What is your name? Troy Pryor.
Where are you from? Chicago, Illinois
What organization do you represent? The Creative Cypher
What is your job title? Founder & Executive Director
How long has the organization been in existence? 1 Year
What is the mission and vision of the organization?
Our mission is to create the complete interdependent artist and build a community of artists, filmmakers and creatives that have the understanding that the team is the strongest. Creative Cypher (CC) also wants to provide the necessary resources to allow artists, filmmakers and creatives to create their own opportunities instead of waiting for someone else to create opportunities for them. Just a matter of knowing that, together, we [artists] can achieve a collective goal; If you’ve got an idea you can walk into a safe environment and say, “This is what I want to do,” and find what you need to make it happen.
What impact do you think your organization has on learning and education?
We want to create an environment where the artist feels safe and becomes better with their craft. CC is an incubator. CC has five levels that we offer. The first level is development. If you have an idea or a concept, you can talk to mentors and get consulting on your projects to determine the next level for your project. You have a team that’s willing to advise you on the steps you need to take in order to get to the next level. The next level is funding, being able to create pitches and going to donors or investors, and helping our artists to package their pitch properly in order to make sure that they can get the funding necessary to bring their project to life. Then, there is the production level. We have a consortium of resources and are able to, in a way, broker out for independent artists. So if you have one thing, but you need this over there, nine times out of ten, we already have it in our infrastructure: cameras, lights, sound, audio, locations, or casting. We also set up table reads for writers, so that they can hear [a script] through the mouths of actors. When you’re in the writing phase, if you sit down and listen to a group of ten actors read your feature film script with your eyes closed, you’re probably going to rewrite some things and that’s what you want. The next level is distributing your content and marketing and monetizing. If you’re doing this as a business, and not just as a passion project, you want to be able to get the word out about what your project is, why it’s important, why someone should be watching it, or why a sponsor should write you a check to attach their brand to it. So, we’re creating a digital database that allows the artist to house their content and monetize that content. The last level to all of this is celebrating. We put on live events that range from panels, workshops, comedy and musical shows, and screenings for filmmakers. We’ve created a magnet and it’s filling a void right now, especially in Chicago.
Learning Dimensions: So it seems like when you’re thinking about the impact that your organization has on learning and education, one thing that I’m noting is that it’s all about this whole notion of resource building and developing a community within the film industry. Would that be a correct way to summarize?
Troy Pryor: Yes.
Learning Dimensions: I love it. I mean, like that’s amazing. Tell me a little bit more about that most recent event that you had with Donda’s House. I know you have a partnership with Donda’s House. If you could just share a little bit more about Donda’s House and what you’re doing with that organization.
Troy Pryor: So, Donda’s House is also a non-profit music incubator that was founded by Donnie Smith, Che Rhymefest Smith and Kanye West. It’s named after Dr. Donda West, who is Kanye’s late mother, and they help at risk youth through the medium of music. Now they’re expanding to acting, which CC came in to help on their program with Second City. I went to the first event, heard the youth perform, and I was blown away. I’m listening to them, and some of them, could get signed right now. So, that shows how much focus and precision they put into their programs. Donda’s House also has the Got Bars program, which is a writing program for those interested in hip-hop. The writing program is not just a program that says this is how you flow, but shows students how to really create. You know, the mind of an artist is limitless, and I just appreciate that.
CC partnered with Donda’s house, and every event that we have, we have a performer from Donda’s House. For the last event that you were referring to, Che Rhymefest Smith was our special guest speaker. Donnie [the co-founder of Donda’s House] actually spoke as well. Prior to this event, we had a screening for the film called The Cycle that was shot by Michael Moranz, who does all the cinematography for Facebook, and Sway from M.T.V. , [who] was the executive producer. That’s an example of a project where, as a producer and then as Creative Cypher, we had nothing to do with the creation of the film, but we held the screening for the film to help get the community aware of what that film was about.
Tell me a little bit more about the communities that you service through your educational program.
The main demographic I would say are millennial filmmakers. Millennials don’t like being sold anything. You know, we’re tired of advertising and all of that, so a lot of times we’re the ones that create our own. We have the ability to say, “Hey, I’ve got a great idea.” Especially millennial filmmakers, we say, “I’ve got a great idea, I got a cool concept, cool script; I’m not going to wait on anybody to give me cameras, I can go rent the cameras, I have a friend that has the cameras.” We get it done and put it together. [CC’s] goal is to refine that process so that if you do want to go ahead and do that, that’s fine, but you want to make sure that you’re still going about it the right way, so ultimately, you have a great product.
What inspired you to get involved in education or this type of work in the field of education?
I come from a family of educators, clergy, businessmen, and athletes. Yeah, it’s in the DNA. I feel that it was inevitable that whatever I got into, I would eventually move into a leadership role. I played football for the University of Illinois, tore both ACLs and came back [to Chicago and] signed with Elite as a runway model. I dropped a lot of weight from being a line backer, and not quite the future of most linebackers, but one thing led to the next, and it got me back into entertainment. I’m still a part of the show, but I want to understand how the show was created. That’s what led me to becoming a producer and creating my own content and creating content for others. Eventually, I became the youngest elected board member from Screen Actors Guild in Chicago. So it really put me in a position to be a player, a chess player instead of one of the pieces.
If you can change anything regarding education and/or learning, what would it be?
There’s a lot of information that’s not told to you. You know, there’s a lot of history in the African-American community that we don’t know, we’re not as connected with our roots as other demographics are. Knowing who were the actual founders and inventors of certain things changes your perception of who you are. Knowing that you come from kings and queens, changes the way you view yourself, changes your posture, changes the way you carry yourself and that’s just education in the cultural sense. There are also things, like financial education, that you don’t get in school a lot of times. Then you wind up having to hire somebody to do stuff that you know you may have been able to do and probably can do on your own. It’s always wise to get into a position where you can delegate certain things so you don’t burn yourself out. But it’s, also, very wise to know what’s going on, and I know that too well in the entertainment industry.
What advice would you give to someone who is in the process of learning something new?
Do not spend your energy chasing certain individuals or ideas. Use that energy and build up something from the ground up with the resources that you have around you; Build and [do] something that attracts you.
What does it mean to be a learning change agent?
A learning change agent, to me, is someone who builds interdependent communities that use their resources to create their own opportunities instead of waiting for someone else to provide for them. You have more than enough, there’s abundance for everyone, together we can move a lot faster in achieving goals.
Photo Credit: Anre’ Photography
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