Paperghosts: The New Hollywood is No Hollywood

Motke Dapp and Ryan Hartsock, founders of Paper Ghost Pictures

Ryan Hartsock is a film producer. He and his partner, a director named Motke Dapp, began making films as part of a 48-hour film festival six or seven years ago. It was the something they did because they loved it.They worked in their free time and had their first short film featured in film festivals throughout the Midwest. They made another short film and it was featured in festivals all over North America, where it was very highly awarded. They made a feature film with $10,000 raised on Kickstarter. Then, last year, their short film “Sorry About Tomorrow” took off in the festival circuit. Dapp was approached by Hollywood producers who told him they would make him a star, all he had to do was ditch his crew.

This is where the story gets interesting. 

Motke put Hollywood on hold to make films with the people that matter the most. “Sorry About Tomorrow” ended up being featured in the PBS digital film festival – and winning a bunch of awards. This lead to an invitation back to the festival where they started – the 48 Hour Film Festival in Nashville. The film they made – “Contrary to Likeness”- ended up being the among the highest awarded films in the festival–best director, best editor, best graphics and best set design– and earned Motke and Ryan an invitation to be featured at Cannes this year. Never ones to do things they way they are supposed to, they are taking the opportunity to travel to shoot another feature film. They are stopping for a week in Iceland and filming in Nice then coming home to finish the film in Nashville.

It’s a fascinating story that immediately got me thinking about the way we work. These guys are defying the standard approach to achieve their goals on their own terms. They aren’t trust fund guys spending a pot of money on a hobby. They are passionate about making films and that passion, when combined with quite a lot of ingenuity and sweat equity has taken them from movie fans to being featured at the world’s most prestigious film festival in a few short years. 

Motke and Ryan are carving their own path and they are looking for help. Rather than take on traditional financing, they are looking for brand partners to join them in their journey. If you know of a brand that might be interested in helping take their story into the next chapter, email me or them. Here’s a link to their site —

It’s a story that resonates with me. Probably because a successful 9-to-5 is a journey without a map. It’s easy to let the things we love fade to the past tense; to let go of our dreams in exchange for comfort. But the most successful people I know aren’t the people who calculate success in dollars in cents. They are the people who define success by the fulfillment of a vision, of taking an idea and bringing it to life. 

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