job that came my way. Fortunately, I can be choosier these days, but that crazy path has afforded me some absolutely amazing experiences.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that occurred to you in the course of your career?
Back in 2008, I was writing health and fitness articles for magazines and I learned that a former Cirque du Soleil performer was opening up a circus gym in West Hollywood. While aerial yoga at yoga studios or lyra (aerial hoop) classes at pole dancing studios are popular now, back then no one had heard of such a thing. My editor told me that if I could get the story, I’d have the cover.
That’s how I met Aloysia Gavre and her husband Rex Camphuis, the owners of Cirque School Los Angeles. I took a class and fell in love with both the physicality and performance aspect of the circus arts, and immediately began helping them build the school’s social media, PR, and marketing presence. What started as a school with two classes per week is now a thriving community with 70 classes and hundreds of students, and it’s changed my life profoundly.
Not only did that one article introduce me to some of the most important and interesting people in my life, but at age 46 I’m actually performing for audiences. My comedy-trapeze act is currently being seen in variety shows around Los Angeles, and this past February I performed at a circus cabaret event in Las Vegas alongside circus professionals. It’s an amazing adventure, and every day I’m excited to see where it leads.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
My new book, Battle at the Comic Expo, has been such a great learning experience — and I’m not just talking about the actual writing.
For the past few years I’d have a “career crisis” every six months or so. Basically, I was frustrated with not writing as much as I’d like, and working on marketing products I wasn’t passionate about. Then, at a peak moment of unhappiness I wondered, “Why isn’t there someone out there helping to market me?”
And — DING! — like that, a mental bell went off. Why wasn’t I helping myself?
We’re often so focused outward — How do I take care of others? How do I do my job well so I can pay the bills? — that we don’t realize how our own skills and connections can help ourselves. So I sat down and started making project outlines, social media strategies, and guerilla marketing plans to promote the new book.
Writing the book was a joy, but it’s been really exciting marketing my own project.
Which people in history inspire you the most? Why?
Figures like activist Harry Hay, or writers Quentin Crisp and Truman Capote. It’s not simply that these three are queer figures, because this idea extends to anyone in history who stayed true to themselves no matter the circumstances.
With my job, I’ve seen how the internet can bring people on the fringes together and give them a collective voice. These guys didn’t have that accessibility. And yet, they spoke their truth no matter what society said about them — and they did in smart, entertaining ways. I often wonder if I could have done what they did, and been as clever and fashionable at the same time.
Which literature do you draw inspiration from? Why?
It usually depends on my mood. If I’m looking for something spiritual, I like pulling out Joseph Campbell’s Hero with a Thousand Faces because it takes me back to my college years of studying mythology and religions. I adore Oscar Wilde’s work, and how hilarious and transgressive some of his writing is; whenever I start taking myself too seriously I like to revisit The Importance of Being Earnest or one of his novels.
I also find a lot of inspiration in comic books that convey challenging ideas or twist expectations. Alan Moore’s Promethea, Neil Gaiman’s Sandman, and Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home were so groundbreaking that they’re always worth revisiting. More recently, Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples’ Saga series, or Tom King’s The Vision series for Marvel and Mister Miracle for DC are really interesting, and wonderful.
How do you think your writing makes an impact in the world?
On the most basic level, I want my stories to entertain. We all have a lot of stress in our daily lives, and that’s compounded whenever you tune into the news because it feels like everyone is fighting with one another. So, for me, I think it’s important that we take a break now and then and let ourselves become lost in a fun adventure.
However, I also believe in heroes. I believe that there are many times in our lives where we’re called upon to do the right thing. These aren’t usually major events, they’re the kind of small, simple acts, that can unknowingly better someone’s day and cause a ripple effect that positively impacts others. It may be as simple as not flipping out when someone takes your parking space, defending someone’s honor when you hear people gossiping about them, or just being kind to someone you don’t know.
I am writing about that kind of heroism in this current book. Yes, it’s placed in an extreme setting, but I hope that when people read it they’re inspired to be better and do better in the world.
What advice would you give to someone considering becoming an author like you?
Write no matter what else happens in a day.
It’s easy to make excuses for why you can’t write — work, family, or other obligations always get in the way — but I always force myself to make time because writing feeds my soul. I’ll use my lunch break, wake up early, or skip taking a circus class, and my entire day is always happier as a result. And it’s not as difficult as you may think.
Carolyn See was my former writing professor at UCLA, and one of the things she taught us was to always write a thousand words a day, five days a week, for the rest of your life. It’s not a huge amount of writing, and it’s invaluable advice because once you’ve hit a thousand words it’s difficult to stop the flow. Even when I’m having a day where my work feels uninspired, exhausting or frustrating, like I’m forcing the words out of my brain and onto the paper without any love or creativity, I make myself do it. I’m constantly surprised by how this process helps me work through any creative funk, or produces something that will later inspire a better idea.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
By giving time to others who want to do something creative. I feel that this is hugely important, because in order to put your art into the world you have to become vulnerable, to put yourself out there, and that’s an uncomfortable risk that many don’t want to take. So if I can read a friend’s story and offer feedback, introduce a writer to website editors who might like their work, or help someone work through the kinks of an aerial circus act, then I’m happy to do that and support them on their creative journey.
Our personal time is probably one of the most precious gifts we can offer someone. It not only shows them you care, but lets them know they are valued. It lifts others up, and I have always found that these same people I have helped will give their time to others in return. And that, I think, makes the world a better place.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
- Just because the dream you envisioned for your life isn’t happening the way you imagined it would, doesn’t mean you’re a failure. For years, I put unrealistic expectations on myself in order to achieve a dream I’d developed in junior high. That pressure sometimes got in my way of spotting opportunities and enjoying life. Fortunately, I have a different perspective now.
- Don’t compare yourself to others, especially if you think your career should be keeping pace with your contemporaries. That’s their story. It’s unique to them. Your story is unique to you. Comparisons are just a waste of time and make you feel bad about your own life. (Plus, if you ever get those people in a drunk talk, you’ll probably discover they see you as a huge success. See, you wasted all that energy for nothing.)
- Be mindful of the path you’re on, question the direction you’re headed now and then, but don’t try to control it too much. Whenever I start feeling insecure about my work or career path, I try to control things, which only results in frustration and failure. You should definitely be present and aware of your journey, constantly make sure you’re not becoming stagnant or bored, and make changes when necessary. But you can’t control others and make them like you or your writing. So be true to you and you’ll spot the opportunities for advancement and change when they arise.
- Be open to feedback that comes from the right source with the right intention. I used to believe that anyone who was further along in their career had all the answers, but like a parent, they don’t. You’ll also find that the higher up some folks go, the more insecure they become, and their feedback isn’t alway helpful. Trust your gut just as much as their advice. You got to where you are for a reason, so don’t discount your own wisdom.
- Remember that your mom taught you the Golden Rule for a reason. This seems simple and almost silly to say to adults, but I’m constantly amazed when I see professionals treat others in their business with judgement or disdain. That will come back and bite you in the butt — or in your career. The greatest successes I’ve had in life came about thanks to my relationships with others, and those positive interactions were due to treating others the way I wanted to be treated. It’s a rule that will never fail you.
Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this. :-)
Anderson Cooper, and not just because I think he’s an American treasure. He’s super smart so the conversation would be amazing; I’d love to hear his personal take on current politics. And, since he almost died when learning aerial hoop on Live with Kelly back in 2016, I feel obligated to teach him an aerial routine that would look good on him.