Today, we're doing something a little different. We don't have an episode for you per se, but we do have an interview to share.
Kent Mast, and his wife, Ashleigh, are the filmmaker duo behind K&A Films. Kent's desire to share unique and beautiful stories started when he was a kid. His natural gift for filmmaking turned into a lifelong career and many nights of “undone” homework.
Our conversation revolves around Kent's lifelong journey in filmmaking, navigating the fluctuating seasons of work, relational and business identities, and what all of that looks like when you work with your spouse and are working toward the same goals.
Interview with Kent Mast of K&A Films
H: Let's talk about the early days. Did you see filmmaking as a gift that could also make you money?
K: Yeah, in my family growing up, I just always had one of those like handycam cameras. And then even before that, I was making like Lego stop motion films, in elementary school. I think that combination of film and music, I've always loved. Storytelling was always there, like literally wired in me. I remember as a kid, I would sit and play with like Fisher Price and make these little like, towns and I just felt like I was always doing that but never saw it as like a gift.
I it was just so natural that I didn't even notice it. There was just no concept of doing this professionally in the future at all.
I didn't know I was creative until people just kept saying it. My beginning of it as my work was doing weddings. I didn't have a voice to my work at that point, I just started to create for other people. I just started with my best technical and emotional knowledge of the film world at that point. I would try to make it different and fun and deliver. I was just doing it on the side at that point. My work started spreading word of mouth and my business started growing.
While that was happening, I was “fired” from my church's media production team which was an interesting turn of events, but was a blessing none the less.
H: Fired?! Tell me more about how that went down.
K: Ha! Yeah. I think I got fired in like the nicest way possible. Because I don't think I was a great fit, necessarily for the position either. And so I think we had just outgrown each other a little bit. And that was fine. You know, the church is moving in one direction. And I think my life trajectory was just going in a different direction.
I was the first guy there that had really been on staff doing video and media. And so there's just natural hiccups that come when you are on staff anywhere, and there's never really been a position created or defined for anyone. And so I was there for three years. And I can honestly say I learned a ton from everybody there. And it was a really valuable experience.
But I just what I knew that my future wasn't going to be there. My boss, one of the pastors (who we're still on good terms with), he actually ended up marrying my wife and I, but he was like, “I think you will have more success and kind of opportunity out in your own business, I think you should pursue that full time.” So when I say it was kind of thrust upon me, literally, like, I think I got fired.
And I know that it's not a God thing for everybody, but my story of personal relationship with Jesus became very real at this point. Once I stepped into this realm of self-employment. I was now kind of floating in my own life. All of a sudden, I have literally no income. And my all my expenses are just going up, you know, now I'm renting. I'm living in a house, I just paid tuition on school that I just dropped out of to get a job at the church, which now I don't have, and now I'm paying rent and not at home.
I just started with what I had at that point and the gift God had given me. I had no plan. The only choices were to sink or swim. I'm really thankful that we are swimming now but it was a challenge at first.
H: So, you get in, you start doing the work – was there a turning point in just doing the work vs running a business?
K: That transition took some time. Like I'm talking literally years until I started to see the fruit of like anything. So similarly, owning a creative business there's a content visual piece, there's the storytelling piece, there's trying to get people emotionally engaged in your work.
And then there's all the practical things like deadlines and invoicing, there's a lot that you're trying to kind of balance.
And so I think, over time, I have focused on each of those pieces a little bit more or less in different seasons. So as I've grown, as a filmmaker, I've learned that there's things about cameras that they just can and can't do, and it's just a tool in my belt. Same with the business aspect. This tool might serve me a little bit better, or this program maybe fits me a little bit more, or running my business or my life this way, will produce a certain kind of fruit that may or may not be good at all. it's very trial and error. Sometimes, that means making a lot of mistakes and having accidental success. A lot of the things I've learned have been over time.
But as you step into your work each time, you're building further on that foundation. I started with no plan, just figuring out how to pay the bills. Now there's still not a set in stone plan but I know more of what I want and what I'm going after. The business revelation has just recently been known to me – probably the last six months. The more I delegate, the better my work has become. My wife and I are a film team and we do everything together. She has become the second expression of my heart and our heart to capture these moments. So I've been learning that the more that I've handed off and delegated and grown our team, the better that things have become. And that doesn't mean easier. You know, there's a lot of things there that you work through. But it has been better.
H: Can we talk a little more about working with your spouse? What has that experience been like for the two of you?
K: First and foremost, it is one of the best things for us. It's not for everyone, but I really have loved it. I get to spend time with her and that's different now because of having two kids. The level that it's been great is also the level it can be difficult. When someone makes a mistake, you're talking to your spouse and you still go home together. You're not talking to somebody who you could walk away from or fire – we're still going home to each other at the end of the say.
We've had to learn to talk to each other in those when someone messes up – forgets to hit record or gets a bad shot and learn to give each other grace. I think I'm getting better at this, but I know that I get anxious before going into a wedding. I can project those things onto Ashleigh. Or if we have a tough year.
I mean, our 2015 was really difficult. And we had to work together on figuring out how do we encourage each other when I can't fix it and neither can she. What do we do?
It automatically creates a proving ground for growing in contentment and patience. It's a very refining process. I know we've been called into this work, but at the same time it feels tremendously stretching. There's no substitute for time sometimes and getting to know the other person. It's not easy, but it's like all of life – you take what comes and you work together to build a foundation over time.
H: Let's talk about deep work, about white space, about the things you do personally to help you stay in rhythm with getting your work done.
K: I think it ties back to figuring out how to make it work with what you have and what life gives/asks of you at each time. So we're thinking about growing our family and having more children. What does that look like while owning a business. What do we do to alleviate some of the pressure from Ashleigh when we hit the newborn phase again?
So just just recently, we added two people to our team to do creative editing and social strategy and they have been so helpful in alleviating what used to be Ashleigh's load. So what I'm alluding to is figuring out how to make the business function without fully resting on us.
Also, I am not big into “self help” – but I highly recommend Deep Work. I think what really started to challenge me was the idea that I could not be responding to email. There's a quote from Deep Work about having the inbox open all day and just write emails all day or I can work with my inbox closed and write novels.
There's just this idea that I need to be as quick to respond as possible when I was just starting out, but if you don't start to pivot from that place you're going to be distracted. I found myself in that space a lot. Deep work didn't just happen for me. I have to make effort or I will be distracted. It's hard for me, but I started working mostly with my inbox closed.
We created an email signature outlining our “work with inbox closed” policy. We check our emails between 12-1 and 3-4 which we hope gives people the impression of ‘this person actually values their space and their time'. I was nervous about it but we've gotten a lot of positive feedback from clients who are waiting for my word. They will tell their internal marketing departments or whoever, “check out this email signature!”. Which has been cool.
As much as possible, I want to be choosing who I give my time and attention to. It's acknowledging my finiteness – I'm not infinite and I don't have a million hours in my day. Loving the people in front of you so well and so much usually means putting your cellphone away and the same thing applies in business. I want to be working well so that I have time to be flexible later.
H: What kind of exciting things are you looking to do for your business this year?
K: I think one of them would be to continue to try to surrender more and see, for me, “God, what do you have?” There's a continued surrender – this desire to reach out and try to hold things that I shouldn't be trying to hold.
Deeper surrender and trust – Reminding myself that I hired the people I have around me for a reason. Even though our team is growing and we can produce more, there is still this need to make our work as creatively excellent as possible. So, it's a matter of bringing all of our creative gifts together in a way that works for all of us and our clients.
We're working on developing and coaching in our creative gifts and not settling on a “good enough” film but creating something worthy of the brand we've been trying to build. I'm not talking about perfection, but I still want to take as much time as needed for each piece before it goes out the door. That's the top priority for us this year.
Lightning Round Questions:
H: What are you reading?
H: What is your made up superpower?
K: Stopping time – that would be really useful!
H: What is your real-life superpower?
K: Seizing opportunity, knowing what is needed in a moment without hesitation.
H: What exciting missions are you and your team or family on right now?
K: Team – Real stories, real people – mini docs that have been close to my heart. Now that I have a team, it will make this idea I've had for about three years more of a reality. With weddings – having great connections with the couples we work with and pouring myself back into that work after our winter break.
Family: Ashleigh and I just got back from Iceland and I'm constantly pestering Ashleigh about going on more trips. So, maybe next year we can take our boys with us. We're also talking about expanding our family so that is also on our radar, too!
Thanks to Kent for the deep dive into his journey! Learn more about Kent + the K&A films team:
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