Ben Andrews is an event manager, producer, and creative economy pioneer based in Seattle, WA. With over a decade of customer service experience and 10,000 hours of personal engagement, Ben excels in building connections with clients, partners, and collaborators while having an affinity to merge creative and non-creative sectors, uniquely navigating between public, private, and community entities.
Most notably, Ben has fostered collaborations in the Pacific Northwest to be a leading force for the creative economy through organizations like the Washington State Film Leadership Council and Creative Industries Recovery Task Force, as well as The Summit, formerly known as the Seattle Film Summit, which he founded ten years ago. He is dedicated to reshaping the creative industry and building sustainable creative careers.
Symbonic: Tell us about your background. How did you get to where you are today?
Ben Andrews: I was raised in a very small town - fundamental Christian environment with little culture. I was pointed in a direction that had little art or connection, and by the time I was 30, it caught up to me. I knew I wasn’t aligned with my purpose. I had no idea what my purpose was, but I knew that through creativity I could explore that. That began what has now become an 18 year journey of discovering myself through creativity and building professional opportunities.
S: What are you currently working on or upcoming projects that you’re excited about?
BA: For the tenth year anniversary, we have evolved The Seattle Film Summit into The Summit. I have invited fashion, gaming, publishing, and music to join us in the celebration of creatives and creative economy. This is a massive change for us and I’m so excited as we continue to blur the lines between the creative industries and push towards a united front.
Also, I am very excited for The Summit to go into development on its first feature film. This project hits my heart. It’s a script that says so much about the importance of life and we’re excited to be telling that story.
S: What business, technology, or creative trends are you thinking about that will have impact on your career and job?
BA: Let’s face it, AI, the strikes, a culture still trying to recover from pandemic, and a social environment that has everyone a little off balance. I believe creatives are in crucial and scary times. It’s not just artistic viability that is at stake - our very right to have a voice without punishment or exploitation is at stake. I believe it’s more important than ever to build creative community.
S: How do you measure success in the creator economy? Is it based on metrics like followers, engagement, revenue, or something else entirely?
BA: Success comes with helping the overall creative community understand that innovation (aka revolution) is a MUST. Modern creative business has flowed through a capitalistic system. Which by default has unfortunately turned it into more of an "exploitation" system instead of a development system. What do I mean by this? Current industry systems are built around pushing through massive numbers of artists to "discover", hence the ones that can be monetized. They’re not necessarily concerned with building a sense of community or developing career paths for artists. Success will come when the creator community aligns and realizes that they don’t necessarily have to conform or compromise to fit in. As creatives we have the ideas, flexibility, and ability to develop and guide culture, not conform to it.
S: What unique challenges have you faced as an entrepreneur in the creator economy, and how have you overcome them?
BA: The support within the creator community is a difficult road to overcome. Artists have been trained to realize that their opportunities are limited and that their peers are their competition. Those fighting for evolution in the community often become targets themselves and then suddenly feed into the same bitterness that they’re trying to rise above. The culture itself has not been set up for success. I wouldn’t say I’ve overcome, but I’ve gained strength from understanding the discovery and journey of understanding myself has fed my resolve to overcome.
S: How do you balance the creative and business sides of your work as a creator?
BA: That’s the question. Flipping from right to left sides of the brain is one of the greatest challenges for creatives in my honest opinion. I used to hate the spreadsheets. HATE the spreadsheets. Recently, I've come to understand that every moment of life is creativity, even in the dullness of what sometimes we consider business. The left and right sides of my brain are the greatest partners one could ever have, if they were both accepted in fullness. While a fresh journey for me, I can feel the success in coming to terms with them both and helping them align in a beautiful collaboration.
S: How do you foster and maintain relationships with your audience, customers, and collaborators?
BA: I would say that I’ve had recent revelations in this arena. As a creative we can get caught in the lane of what does our audience want to see from us. It’s honestly everywhere in our culture now. A massive weight of ‘"what do I, my opinions, my art LOOK LIKE?" Not "what it truly is." The more I focus on appreciating my unique perspective and the truthfulness of what I want to put out in the world, the more authentic I’m able to be. In a world where the new pandemic is a lack of authenticity, you’ll find that when you align to your authentic self and don’t fear it, the more your audience will gravitate to it.
S: What advice would you give to someone who is just starting out as an entrepreneur in the creator economy?
BA: You’re the sweet spot. This planet is closing in on 8 billion people and there is no one like you. Learn you. This won’t be easy, because your ego will tell you that it already knows you. Spend time with yourself. Journal. Meditate. Explore. Appreciate your uniqueness. Let that guide you. Listen to the world, but only grab the morsels that you need. Don’t accept that the world knows what it’s doing.
The Summit kicks off Thursday, September 7 and Friday, September 8 at the Hyatt Regency in Renton, WA. Later, Saturday, November 11 and Sunday, November 12, The Summit will host an educational series, vendor expo, movie screenings, career fair, and Summit party at the Harbor Island Studios in Seattle, WA. For more information, visit The Summit website.