Each person has unique talents and abilities that they can share with the world. But sometimes, we can even use our talents to help make a difference in the world. Today, FEE’s Sean Malone joins us to talk about how he uses his music and video production skills to help change the world.
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Here’s a transcript of our conversation:
Connor: Hey, Brittany.
Brittany: Hi, Connor. So, today we have a special guest. He’s a friend of mine. He’s also a very talented musician and filmmaker. he actually helped me find a really cool case for my ukulele. Fun fact, I kind of play the ukulele, so Connor, join me in Welcoming Foundation for Economic Education, Sean Malone. Sean,
Sean Malone: Hello.
Brittany: It’s great to have you with us.
Sean Malone: It is awesome to talk to you guys.
Brittany: So we’ve talked to our listeners a lot about specialization and how we each have these special skills that we use to create value, but I wanna talk to you specifically about how you’re using your skills to help create value, not just with other people, but to kind of make the world a better place. And that’s kind of a big, I’m putting you in a big role thing. You’re changing the world, Sean, but I think you’re changing the world. So if you could tell us a little bit about what you do and maybe pick, you know, a couple examples of how, you know, the work you’ve done to kind of make a difference.
Sean Malone: Yeah. Well, you know, I’m the creative director for the Foundation for Economic Education now. But, you know, about 10 years ago I was working in a little bit more than 10 years ago now, I was just working in the commercial music industry and in the film industry in Los Angeles. And, you know, really wanting to make a difference, honestly, like wanting to use some of the skills that I had to do more of the kind of work that I actually get to do today. And I start thinking about what that would look like. And, you know, part of it was I had some video production skills and I, was really, really interested in making videos because, you know, this is just at the very beginning of YouTube and the very beginning of, the way that, you know, almost everybody had the power now to sort of make and publish video content and share media content with other people. So I started making my own stuff doing that. And then at the same time, I started really working hard to try to get clients. And one of the first things that I ever did actually was work with the Institute for Justice as a composer. And I wrote music for some of their case videos for a little while. And, you know, and tried to write music or do you know, whatever graphic design stuff I could do or make videos or basically anything I could possibly do that was, you know, using my skills as somebody who had a, you know, at, that point even already amassed a kind of a number of hard skills in the creative arts, for, you know, for promote the promotion of classical liberal values. And it was something that was always really important to me. And I just found a way, in fact, I wrote a blog post maybe in 2009, I think it was called, like Merging Interests or something like that. And it, was about, you know, using these, these artistic skills that I developed to, you know, to like to make a difference in the world and to at least have meaning in my own career, you know, because I think that was part of what drove me nuts about working in LA and in New York before that perhaps, was that I think almost every creative project I worked on didn’t have much meaning to me.
Connor: Sean. I relate a lot to what you’re saying. Before I started Libera Institute and TuttleTwins and everything else, I was a web developer. I, built websites and I did marketing and graphic design, and I really loved it. I loved learning all the technical things and gaining new skills, but I was doing it for companies that I didn’t care about. I was, you know, I remember in one case building a website, spending so much time, all these cool features and everything, and it was to advertise this software that this company was releasing. And the software was horrible. I didn’t, like it at all, and I’m investing all my time. So I totally resonate with what you’re saying and that the power that comes when you’re able to find something that you love and where you can apply your skills to. But, I wanna take a step back because a lot of our audience is kids. Yeah. we’ve got a lot of kids listening to this with their parents and, you know like you said 10 years ago, right? Like, you’re a little bit further in your career. Let me maybe ask you quickly, you know, did you go to college and, what did you study in college real quick?
Sean Malone: I did. So I, have two degrees. I have, both degrees in music composition. So I have a bachelor’s in, sort of standard classical composition. And then I have a master’s from New York University in film scoring and well, basically scoring for film and multimedia projects. And that was my plan originally.
Connor: So You have that background, but now you’re doing a lot of stuff that doesn’t have anything to do with that, right?
Sean Malone: Well, yes and no, honestly, which is interesting because I, think a lot of the skills that I learned as a storyteller and as a dramatist come from what I did in music I, use, and even editing, because editing video is a lot about rhythm and pacing and things like that, that all of those things I think actually still serve me really, really well. And then, like I said, for, a long time I actually did still write music for a lot of things. I don’t have time anymore to do that, although I, I wish I did a lot of the time.
Connor: Sure. I, ask that because it’s interesting, you know, what I do now for a living I did not study in college has nothing to do with it. And, I like what you’re saying, like the stuff that you learned and got good at early on has helped you a lot. And a lot of his relatable s same with me. Right. I, built websites, and so, hey, when we published, the Tuttletwins books, I built the Tutletwins website. Right. You can actually use a lot of that learning Absolutely. In totally different careers. I think, what’s important here, what I’m gleaning is for the kids out there, you have to adapt, right? Because you may think when you’re young that you’re going to learn or do something, and maybe you start out on that path, but you find along the way, new opportunities, right? The market is changing, new inventions are coming out. you know, maybe you’ll be a Tesla technician, right? And that job didn’t exist a decade ago. And so the world is changing, and it seems like you’ve kind of had a career where you’ve had to kind of find the opportunities and adapt along the way.
Sean Malone: You know, the thing is, yeah, absolutely, you need to adapt, but also, and your career is going to adapt and everything else, but your interest also change over time. I mean, one of the things that was really interesting to me was that, like, again, I set out to be a composer and I thought that that’s what I would want to do, you know, full-time for a living. But almost every step along the way, and this actually started before that because I started as a percussion performance major, I was gonna be a performer. And then
Brittany: What does percussion Performer mean? Does that make you like drums? You were being a, like a just drums. Yeah. Okay, awesome. Well,
Sean Malone: Marimba, I mean, vibe, performance stuff, stuff like that, Timpani, I mean, just all kinds of things, but yes, drums for sure. And, so I, thought that that’s what I was going to do when I was in high school. And I was really good at it in high school and, you know, went to college thinking that I was just gonna be a performer. The more, the deeper I got into music and the deeper I got into studying theory and studying like the mechanics of music, the more I got interested in composing the more. And then after I got into film composing explicitly, I set out to learn some of the techniques of filmmaking and some video production stuff, just because I thought it would help me as a composer. I thought it would help me to understand editing better, which it did for sure. But as I did that, then I got interested in editing and telling my own stories too. So every new skill I sort of I developed over time also affected the way that I thought about myself and the way that I thought about what I wanted to do. You know, it changes you to learn stuff. Like learning stuff actually changes your goals at the same time. That’s would think to amaze me.
Brittany: I like that. Yeah. That’s really, really cool. I, wanna switch gears a little bit and ask you a slightly different question that is, so one of my favorite things that you do with Fian and I think that are our listeners where we like, is you like superhero movies, right? Is it Marvel? Is Marvel who you like?
Sean Malone: All of the above.
Brittany: All of ’em. Okay. All of the above. But one thing that I’ve really liked that you do is you’ve taken superhero movies and you’ve used that to teach principles of individual liberty. And I was wondering if you could talk a little bit about how you got that idea, or was it just, you know, watching it and saying, oh my goodness, there are themes here, but to talk a little bit about that, maybe what your favorite one is that you’ve done.
Sean Malone: Yeah, so, you know, the series that Britney’s talking about is called Out of Frame, and you can find it on YouTube. We, now have, about 210,000 subscribers on that channel, actually. So it’s great. Relatively big as far as YouTube standards go. It’s not, you know, millions or whatever, but we’re doing pretty well. And, a lot of that is built around this idea that I’ve always had, and I’ve always liked doing, is talking about pop culture and talking about film and television. And one, because I care about it, but also because if you want to talk about ideas that matter to people, you know, it really helps to connect them to stuff that people already care about. And people are already talking about Marvel movies and, they are already talking about, you know, whatever the, you know, the most important thing that’s going on in pop culture today. And, but I also think it’s really important that the connection to ideas is organic. I, think it’s, you know, it comes across as really fake and really obviously fake. If you try to cram a message into something that isn’t really there, or you try to, you know, connect something to something that doesn’t make sense. So, you know, a lot of the Marvel movies that I’ve talked about, like, you know, Avengers, you know, infinity War and Endgame and stuff like that actually really just came from the movies themselves. So Thanos, you know, one of my favorite episodes and one of the best episodes I think we’ve done is about Thanos and the idea of overpopulation and sort of Malthusian and, things that are, you know, pretty common tropes in, economics. But it also just came right out of the story of the movie. You know, Thanos thought the world was overpopulated, and the only way to deal with that is to kill half the population, you know? But as we know from economics, like the world is not zero-sum in that way. Economies can grow, you know, we can make more resources for people and we can feed more. And we’ve done this for centuries, you know, as human beings. And so Thanos is actually wrong. And to watch that on screen, my brain, because I care about these issues as well, like my brain just immediately goes to like, oh my God, I have to talk about this because he’s so wrong. Like, his ideas are wrong. So now I’m actually just responding to the thing that’s in the story. And I think that’s what makes that series work, and I think that’s what makes pop culture discussions work when they do work. Because I’ve certainly seen some people who’ve tried to dip their toe into pop culture conversations, but they come at it from a really academic, really sort of, you know, inauthentic standpoint. but I’m a fan of both things, and I think that comes through in both in you know, in the YouTube series that we do. I’m a fan of classical liberal ideas and philosophy, and I’m a fan of movies, comic books. I’m a fan of all of it, you know, I’m a fan of, media in general.
Connor: I should note, really quick for the listeners that, on today’s show notes page, we will link to yes. some of the videos and, resources that Sean is talking about. So head to Tuttletwins.com/podcast and we will get you pointed in all the right places. Sean, what FI has been doing really well, the foundation for economic education in recent years is storytelling. It’s, helping teach these ideas, not just in textbook format. And, you know, let’s explain this economic analysis, especially the kids listening right now are like, oh my gosh, put me to sleep. Right? But, all kids love, you know, comic books and story books and fiction and movies and everything else. And we, as humans learned through storytelling. One of the greatest things I love about working on the TuttleTwins project is seeing the impact that it has on kids, on families, you know, dinner conversations being way more interesting than they ever were before. Yeah. kids kind of connecting the dots. Talk to me about some of the, like what’s an example, what’s a story of the impact? You’ve been at this for a while. you know your, audience has grown, a lot of people have watched these videos. What type of impact have you seen, whether we’re talking big picture or if you have a story of a single person that you know, really benefited, what type of impact has your work now had that has been, you know, interesting or gratifying to you?
Sean Malone: Well, first of all, let me say that my, sister-in-law. I have two nieces who are now around five and 13 or six and 13, and they absolutely love Tuttletwins books, by the way. And so they, just add that to your, list of, impact stories. My own, sister-in-law’s family, absolutely love what you’re doing. I’ve had a ton, man, like, first of all, I am, adamant that people should, as much as possible, read the comments on the things that they produce. I think that it’s important to do that for a bunch of reasons. One, I think it’s important to see feedback and to, adapt to feedback, because feedback is, is really how we get better and more information about the world. It also helps you, I think, over time, especially for younger listeners, it can be tough, seeing criticism. And I think it’s actually worthwhile to expose yourself to some of that from time to time. again, you know like you can learn how to ignore trolls and, you know, people who really are malicious. But for the most part, you know, I think one of the things that’s been awesome for me about reading tons and tons, like literally over a hundred thousand comments in the last three years on our YouTube videos, and I’ve read, you know, many thousands of them and I get to see almost every single day some story of impact that, you’re talking about it. I see people all the time, you know, commenting about how, you know, they’d never thought of that, of something that I’m talking about that way before. Or, you know, that we expose them to an idea that they’ve, they’ve never considered. And I love being able to read those things. The other thing that happened to me recently is I went on a podcast with a group, from, I, believe it is in Chile. I could be wrong, it’s in South America. And, they had just started a pop culture podcast and wanted me to be on it. And I went on that show and it turned out that like there’s a large number of people in South America who are huge fans of what I’ve been doing for the last couple of years. And I had no idea, you know, impact like that is, it’s interesting cuz you don’t always know that it happens and then you get, sort of randomly exposed to something and that’s, it’s really like, it’s a lot of very pleasant surprises sometimes. and by the way, for those who worry about like, sort of the horrors of the internet and, and people being mean online, honestly, I think it comes down to perspective to some extent. I see vastly more good than bad almost every day, you know?
Brittany: I Like that you said that cause we actually just had an episode kind of talking about that, so I’m glad you said that.
Sean Malone: Yeah. Well, I think Brittany, you, and I talked about reading comments and, exposing yourself to that kind of feedback a few years ago. And I just, I think it’s so important.
Brittany: I don’t like it. I take a different approach. I, avoid it like the plague, but I’ve listened to what you said today and I’m kind of changing my mind on that a little bit.
Sean Malone: I get it. I mean, look, there, are bad negative comments sometimes that are, not constructive. I think it’s important though, to be able to start to be able to differentiate between the two. Right? There, are critical comments that are constructive and challenges to your ideas that are worth responding to. And then there’s people who just wanna be jerks, you know like there’s both out there. But, yeah, I’ve, largely had a really good experience reading comments cuz I learn a lot and I you get to also see these moments of impact that you wouldn’t see if you didn’t.
Brittany: So, Sean, I do have one final question for you before we wrap up. one thing, because our audience is young and we like to give ’em advice and we’ve talked a lot about, you know, whether it’s college or apprenticeships, what they need to do to, make their dreams come true, to do what they wanna do. So what advice would you give to young musicians or young filmmakers or, you know, producers, what would you tell them to do today to prepare for their future?
Sean Malone: I think it’s two things. I think first I would try to amass as many hard skills as you possibly could.
Brittany: What’s a hard spell? Can we back up a little bit and talk about what a heart and just real quick, what a hard sound.
Sean Malone: So I mean, like, look, maybe you wanna be a director or a producer or maybe you wanna be a cinematographer, but honestly, I think the best thing you can do, especially when you’re young, is try to learn everything. Learn how to light, learn how to use a camera, learn different lenses, learn, you know, grip equipment, learn, you know, learn acting, even learn editing, right? Learn as many things as you possibly can about the overall industry. I think that’ll help you both discover what you really, really want to do because you know what might be in your dream or in your head actually, when you get it might not be the thing that you wanna do. That was kind of true for me. I think. the other thing I wanna say is really focused on, and really remember that your role, if you wanna have success at anything, you have to think about value creation first. You have to think about doing everything in your power to make whatever it is that you’re working on better than it would’ve been without you. And the more that you do that, the more opportunities are gonna get thrown at you. I mean, it’s, amazing how, honestly, like how many people work in the film and television industry that do not think this way. Like a ton of people that I’ve encountered and worked with and, hired over the past, you know, several years, like actually seem to believe that, their job is just to do whatever is in it for them and get whatever they can for themselves out of it. And honestly, if you flip that around and focus on creating as much value for the project and for your employer as possible, you’re gonna have a way better time. And the opportunities are just gonna, they’re, just gonna like, come at you like an ocean wave. I mean, it’s gonna be nuts.
Connor: I, totally agree with that. Those are great parting words. A lot of advice for the young people to really try and, you know, excel and, set yourself. Be, different from everyone else where everyone is just kind of going with the flow and doing the least amount expected of ’em. If you just do that little bit extra, you’re gonna rise and shine and a lot of people are gonna be attracted to you and kind of throw opportunities at you, where you’re gonna have to say no to a lot of things. That’s gonna be, rather than you always asking for jobs and asking for opportunities, they’re gonna find you cuz you’re gonna stand out. Great, great. Parting words of wisdom. Yes. Sean Malone, creative Director of Foundation for Economic Education. We will link to a bunch of stuff at Tuttletwins.com/podcast. Check out the show notes. Sean, thanks for coming on the show. Appreciate it.
Brittany: Thank You.
Sean Malone: Thanks, guys.
Brittany: For anyone who is not watching Sean Malone’s work on Foundation for Economic Education, I highly recommend you do it again. There’s so many fun superhero themes, so just themes about pop culture that a lot of people aren’t doing. So I highly recommend checking out his work and we will link to that on the show notes. But yeah, I think that was a really exciting conversation. What about you Connor?
Connor: I, think so too. Obviously, Fi is, doing a great job, fantastic organization, especially for the older kids and the parents to check out. We had Larry Reid, the president emeritus on, some time ago. So Sean’s doing some awesome work and, really shows the power of storytelling, right? like we’ve talked in the past before, if you can learn how to persuade, if you can learn how to write, if you learn story, it’s gonna be such an effective way. You’re gonna have so many talents. like Sean said, that the opportunities will just be kind of endless because everyone has a story to tell. Everyone wants to be able to share their story. And if you figure out ways, whether that’s through music or video or drama or writing or whatever, it’s a great art to learn. So, awesome guys. Thanks for listening. Make sure you are subscribed. And until next time, Brittany, we’ll talk to you later.
Brittany: Talk to you later.