XMPL Digital Cover Story: Sky Directs – Changing The Game

Ready to change the game when it comes to press is California-based videographer, Sky Palmer – professionally known as Sky Directs, who found opportunity amidst the struggle of the pandemic with his latest startup, Pressful

It was the host of MTV’s legendary show Wild ‘n Out, Nick Cannon, who first believed in Sky, enlisting him as his personal videographer at age eighteen, which later opened the doors for Sky to work on the second season of Wild ‘n Out. After meeting celebrity manager Cudda Love, Sky also found himself lined up to work on “Life After B2K” – a reality series following the lives of world-renowned R&B group B2K – which garnered several millions of views online. 

Teaming up with actress and singer Meagan Good and her girl group “The H.E.L.L.O Girls” to direct their music video ‘Beep Beep,’ their single later debuted on BET’s iconic 106 & Park, serving as Sky’s first national music video TV appearance with a shout out from Meagan. Sky’s directing and editing ambitions further continued as he went on to start his own film company, LETSFILMIT, working with many industry legends and influencers, from Trey Songz, Chris Brown, Soulja Boy, Saweetie, Sean Kingston, Christina Millian and the list goes on and on – leading him to work on his forthcoming debut film “Run Nixon” starring B2K’s Lil Fizz.

Just before the pandemic hit, Sky had returned to his roots and passion for filming and set out to make his major motion picture debut with “Run Nixon” – an action drama with lead Lil Fizz portraying the role of Nixon’s father who tries to save his kidnapped son after his wife desperately takes money from a dangerous drug dealer to cover the cost of Nixon’s heart surgery. Without much success in trying to raise funds and awareness for the project during the COVID-19 pandemic, Sky takes a different approach in trying to spread his message for the movie, which brought to life Pressful, aiming to redefine the press industry. 

Photography: M. Daniels, Makeup: Abigail Smith

With the joint efforts of Sky Directs and co-founder Mich Vital, Pressful takes the filming aspect of LETSFILMIT to deliver a visual press release which is then pitched and distributed to several thousands of national media outlets. Already gaining much attention online and on TikTok, Pressful aspires to be the “next Uber” of the press industry, making press more accessible to those seeking to publicize themselves or their message, no matter how big or small. 

In our interview with Sky Directs, the Los Angeles native opens up on being mentored by Nick Cannon, his upcoming film “Run Nixon” and talks overcoming his struggles, which ultimately paved the way for the launch of Pressful. With a Pressful app soon to make its way to the net, Sky is ready to shake things up to get his message out there.

XMPL: What originally inspired you to pursue filmmaking and directing? 

Sky Directs: So as a teenager, my teacher gave me an opportunity to kind of give me leverage as what I want to do. In high school, I was a kid that was always trying to figure out how I can be a master of something and my teacher said, “Hey, here’s a camera, come check out my film class.” And I did it. I fell in love with the whole aspect of filming, being able to produce, being able to edit, mainly editing. That’s what I really fell in love with. But I would go around school, just filming like random things, random events, and then go back into class and edit. And then I started working with artists in school and started selling music videos. So that’s why I fell in love with the whole film work. And then at the age of 18, I got the opportunity to work with Nick Cannon. Nick Cannon gave me my first opportunity in the industry. He pretty much he took me under his wings and said, “Hey, I love how dedicated you are and how you’re just so dedicated to the work without being paid. Let me take you under my wings,” and he put me on his project, Wild ‘N Out season two. And that’s where my first foot in the door began with Nick Cannon. 

How was it working with Nick Cannon?

Nick Cannon is a hard worker. That dude does like 20 things in like one hour. I remember one day, he was like sitting in his office, he was a big chillin. And I was like, what was next? He was like, “well, I got all these scripts on the table here.” It was like probably, like 15 scripts on the table. And then he just said, “the way I work is, I read these scripts, and I just stay active.” So if it’s not the script, the pre-production, then it’s the production, if it’s not the production then its the post-production. It’s like whatever you do in life, just always stay active on one of those fields, and you’ll always stay busy, and you’ll always stay working. Learn every position in the game.

Before Pressful, you were actually working on your major film debut, ‘Run Nixon.’ What was it like working on this project? 

‘Run Nixon’ is a passion project. Before I did the Run Nixon, I was living in LA, I was living above my means. I had a mansion in LA, I just sold my business. And when you move to LA, you got to live this lifestyle. It’s like, you got to have the nice cars, I had two Escalades, had a Maserati, had this 4 million dollar mansion, glass house with a 20 foot waterfall in the backyard. And I just stopped forgetting, stopped working on my passion. I just let it all go. So what happened was, I had to make a decision because I had a family. And I couldn’t afford to live there no more. So I said forget it. Let’s just give it all up. That’s what I did. I gave it all up. Literally everything and went homeless for like two months. And then my father said, come in and move with me. So I moved with him. And then when I was living with him, I had to get back to the roots, what I love. And I said no matter what, I love filming, let me just kind of figure that out. And then one night, I just had a dream about the movie. My uncle who passed away, he gave me the concept, which was because he had passed away from heart failure. He just literally gave me the whole movie. I woke up. I wrote the script in like two days. It was like 120 pages and when I told Fizz’s manager Cudda Love, “I said, Hey, I got this movie concept I’m working on.” And he was like, “let’s get Fizz to be the father” when I told him the concept. He’s like “I love it. Let’s do it.” And it just kind of started from there. And then what happened was, I sold my car to shoot the trailer to get the project going. And I sold that car and went to LA for like a week. I had like $1500 in my hand. And we had filmed an entire trailer from there.

Photography: M. Daniels, Makeup: Abigail Smith

Yeah, I got to watch the trailer. It looks like an intense kind of drama, action type film. I know right now you got a lot going on with Pressful and things like that. But do you know when you might potentially get back into it or when we might expect a release? 

Yeah, because of the pandemic, we kind of just put it all the way on pause. It was so many different political things involved. When you’re dealing with a SAG actor, there’s certain things you can’t do. And just with the pandemic it just set things off. So we’re going to probably get back to filming next year and finish that movie. 

During the pandemic, you managed to create Pressful. How did you find yourself coming up with this concept? How do you feel that it compares to traditional PR?

Well, I’m a man of just strong belief in myself and dedicated and as a young kid, with Nick Cannon, I just been so dedicated to just make things happen. Take ideas and turn them into reality and Pressful stems from the movie I was working on with ‘Run Nixon.’ Basically, that trailer was a pitch trailer to investors to fund the movie. My goal was to show it to investors to get them to invest into the movie. But it didn’t happen that way. So towards the end of 2019, I said, forget it, I can’t wait on these investors. Let me try Kickstarter. So I did a Kickstarter in 2019 and I assumed it would be, you know, successful if I had a good scheme. So my scheme was to stand outside of the Netflix building and hold a sign that says ‘help me raise money for my movie.’ And I was hoping that it will go viral, someone will put it on the news, and it will go viral. I’ll be able to raise more money on Kickstarter. Unfortunately, it didn’t happen. No one took a picture. It was like a day before Christmas. It was raining. I was sent out there with my actor that was in the movie. And no one took a picture. But I took a picture and did a video. So I was like, let me go to plan B, let me go reach up the publicists who can take this picture and send it out to journalists so I can get an interview and hopefully, you know, get coverage that way. So I started reaching out to publicists and publicists were like, well, we can start working but it’s gonna cost like $10,000-$2,000 retainer, just a whole other budget that I didn’t have at the time. So I said, this is not gonna work. Let me reach out to journalists myself, no journalists responded back. I have relationships in the industry but I couldn’t get no type of leverage with journalists, no type of interviews. So it’s frustrating me and my campaign ended on Kickstarter. I didn’t succeed at the campaign. 

When I didn’t succeed. I felt like I failed my family, myself, the cast members, the whole project, I just felt like I failed. So I set the project aside for about, like, 30 days in January 2020. And one night, I had a dream, it was my father. My father was an entrepreneur, and I said, “hey Pops no matter what I create, you create or anybody creates, the problem is if you don’t have press, you’re kind of stuck.” Because everything needs press to get the word out, it means that exposure and that push. If you got some strong press, then you have the potential of getting your product out there to the world, to the masses. So I was like, let’s just stop what we’re doing and focus on Pressful. 

So I had the name in August of 2019. I just created the name and just let it sit. But I didn’t do anything with it. So once I had that dream, I woke up, I called my developer, and I said, Hey, listen, let’s come up with this concept. And you know, Pressful wasn’t what it is today. Me and my co-founder, Mich [Vital], was sitting there in February in this pandemic and we’re like, “what can we do?” And my founder, Mich said, “Hey, how about you take your film company, LETSFILMIT, mix it in with Pressful, go film these businesses that are closing down, and then allow them to kind of get the story out there. Let the world know what they’re doing about their business during this pandemic.” I said, that’s cool. But we can’t because of the whole pandemic, you can’t be in front of people, that won’t work. We got to do something else. 

So the “Aha moment” was, “why don’t we just take it remote?” We can have journalists around the world do these interviews, video conferencing and then we can figure out how to get them press. And that was our Aha moment from there in February. That’s when I went back to my developer and I said, let’s come up with this concept where people can basically do video conferencing, not Zoom – let’s build our own software, where these journalists have accounts and a whole platform, a dashboard. And customers can select any journalist that they want, do a one-on-one interview and then we could get them press coverage. He loved it. It cost a lot of money. So I took my savings, I did a friends and family round – raised about 25 grand and started developing the concept. And now in the middle of developing it, I had to personally design all the pages. I personally designed the entire dashboard, like 300 pages, it took me about two, three months to learn how to design. And then once we got to the middle of the month, we had our first beta launch. And our beta was just where we had reached out to journalists, a couple, and they start getting on the platform. Once they started testing the platform out, word of mouth started growing. We had over 1500 journalists on May 6th, on my birthday, signing up on Pressful to use the account. And that was exciting because we had journalists from Netflix, Nickelodeon, all these different high tier outlets where I was actually trying to get them to get on board originally from the movie. So I was like Pressful has opened up so many different opportunities, it just makes sense. I just had to keep pushing it forward. And that’s what we did. 

We ended up getting a distribution partnership with Cision, who is the largest press distribution out there in the world, they came on board and they offered us exclusivity with pricing, and being able to offer our video interviews through the distribution because they charge about $1,000 if you want to attach a video. And we just kept moving forward. And finally in January of 2021, we launched the company. And we had over 200 signups, we had 500 total who technically signed up, but we had a problem. Our entire week of January 2021, we didn’t have our phones up, no communication for responding back to customers who have messaged us, and, and our chat was down. So we lost probably about like, I don’t know, probably about like 20 grand, just because we didn’t have that communication, team support up. So we end up figuring that out the next week. And then, you know, we were able to still focus on the people who did pay and sign up and get them their interviews. So every day, we’ve been making it better, figuring out the bugs, the glitches. And then currently, we’re working on our next phase, which is launching the app, which has some cool things to give people more exclusivity to getting covered. And that’s currently where we’re at right now. 

Photography: M. Daniels, Makeup: Abigail Smith

Who could benefit from Pressful?

So the main vertical, what we’re focusing on is startups, creators, entrepreneurs, people that have limited to no resources, people that never got press before. If you look at the company, Airbnb, they’re big today. But when they first started, they were just a startup, they didn’t have no press, no investments. So they had to get the ball rolling. And they started out with just doing simple blogs, simple school postings, small newspapers, local newspapers to talk about the company and then it grew into the larger tier outlets to start talking about the company. That’s just what Pressful is like – we help get you your first press on the web. We send your press over 1500 outlets, up to 8000 different outlets depend on what package you choose. And you’ll be posted on the Yahoo News, Market Watch, Business Insider, all these different outlets. So anyone that doesn’t have press, it’s definitely good for you, because you get a video interview with a journalist to talk about your business, show how it works, which is the best part. And then you get that press coverage, so you can put on your website, “as seen on Fox, NBC, Yahoo News,” and whoever else picks it up. 

I know that you’ve received a positive reception from the journalist side, I was just curious to see what the reception has been from existing PR teams or people who currently work in PR?

That’s a good question. Towards the end of 2020, I got one upset phone call from a publicist. And it was a weird call cause I was assuming, you know, he wants to talk business. But once we got on the phone, and he started asking me questions, I guess he finally got fed up for the fact of what Pressful can do to the industry. He was like, “what you’re doing is building an Uber and that’s going to fuck up my business.” He really cussed me out and said, “Don’t you dare build your company and fuck up my business” because basically, publicists obviously charge a lot more. And they know they can do that because people don’t have knowledge of how PR works. They don’t have the relationships to these different outlets. So they can charge 1000s of dollars for something that’s not even thousands of dollars. So he just cussed me out and I kind of got frustrated, I’m like, “Hey, I’m trying to do something good that benefits creators like myself and give more opportunity to publicists, like yourself,” and he was like, “No, you’re gonna mess up my money.” And I understood at that point that we were definitely doing something. And I guess it’s kind of like what Uber did to taxis or what Airbnb did to the hotels, we’re here to definitely change something that needs to change. 

“I want to definitely dominate the industry, be the number one company. When people say “I need press,” I want them to definitely, always consider Pressful. I want it to be what Airbnb is today for Pressful five years from now. And I want Pressful to be able to help these companies, whether you’re a startup or you’re a venture backed company or you’re a fortune 500 company, an entrepreneur, a celebrity, you can use Pressful

Let’s say maybe the next five to ten years – what would you say is at least a main goal that you hope to achieve for Pressful by then? 

Yeah, I think in five to ten years, I want to definitely dominate the industry, be the number one company. When people say “I need press,” I want them to definitely, always consider Pressful. I want it to be what Airbnb is today for Pressful five years from now. And I want Pressful to be able to help these companies, whether you’re a startup or you’re a venture backed company or you’re a fortune 500 company, an entrepreneur, a celebrity, you can use Pressful and that’s the good thing about it. Because even celebrities have these PR agents, we’re currently right now working with PR agencies, who represent their clients or bringing on a client on the platform. Doesn’t matter if you’re a celebrity or you’re a big brand or small brand you can use Pressful, talk about your product in this video. So I just wanted to be the number one platform for getting press. 

With the expansion of Pressful, do you see yourself returning to filmmaking and making music videos and things like that? 

Yeah, that’s the beauty of Pressful, it brings in so many different opportunities. For me meeting different artists around the world, different producers around the world. And giving opportunity to other producers and directors. If you understand Pressful, you understand that Pressful is video. And it’s all about the video production, because we’re taking a written press release and turning it into a video press release. So that whole video production is still involved. And you know, down the line we’re going to have these these big editing bays where we got a bunch of editors, editing different press releases, video press releases, so I’m always involved in the production side, I think that’s what makes Pressful unique. And it makes it hard for people to kind of be a competitor. Because if you don’t understand video production, you won’t be able to be a competitor in this space. Because it literally takes for you to understand video, editing, graphics, that whole process. And that’s my main experience is video production. 

So down the line, once the funding is there, and I’m able to just fund my own project – oh my gosh, I have like so many scripts ready to go. I’m still currently filming as I’m doing Pressful, I’m working on a TV show right now called ‘Shot.’ And it’s about people who got shot. And we filmed the day of the reenactment of how they got shot. The person gets an interview to talk about how they got shot, these mini stories that we’re going to be distributing to HBO. So yeah, they’re both hand in hand. I mean, I’m always going to be filming because I always love filming and Pressful will provide the studio relationships and the production for me to continue on to stay filming.

I know that you’ve done a lot of projects, you’ve worked with a lot of people, like Meagan Good, Saweetie – could you tell me a little bit more about some of the people that you worked with in the industry and how they played a role to where you are now? 

Yeah, great question – the celebrities in the industry definitely helped give leverage to my name and help bring me to the next level. My first celebrity I worked with was B2K and I was the film director for their reality show. I had the opportunity to basically film those guys and this was at a time where, you know, reality wasn’t that big. So basically, this was before. Flavor Flav and all those different reality shows. It was all before that. I went back home and edited the B2K show and I called it “Life after B2K” – it started getting momentum online and started picking up, we had like millions of views and then finally Warner Brothers reached out and they said, “hey, let’s turn this concept into a reality show.” So that was my first like paid gig and that opportunity took me to the next level. 

So we did that show on Warner Brothers, and then from there opened up doors with other celebrities, other projects. I worked with Meagan Good, I was her first director that put her music video on 106 & Park. She premiered it, she gave me a big shout out, that was huge. And that was right before 106 & Park closed down but my goal at that time was I needed to get a video on 106 & Park before it goes down. I made it through the threshold before they closed down. 

Then that opened up other doors and other opportunities like Saweetie. I worked with Tyga, worked with Christina Milian, I worked with Shaq. I had this company called Sky Boards, where I used to sell hoverboards. But it was a custom hoverboard, where we customized it for celebrities. So I did a board for Shaq, it was a black and white concept of his shoe. And we put it on the board. And I put it on social media and word got out to Shaq and they reached out to me. I gave him the board, met at the Beverly Hills Hotel. And he was just a cool dude, he loved it. He shouted me out, which opened the door for Reebok. They reached out and said we love what you did with Shaq, can you do that with all the other celebrities? That opened up that door and they flew me out to New York for an event. 

From that event, I met Sway [Sway In The Morning], he’s like, man, I love what you’re doing, I want to invite you to the radio show and come talk about what you’re doing. I did his radio show, talked about the Sky Boards and that opened up more doors with more celebrities and more opportunities. And I had a partnership with Tyga at his store. That’s the whole mission, it’s always just driving it forward and staying dedicated, staying passionate about what you love, because it’ll continue to open up so many doors. And that’s how all these relationships happen. And they just continue to grow from there. And my work with the music videos continues to grow. And that’s basically how I was always able to stay relevant is because I never strayed from that concept Nick Cannon told me. I always kept that in my mind. No matter what it is, I’m producing, I’m staying active. If I’m pre-production, I’m building something to make me stay active. When I get to production, if I’m done with production, I’m post-production, I’m editing what I’m currently working on to get back to pre-production to work on a new project. So that’s the name of the game.

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