We had the good fortune of connecting with Mark Swan and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Mark, is there something you believe many others might not?
“You have to pay your dues before you can get anywhere in business X.”
In any and every professional culture, there will always be the person who insists that your success is not warranted because you haven’t paid your dues. Despite this term being nebulous at best, this person should almost always be ignored. You will experience the person who has gone through the proper channels, made the right friends, attended the right meetings, and who will hate you because you didn’t have the experiences they have had. This person will be upset that you don’t beg for their respect, just because they’ve played the game longer than you. They’ll whine and moan that your success exceeds theirs. They’ll demand, to anyone who is listening, that you should be discredited for not playing the game like they did. To hell with them.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
When I was 4 years old, I made my mom video tape me talking to my stuffed animals like I was Johnny Carson. The end product wasn’t very good because a common four year old like myself usually doesn’t understand the underlying elements that help build a successful late night TV show. Those elements include producers, script writers, assistants, managers; the list grows into an overwhelming etc… The point is, I always wanted to entertain or to be a part of entertainment.
When I graduated high school, I realized that college wasn’t going to work for me. I moved 60 miles north of my home town to join a ska band. In an absolutely insane amount of dumb luck, that band gained traction and notoriety. We toured a million times and released 4 albums. I was drunk on attention (and beer) and had convinced myself that I had found my calling in life. I was numb to the reality that such a calling was voracious and volatile and, furthermore, it deprived me of my other passions.
The ska band imploded, like they often do, and I found myself aimless with little more than an HR job for a company I didn’t believe in. One day, I walked by a school for broadcasting and I was struck with the memories of me talking to my stuffed dinosaur (Zonky was his name) like I was Johnny Carson while my mom recorded me. Some dead spark in me ignited and I realized that television was where I had always wanted to find myself. I applied for the school almost immediately after.
When I was on my final month before graduation, Covid hit the world. The US shut down and every connection and opportunity I had cultivated through my education evaporated. I felt like the world was against me. I had been robbed of a future and, more importantly, I was broke!
I made the decision to contact some of my friends in the music industry. I said I was looking for video work and, miraculously, they responded with requests. It wasn’t long before I realized I needed to make a business of myself. It was never something I wanted to do or planned on doing. Yet, as the work continued, starting an LLC was the only step that made sense.
Throughout the journey, I learned these things: utilize every passion you’ve ever had into your work, fight when you’re desperate, and make lots of friends.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
As soon as my best friend and I would leave DIA, I would take them to Blucifer, where we would stop the car and pay our demonic tribute. After the blue horse’s evil palate was properly sated, my friend and I would head to Tony P’s for pizza and then down the street for Little Man Ice Cream (after waiting in line for like two hours.)
After the ice cream coma subsides, I would take them to the Denver Zoo and make them stay for far too long. Then, we’d hit up Mutiny Information Cafe to ogle books for hours. In a similar nerd vein, I would take them to Wizard’s Chest for an afternoon of costumes and board games. When we get kicked out for having a medieval battle at the cash registers, we would head to Moe’s Barbecue for hot wings and a lot of beer.
Most of our time would be spent walking along the Platte River, talking and arguing. We would probably have a lot of Illegal Pete’s and then drink way too much at Bowmans or one of the many dive bars. Hopefully there are shows going on while my best friend is here because Denver has always had a neat music scene.
Oh wait, my best friend already lives here.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
My shoutout goes to my lovely partner, Michelle, for her unwavering support, cheerleading, stress mitigation, unending sympathy, extra brain space for my many ideas, her musehood, and for being a better antidepressant than what the market currently offers.
Shoutout to my mom and dad who let me play with their expensive VHS camera when I was a kid.
Shoutout to N, T, and I for ten years of brute force in the corporate world. It is through your maligned sense of duty that I realized I never wanted to be a corporate shill ever, ever again.
Shoutout to ramen noodles and PBR, because you kept me alive while on tour for eight years and your sustenance humbled me in a way that conventional means never could.
Images of me in sunglasses are copyright Alicia Tebo.