Student of the Game: Jon Brandon Cruz

Nolan Smith Podcast

In the fourth episode of the Student of the Game podcast, Nolan Smith invites his longtime friend, Brandon Cruz as they cover the work it takes to grow a podcast, working with a-list celebrities, the importance of having childlike optimism, and how quarantine has affected content creators.

Jon Brandon Cruz Bio:

Jon Brandon Cruz is a content creator based in Los Angeles who Nolan has known for the past 10 years. Nolan and Jon came up together going on tour with Pac Div in 2011 and have stayed in touch since. Jon has grown immensely since those days and now makes a living making content for A-list celebrities like Will Smith and Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson.

Jon Brandon Cruz Socials:

Nolan Smith Socials:…

Show Notes:

4:30 - Discussing the work it takes to grow a podcast

  • Joe Rogan is the mountain top everyone looks at
  • In order to grow it, you need to fall in love with the process
  • If you ask yourself 7 times why you do something you’ll get to the root of why you chase after something
  • It’s so important to find out what motivates you

7:35 - What have you learned over the past 10 years

  • Jon sees himself more as a digital creator
  • Biggest motivator was to be able to travel the world and produce content

11:30 - Going on tour with Pac Div and N.E.R.D. and meeting Pharell in 2011

  • First being a fan of N.E.R.D. in college and realizing he wanted to work with creatives like Pharell
  • Meeting Pharell with Nolan for the first time while on tour with Pac Div
  • Pharell’s stage presence and focusing on eye contact with the audience

19:00 - What Jon has learned about working with A-list celebrities

  • Respecting the ecosystem they’ve created
  • Bring energy of total optimism 24/7
  • Always be a problem solver
  • Go into every situation with so much hope and optimism, people like having those with that energy around 

23:30 - It’s important to do a personality check on yourself to see that your energy is where it needs to be

  • Ask yourself, are you the kind of person that you would hire?
  • Over time it’s easy to get jaded by the things you’ve done
  • With every new project, Jon sees it as an opportunity to put his best self forward and rebrand himself to the person he wants to be 

28:30 - Working with clients like Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson and Will Smith and handling their creative content

  • At the beginning of client relationships, you don’t have as much say so you try and showcase what you can do but at the end of the day it’s there say on the content
  • Jon tries to instill a little bit of his own sensibility or personality into the videos
  • As the client relationship grows over time and you’ve proved you can deliver you have more say

32:00 - Jon’s advice to young filmmakers

  • Focus on making the best possible work and being world-class at what you do
  • Look at the best creators in the world, and figure out what they’re creating that’s resonating with people
  • Always look to improve
  • Decide what kind of content you want to make, there are so many different content lanes available now

36:00 - Who are some people you looked to early in your career and inspired you to become a content creator?

  • Levi Maestro played a big impact on Jon’s career, to Jon he was a rockstar, a pioneer in the space of vlogging, making content and traveling
  • Jon Recommend watching Levi Maestro’s video on Mr. Cartoon
  • Jon really looked up to Stanley Kubrik and the details he adds into every frame
  • Today, Jon’s friends and peers inspire him more than anyone else

44:00 - Things Jon has learned from Will Smith and Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson

  • Will taught him how important it is to be spiritually connected to your family and the world, and the importance of having the childlike curiosity 
  • The Rock taught Jon the importance of personal health and fitness
  • Living in the mindset of what it was like to have nothing to motivate you to keep working hard

50:45 - How the quarantine has affected Jon

  • It’s been predominantly positive, he sees it as a time to level up and improve on things
  • He made a list of things he wanted to learn and has been going through it, just sharpening his skills
  • “The Great Pause”, when the world un pauses do you want to be a high level in Call of Duty or come out with new skills
  • If you practice now making content with a little, you’ll be able to be more efficient when you’re out of quarantine when you have a lot to work with 

58:25 - What are some routines that you’ve put on autopilot that have really helped you

  • Jon actually struggles with having a set routine with his sleep schedule just fluctuating a ton
  • He’s begun setting boundaries on his phone usage such as leaving his phone outside of his room and limiting the number of times he picks up his phone per day
  • Find those things that make you feel better every day and make sure you do it every day
  • Jon no longer turns to social aimlessly to waste time, rather he does it purposely to engage his audience
  • Find the sweet spot where your consumption and interaction with social media enriches your life 

1:12:00 - How Jon got his jobs with A-List celebrities

  • Will Smith’s producers saw what Jon was doing with Shay Mitchell and her content and reached out to him to see if he was interested
  • This work with Will and Shay led to Dwayne Johnson’s team reaching out but it was 6-8months before he actually worked with him
  • Jon got burned in the past so now he makes sure he doesn’t expect things before they come, always being present

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