When a close friend of mine showed me the Michigan Beer Film at his place in upper Michigan, I had a gut feeling the dudes that made it were pretty darn cool. Guess what? I was right. I saw it quite a while ago, but never took upon myself to reach out to them and make a new connection. Then, this summer I received the coolest little gift from a great friend. It was a Michigan Bottle Opener. Some may call this strange destiny, but one of the creators of the Michigan Bottle Opener is also one of the founders of Rhino Media. So then I took it upon myself to reach out to Kevin Romeo and see if I could hear his story of how Rhino Media came to be. You can find our down to earth interview below.
So how did Rhino Media get started? What’s the story behind starting this company? We started at a pizza hut. a few guys who had no desire to work in jobs we didn’t care for. I literally had nothing left to lose. I’ve come to understand that oftentimes it’s the people who don’t have a back up plan who make it work. If you have a comfortable back up plan waiting for you, then how hard will you go at your dreams when the road gets tough, ya know?
Why Rhino? Does it have a personal connection for you?
Rhino’s all about not letting fear get in the way of your dreams. Rhino’s travel in groups called a crash. The reason for the name “crash” is because of the unique design of their faces, which don’t allow them to see directly ahead of them, and that they can’t brake very quickly when running at full speed. So they crash into stuff. But they can take it… cause they are fricken rhinos.
I’ve seen the Michigan Beer Film myself. Great film! What has the Michigan Beer Film done for Rhino Media?
It started out being the product of my trying to make a product. I’ve been trying different craft beers probably since before I was old enough to legally consume alcohol. MBF has been huge for our name recognition. More importantly, and I didn’t realize this at the time, was that it signaled to everyone that we were artists who can contribute something to culture and society.. rather than just doing videos for organizations who pay us, they saw us putting ourselves out there and pouring our time, talent and treasures into creating something that we were proud of and that other people could enjoy. It also made a statement that when we set out to make something and we tell people that we’re going to do it, that we keep our promises.
Any plans for the future of Rhino? Maybe another cool project in the works?
We want to make things that connect people with great ideas and encourage people to create themselves.
If you could give an aspiring filmmaker any advice, what would it be?
Just go at it. Be humble, hungry and smart. Your first projects will be amazing to you, but over time you’ll look back and probably think they are awful. But that doesn’t matter. Get over your fear of people thinking that you aren’t legit and start creating things.
There is something special about Michigan. What makes it special to you? I have my own answers, but I’m just curious…
When you grow up somewhere, it’s innately special to you. That’s part of how emotional connections to locations work. But as I’ve traveled around the country, I’ve come to the conclusion that Michigan really is a fantastic place to make home. Some of the reasons why: brilliant seasonal weather, leading to brilliant varieties in a many industries, craft beer, food, sports, activities, etc. Lake Michigan is absolutely incredible. Michigan is grabbing hold of the local, handmade, craft pride like crazy and it’s strengthening our state. Which is awesome, because we needed an identity other than cars.
Where do you get your inspiration from in all that you do? People? Places? Things?
Generally, how I gauge art is how quickly and deeply it moves me to create something myself. I’m inspired by people who are driven to fight past the things that hold them back. So that pretty much transcends all industries. I’m also inspired by authenticity and stripping away all barriers to truth. Most great stories are about redemption, forgiveness, perseverance. Musically, it’s Johnny Cash, the Avett Brothers and Hank Williams. Film it’s the Big Lebowski and O Brother Where Art Thou. Literature that speaks to me is John Steinbeck.
I hear you are in a band called Barn on Fire. How’s that going?!
The band is great. We consider it a community thing, we love giving people good times and we love innovating. So we play a lot of original songs, some CCR, Stones, Cash covers. It’s 4 piece as energetic, fun, dance folk with all sorts of instrument arrangements, so I switch between a banjitar (banjo/guitar hybrid), a fender strat electric, a homemade instrument called a “jingling jonny”, which was made out of a couple pie plates, a broom stick, a spring and a cowbell. Collin, who also plays in the band switches between 8 instruments, sometimes playing 4 at once; Bazookie (a mandolin/guitar hybrid), electric, acoustic, kick drum, tambourine, harmonica, squeeze box and snare drum and and we both sing. End interview.
Thank you so much for your time and answers Kevin. It was awesome to get to know you and Rhino Media better. Hopefully we can meet up sometime in the future, grab a beer and be in good company.