INTERVIEW: Brian Kraft on The Connectors and Giving
Recently we sat down with Brian Kraft, Chief Academic Officer of the Recording Radio Film Connection and co-founder of The Connectors scholarship program, to talk about his ideas about giving back to the community. Here is some of what Brian had to share.
With The Connectors Scholarship Program, you and Jimi are giving away full scholarships for people to apprentice under working professionals. Tell us a little about how this idea developed.
We are giving away apprenticeships absolutely free, at least twelve per year, to people all over the world who want to apprentice in various careers. They will learn one-on-one under a working professional, they’ll take a structured curriculum, and they’ll hopefully get themselves employed [in the process].
How this idea started was I was invited onto the Dr. Drew show Lifechangers on the CW Network, and Dr. Drew and Judge Greg Mathis and I, and our school, Film Connection, gave away a free scholarship to attend our Film Connection Learn in Los Angeles program. We gave a free scholarship to a young gentleman named Tracy. Tracy has quite an amazing story, the abridged version of which is he was involved with gangs in the Detroit area, and has made a commitment to get himself back on track as a human being and as a filmmaker. So we’re giving him that opportunity–in fact, he’s currently in Los Angeles in the summer of 2012 attending our school. And I don’t want to overstate it, but you know, it was a profound emotional moment.
Our appearance on Dr. Drew’s Lifechangers reminded us of something bigger than ourselves, reminded us that we’re part of a human community–and if there’s someone out there who wants to work hard and wants to better themselves, then in a way, in my opinion, it’s our duty to help that person up. So that’s what it is–it’s really not charity, in my opinion,as much as it is helping other people who may not have been privy to the advantages that we were privy to. I didn’t come from money, but I came from middle class, and others aren’t coming from middle class…and now that Jimi and I are in a position where we can help people–we’ve not achieved all our dreams, but we’ve achieved a lot–we are doing something that is quite radical, I would say. We’re giving away lots of free education. We just gave another apprenticeship away working with Judge Mathis again, and we’re about to partner with some pretty big celebrities to give away free education, in the hope that these students will take this super-seriously, get to work, get to school, get busy and make it happen for themselves.
What sorts of qualities are you looking for in a candidate for one of these scholarships?
Hard work ethic, hard work ethic, hard work ethic–somebody who wants it. It’s an instinct thing. It’s one of those things, you know it when you see it.
How are the scholarships funded? Is there a foundation where people can donate?
Right now we’re not looking at the donation aspect of this, but that’s certainly a really nice idea. Right now we’re keeping this in-house, we are doing this ourselves. We are paying for this.
You and Jimi are entrepreneurs. Obviously, giving away these scholarships is not increasing your profit margin. How does the concept of giving fit into your role as a business person?
That’s a great question. It doesn’t. There’s two types of “me”–there’s the person who loves the challenge of creating something out of nothing, and running an ethical school and a fair school, and running a business I can be proud of…and there’s another side of me that knows there’s something bigger than just the challenge of living in a modern era. There’s the part of me that says we’re all one, we all have been perhaps living in a way that’s not exactly conducive to the highest forms of freedom, and let’s see if we can make this planet a little better. We can all only do so much, and so I think the smartest way to proceed if you’re interested in giving is to look at what you’re good at, and say, “Can I give that?” What I’m good at is educating people, creating modules for education, paradigms for education…and so it’s easy for me to give that first. I’m not saying that’s all I’ll ever give, but I’m saying that’s what we’re giving away now, and we’re figuring out other ways to give back. But to answer your question correctly, I don’t think this has anything to do with business.
In other words, you’re not doing this as a business person–you’re doing this as a person.
Yeah, I think that’s well said.