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Henning Morales

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Why “Dirt Merchants”?

The Dirt Merchants is a derogatory nickname that was given to us when we were on the streets of New York. Selling our wares to anyone who would listen, stop people on the street and pop the trunk and there it is! People would call us all kinds of names, and I thought "dirt merchants" was the one that was the most interesting because it's the lowest possible level of sales that you could be engaged in the world. Plus we used to get so dirty that the dirt would cake under our fingernails and our hair would get all greasy, we'd wipe the dirt on our pants; we showered every day but by the end of the day we were a mess!

I'm all about empowering youth. With that kind of life experience, what do you say to, for example, a young person with an attitude?

That's a tough one. I have four kids: my two oldest ones are in their 20s and the youngest are twins: 13 going on 14. What I always do with my teenagers, any time some kind of sarcasm, rebelliousness, talk back, or sass starts to come up I immediately nip it in the bud and say no, we're not doing that; let's go this way and try and get us back on track. I had a real problem when I was a teenager. I would lash out, I misbehaved in school, I would pick fights. For me, my problem was finding mentorship, finding a group of people I could relate to, that I could look up to. The people running the “Dirt Merchants” company were not much older than me: one of the guys was 19, my boss was 23, they were all young people very close to my own age that I could look up to. My advice is to see if you can find mentors that are close to your age that you could relate to, that you can look up to and then follow the leader. Instill some positive things and the more you do that the more opportunity there is for growth and the more chance there is for them to get past that phase.

Do you have a mentor now in your life?

I have several mentors. The mentorship process never ends. I have different people that coach me in the movie business now that I've learned how to do this to a certain extent. For example, I have a producer friend named Scott Rosenfelt, he's produced feature films that are household names and he's been doing it for 35 years. Every time I need something, he always coaches me in the right way.

Looking back at your journey, is there a piece of art that has made an impact and still inspires you today?

The Mona Lisa, for sure. One of my mentors way back when I was in my 20s - Jim Rohn, he was Tony Robbins' teacher - he said that when you travel, enjoy the art, be an art connoisseur, be cultured. In looking at the Mona Lisa, beauty's in the eye of the beholder. Some people look at the Mona Lisa and say, “I don't get it, why is this such a big deal?” Other people think it's the greatest piece of art ever made. That really helps me when I present whatever I'm presenting. Some people won't like it, some people will like it, everyone sees things differently. The Mona Lisa is a great example of a piece of art that could get multiple reactions if you didn't know it was famous ahead of time.

We at ArtCee want to showcase what can be done on our platform. How are you going to use it? What are you looking forward to about using it?

What attracted me about the platform is the fact that it's a collaboration platform for people in the entertainment industry, but its foundation comes from a mentorship/coaching consciousness type of a place. Let's help creative people connect with each other, help each other get jobs, help each other collaborate. And what is the most near and dear to my heart is anything that involves coaching teenagers, coaching youth. It's something that I can relate to personally. If we can help teenagers become better people, then you're going to help solve a lot of problems. If I didn't meet that group of mentors when I was that age -- just watch my movies, you'll see how life would have turned out.


Rounding it off, what is the core to your Dirt Merchant universe?

The core of it is entertain first. We get so caught up in themes and the underlying communications, but we always have to remember that we're here to entertain. These are films that are supposed to be fun, they're supposed to be interesting. We're just telling gritty, pretty stories that are entertaining and that's the core that I love to teach my team. The lessons, the themes, all the good we're gonna do by the mentorship directly or indirectly, that'll take care of itself. Entertainment first.

We're all looking forward to being able to meet you at our launch event on September 14th! Do you have any final words for any artist, any producer, any funder that's going to be visiting ArtCee?

My one piece of counsel to the people who are on the artistic side of things would be to be yourself, to bring out your art from your heart, if you will, and make it yours. Being unique and being an individual is more important than trying to copy somebody else's style. You always want to learn from other people, but you have to do your own thing and that's what's going to make you stand out. With respect to the funders, get behind a project that you love, make sure you love the subject matter, love the people involved. If you love it and you have funding, don't be afraid! Be bold! You gotta put your money somewhere, might as well put into some really cool artistic projects that could have a payoff for you!

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