OUR STORY

Meet Michael and Chris: two life-long friends who found a passion for filmmaking and a desire to live life outside the nine-to-five. Today, they are co-founders of Shohawk Media and believers that freedom isn't about getting lucky, it's about having the right blueprint to put into practice.

We remember it like yesterday. Since we met in the 5th grade, we’d been planning a movie.  

At age 11, obsessed with World War II, we set out to make a sprawling epic about an airforce pilot trapped in enemy territory, and his brother—an army soldier—on the front lines in Europe. We tested, schemed, practiced, plotted, and obsessed.  

From that day forward, we’ve been working. We’ve grown, pushed ourselves, learned technique after technique, trade after trade, and lesson after lesson: from our war short film as high school freshmen to our heist film the following year, to our feature film in college, and on, and on.  

We’ve been a filmmaking duo. Everyone who’s ever met both of us knows this to be true. We’ve driven each other forward when the going gets tough and shared in celebration when things work out just as we’d planned.  

From our childhood beginning, there was never a choice: we would make movies together. Whether we were off at separate colleges, traveling, working respective jobs and trying to climb the industry ladder, it worked.  

Then, we wanted to do something BIGGER.

We wanted to actually make money from our work by starting a side business. The problem was, we had no idea how to do it. How hard could it be, right?  

At the same time things were not going great for Michael at his day job. Here he is telling his story:  

It was strange because an all staff meeting was called a few hours before the end of the workday. I remember everyone on my team was nervous because usually we were given at least a few days notice before an all company meeting was called, so we knew something wasn’t right.  

It was a small company and I had a job I enjoyed, working with people who were happy with the way things were. I was producing shoots, which was something I always wanted to do.  

When we showed up to the meeting, I knew something was off. There was a line of chairs in front of the big room where we normally met and all the partners of the company were sitting in front of us. They were usually never all together in one room. In addition to them, was a line of people we had never seen before wearing much more formal attire than anyone else.  

I got a sinking feeling in my stomach because I knew my life was going to change forever when they announced the company was being bought out. What did this mean? I was up for a raise and looking at buying a house with my girlfriend of 5 years.  

I had never heard of these people, and even worse, the company buying us was owned by an even bigger corporation - one of the biggest companies in the world.  

This wasn’t what I had signed up for.  

The partners of the company re-assured us that the spirit of the company was going to stay the same and our jobs were safe. Man, they were wrong. Even though they had the best intentions, the company that bought them had something different in mind.  

The first red flag was when our Christmas bonuses, something the company had always given, were put on hold. Those were bonuses people’s families relied on. On hold? No way.  

People started panicking - I tried not to get swept up in it, but you couldn’t help but be scared. People started looking for new jobs and different opportunities, but I stayed steady. I really, really hoped that they were doing their best. They said they were working on getting people their bonuses, which I believed.  

I talked to my boss and she said I was still on track to get my pay raise, which was a huge relief since I was serious about looking at houses with my girlfriend and the housing market was getting insanely expensive. There was no way I’d be able to afford a house without a pay bump because the cost of living was so high.  

My boss told me to create a game plan for my career trajectory so I could hit certain goals in order to justify the raise. I spent weeks working on my goals, mapping out how I saw myself growing in the company and how I could ultimately help within the company.  

Guess what? No one ever saw that document because my boss was let go. She was let go and the company had no backup plan. They had no one to fill the role and had no plan to fill it anytime soon because it was actually helping the company save money. It became very clear, very quickly that the company that had acquired us was focusing on one thing - the bottom line.  

Over the next year, I went to HR and the head of a different department pleading my case for the raise I had been told I would receive, but it fell on deaf ears.  

Co-workers I loved started jumping ship left and right and more and more people kept getting let go. It was clear I was completely stuck - no path forward within the company and I was getting closer and closer to buying a house I couldn’t afford.  

I desperately needed help and I had no one to turn to I went into a real tailspin. What was once a job I loved became something I forced myself to endure.  

I felt completely trapped, I was just barely treading water with my head above water. Every day seemed draining and it was a bad sign that all my co-workers couldn't wait to celebrate every Friday.  

My lowest point came when I was stuck in traffic after a really horrible day in the middle of winter. We live in Portland, so of course, it was cold and raining outside and I felt a real depression.  

Since I had time to kill, I scrolled through my podcast app and came across the “Afford Anything with Paula Pant.” In the episode, the host was interviewing some people who made over $100,000 a year from selling stuff on eBay and hosting an Air BnB.  

I was floored.  

This was the first time I realized you could use the internet to make money for yourself on the internet. I dug deeper and kept listening and reading about how time, money, and your day job don’t need to be tied together.  

This completely shifted the way I thought about money. Since I was so close to buying a house, I thought - why not find something where I could do an Air BnB in the basement so I don’t need to rely on getting a raise to afford a crazy priced home. I asked myself, “what if it doesn’t work”?  

I had to give it a shot.  

It was such a low startup cost, and it was completely something that my girlfriend and I could do while we had our full-time jobs. We pulled the trigger and got a house that had a separate entrance to the basement, so our guest would have privacy. We put in a TON of work, buying decorations from Ikea and creating our profile.  

I remember when we finally put our profile online and announced it to the world. We got our first booking in 5 hours - we were shocked. It wasn’t a ton of money, $183, but it was something. We were hooked. Before we knew it, our calendar was completely full.  

It was amazing - we were able to completely cover our mortgage with the Airbnb, so we were actually keeping more money than when we were renting. We were ecstatic. This was something that we wouldn’t have been able to do not long ago, and we were able to afford a home because of the internet.  

I was completely hooked. I went all in like a mad scientist - and started listening and reading everything I could get my hands on. I came across another podcast - “Smart Passive Income with Pat Flynn.” Where he started talking about multiple income streams. He emphasized this because if one income stream failed, you’ll have another as a backup.

Because of the way the internet works, you could set up these streams of income using tools and systems to make money while you slept. I had done that with the Air Bnb without even realizing it - it had become my second stream of income with minimal work on the part of my girlfriend and myself.  

Now, it wasn’t completely passive, but we made way more with our time on that project than the amount of work we actually put in - again, the fact that time and money are not necessarily related to each other.

I went deeper, reading every book, listening to every podcast, and blog articles I could get on the topic because I had seen it work, I knew there were hundreds, if not thousands of different ways I could make money using the internet. I knew I wanted to go and meet the experts who knew everything about this topic - to sit with them and learn as much as I could.  

This is when everything aligned perfectly. Chris and I had been talking for a long time about making a business and the information I was finding online completely dovetailed into this.  

Why don’t we make a documentary about people who have achieved this? It would be the ultimate resource.  

He was a filmmaker and I was a producer, so it made perfect sense to team up and take on this topic. This would be the way we could go talk to the experts, but not just for ourselves, we’d be able to put it on film and provide value to even more people.  

I was ecstatic.  

There was just one tiny problem - we didn’t have a ton of money put away to make something like this, and none of the people we wanted to talk to had ever heard of us.  

I started emailing experts for interviews and was immediately brought back to reality. Why would any of these people want to meet with us? Sure, Chis had made a couple of feature films and a documentary - and I was a professional producer, but they had still never heard of us. All we had were our skills and our creativity.  

We got rejection after rejection. Some going so far as scheduling an interview, only to stop responding to our emails days before the scheduled interview. We knew that it was going to take a long time, but it was starting to seem impossible.  

Finally, we got a hit. Pat Flynn said he could do an interview but in six months. So we waited. In that time period, we lined up interview after interview and we honed exactly what we wanted to cover in the documentary, coming up with questions and an overall story arch.  

We packed our bags and all our gear and we were ready to roll. There were so many unknowns heading into the trip, but we were as prepared as we could be. We didn’t know if we’d be able to pull it off, but we were set.  

On the day we were going to fly out and kick off our interviews, a snowstorm hit Portland. Not only a snowstorm, but the snow froze over and became ice. Flights were canceled left and right.  

All I could think was “shit, shit, shit.” This is our one shot to get these guys on camera. If not, the project was likely dead. We had waited six months for this.  

The ice melted as much as it needed and we were incredibly lucky to get a cab to the airport, but traffic was no joke. We were literally running through the airport to catch our flight and barely made it.  

We were out of Portland and on the journey. We knew as long as we made it out, with all our gear, we couldn’t be stopped.  

From there, it was like entering a new world. The people we met and interviewed were inspiring. They completely changed the way we saw the world, our time, money, and how you can live your life.  

The footage we shot was amazing, the stories inspiring.  

From sitting with big mentors like Pat Flynn, Chris Ducker, Andrew Warner, and Paula Pant. And spending time with real people like Brennan Argunoff, who started a multi-million dollar sock company in high school, or a designer like Lisa Condon, or someone like Steve Chou who was able to make $100,000 a year selling wedding linens as a side hustle to his full-time job.

Our eyes were open. It was like the scene in the Matrix when Neo saw the real world.  

Generation Freedom required us to shoot over 20 hours of footage and the amount of editing time was a massive undertaking to get to a 90-minute documentary.  

There’s a saying when editing that you need to “kill your darlings.” That means in order to make the documentary work, we needed to take out huge portions of our favorite parts and informational sections.  

We stressed over the smallest details.  

Ultimately, we took out portions we loved but decided were too "in the weeds." What we took out led to us putting together the special features in the Complete and Premium Editions.  

We've been honing Generation Freedom for almost three years to make it the fastest way for you to achieve freedom. All you need to do is sit and watch to change your life fast.  

The freedom you want isn't about getting lucky, it's about having the right blueprint to put into practice.

Generation Freedom is your blueprint.  

MICHAEL

Producer

CHRIS

Director