When the great Aristotle said, “Pleasure in the job puts perfection in the work,” he clearly had Damian Pelliccione in mind. An educator, event planner, producer, actor, host and self-professed nerd, Damian has turned his love of all things media into a full-fledged empire- spending his free time soaking up as much tech news as possible on websites like Tubefilter and Gizmodo.com while the rest of us nap in front of our flatscreens. And with drones and self-driving cars leaping off the pages of science fiction novels and into our driveways, getting interested in technology might not be such a bad idea. “When I hear about things like how Facebook is creating 50 new ways to identify your gender, that really excites me, and I have to tell everybody,” he says during our interview.
Yes, for those more interested in napping as opposed to being present, Damian has made himself more than available for your tech needs, with his New Media Marketing course at Columbia College Chicago, his WebTV Workshop course that he’s turning into a video series, and his Boys in Tech web series- which has had an audience upwards of 100,000 viewers. And those are just his day jobs.
At night, he hosts his monthly entertainment and technology social mixer New Media Vault, housed at the W Hotel in Hollywood, where we first became acquainted over cocktails. That night, he was poised with the perfect mix of charisma, charm and humility, which would explain why 200-300 writers, directors, actors and techies consistently flock to his event every month. To put it simply, Damian Pelliccione is inspiring, and he’s actually taken that trait and made it his brand.
So, naturally, I was elated that evening when he agreed to this interview after having just met me. A nothing-to-lose scenario, you might say, but I’d like to think it was because I left him with a little inspiration as well.
Passion as a Lifestyle
Right now, Damian is in pre-production on his second pilot this year. The half docu-series, half remodeling show Little Trailer House, which he’s producing with his fiancé Chris Rodriguez, focuses on two women, both over the age of 60, as they go “glamping” around the country. “‘Glamping’ is a new term that means glamorous camping,” he explains. “And they’ll be taking trailers to these really cool trailer parks and camp grounds that most people have never heard of, and they’re like five-star spas and resorts for trailers.”
The pilot will be shot in Montana where Damian will be traveling to in mid-May. Specifically, he and the show will be highlighting the town of Miles City where the 64th anniversary of Bucking Horse Sale, the world-famous rodeo, will be taking place May 15th through the 18th. “So we’re starting in Billings, Montana and following these two lovely ladies as the ‘glamp’ up their trailer, and then we’ll be highlighting the famous KOA campgrounds in Miles City,” he says. “And it’s really super exciting because these ladies have so much personality, and this project is definitely one of my favorite things.”
And this is all on the heels of another project that Damian just finished directing called Beyond Face, a docu-series revolving around an esteemed doctor/life coach as he develops methods for helping at-risk young people achieve their dreams. “We mainly focused on one person in particular named Jordan, and she had a really troubled past, but she’s come full circle to becoming a fitness model and a hair stylist,” he explains. “And that’s been really exciting for her, and it’s been a really rewarding project to direct.”
But the thing that Damian is most excited about is the upcoming season 2 of his gay techie-themed creation Boys in Tech, the noted 15-minute web-series, hosted by Damian, and covering all-things media-related with a technological slant. Damian’s promise to his viewers is that they be educated while also being entertained and inspired, and he’s fulfilled on this many times over with guests like Christopher Ciccone, the acclaimed music video director, Jeff Davis, creator of Teen Wolf on MTV, and J.C. Lee and the writing staff of HBO’s Looking. And while Damian always concludes the show with the interviews, he begins the show by endorsing those products that are in alignment with his vision to the gay community; therefore creating the opportunity for sponsors and like-minded organizations to cross-promote and publicize their products to the Boys in Tech audience as well. “I’m most proud of Boys In Tech because it’s a brand that I’ve lived with for four years before I figured out what it really was,” he explains. “I was inspired by Girls In Tech, which is a national organization for women in technology, and they used to be a community sponsor for New Media Vault. And I really liked the idea of creating a gay version of it where we could have mixers for gay guys in technology.”
Damian coordinated a few of those mixers, inviting gay friends of his to speak on panels, but at that time in 2010, such an event focusing that heavily on technology wasn’t the big ticket item it is today. But he didn’t give up and continued tweaking the concept until he was approached by Susan Wrenn, founder of theStream.tv and emPOWERme.tv just this past fall- asking him to turn his event concept into a concept for a web-series. “Hosting is definitely a passion of mine, but at the time, I was thinking, ‘What’s my brand?’ And I knew I was gay, and I always geeked out on anything tech-related. So I combined the two and created this 15-minute internet talk show that focuses on gays, gadgets and gizmos, and I am your gay media guru.
With his contract with emPOWERme.tv having run its course, Damian is working with a new company that will allow him to move forward with season 2, and it will be an opportunity for him to step up his game even more.
Passion Extended to Others
One place where Damian needn’t be concerned about his game is in the area of teaching. He first started teaching in a non-professional setting with his old business partner in their WebTV Workshop course, where they taught students of all levels the ins and outs of creating their own successful web series. The reputation of the course traveled quickly, and word eventually made it back to several universities, including Loyola Marymount, USC and Columbia College Chicago, all of which asked Damian to come and lecture. And he had spoken at Columbia College Chicago for almost four years before they finally extended an offer to bring him on board as an adjunct professor.
“I was honored and really excited, and I jumped at the opportunity. “And, of course, the class focused on new media marketing because that’s my specialty,” he comments. “I had 12 students, all girls and one boy, and I got to take them through what it really means to market content and have great messaging and great relationships and partnerships with organizations and brands to push video content. And they were really excited because they’re all in their early 20’s and already, they know social media better than I do in the sense that I was learning from them.”
One of Damian’s teaching methods, much like with Boys in Tech, was to bring in guest speakers like Shira Lazar from the daily interactive television show What’s Trending and music producer DJ Poet. “And here’s someone in music who has used media and technology to further his career also as an entrepreneur, and now endorses and creates products, and he works with companies like Google and Adobe,” Damian comments. “And it’s super exciting because these are people who started off just like my students and really put themselves out there and created an amazing world through the use of social media and new media marketing, and these kids really get into it.”
During the course, Damian assigned his students with the task of going to several networking events, and he’s even been able to secure a few of them internships. “The biggest life lesson that I share with all of my students, friends and colleagues is that building a relationship with someone in this business is the most important thing you can do,” he says. “You never know where a relationship or a contact will end up. You never know what door they might be able to open for you and where that connection can take you. So it’s super important to be humble no matter how big or how small you think you are. And it’s one of the reasons why I host my event New Media Vault.”
Passion + Contribution
New Media Vault is the answer to Damian’s deep need to give back while leaving people empowered at the same time. Several years ago, before becoming our gay media guru, Damian started out in the restaurant and bar industry, waiting tables and mixing drinks. He eventually moved into marketing and event planning for a few gay bars in Los Angeles, a likely progression for someone surrounded by hosts and event planners. But with the entrepreneurial spirit he inherited from his business-owner father burning inside, he knew he couldn’t settle for anything typical. “I left the event marketing world in 2009, and I knew I needed to meet people and further build my network, so the first thing you do in that situation is go to networking events and hand out as many business cards as possible,” he says.
And in 2009, the office building he was renting with friends cleared a space in the basement big enough for events. And that was all the incentive Damian needed to create his own business, a networking event focused on content creators for the web. That was February of 2009, and 150 people showed up to his first mixer. Today, New Media Vault has 300-400 attendees monthly, 20 sponsors, a red carpet and press. Their social media following for the event alone is at the 100,000 mark. And their social network NewMediaVault.com, which is open and free to the public, has over 15,000 followers, and any one of them can use the network to promote their products, services or web-series.
“I’ve had people come up to me and tell me that they found a new job at New Media Vault,” he says, “or that they made a connection with a really great actor and got their web series started because of New Media Vault. Some people say they were able to launch their app at our mixer. So it really amazes me the amount of people who have had success stories like that just by making a connection at my event. And that’s really all it is. I’m not doing anything other than facilitating a venue for an audience where they can connect.” Well, in today’s tech driven world where human interaction and connection is becoming more difficult with each setting sun, I would say that a place actually fostering connection is one to be marveled, and so might be the person who created it.
Yes, Damian Pelliccione really is our premier gay media guru, and when you talk to him about Boys in Tech, or his course at Columbia College Chicago, or just his life in general, you really get the sense that inside his promise to leave people inspired, he’s really just having fun.
“Real success for me would be being able to inspire people in a shorter amount of time and with a larger platform. And it’s not that I have to win an Oscar or and Emmy or even a GLAAD Award, I just want to be able to help people create things that inspire them. And if I’m able to do that, then I’m a success.”
For more information, please visit http://boysintech.com/.