We had the good fortune of connecting with Cindy Maram and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Cindy, can you walk us through the thought-process of starting your business?
I’m a creative person at heart and I’ve channeled that creative energy into my business pursuits. Because I enjoyed writing, movies, photography, as well as design, I pursued these in my educational and academic career, then applied these skills professionally as an entrepreneur starting two creative businesses. Everything that I’ve done and accomplished in my own business and creative profession has been planned and strategized from the very beginning–and sometimes it comes to fruition many years later, but it was always a part of a bigger long-term plan. I am the Founder and CEO of two businesses, the popular entertainment and arts digital publication, Dig IN Magazine (http://www.diginmag.com) and my creative and production agency, IN Close Entertainment (http://www.
Follow @dignmag, @cinmaram and @inclosent on Instagram for updates and to learn more.
Ultimately, I believe you must do what interests, drives and motivates you on a daily basis. If I didn’t love what I do, I wouldn’t be doing it. I’m interested in partnering with people, organizations and other businesses that share a similar creative drive and possess values that are aligned with mine both personally and professionally. It’s key that they also have great follow through and can be counted on to deliver what they promise. Surrounding yourself with the right group of people and support system or a community of like minded people that understands you and what you desire to accomplish is of utmost importance to success. It also helps to be a great “people person” with strong networking skills. Relationships drive the film industry and my active involvement in industry events year-round, both virtual and in-person, has definitely helped in launching many projects, partnerships and collaborations with colleagues, filmmakers, film festivals and organizations around the world. Further, I’ve been expanding my work, content mix and personal brand by contributing my original voice and ideas as a frequent guest speaker on panels and podcasts, as well as designing and hosting panels as a moderator for various film festivals.
Can you give our readers an introduction to your business? Maybe you can share a bit about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
Growing up in Los Angeles County many of my close friends and schoolmates worked as actors in television and movies. I also had a natural love for movies and attraction to the film industry from a very early age. Therefore, I grew up on movies and primetime television–always desiring to eventually be involved in the movie business somehow. Since I was a strong writer and visual artist, I honed my skills throughout college and graduate school, constantly adding film-related courses to my academic program.
Further, being bi-racial, as I am part Chinese and part Russian, I grew up in a predominantly Chinese-American household, so culturally I identify as Asian-American. I have strong ties to the Asian-American community in the film industry and beyond. Also, born and raised in Los Angeles, my friends were multi-cultural and from different backgrounds and races. I’ve always respected and valued diversity and therefore, have aimed to elevate the voices and work of BIPOC and LGBTQ+ artists and filmmakers through my platform, Dig IN Magazine and the films that I produce via IN Close Entertainment.
However, it wasn’t until graduate school where I took a seminar on Japanese Film Criticism, which was taught by the Radio/TV/Film Department at my university, that I realized I could be a successful film critic. The professor was a well-known critic for American Cinematographer Magazine who traveled the world attending and writing movie reviews at film festivals. At the time, I knew very little about this world, but was interested in learning more. Following graduation, I went on to complete post-graduate studies in the technical aspects of filmmaking–learning how to shoot short films and commercials, lighting, video editing with Adobe Premiere Pro and Final Cut Pro, as well as took courses in photography, web development and graphic design. I consider myself a life-long learner and I am constantly striving to learn and grow my skill base and knowledge. I don’t perceive trying new things as risks, but more as opportunities to move forward.
The entertainment industry, as well as communications and marketing industries are driven by constant evolving trends in online media, social media, technological advances in software platforms, cameras, video and filmmaking, computers, etc., so if you work in this industry you must always keep up with these fast-moving changes and advances. Therefore, I perform research on a daily basis, as well as continue to take courses and seminars to stay up-to-date. I thrive off of learning as it pushes me forward in my career, as well as is a great cure for boredom.
I spent a good 10 years of my career right out of graduate school as a creative in the corporate digital marketing and communications field working initially for a market research firm in Hollywood, California, which published an artistic print publication. Then, ended up working in Silicon Valley in the tech industry for some of the tech giants like Google and YouTube. I was constantly being scouted by these huge companies and really haven’t applied for many jobs in the traditional way that most people do. However, I eventually found it challenging giving up my valuable strategic ideas that were used by these companies, which “took them and ran with them.” I realized that my ideas were “golden” when I would come up with unique domain names for websites and businesses kept trying to steal them and resell the domain names. That’s actually a big business. So, now I’m more careful with who I share things with as in the business world, everyone is kind of out for themselves and hopes to profit off of new ideas–especially in the creative industries.
When I began Dig IN Magazine, I told no one what I was doing as it was a bit to ahead of the times for most people to really grasp. I basically designed and coded the entire website on my own. I reached out to a few good friends of mine who were up and coming actors at the time, as well as professional athletes in the NFL, who had done acting in commercials, as well as modeling. I, then, went onto interview a number of Olympic and professional athletes including Serena Williams, Venus Williams, Kristi Yamaguchi , Andy Roddick and Evander Holyfield. From the beginning, all of my friends were very supportive. I conducted email interviews with them and then launched the online magazine.
It wasn’t until a few years later when online publishing suddenly took off and the industry began placing greater value on blogs, websites and digital publications over print, that I gained a lot of traction.. I went from getting little return for my efforts to interview famous talent—receiving emails that read, so and so “isn’t available, but if it counts for anything, your website looks great” to getting invited to A-List film festivals to interview top Hollywood celebrities on the red carpet at movie premieres.
I’ve interviewed a vast number of A-List Hollywood celebrities—many who are Academy Award winners and nominees, notable film talent and public figures, which include Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling for “La La Land”, at SFFILM, Awkwafina for the premiere of “The Farewell” at Sundance Film Festival 2019, Sundance Film Festival Founder Robert Redford, a featured Q&A with Former First Lady and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton at Sundance Film Festival 2020 for Hulu’s Original Documentary “Hillary,” CNN News Reporter Anderson Cooper, Charlize Theron, Carey Mulligan, Elle Fanning, Brie Larsen, Margo Robbie for “I’Tonya” at the Mill Valley Film Festival, Tessa Thompson, Spike Lee for “BlacKkKlansman,” Ashton Kutcher, Lorenza Izzo for “Knock, Knock” and “Women Is Losers” at SXSW 2021 and the 2021 Los Angeles Latino International Film Festival, Chilean Filmmaker Pablo Larrain, Robert Pattinson, Kristen Stewart, Steve Carell, Director Ang Lee, Miles Teller at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival, Adam Driver, Olivia Wilde, Viggo Mortensen, Eddie Redmayne, Ethan Hawke, Usher, Erykah Badu, Machine Gun Kelly (MGK), “Creed II” Director Steven Caple Jr., Ewan McGregor, Amy Adams, Jason Schwartzman, and the list goes on.
What began as a written interview and movie reviews site evolved into the YouTube Channel “Dig IN Magazine Celebrity Interviews,” as well as “Scooped Podcast,” containing on and off the red carpet interviews with A-Listers and other notable talent. In the beginning, I worked behind the camera shooting the interviews, but later moved in front of the camera as a producer and on-camera interview host.
Over the last number of years, we’ve collaboratively partnered with Guerilla Wanderer Films, a production company headed by a friend and colleague of mine, Sean McCarthy. His team is filled with seasoned and highly skilled filmmakers who provide support through filming interviews, video editing and they also develop strategic and engaging micro-content for our social media channels. We are thrilled to be partnering with GW for the upcoming 44th Mill Valley Film Festival as Dig IN Magazine is celebrating 10 years with the festival, 5 years as a Promotional Media Partner, as well as expanding as a Festival Circle Corporate Sponsor for “Women Is Losers,” which I also served as an Associate Producer on. The award-winning festival hit by friend and filmmaker Feliciano was filmed in the Bay Area and stars “Once Upon A Time In Hollywood’s” Lorenza Izzo (who I originally met at Sundance Film Festival 2015 for the film “Knock, Knock” that also starred Keanu Reeves, whom we also interviewed and featured), Marvel’s latest superhero and star, Simu Liu of “Shang-Chi and the Legend of Ten Rings, which has been breaking box office records, as well features a number of other well-known talent.
Fast-forward 13 years later, Dig IN Magazine is an accredited member of the media for the Academy Awards, Cannes Film Festival, Venice International Film Festival, Sundance Film Festival, Tribeca Film Festival and many more. In addition, possessing a strong network and industry reach throughout Europe, we are the U.S. Press Partner for Festival Director and Filmmaker Jenna Suru’s Paris International Film Festival, as well as Festival Director and Producer Natasha Marburger’s London Independent Film Festival and its sister festival, Los Angeles International Film Festival.
Currently, we are in Venice, Italy attending and involved with the 78th Venice Film Festival. On the Lido, I am here as part of the industry for my company, IN Close Entertainment. I’ve spent much of my time at the Excelsior Hotel, the hub of the festival, working with the Venice Production Bridge and meeting with companies to discuss distribution strategies and opportunities for a few of the films that I served as a producer on.
In Venice, I also had the wonderful opportunity to get a first-look at a number of enormous Hollywood blockbusters (prior to public and theatrical release) like Denis Villeneuve’s “Dune” that stars Timothee Chalamet and Oscar Isaac, be one of the first to see Kristen Stewart stun and impress as Princess Diana in Director Pablo Larrain’s “Spencer” and the very funny “Official Competition” that pokes fun at the movie industry, and its actors and directors, starring legendary actors like Penelope Cruz and Antonio Banderas.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
If a friend was visiting me for a week in LA and Southern California, I would definitely suggest a drive down PCH and along the coast. Whether it’s down to Huntington, Newport Beach, San Diego or the other direction towards Malibu or Santa Barbara, the beach is a prime destination as the sun, sand, surf and ocean breeze helps you leave your problems behind. Weekend getaways are the best! I also enjoy going to coffee shops, shopping on Melrose, as well as taking friends out to brunch while in town.
If they are friends in the film industry, I would take them to a film festival or movie premiere. It’s always fun to mingle with the industry crowd. Fashion shows and Fashion Week parties and events are cool as well.
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’m grateful to my creative friends and collaborators in the film industry, actors Robert Wu, Feodor Chin, Jon Nielsen, fine artist Carly Ivan Garcia, as well as the Mill Valley Film Festival and Sundance Film Festival, where I was given my start on the red carpet as a celebrity interviewer. Further, I attribute much of my global reach to the Cannes Film Festival, London Independent Film Festival Director and Film Producer Natasha Marburger and Paris International Film Festival Director and Film Director/Actress Jenna Suru.
Instagram: @diginmag | @cinmaram | @incloseent
Twitter: @diginmag | @cindymaram
(L-R) FirstGlance Film Festival Los Angeles: Cindy Maram, Olia Oparina, Natasha Marburger, Natalie Metzger, Anya Bay FirstGlance Film Festival Los Angeles: Cindy Maram | Photo by Vivien Killilea/Getty Images Cannes Film Festival Red Carpet: Cindy Maram Cannes Film Festival 2021: Cindy Maram and Director/Actor Justin Chon | Photo by Jacopo M. Raule/Getty Images 2021 Los Angeles Latino International Film Festival “Women Is Losers” Premiere: Lorenza Izzo, Lissette Feliciano, Cindy Maram, Chrissie Fit | Photo by Rachel Murray/Getty Images Cannes Film Festival 2021: Cindy Maram, Hillary Shakespeare, Jenna Suru, Anna-Elizabeth Shakespeare | Photo by Jacopo M. Raule/Getty Images 2021 Los Angeles Latino International Film Festival “Women Is Losers” Premiere: Cindy Maram | Photo by Rachel Murray/Getty Images Paris, France: Cindy Maram, Photo by Lea Marie Nicolino