We had the good fortune of connecting with Chris Hepburn and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Chris, how do you think about risk?

I grew up in Orange County in the 80’s and like many teens I was a skateboarder. Unfortunately, I was never that good as I learned the sport is inherently physically risky and the fear of injury held me back to a certain degree. While my friends were jumping off and over bigger and bigger obstacles, I was never able to ignore the risks to be as good as them. It was the inability to separate what might happen from would that held me back as well as the fact that the reward of being the best skateboarder of my peers was never enough incentive to get past the perceived risks.

Risky sports have never been my thing; I don’t skydive or really even like rollercoasters. That said, I will ride a bicycle down PCH in Malibu which is probably more dangerous than either of those things.

The first risk I took in my career was taking a job at Activision in 1995 to work as an editor for such FMV hits as Spycraft, Zork Nemesis, and Santa Fe Mysteries. This was a huge leap from the art videos I was making at home on my 486 PC for art school but I knew enough about the process to talk my way into the job. Dropping out of the Master’s program at SF State and moving my 9 month pregnant wife and 3 year old son to Los Angeles for this job, a place we had never lived, was a big leap. However, the reward of working for a company whose games I grew up playing was worth it in my mind and the steady paycheck was a nice incentive. I worked for Activision for almost 5 years, eventually building their first internal creative production team to service both production and marketing.

The next big risk in my career was starting my own company. Leaving Activision in 2000, I started one of the only game focused post production studios in LA at the time. Having two young children at home, a mortgage, and no experience running a small business was even riskier than taking the job at Activision but the reward of being my own boss made it worth it. To mitigate the risk even further, the first project at my company happened to be producing all the videos within Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater. Forward Never Straight Productions ran strong for 5 years working with Activision, EA, Ubisoft, WB Games, Microsoft, and Disney Interactive. I eventually sold FNS to Trailer Park in 2005 and joined their team to co-head their “new” video game division. This was risky too but in a different way.

The common thread of all this, and what I’ve lived my life by, is the potential reward needs to outweigh the perceived risk. However, over the years I’ve learned that at a certain point, just being okay with the outcome no matter how good or bad is key. Should I have stayed in school and gotten my Masters in Art? My mother would probably say yes, but it was the willingness to take that initial risk that put me in a position to take an even bigger risk that has led to a 28 year (and counting) career in the gaming space. Risk is an idea; there’s risk in swimming in the ocean or flying in a plane or riding a bicycle. Healthy evaluation of risks versus the rewards in any situation will go a long way to accepting the risk to win a reward and at a certain point in all these instances I had to go for it and hope for the best.

Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
My career which started as purely making assets for Activision games but quickly morphed into creating marketing assets as well. Starting out as an editor allowed me to work with the building blocks of many projects and made me eventually become an expert at image acquisition, post, and delivery. Leaving Activision to start my own business forced me to learn accounting, negotiation, and personnel management on top of the project-based work on games like THPS and Call of Duty. We also produced the first HD gametrailer delivered in the Window Media 9 format for the Xbox version of True Crime. We also had one of the first HD capture studios in LA and we nearly made the list of 10 places in the US to be an approved capture vendor for all of Microsoft but the email went into my spam and I didn’t sign up. That’s a different story. Bringing in editors to work taught me how to be a producer and a finisher until I could afford one of those. Selling FNS to Trailer Park taught me how to negotiate with much larger companies. Co-running the games division I learned what it was like to be part of a creative agency and this was my jump into the bigger agency world. After two years at Trailer Park, I helped start Happy Hour Creative and learned some valuable lessons about starting business right before the global economy collapsed. Eventually left there and ended up as CD of mOcean’s gaming team. I left mOcean to go to Ignition, won some awards for the Tomb Raider campaign then left Ignition and was the CPO at Battery. I left there and ended up at Create left Create and eventually ended up at Liquid.

Over the last 23 years, the first 10 were the most critical. I was constantly learning new things to be better at my job which has helped my career continue to grow and prosper. Those first 10 years were also the hardest, video game crunch time hit differently in the 90’s and being a small business owner can be very rewarding but also incredibly stressful when you have to leave your family vacation in Sicily to finish a job because the editor quit in the middle. All these experiences have put me in the position to be heading up the Creative team here at Liquid but I also know there’s alway more to learn and I can always be better at my job.

If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
In no particular order: Street Tacos at Tacos Arizas after a Dodgers Game
Tripp Burgers whenever they’re at El Segudo Brewing, great for team happy hours after work
Maritini’s at Musso and Franks before a show at the Hollywood Bowl
Crypto Arena (is still Staples to me) for Lakers game with chicken sandwiches from Ludobird
Check out the The Broad and have lunch after at Grand Central Market
A bike ride on the beach bike path with a stop at Shellback’s in Manhattan Beach

Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I’ve always wanted to pay my respects to Robyn Bell who was my advisor and teacher at UCSB in the College of Creative Studies Literature program. Her mentorship in those years instilled a level of confidence that has stuck with me to this day. I only regret not giving more in her classes but what I did learn about critical thinking, analysis, defending a creative opinion and copy editing has served me well my entire career.

Website: www.liquidadvertising.com

Instagram: @h3pburn

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/chris-hepburn18/

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