By Samantha Paine
Skinny and tall, dark curly hair cut short, a resting face you could mistake for disinterest. Dan Dismuke didn’t particularly stand out in the college scene, didn’t quite belong to a specific clique. He is, at the same time, lean and muscular—as many frequent weight lifters with high metabolisms are—but he isn’t quite a jock. He’s an intellectual with thick-frame glasses, but not quite a nerd. He’s an avid writer, but wouldn’t consider himself an art kid. Maybe this is because he isn’t mentally built like many other college students—he wasn’t trying to fit in anywhere. He was trying to move on.
Dan is motivated. Starting out self-published and generally self-propelled, he has quickly become the CEO of Orenda Pictures, a film company of his own design, a director and a producer. At 24, his life and career are on the rise, and he’s eager to do more, see more, create more. With his first book, “Peter,” published and on the rise and a sequel, “Peter II,” recently following, he’s got his hands full. But he has every intent to go further—both books are also film scripts, and are currently being evaluated for pre-production approval. He didn’t go into much detail, but his excitement about the prospect shows. “It is by no means a definite, but I can publicly say I have reason to be very, very confident about it,” he says.
The intent was always to make Peter into a short film. “I started Peter out in script form and got to about page 30. I realized the best way to market a movie and to get investors’ interest was to have a successful book of the story first. It’s a tangible object that can be sold for profit, not just a script you wrote and print out for them. It carries weight.” His bold nature and hunger for success pushed him to take the longer, but ultimately more profitable and professional, route. This forward thinking seems to be exactly the reason he was restless in traditional schooling. He finished his thought, “So, I scrapped the 30 pages and began the book.”
But, as far as he’s concerned, the desire to write that he holds now only began three years ago. “Writing for me in terms of passion was never there until I was about 21 or 22,” he explains, though he claims to have a natural talent for it. “You can learn script formats, and your writing can get stronger, but I think you simply have to be born with it. I just didn’t realize it until very later on in my life, unfortunately.” He believes 21 is late in life to realize a passion, but is growing to own more of his life than most do at 24.
Last June, he was invited to do signings and self-promotion at the New York Book Expo, having been signed to Apollo Publishers and his book having been made available at Barnes & Nobles bookstores worldwide. You don’t see many 24-year-old guys with that much self-propelled success.
Despite the (as he considers it) delayed epiphany, he’s always known how to use his talents to get where he wants to be, and he’s comfortable talking about how he’s grown. “I started writing papers for people at a young age; sue me,” he jokes, lightening the mood. At the same time, he’s hungry and humble, never forgets where he came from.
A former KU student, Dan has been used to the rural attitude of Eastern Pennsylvania his whole life. He grew up in the Wilson district of Reading, Pennsylvania until landing at KU. “My motivations for attending college were pretty minimal and non-existent,” he said. “I was not a large bookworm, or any type of role model for that matter in my younger years.” Ultimately, his track record shows his restlessness in terms of college studies. He began as a sports management major, switched to business, transferred to West Chester, then back to KU as a business major, ending his rollercoaster ride as a writing major.
With no desire to stay at the college track left, Dan decided to forego graduating. “To be honest, I just felt like I was in a cage,” he said, explaining himself like every modern dropout seems to be required to, some sort of unspoken rule. “It was unhealthy and started to become too much. School, classes, other assignments—all of that forced me to not focus on what I was attempting to build, work on, and where I wanted to put all my focus.” He knew this in his senior year, and he certainly doesn’t regret it now.
Dan is pushing himself harder to get his dreams down on paper and in film, but in the same right, he’s still a 24-year-old young man. And like every individual chasing something they want, there’s always a need for rest. He says on a regular day, “I wake up and do some work on a new short film I am working on, I make a few calls to promote book one sales, and I am relaxing. The past year was truthfully one of the most tiring, brutal, backwards body clock years I could have ever imaged, so taking it easy right now I am very okay with.” And he certainly deserves to take a break.
Dan is going to be working on his dream projects in the epicenter of the media industry. Alongside his own film and writing related projects, he is involved in pre-production work for a short film titled “Harbison Canyon” with his long time friend, current roommate and writing partner, Matthew Thomas, as well as Director of Photography Ezekiel Kitchen, both former KU students.
“Matt and I had been planning to start a project together once I moved out here, we figured what better time to start,” Dan said. With the script in it’s third stage of editing and the filming details decided, their project is well on it’s way to becoming a full fledged film, and Dan is excited to see where it goes. “We plan to send it to the Tribeca Film Festival by November 28.”
After “Harbison Canyon” is wrapped and sent out to film festivals, Dan intends to jump right back into the publication and promotion of “Peter II,” then, one by one, work to finish and promote the film for his first book, the second, and the third and final installation. “I hope to be able to take a year or two break after that and build a solid life and home outside Los Angeles.”
While it seems like a lot to worry about at once, he remains confident that he can do what he sets his mind to, throwing out the classic phrase, “Go big or go home, right?”
Dan’s experience has truly been one of self-propelled motivation and gut, and he’s learning more about himself on his climb. He speaks about writing as though it is one of the greatest teachers in his life. “As a person it makes you more kind, you need to put yourself in the character’s head; it’s living in another’s shoes. You take that away from the laptop and the writing. I start to see real life people’s perspectives much easier. The entire process is just humbling. I can’t say it enough.” True to his word, he is certainly one to be humble.
And while he’s focused on building a life and a career, he offers his experience to younger people as a story of success most kids don’t get to see when they talk to their guidance counselors and parents, trying to figure out their life path in high school.
He’s offering these words to people that are just where he was five years ago: “If it’s just one freshman in KU that reads this, just believe me. The law of attraction is real. I’m not some palm reader jokester, I’m not a college professor, I’m a 24-year-old guy who, up until two and a half years ago, did exactly what you do, drank exactly what you drink, and told the same lies you all tell. The only thing that changed between then and now is my mindset, and my belief in that universal law. Think about it.”
Dan Dismuke is confident, and he has every right to be. He is motivated and professional. He is honest. He is hungry. And there’s a whole world of people hungry to discover more people like him.