MENTOR SPOTLIGHT: BILLIE MELISSA ROGAN
When did you know you wanted to take an entrepreneurial path?
It’s not something I ever really sat down and decided one day. It’s more something I noticed about myself growing up in that the things I found myself drawn to were always the arts, which I believe to be inherently entrepreneurial. Coming from a generation that watched industries burst wide open through the expansion of a digital landscape, I think many of us found ourselves wanting to work on our own dreams instead of the ideals of others. Working in film means I get to dream a collective dream with people who are all entrepreneurs in their own right.
Tell us about your venture/work.
fiftyfour:seventeen is a production company that provides free creative services for families impacted by capital punishment in the US.
How did you decide to tackle this particular issue?
The medium of film exists to help us better understand ourselves and others around us. It is the most compassionate art form in that we see life move on screen and connect ourselves to the characters. I feel that so much of film’s power comes from helping us articulate thoughts in our minds that we’ve perhaps never truly made sense of in ourselves. fiftyfour:seventeen aims to create media that connects an audience with someone they may think they could never share commonalities with. People on death row, and incarcerated people in general, are often labelled as psychopaths, monsters, the worst-of-the-worst, beyond redemption, but it simply is not true. Film is something we can all reach out and engage with, and we find it easy to reflect on what’s inside of us when we get to do that through escapism of a character on a screen. So if I can make audiences find a link between them and someone they believe to be irredeemable, then maybe on a wider social scale, we will learn that people are not just all good or all bad but a concoction of both with complicated nuance running through it all.
What do you enjoy most about being an impact entrepreneur? What’s hardest about it?
The best part of being an impact entrepreneur at The New School was having a dedicated space to work solely towards your venture. The class setting was invaluable for thinking up new ideas and staying inspired by the people surrounding you who are also working on important issues. It’s incredible to connect with people who are all passionate about different things but come together to learn from and help one another. The hardest part for me was trying to keep up with the more business-minded elements and applying theories and concepts that were new to me to the work I had been doing for a long time. That being said, the classes are incredibly accessible, and the mentors and professors are open to discussing things from all angles and finding ways to help the concepts make sense.
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