Frustrated filmmaker overcomes a crisis of confidence to find rapid success

The Autonomous Creative Incubator

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Listen to Avantika’s story in her own words:

As an accomplished filmmaker, Avantika Hari Agrawal has always been full of ideas.

She enjoyed the creativity, opportunity, and potential that came with being a successful filmmaker partnering with Netflix and others. But the reality of the filmmaker life meant her dream projects getting stuck in “development hell,” where she faced unending rewrites and second guessing, feeling herself lose the ability to drive the narrative. Her show was getting lost in the corporate shuffle. 

Avantika loved the creative part of filmmaking, but it was becoming increasingly more challenging because of external pressures.

That, in turn, caused her to start feeling self-doubt:

Am I good enough? Have I done enough? Am I able to tell the stories I want to tell? 

Despite landing a development deal with Netflix, with access to talent and resources, the passive-aggressive pushback she got from the industry stalled her progress. And because of all that, she wasn’t earning, and didn’t feel like she was contributing to her family’s finances.

“I used to love all of this,” she told me. “I’m not loving it now. All I want to do is love it.

Flipping the script

Before joining the Incubator, Avantika tried a few other things to try to recover her love of filmmaking. On the one hand, she knew that she could just push harder to try and carve out some space in an uncertain field. There was just no way to be certain that all of her hard work would actually yield the results she desired. 

“I think what I was struggling with is I have all of these skills, and there were all of these opportunities […] but nothing that like made me feel excited about doing it.”

Land Gold Women (2011)

For the longest time, she recalls wanting to build something that could have value over time. But the dream seemed so far off, and it felt like it would take so much energy and effort on top of trying to get her film projects made.

Avantika wanted to find pleasure in her work again. She wanted to find a way to utilize her specific skills and make an income to help support her family, but also balance time and energy so that she was no longer pouring her effort, over and over again, into an uncertain field that did not feel like it was giving much back to her. She needed a way to formalize and structure the path to her dreams to make it actionable, tangible, and real. 

That’s when she found the Autonomous Creative Incubator (ACI).

Lights, camera, solutions

Every time Avantika came to a coaching session in the Incubator she had an “Aha!” moment. She would see new solutions that she’d never realized were possible. Through coaching, she realized her own existing skills could easily allow her to achieve her goals — without the stress, heartache, and worries about being enough. 

And when she encountered gaps in her knowledge that might have prevented her progress, the Incubator provided what she needed, when she needed it. “Everything I was learning was directly helping me build my business,” Avantika said. “It was just so relevant and so perfect.” 

Within a month of joining the ACI, Avantika was already putting what she was learning into motion. She founded Filmy Brands, a one-stop marketing shop focused on video and brand stories, and made her first sale almost immediately. The fact that she landed her first client within four weeks is proof positive that she figured out exactly how to take action to escape the impossible situation she found herself in with the film industry. 

Because she was able to apply what she was learning and implement fast, she saw fast results.

“This has given me back my confidence, because I love the fact that I add so much value to other people’s lives and that my skills fill a gap for them,” she told me. 

With her new company, Avantika feels masterful and knows she’s appreciated by her clients

She told me:

“​​When my client saw the first video I made for him, he loved it. He was totally blown away. I’ve worked so hard my whole life, and now I’m working not so hard and everyone’s happy. It just seems too good to be true!

It’s just nice to feel wanted and important after a very long time. I’m really enjoying myself and I’m really grateful for the ACI and all the conversations in it and everything I’ve learned.”

The second major motivator for Avantika is her desire to achieve economic independence—and that goal is in sight. “I was feeling very guilty about not being able to bring in what I felt was really just my market rate. I just wanted to be paid for the skills that I had,” she said.

“Now I’m at a place where I can very easily see that I will be able to support our home in maybe the next few months. By the end of the year, I should be able to pull in enough to run the house on just my money.”

Finding confidence in community

“If you’re a creative struggling to find your niche in the world, I feel like the ACI is a great launch pad,” Avantika said. “I feel like every creative has these voices in the back of their head saying, oh, you could try this and you could do that, and we never take it seriously…”

For Avantika, it wasn’t just the coaching, but the collaborative environment within the community that allowed her to open up and find her new path forward. 

Sharing a space with others who shared the same fears, doubts, and challenges became a richly rewarding environment for trying the ideas she’d always had in the back of her head, now with that inner push to follow what her heart was telling her. 

“As creatives, we don’t get to have the conversations that we would like to as frequently as we would like to. People outside the creative world do not have the same problems that we do. They just don’t. It’s a fact. And it’s just nice to be part of a community that relates and understands and is totally going through the same things that you are.”

As we wrapped up our conversation, she shared that she’d just signed her second client. “What’s really interesting,” she said, “is my husband told me, ‘I haven’t seen you this engaged, and this excited, and just this active in such a long time.’ Because he saw me during the time that I was creating my show and, compared to that, I’m in such a great place.” 

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“By the end of the year, I should be able to pull in enough to run the house on just my money.”

“I was feeling very guilty about not being able to bring in what I felt was really just my market rate. I'm not even asking for a lot. I just wanted to be paid for the skills that I had. And even that was not happening.
Now I'm at a place where I can very easily see that by the end of the year, I should be able to pull in enough to run the house on just my money.”

Avantika Hari-Agrawal

Filmmaker and marketing strategist

Sarah Marie Lacy

From $10,400 in 2021 to $24,000 in 2022. And the year isn't over yet.

“In 2021 I booked somewhere around $10,400 in portraits. This year I'm in the $24,000 range. And it's only the end of August, so who knows what the end of the year will bring.
I have a plan for my business now and that sense of... control isn't the right word, because control feels really tight, but a command of this information that I can use to make better choices, use to make better decisions, use to create strategies.”

Sarah Marie Lacy

Artist and portrait painter

Deirdre Colgan Jones

From needing help with studio rent to fully funded through the end of the year

“My studio rent will be paid right through the end of this year, which is just mind blowing for me. I have gone from this slightly humiliating position of having to ask my husband, can you put money in my business account because I have to pay my studio rent? To that business account actually having funds coming directly from my clients. That's never been the case for me before, so it feels really good. I'm finally growing up, making a living.”

Deirdre Colgan Jones

Artist, mother, and coach