We had the good fortune of connecting with Ethan Funk-Breay and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Ethan, how do you think about risk?
I think “risk” is taken as much scarier thing than it actually is. Especially when talking about a career, a risk is often something to avoid and is usually seen as a negative. I guess the way of thinking is “why would you want to put something so significant as your career in a state of uncertainty?” That’s the problem with how “risk” is perceived; it’s always seen as “what if I fail?”
Though it can be a little scary, taking risks is the only thing that has lead me to where I am today. When I decided to become a filmmaker, it wasn’t because I had loads of cash and a vast knowledge of film stuck in my head, it was because I gained a passion for the art and believed that if I worked hard enough I could make something worth watching one day. Some people might see that as a risky decision, but if you take a step back and look at it it’s not that big of a deal. A healthy way of looking at “risk” is essentially taking baby steps. If I had said “I’m going to quit my job and drop out of school and dedicate all of myself to film with all my lack of experience and knowledge,” that’d be kinda stupid and irresponsible of me. What I did instead is decide I wanted to start this journey, learn, and grow in the field of filmmaking. Then the journey is building up on those risks, one on top the other; from making short films, then making better short films, to feature films, and so on.
It was this planning and risk taking that lead to myself and my dear friends to starting Funky Carrot Productions. There’s no way anyone can be in the film industry alone, and I’m incredibly happy to have a wonderful team at my side. Having that team has had making big risky decisions and projects that much more manageable and fun. You need a good team at your side, because if we’re being honest filmmaking is a crazy profession to get into. When you manage an indie film, there are so many moving parts that need attention all at the same time, and unfortunately there’s no higher ups to give you a hand. Even if you show up to a film set expecting to do one job, there’s a pretty good chance at some point someone will ask you “hey, can you hold the boom pole for this scene?”
The risk in indie filmmaking is that there’s not only a chance that what you make won’t turn out well or as you want it, but there’s also a chance that no one would pay attention to it anyway. There is quite a big chance that a lot of work and sacrifices you make would be for nothing, simply because no one knows who you are. But the important thing to remember is that it’s only for nothing if you give up afterword’s. Many people don’t know that a lot of my work even exists, but the experience and lessons of all that work still carry into the work that people actually see. It’s only all for not if I decide that it is.
With every decision I’ve made in perusing filmmaking, there’s a risk of failure in every one of them, and God knows I have at times. The challenge, though, is recognizing that failure and learning from it. The only reason I was able to make a feature film was because I learned from the failures of the short films I made in college, and I continue to even learn from the failures I made in my feature film for my future projects as well. All because each time I decide to take a risk. Going all the way from figuring out what frame rate film footage is suppose to be in to being nominated for “Best Directorial Debut” for my film, The Professionals, in the Lonely Wolf: London International Film Festival.
Though I have been incredibly blessed with recognition for my work, along with the wonderful crew and friends who are at my side going through this journey, I realize that I am still very young and have an entire future ahead of me. That’s incredibly exciting as it is terrifying, but I find comfort in the way everything has worked out and the way I’ve done it. In every film project I make, I intentionally plan something I don’t know how to do. How do we make a feature film? I’m not sure, but we’ll figure it out with the knowledge we have from our short films. How do we make a fantasy short film with a giant? Hell if I know, but let’s do some research and test it out ourselves.
Taking risks are important for growth. In order to succeed you have to be willing to do something that scares you. If I hadn’t have taken the chance and joined my university’s film club (which was quite nerve racking at the time) I wouldn’t have my film experience today, nor would I have met all my wonderful friends as well as the love of my life. It’s this method of taking little chances that has gotten me this far in my career, and that’s why I’m confident that it will take me further as well. It will take some time, but it will be time well spent.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
When I was little I wanted to be an elephant when I grew up, but then I realized that’s not a thing that happens so I settled on being an artist. I fell in love with comic books at an early age, and since then I always dreamed of illustrating one of my own. Since then I perused a life as an illustrator in school and my spare time. In my junior and senior year of high school, I was in a student art show held at the Denver Art Museum as part of a Scholastics student art contest held across the state.
In college I continued to pursue art, then in my sophomore year I heard of the Film Production Club on campus. I decided to join after missing acting from the few high school plays and got the itch to do some more. The film club ended up changing my life, for I met many of my close friends and collogues I still work with today. Though I started out acting, I ended up falling in love with the stories cinema can tell and decided I wanted to tell some of my own. After making some student work in college and graduating, I started a film production company, Funky Carrot Productions, along with Chloé Colleen and Dalton Lanich. Since we started we’ve made several short films along with two feature films, one still in production.
It definitely was not easy getting to where I am today. It’s all essentially trial and error and figuring it all out as you go. As far as actually making films, it’s something you’re going to just have to struggle through, The only way to figure out how to make a movie is to make one. The first one will probably suck, but it’s the process that makes you better and the passion that’ll keep you working at it. Through that struggle you’ll develop your own styles and stories, then start to make the films you want to rather than what you can do.
You also have to figure out the best way you work and how to work with others. One of the biggest downfalls of a lot of small teams I see is that they don’t realize where they are on the totem pole. You have to realize that there is always something you can learn, always something you can improve, and working with other people can help you with that. Through cooperation you can discover something new that you never would have come up with otherwise. Art is a collaboration, not a competition. You have to learn to humble yourself, because you are in fact not the center of this or any universe, no one is. Treating everyone with love and respect is probably the best advise I can give anyone in any industry. I’d rather work with someone who’s just alright but kind rather than a genius who’s a jerk. Be nice, it’s not that hard.
The work I do and have done I believe revolves around telling simple stories in a grand setting. Whether its a feature film or a sketch, I want to invite the viewer into a world or situation to where they can draw their own conclusions. In all my work, I want to explore characters and how they affect the world around them, or vise versa. I’ve been able to do this work through all the support I’ve had with me from my friends and family over the years, and I can’t be grateful enough for them. At the end of the day, I just want to make stuff they can look at and say, “Hey, that’s cool.”
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
The first day we’d hit up Patrick’s on 8th ave., a pub here in Greeley. We’d have a night of fun and laughs then probably get some junk food afterwards. In the morning we’d recover by going to Margie’s Java Joint, then maybe walk around town and go to the Nerd Store. In this trip I’d try and see a movie at The Kress Cinema and Lounge and then talk about the movie in the Speakeasy downstairs. Throughout the week I’d try to make it to the DAM in Denver, and then the Nature and Science Museum too. We’d probably end the week just chilling at home playing video games and whatever else we decided to do.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
Chloé Colleen is the love of my life and my business partner. She’s always there for me and is my biggest supporter. She’s an incredible actor and skilled filmmaker. I would not be here if not for her.
Dalton Lanich is one of my bests friends and business partner. He’s always been a huge support and a dear friend. He’s a skilled actor and a wonderful dungeon master. He’s also a huge dork.
Layon Bair is one of my best friends. He’s always been supportive of me and occasionally acted for me whenever I need him too. He’s always a good sport though his jokes are annoying sometimes.
Nick Carlson is one of my best friends and a skilled filmmaker. He shot and edited the entirety of my film, The Professionals. He’s always making excellent work and keeps breaking his skate boards.
Mom and Dad (Ed Breay and Elizabeth Funk-Breay). Somehow took the news of their son wanting to become an artist very well. They’re always incredibly loving and supportive of my work. They were my first fans.
Keeper of the Night Star – Ethan Funk-Breay 2020 Beneath the Bog – Ethan Funk-Breay 2020 Astro Girl – Ethan Funk-Breay 2021 “The Professionals” Poster – Designed by Ethan Funk-Breay 2020 “Dalring + Ahab” Poster – Designed by Ethan Funk-Breay 2020 Behind the scenes still from “The Professionals,” directed by Ethan Funk-Breay (caption for the rest of them)