top of page

Brett Culp – Part Four

Filmmaker, Keynote Speaker, Social Entrepreneur.

By Becca Gladden, Senior Writer.

Feb 10, 2019

In his uplifting keynote presentations, documentary filmmaker Brett Culp delivers a positive vision for developing a culture that unlocks the heroic spirit in everyone.  Photo © Brett Culp Films.

Photo © Brett Culp Films.

In his uplifting keynote presentations, documentary filmmaker Brett Culp delivers a positive vision for developing a culture that unlocks the heroic spirit in everyone.


Brett Culp is an award-winning documentary filmmaker who has parlayed his gift for storytelling into a global initiative to inspire hope, heroism, and what he terms “everyday leadership.” Through films, public speaking engagements, and The Rising Heroes Project – the nonprofit organization he co-founded – Brett uplifts audiences with unwavering optimism and a message of personal empowerment. His work is on Netflix, iTunes, Hulu, Amazon Prime, and other top digital platforms, and he has been featured in USA Today, Entertainment Tonight, WIRED, The LA Times, The Hollywood Reporter, Lifetime, WEtv, and many more.

In his uplifting keynote presentations, documentary filmmaker Brett Culp delivers a positive vision for developing a culture that unlocks the heroic spirit in everyone.  Photo © Brett Culp Films.

Photo © Brett Culp Films.

In his uplifting keynote presentations, documentary filmmaker Brett Culp delivers a positive vision for developing a culture that unlocks the heroic spirit in everyone.


Without giving away everything you talk about in your films and presentations, I think it’s easy for someone like a paramedic, for example, to see a direct line from their actions to literally saving lives. How do you draw that correlation for people who don’t see the direct and immediate impact of what they do, whether in their home, their work, the community, or in the world?

I think all of this rises and falls with identity. For any one of us, if someone says, “Who are you?” – what is your answer to that question? I believe that most of us define that incorrectly. We see ourselves as much smaller and much more insignificant than we actually are. That sense of empowerment and meaning in our lives is already sitting within us; it truly is just a shift of perspective – a shift of identity perspective.

Can you expand on that concept?

When I do my keynotes, I sometimes do an activity where I have everyone in the room get up, walk up to someone else in the room, shake their hand, look them directly in the eye, and say, “You are a hero.” I give them 60 seconds so they can do that with a few people in the room. It’s a very awkward thing for them to do. What I say to them after they’ve done it is, “Was it awkward for you to say that to someone?” and everyone says yes. Then I say, “But was it more awkward for you to try to receive it – for you to actually hear it and believe that what they were saying to you was the truth?” It’s unanimous every time: they say, yes, that was harder; that was more difficult for me.

I think the reason is that we have lost the sense of what it is that we do on a bigger, more meaningful level; why does this matter. The reason we lose it is because we become so caught up in the minutiae and the details of solving the problems we have to solve every day. We spend so much more of our energy on the problems and the issues, and how we resolve them, and what we don’t like and what’s not working, that we lose sight of the beautiful things we are accomplishing every day and the difference it’s making – not just in this moment, but over the entire legacy and lifetime of a career.

When I talk to people on leadership teams and management teams and executive teams, I will often challenge them with a question: “If I brought you up on stage right now, how easy would it be for you to describe the biggest challenge or one of the biggest challenges you’re having with your team and within your organization?” That’s super easy. But, if I say, “Would it be harder or easier for you to get up here and tell us all an inspiring story about something that happened in the past few months that really made a difference?” - which is easier for you to do? To talk about the problem or talk about the positive, inspirational story? It’s always unanimous: we can talk about the problem much easier than we can talk about the impact.

Documentary filmmaker Brett Culp inspires an audience during one of his many keynote presentations around the country.  Photo © Brett Culp Films.

Photo © Brett Culp Films.

Documentary filmmaker Brett Culp inspires an audience during one of his many keynote presentations around the country.


How do you encourage people to have a different perspective?

I think not just in organizations and businesses, but in the world, we need to get better at telling positive stories, because those stories are identity-shaping, and our identity drives our behavior; it drives our sense of self. If the news everyday is telling us stories that we’re essentially horrible, terrible people, what do we believe? We believe that we’re horrible, terrible people. But if the news instead tells stories about the goodness in us, the positive things going on – not just in the last 30 seconds of a one-hour broadcast, but if the lead is: “Today, humanity was awesome! What an incredible day for us!” – that’s never the lead. It’s always the little tag thing to keep you from going and committing suicide after you’ve heard 55 minutes of terribleness.

That, for me, is the shift. Anyone, in any job, no matter what they’re doing – as long as what they’re doing is truly for the betterment of humanity in some way – can shift into that perspective. Sometimes it’s about redefining the title of what you do – I’m not a paramedic, I’m a person that connects people to the help they need to live – whatever it is that you’re truly doing that makes an impact.

In combination with that is the issue of realizing that it takes time. We’re living in an insta-world. You post a picture and within five minutes, you know whether it’s going to be a popular post. We post, and then we check to see if anybody liked it; nobody liked it, and thirty minutes later nobody liked it, so I guess I’ll delete it. That’s the kind of world we live in; that instant feedback. But the work of making a positive difference in the world takes time.

Documentary filmmaker Brett Culp inspires an audience during one of his many keynote presentations around the country.  Photo © Brett Culp Films.

The need for instant gratification is a difficult thing to try to combat.

In my keynotes, I compare it to starlight. If you look up in the night sky, you see all these stars in the sky, but the reality is that all of the light you’re seeing took years, sometimes decades to reach us. Polaris, the North Star – one of the brightest stars in the night sky – is over 400 light years away, which means that if you could look up tonight and see Polaris, you’d be seeing light that left that star when Shakespeare was still writing sonnets. And you’re just seeing it today. It’s not this moment; this is the movement of centuries.

That is the perspective that we all need to have on our work: that we are starlight. Every single one of us is starlight. The reality is that, as much as we wish we could see the result of our work today or tomorrow or the next day, we have to have that vision that it does matter. It does make an impact. It is changing things. But we have to be patient with it.

That’s why ideas like faith and hope are so important. Because you have to have faith that the stories you don’t hear – that those are out there. Nobody ever sends a thank-you note to a star. No poet, no explorer, no young person ever looked up at the night sky and was inspired by the stars to do something great in their life, and then said, “You know, I think I’ll send a thank-you note to that star for the inspiration.” Stars never get the thank-you notes and neither do we.

I know that the greatest impact I’ll make on someone’s life – I just feel it with certainty on a knowing level – that I will never hear that story. The person will either decide they’re not going to tell me or it will never even cross their mind that they should. And yet, I have this knowing in me that there was somebody at one of my speeches, someone who pulled up one of my films on Netflix, someone that engaged with me and my work in some way that was transformational, and I just never heard that story. Maybe they didn’t even realize that it was my work in that moment that really created the shift that changed everything.

I had to learn to be okay with that, which is why things like faith and hope are so important. Because, if we don’t have those, all we have is the physical evidence of this moment, and that physical evidence isn’t always good. We need something to guide us when the world feels very dark and when we feel very lost and everything seems wrong. We need to be able to say, “You know what? Even though I can’t see it, even though I can’t prove it, even though I can’t put it in any kind of scientific empirical measure, I know deep in myself that this thing I’m doing, this thing I believe in, matters. I’m not going to quit. I’m going to stay with it and keep going.” That’s the trickiest thing for all of us, particularly when we go through dark times. But it is the truth of our identity and our lives.

I’m sure you have helped many people and will continue to do so. Sadly, we’re almost out of time, so please tell our readers about your upcoming projects.

Our next film is about the relationship between fathers and daughters and how fathers can make a positive impact in their daughters’ lives. The film is going to come out later this year; we’re still working on the plans for what we want to do with it. But it’s a beautiful movie and the stories we’re capturing for this film are wonderful. The trailer for that film is on my website.

If people are interested in the things you’ve talked about today, how can they learn more?

I would just say that for anyone that these concepts are helpful to, my website is full of videos and video clips that revolve around these kinds of topics. I did a podcast for 20 or so episodes that are on there, and then my films, and I post on social media every day with this kind on content. All of that is hubbed at my website, so if people go to my website they can see how to connect, watch, and share.


Photo © Brett Culp Films.

Photo © Brett Culp Films.


Photo © Brett Culp Films.

Brett Culp's work has inspired audiences around the world. He has been the personal cinematographer for Hollywood stars, music icons, beloved authors, hall of fame athletes, and royal families. With his uplifting documentary film Legends of the Knight, Brett pioneered a ground-breaking approach to community building and relationship-driven engagement. For Brett, his experience with Legends of the Knight re-framed leadership for him as an art form that invites people to connect with a noble vision and make a difference together. His film projects are collaborative efforts, pulling diverse groups of people into dialogue and ultimately leading to stronger communities and greater impact. Brett has developed an expertise for creating 'mini-movements' that inspire the heroic spirit in everyone. His work as a filmmaker empowers people to find their own path to leadership. Brett is co-founder of The Rising Heroes Project, a 501c3 that supports charitable organizations. Visit his website and Facebook page.

Photo © Brett Culp Films.

Legends of the Knight is a documentary film that tells the true stories of individuals who were inspired to become real-life heroes because of their childhood love of Batman. The film expresses the power all of us have to be heroic and has inspired viewers of all ages to embrace their inner superhero. The film has screened in cities, with proceeds benefiting charities and the families they serve. Each screening has become an evening of inspiration and heroic possibilities for families - with superhero costumes & capes - while raising awareness and funds for charity. Over 60 charities have benefited, including Ronald McDonald House, Make-A-Wish, St Jude's, Boys & Girls Club, MDA, Special Olympics, children's hospitals, and more. If you are interested in learning more about Legends of the Knight, click here.

Companion book for the documentary film "Look to the Sky" by Brett Culp.  Photo © Brett Culp Films.

Look to the Sky is a documentary film that explores the uplifting true stories of 10 young people who have demonstrated the spirit of Superman. Weaving together their stories, Look to the Sky is a touching journey into what is possible for the world and for our own lives. This feature-length documentary from filmmaker Brett Culp explores the power of hope and the importance of positive ideas while encouraging viewers to find the superhero within themselves. The film is screened around the world, with proceeds benefiting charitable efforts.

Learn more about the film at:

The journey to make this film was so inspiring for Brett as a filmmaker that at the end of the process he found there was so much more to say. So he poured all of those things into this companion book for Look to the Sky. This first book by Brett is an encouraging and insightful adventure behind the concepts and stories in the film. Watch the documentary film Look to the Sky, and then read the companion book to get a behind-the-scenes look at the filmmaking journey with these real-life heroes. Discover the power and depth of their stories, and uncover a renewed sense of possibility for yourself and the world around you. To learn more about the companion book for Look to the Sky, click here.

Photo © Brett Culp Films.

About Brett Culp: A filmmaker, keynote speaker, social entrepreneur, Brett is co-founder of the not-for-profit, The Rising Heroes Project, which produces films and other creative projects that inspire viewers to overcome personal adversity and engage with the world in a positive way. Brett believes that uplifting, real-life stories with messages of hope, courage, and commitment have the power to create lasting change. He is known for the films Legends of the Knight and Look to the Sky, both of which explore the power of heroic stories and heroic individuals to inspire us to believe in a better tomorrow. His films are featured on Netflix, iTunes, Hulu, and Amazon Prime. Brett's forthcoming film, A Voice That Carries, is a documentary film inspiring dads to have a positive impact on their daughters' lives! His goal with A Voice That Carries is to create an uplifting documentary film that encourages fathers to engage with their daughters and equips them to make a positive impact. As a keynote speaker, Brett is passionate and energetic. He encourages audiences to find the superhero within and their own path to "everyday leadership." His insights on connecting individuals to an organization's mission and goals resonate, help us realize our greatest personal and business potential, and renew our collective sense of hope for the future and belief that our efforts can make an impact.


bottom of page