We had the good fortune of connecting with Taylor Fraser and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Taylor, what was your thought process behind starting your own business?
I am directing an audio drama podcast called Foreward, which chronicles one family’s story after the tragedy of a school shooting. The story is loosely based on my own. The word entrepreneur has never appealed to me, but alas, here I am! In Colorado, if you want to work in film, you have to wear a lot of hats. Companies want to hire a one-man band, which means you can’t just be a director – you need to have the skills to hold the camera, record the audio, recruit the actors, and then edit the final product! For the past decade, I’ve taught myself every piece of the puzzle. The pandemic gave me the time, the energy, and the push to pursue my podcast full time. I knew how to create a film from start to finish, so I went to work to do the same for my podcast.
Do you have a budget? How do you think about your personal finances and how you make lifestyle and spending decisions?
Oh, money, how I love and hate thee. I grew up in a Dave Ramsey household. For those of you who don’t know Dave, he is a gruff radio personality with strong ideas about debt; more specially, why you shouldn’t have any! I’ve always been incredibly frugal thanks to Dave’s teachings. My only debt is my mortgage. This strategy has major pros and cons, as the people who know me best can attest to. In many ways, my life is far less stressful with an emergency fund and no car payment. On the other hand, it can be off-putting to be around me when it’s hard for me to justify spending money on normal things… I’d rather spend money on the podcast.
Because I’ve always stuck to a very strict budget, I was able to take on low paying gigs early on in my career to gain experience. Early on I lived on a salary of less than $27K. I was traveling so often that I literally lived out of a suitcase to save money on rent.
Today, I earn dramatically more, but I’m still frugal. I’ve been saving since I was a teenager – for what, I do not know, but I can tell you that extra money has come in handy when I needed it. When it was time to build a podcast, I had enough to self fund Season 1 of Foreward. Right now, my budget for Foreward is tiny, and I have been very fortunate that many of my actors have volunteered a couple hours of their time to knock out their parts. I have big plans for future seasons, as I’d like to find a way to make this a lucrative project for everyone involved.
Risk taking: how do you think about risk, what role has taking risks played in your life/career?
In many ways I am a risk taker. I’ve traveled to the far reaches of the globe (18 countries and counting) to hone my skillset as a creator of big visions. I’ve climbed a 17,000 foot mountain in Peru to explore temples buried under glacial lakes. I’ve driven a sprinter van across New York City to commit guerrilla style projection acts. I’ve jumped out of airplanes, I’ve stood on top of the Eiffel Tower, and I’ve been part of an Academy Award winning team. Risk is a prerequisite to living an interesting life, BUT taking risks also has its consequences.
Risk takers will inevitably experience more grief, more heartbreak, and more disappointment. Taking risks means opening yourself up to failure in every aspect of your life. You don’t get that big romance without risking your heart. You don’t walk the red carpet without having to pave the way when you’re the only woman on your film crew.
Where are you from and how did your background and upbringing impact who you are today?
I was raised in a small town in rural Colorado. During my sophomore year there was a shooting at my high school. After that, all I ever wanted to do was to get out of that town. I think that’s what prompted me to be so determined in my career.
There’s a film called Life Itself. I watched it and this quote hit me like a ton of bricks, “I crave a happy life. I have an almost desperate craving for stability and happiness, the way fat people crave chocolate, or lost hikers crave rescue. I want to live a big great fantastical life, but I’m concerned that the tragedy that seems to follow me will prevent that from ever happening.”
I’ve been running towards “happiness” most of my life. It turns out what I was running toward was usually risk or adrenaline. That’s not always a bad thing, but it can be dangerous.
Today, I’m trying to learn balance. It’s a challenge everyday.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
The Foreward podcast is an audio drama. It’s like watching a television show without being able to see the screen. It’s written like a play, which means you’ll hear conversations between characters. Season 1 is the first section of a much longer story. It begins with a school shooting, and future seasons will span the next decade for the characters you meet in Season 1.
What is the most important factor behind your success/the success of your brand?
I rarely say no. When something scares me I summon the courage to do it anyway. When a producer asked me to organize a crew of filmmakers to travel to a cannibal island in Sri Lanka I made it happen. When Hapa Sushi asked me to be their naked sushi girl, I said yes. When I found out I was being relocated to Montana in the middle of winter I went. When my friend recently asked me to photograph her birth, I said, “I have no idea how to do that, but I’ll learn!”
It’s important to trust your instincts. If something feels totally off, don’t do it… but if you’re just using fear as an excuse to dodge a big opportunity, that’s sad.
Creating Foreward is scary for me. I usually work for other people, and this is the first time I’m executing my own idea totally independently. My willingness to be brave and vulnerable will make or break this project. I have to be willing to put it all on the line, or the story won’t resonate.
What value or principle matters most to you? Why?
Being kind. I am working with the most incredible group of people in order to bring Foreward to fruition. I support them, and they support me. I don’t work with mean people, period. If you’re an asshole, get out.
I’ve been very fortunate to work with some incredible people who took the time to teach me new things and help me to develop my voice. I owe that same kindness to anyone I work with.
Work life balance: how has your balance changed over time. How do you think about the balance?
Historically, I have been very bad at this. At least I was, until recently. My career has always been at the top of my priority list, and for a long time I let everything else fall by the wayside. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had incredible adventures as a result, but eventually you realize that your job is not worth your soul.
In LA I would routinely work until 3:00 AM. I rarely saw the ocean. My relationships were falling apart. I was cutting movie trailers, and I was so proud of that… and I didn’t have anyone to share my accomplishments with.
Eventually, I decided to move back to Colorado, and I bought a house. I hoped that this investment would force me to sit still a little while. It worked. I got a regular job and settled in… but, you guessed it – eventually I got bored.
I have a vision board and right in the middle it says, “MAKE YOUR PODCAST, DAMN IT.” About 6 months ago I wrote a 350 page script and started recruiting actors. Today, the podcast is close to being finished.
I don’t think I’ll ever achieve perfect balance. Life ebbs and flows. Sometimes we have lots of opportunities in front of us, and sometimes we just need to sit still. I’m learning that you can have both. I want to be excited about my life, and I also want to foster my relationships. I also want to take care of myself and maintain my physical and mental health.
At the end of the day, you’re better at your job when you’ve got your life together.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Taylor’s favorite things to do in Denver: -The Denver Botanic Gardens -The Denver Art Museum -The Contemporary Art Museum -Union Station -Concerts at Swallow Hill -Historic Denver’s architecture tours Taylor’s Favorite Denver Restaurants: -Jerusalem’s, Devil’s Food, Izakaya, Zomo, John Holly’s, Linger, Los Chingones, The Way Back, Zoe Ma Ma, and Jax Taylor’s favorite Denver bars: Forest Room 5, Williams and Graham, The Green Russell, The Englewood Grand, and The Cruz Room Taylor’s favorite coffee shop: Stellas
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I’d like to dedicate my shoutout to my friends, family, and collaborators who have always encouraged me to dream big. I am also incredibly grateful to all of the talented actors, editors, writers, musicians, and composers that have contributed to creating the Foreward podcast.
Kathy Kasic, David Dobilet, Mickey Houlihan, Olesja Allen