Recently I had the opportunity to interview the fabulous Kristen Nedopak, creator of the Geekie Awards. While I’ve provided a transcript for those who prefer to read, I also highly recommend the full audio version, where you can really hear Kristen’s energy and passion!
To listen to an mp3 of this interview, click here.
Kristen Nedopak: Absolutely. Absolutely. I love talking to everybody.
CB: Fantastic. Let’s see. I had a list of a few questions.
CB: So we’ll pull those up. Alright. I think the first thing that I was most curious about… I have been to the Most Dangerous Women of Comic-Con panel before and I have definitely heard of the Geekie Awards and stuff. I was curious; how did you get into all of this? This is a lot of fascinating stuff. How did it all start?
Nedopak: It actually started with my own career. I am a creator. Actually, way back when I went to art school. I was always wanted to make things. I was always very much into film and television, but I grew up in a tiny town so I thought, ‘There’s no way that I could possibly do something like that.’ So I actually went to art school. That sort of ricocheted into working in corporate America as a designer. I started working and doing a lot of their content production. So I found myself working with brands and their content and what they wanted to put forward to the world. Not until I moved to Seattle I think in – what year was that? – 2001, they had a huge independent film scene.
So I thought, ‘Whoa, okay, I could totally be an actress.’ Like that’s what I always wanted to do is be on camera and do that whole schmeel. So I was in like forty independent films. Half of them you wouldn’t even be able to see because they were never finished, because sometimes that happens. And that sort of is what got me to move to LA. It was like, ‘Okay, I’m in the union now. I am going to go be an actress in LA.’ But I didn’t really love acting, which is the funny part.
So over the next two years I ventured into hosting. Because again, I love being on camera, but I didn’t necessarily want to be an actress. I wasn’t feeling it. But I felt that I was meant to be on camera. I took a hosting class. The first thing they say is, “Well, as a host, first of all, you’ve got to have an amazing personality, but second of all, the big thing now is you need to talk about you are passionate about. They are not just hiring people. They are creating shows around people for what they are into.” I thought about it and I was like, ‘Well, I would absolutely want to talk about geek stuff and very specifically, film and TV.’ Like watching film and TV, making film and TV, behind the scenes, that is the sort of stuff that I love, but particularly in those genres.
So I started making my own content. I got a bunch of jobs doing random things, but I started creating my own shows about sci-fi fantasy and behind the scenes movie making, and behind the scenes sword fighting. I kind of got to the point where I was like, ‘You know, this digital world is really great, but agents still thought geek stuff was a little bit of a joke.’ They were like, “Oh, this website.” This was a few years ago; now it is not so much. But they were like, “Oh, this web series is about video games. Nobody plays video games.” I am like, “What do you mean nobody plays video games?” And so I thought, ‘Oh, my god.’ At the same time, I was doing video game stuff and I was creating all these little hosted shows. I would go to all of these conventions like Comic-Con. My favorite thing is Artists’ Row. I’d walk through Artists’ Row. And it dawned on me one day. I said, ‘Oh, my god. There is no other place that these people can showcase their work other than conventions.’ And then include that with the fact that nobody is taking my work seriously because it’s geeky, and the normal festivals and the normal award shows you maybe get like a best costume design and that’s it. I remember I was just complaining to my PR person at the time who was helping me. She said, “Girl, if you can do it, anybody can do it.” And she goes, “Why don’t you make your own show?” I was like, “That’s crazy.” And it was just one of those things that I just felt like I was meant to do it. I was meant to make it.
I have no idea why I decided to do an award show. It’s like the craziest thing I have ever done in my life. But because of all of that history and what I loved and my goal was to do something that helped independent people that needed to get out there, it just kind of all came together. I think in everyone’s life when they really stop and think about it, they come to a point where the culmination of everything that they’ve done sort of comes together in this beautiful way and it creates their purpose, if that makes sense. So I don’t know; that’s just how it came about. And it was crazy. It was a really crazy idea and nobody thought it could be done. So I’m super excited it happened.
Nedopak: Thank you! A lot of work, but I love it. I wouldn’t be doing anything else right now.
CB: Speaking of work, so you still have a day job as a designer?
Nedopak: You know, I mostly do freelance as a producer. I was doing freelance as a designer while I was a host and whatnot. But the Geekie Awards right now is kind of a full time job. It is year round. It is a full time job by the time we start submissions all the way through the end of the show and after the show and then planning the next show. But I still take on a lot of freelance producing work because I like to work on other projects. So some of it is producing videos for corporate. Some of it is producing videos for creative content. But that is basically what I do.
CB: If I can ask, how do you support yourself? Is it with Geekie Awards? Is it with the independent work? What’s your bread and butter?
Nedopak: Well, my bread and butter is not quite the Geekie Awards yet.
CB: Hopefully getting there, right?
Nedopak: It is getting there. I always think of it like a tech company. You know, you have this brilliant idea, but you sort of have to invest a lot of your time and effort and maybe some of your money to get it going to the point where somebody else wants to get involved in it. And that sort of is the point where we are at right now. I was very lucky that it came off so well and everybody loved it. That’s a good tech thing that somebody comes up with. Then everybody goes, “That’s sellable. We can do that.” So we are in that phase right now where we are getting more sponsors and more people that love what we have done. But I still do produce for corporate and do videos because that just pays the bills, absolutely. So that’s kind of my bread and butter. I definitely have a bunch of jobs going on at the same time, even if it is just like bare minimum sometimes. It is like, “Okay, I need this much to pay my bills this month.”
CB: I understand. It sounds like you are super busy. How do you find time to do it all?
Nedopak: You know, in the very beginning, it was very overwhelming. But I have to say I have kind of have come up with this great process. I think this is a great tool for everyone. A lot of times stress takes out more energy than the actual work that we have to do- stress over whether it is going to be a failure or a success, stress over where money is going to come in. And I sort of just accepted the fact that I am doing this and I am going with the flow and things are going to come in. So I am able to focus a lot more. I focus way less on stress. Every morning I get up and I do my meditation and I get into my zone. And then I feel like everything just flows from there. I am really great with time management. I know that a few months before the show I cannot take on any more work. I know when it is a little bit slower because I have done this for a few years. I know that times when I am like, “Okay, I can take on a few extra things.” So it really is being good to myself and it is all about time management and saying ‘yes’ to the things that are going to work for me and saying ‘no’ to the things that I don’t need to take on. There are a lot of things I don’t do because it is just like I would kill myself. You’ve got to have boundaries and how much you can actually handle and really create that work/life balance.
CB: That’s really cool. I know a lot of people are still struggling to find that balance.
Nedopak: Well, they can call me! I also do consulting work. I do business consulting and coaching in that sense of like, where to get where you are going and how to get there.
CB: I may know somebody who could probably use some help with that. (Interviewer’s note: If you’re reading this, you know who you are.)
Nedopak: Yeah, yeah!
CB: She is a workaholic.
Nedopak: I was, too. I work really hard, but I work a lot smarter now.
CB: Oh, that’s really good to hear. It makes me happy to hear about somebody who has found that balance in their life. That’s really cool.
Nedopak: Yeah. And you know, it is a lot of work, but having found that balance, I am the type of person who just wants to share all of those tools with everybody else. Again, that is why I do the show. It is like, ‘How can I help people? How can I always help people with what I am doing with what I have learned?’
CB: You seem really comfortable in your own skin.
CB: It’s like maybe part of the reason you didn’t want to be an actress is you didn’t want to be somebody else. You were happy being yourself.
Nedopak: Absolutely! I love hosting because it is me. It is my personality. I kept feeling like as an actress, it is like I get it. There are a lot of people playing amazing roles and they love the craft. But for me, especially as a female, I kept getting put into, “Well, you look like this so you are going to be this type of character.” And a lot of times because I have red hair, it was this femme fatale. I am like, “That’s not me.” I would walk into the room and they would say, “You are really bubbly. We did not expect that.” And I would not get the job or I would just not want to do the job and not want to be bitchy. So it just felt like, “Hey, man, I want to be me.” I want to put forth something that is me, whether it is on camera or behind the scenes. I feel like that’s something that you can do as a director and writer, too.
CB: That’s really awesome. So you put so much of yourself out there. I mean, you’ve got your real name (I assume it is your real name) out there on Twitter-
Nedopak: Oh, it is my real name, baby!
CB: Just you are very open about everything, it feels like. Do you ever feel a little vulnerable putting yourself out like that?
Nedopak: You know, I do. That is actually a really great question. My advice to anybody would be this: There is a point in time where a lot of people hide themselves and they are very afraid. That was me at one point. I was very guarded. I was very much like, ‘I want to come across like this.’ And it was just, again, so much energy to put up that front. So I kind of went through this huge transition where I let it all go. And then I was maybe a little bit too vulnerable. I mean, you get to the point where you start letting everything in and everybody in.
Like you said earlier, I just found that balance where I don’t share everything. I don’t let everyone in my personal life. I don’t let everyone to any house, so to speak, and hanging out with me. And I pick and choose what I share. But when I do share, I share in a way that is not, “Oh, I am having a bad day and I need..” and this and that. I really share as a like, “Okay, I had this experience and this is what I learned from it and this is my advice to other people in hopes that it can help them.” And I think that is a big tip I would give people, especially if they are really stressed out and they work a lot. We tend to complain, complain, complain on social media. That is really what makes you more vulnerable. You are giving all of your power away to the rest of the world and you are complaining about it. Really, I just worked a lot with my own self-power and knowing where I stand and knowing who I am. So when I do put something out there now, like I said, I am not afraid to say, “I had this crazy day” or “I went through this horrible experience.” But I do it in a way that is sharing so that other people can feel like, “Oh, okay. It is not just me.” Does that make sense?
CB: Yeah. I think that’s really cool to be comfortable sharing those things, but in a way that benefits others.
Nedopak: Yeah. And again, this is what I work on with people, especially when I do coaching. I am all about self-power. A lot of people don’t realize that they have their own power and how much of their world they can create. I have discovered that. I went through the whole phase of thinking things were hopeless and letting all of my control vanish or being too much in control. Both of those things are not great. And you just have to find your power. You have to find your self-power and put up your boundaries. I know who I am and I know my integrity and I know what I stand for. And kind of make sure that you are not surrounded by anybody that isn’t really working in that zone. And then you are all good!
CB: Was there a specific turning point for you between sort of hiding yourself away and protecting yourself and then being able to be more open? Is there a specific incident or something that happened?
Nedopak: One hundred percent, absolutely, the first year of the Geekie Awards. I ended up getting adrenal fatigue. I was really sick afterwards because of all of the pressure and the stress of doing the show and not knowing if it was going to be a success and all of the pitfalls you fall into. So after that year, I sort of went through (I think a lot of people go through this in their life)… And I am a pretty spiritual person. I am not really religious, but I am a very spiritual person. Again, I meditate and all of that. I think that a lot of people go through what I like to call ‘the dark void’ or the darkness. It’s like you are so in control of your life and you finally let go and everything comes flooding in. And then you have to learn how to manage yourself. That was really me after the first year. You know, I put it all out there and I said, ‘Okay, this is it. It could fail or it could be awesome.’ And I struggled so much with wondering if it was going to work. I really did have to make myself vulnerable.
So probably the next six months after that I did a lot of work on myself. That is when I started mediating more and started doing yoga and really just kind of letting it all out there and dealing with it. A lot of things come up. You know, childhood things and this and that. All of the reasons why you are trying to protect yourself come to light. And then finally you kind of get to this point where you say, ‘I think I’m pretty cool. I am a totally cool person, no matter what. I have shortcomings.’ The biggest thing for people to admit is that they have shortcomings; we all do. ‘And I am who I am. I am on this earth for a reason. And, cool, I am going to do that thing.’ So, yeah, that was the biggest turning point for me. It was definitely 2013-2014; some crazy times.
CB: One of the things that I read about sometimes is women like yourself who are very much in the public eye and who express support for all kinds of groups sometimes get a lot of negativity in terms of negative emails or threatening or harassing emails, things like that. Do you receive these kind of things? And if you do, how do you let go of that negativity?
Nedopak: Well, first of all, I don’t really receive – okay, again, during that time, I kind of got a lot of negative feedback. I wouldn’t necessarily say for the show. It was just that sometimes when you are in Hollywood people expect that, “Oh, well you need to know who I am.” There are a lot of cliques, especially with women, which I don’t really love and am not a part of. So there is that type of negativity. Or maybe people are jealous of what you are doing, so you kind of get that hate mail from that. Really, in the very beginning I took it very personally and I would just be so sad. But again, this really goes back to having your self-power. The way that I see it is (and I think this is great for anybody) I look at the world on a psychological level.
So when someone is being negative to me, rather than taking it personally and accepting that that is aimed at me, I look at it and I say, “Okay, let me look at this person. What are they going through? They seem jealous, so maybe they are not at their highest self right now.” So this is not something I am going to accept and take in. This is not my fault. I am not saying it is their fault; I am just saying that I can sort of block it in that way and say, “Okay, you know what? I wish them luck. I am not going to reply to that because it is not worth my time.” If it was a good friend, I might if we had an argument; that’s one thing. But you just sort of, I don’t want to say ignore it in a sense of ‘Oh, I am not going to deal with that’ or ‘I am too good to deal with that.’ You just kind of have to let those things go and say, “Well, that’s not me. They have their own thing going on and I wish them luck with that.”
And it really, really helps because especially in Hollywood, you get a lot of jealous and envy and people disliking or people thinking they know who you are when they don’t know who you are because you are in the public eye. And you just have to know who you are and you just have to let that stuff go. Otherwise it is just another added stress that you really don’t need because it is not personal. A lot of crap in this world is not personal and we take it personally.
CB: Can you, for people who aren’t as familiar with them, talk a little bit about what the Geekie Awards are specifically? You gave a little background about how you came up with them, but take me a little bit through the show and what you do.
Nedopak: Absolutely. So the Geekie Awards is an award show for independently created content all over the world. We are the only show that mixes in video games, tabletop games, comic books, fashion, art, film, all digital content, and podcasts. So we are sort of a mix of a whole bunch of different industries: entertainment, gaming, fashion, art, comic books. Like I said, I wanted to create a place where people could come and get their work seen. So that’s the whole purpose of the show. We are trying to build it up to a point where our awards are this incredible thing that people want to get and we do really get the best of the best of the world. And we kind of do right now. We get some amazing people that enter. I mean just wait until you see.
But one of the things we are doing this year because the first year was just about the awards and getting it together and getting it movement is this year we are actually making a two day event. We want to make it a destination for people to come hang out that is all about creators and geekdom. So not necessarily a comic convention where there will be vendors selling things. Not necessarily an expo per se. But something that is a little bit more interactive where people can come and just sort of network and hang out and be geeks. We might have some fun stuff happening day one. And then of course the second day will be the award show. So this year people can expect to come to the show for several days and just hang out with each other and be around each other and really kind of just have a good time. But the Geekie Awards first and foremost is for being a geek and geek-created content and independent creators.
CB: Sounds like a blast. How do I get a ticket?
Nedopak: Well, we haven’t put them on sale yet, but you will probably see them on our website. I am not really sure when we are going to put them sale. But I think when we announce nominees we are the going to announce the venue. It’s amazing. It is huge. It is such a great space. People are really going to love it. Well, I am not going to say that because then people can Google it and see what it is. But we’ll announce it soon. But then probably sometime a few months before we usually get the tickets together. And then this year they are going to be a lot less than before because we were trying to cram people into this tiny little venue. So we are going to make it affordable for everybody to come both days.
CB: Very cool.
CB: So will you be at San Diego Comic-Con this year?
Nedopak: I will. I was just actually texting my friend about “What are we doing?”.
Nedopak: Yeah. And I am going to be on a panel called Spark [Your Creativity: A Call to Action!]. It is about female creators. It is Saturday night. I need to look this up. It is either 8 or 8:30. I am pretty sure it is 8. (Ed. Note: The panel does start at 8:00pm.) But if anybody is hanging out in the convention center Saturday night and they are not going to any big parties, definitely come check out our panel. It is really cool and it is all female creators that are doing kick-ass stuff.
CB: Very cool. One last question for you.
CB: Again regarding the Geekie Awards. So when you bring in independent creators, what are the parameters? For example, in the Olympics, if somebody is a professional, they can’t actually compete in the Olympics. So do you have any limits on who can go? Or is it any independently created content regardless of who the creator is?
Nedopak: Well…it really is regardless of who the creator is because sometimes you will have somebody who is like an actor who is really big that is down here creating their own comic book. We really don’t want to hinder that. I mean, independent is independent. I think some times people think, ‘Well, independent is that they can’t be successful.’ Not true!
In fact a lot of our people are very successful. So our parameters are different per category. But for example, if you are a video game, you cannot have a game produced by a major publisher. It has to be that you put it out there and you are the independent creator and you are the person who actually developed and built it. So you know, like Blizzard and those people, they can’t actually come in and enter. But we can handle anybody that is in like IndieCade. And then for film and digital, we put on a budget cap on it so that it needs be under a certain amount. But then also you can’t be backed by a major studio.
So a great example. Now they are owned by a major studio, but Geek and Sundry, when they first came out, they were doing their own content. And they were doing it on a shoestring budget. Regardless what anybody things, they really didn’t have that much. So their stuff really kind of fit into our show. We have another show that we put on Nerdist, but not made by Nerdist. They basically air different people’s content. So that is a perfect fit for us. And then anybody that is making anything. We have no minimum budget or no minimum requirements other than we have to be able to watch it or see it or play it…and all of our judges are experts. I think what I think and then I get the expert opinion of what exactly is it that works as indie in this category. And then I get a lot of their feedback from people in the industry as to what indie means. So I feel really comfortable about that. We have so many great people. And they are from all over the world, which is amazing.
CB: That is so exciting.
Nedopak: Yeah, it is pretty cool.
CB: It’s truly global. I actually have one more question I’d like to ask.
CB: Is there anywhere else I should look for you at San Diego Comic-Con? Anything else you are going to be doing there? Or just the one panel?
Nedopak: I am doing the one panel and then I’ve got a lot of interviews. Usually when I go there, I am going to support my friends’ panels. So I am probably going be at the Her Universe Fashion Show and I’ve got a bunch of other friends that are having cocktail mixers. Fashionably Nerdy has cocktail mixer I think Friday night. So I really go to see what my friends are doing and then maybe if I get into some of the parties, I go to those too. Usually I am just around supporting other people…at this point I am not putting on any big events. I already put on one big event; that’s enough.
CB: Yeah, just taking it a little bit easy it sounds like.
Nedopak: Yeah, maybe some year we will, but not right now.
CB: That sort of ties into that whole work/life balance thing.
CB: Have some fun.
Nedopak: And plus, you know, this is the time when a lot of my friends are doing their stuff and I want to go support them as well.
CB: Very cool. Wow. Well, it has been such a pleasure to talk with you.
Nedopak: Yeah, tanks for calling! I appreciate that. I love the questions. Those were some great questions that nobody asks.
CB: Well, thank you so much. I appreciate that. You have a great afternoon.
Nedopak: You, too. Bye!