We had the good fortune of connecting with Herman Phillips and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Herman, we’d love to hear about how you approach risk and risk-taking
The old proverb “nothing ventured, nothing gained” sums up how I think about risk. I certainly wouldn’t be where I am today without taking calculated risks. While I used to be very fearful of something potentially going wrong, letting go of the aspects of situations I can’t control has helped me gain confidence in taking risks.
In spring 2016, I met Oscar-nominated documentary filmmaker Kirby Dick when he presented The Hunting Ground at my university. I told him I would be in Los Angeles visiting family in the summer and would love to work on his upcoming film on medical malpractice. I was offered a four week internship, which then turned into a 12 week internship.
When I moved to Los Angeles full time, I had two weeks of work lined up on an HBO show—and that was it. That led to another five weeks of work, which led to two years of work on HBO’s Euphoria, Silicon Valley, Insecure, Ballers, Perry Mason, and Disney’s The Mandalorian, The Book of Boba Fett, and more.
I co-founded Cinapse during the pandemic, leaving the very straightforward path of becoming a DGA Assistant Director. Starting a business is always a big risk, especially in this industry, and especially during a global pandemic. I’ve learned that you must be fully invested in what you’re doing in order to get to the outcome you want. If you’re half in / half out, it’s not going to work. It might work for a little while, but it’s unsustainable.
What should our readers know about your business?
Cinapse is one app that the crew, cast, and studio use to manage their work on film and television productions. This ranges from the production office and ADs managing the daily shooting schedule and set updates to background casting directors, accountants, ADs and Set PAs, and background actors using our digital background vouchers. Soon, UPMs, accountants, and department managers will be able to manage all production paperwork.
We’ve been cleared for use by four of the Big Five studios and we just finished Y Combinator, the startup accelerator program behind Airbnb, Dropbox, Doordash, and Stripe. We’re the first Hollywood physical production app they’ve ever invested in.
Being in a film tech startup feels a bit like the wild west. No one has truly tried or had the resources to build what we’re trying to build and bring industry-wide; everyone who works in this business understands how disconnected and far behind we are compared to other major industries. The fact that it took a global pandemic to make us go paperless speaks volumes about where we are in terms of technology adoption, specifically for production logistics and operations management. You look at the technology being used in the set lighting and camera departments, particularly in virtual production, then see we’re still using paper to manage the schedule or to manage cast and crew paperwork, it’s really jarring.
I wrote my undergraduate thesis on production management software and Hollywood labor politics, but didn’t think I would ever practically apply what I had learned in my academic research and direct work experience to build an app for Hollywood. I was just a year away from joining the DGA and starting to work as a 2nd AD, so this has been a big change in direction, but it feels so right. I knew this technology was sorely needed, but I didn’t see anyone else building it. So, my friends Greg, Roger, Heather, and I started Cinapse.
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.
I have too many favorites! For the best sushi in town, go to Sushi Gen in Little Tokyo. For the best soul food and fried chicken, go to Jim Dandy in South LA. For the best burgers, go to For the Win in Franklin Village. For an incredible view, stunning art, and architecture, go to the Getty Center. For a great dive, go to Crawfords in Echo Park. For a date night, go to Osteria La Buca off Melrose and then cocktails at Pinky’s or Atrium in Los Feliz.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
Absolutely! I’d like to thank my mentor, friend, and now advisor to Cinapse, Jim Kleverweis. Jim gave me the opportunity to work on my first big show ever, and has been a constant guide and sounding board. He’s one of the best line producers in the business and I’m so grateful to know him. I’d also like to thank the many ADs, Set PAs, and crew members who have taught me and brought me up over the last five years, and of course, my cofounders Greg, Roger, and Heather, and the entire team at Cinapse.
Two of these photos were taken by Eddy Chen, a phenomenal still photographer I’m lucky to call my friend!
Other photos were taken by: