We’re proud of our creative and talented members. This month, we’re spotlighting Sue Kramer, a writer, filmmaker, founder and CEO of the branding agency Connecting Dots Guru, and proud Founding Member of Fotografiska.
Sue, tell us a little bit about your background as a filmmaker and writer.
Storytelling for me is everything. Everything in life – whether it be a screenplay, a photograph, or a poem – begins and ends with a story. It’s just in how you tell it.
I went to UCLA film school where I was honored to win the “Best Direction / Jim Morrison Award,” and signed with the William Morris agency (now WME) right out of college. I’ve written and directed extensively for many Hollywood studios for A-list stars like Julia Roberts. The first feature film I directed and wrote, Gray Matters starring Heather Graham, Sissy Spacek, Tom Cavanagh, Alan Cumming, Bridget Moynahan and Molly Shannon, is now on Amazon Prime.
I was luckily born with a distinctive eye, and have used it in all aspects of my artistic career, whether it be through filmmaking, photography or interior design.
What was the impetus behind making the transition from full-time writer and director to starting your own branding agency?
After a successful filmmaking career, and hitting the common “middle-age, artistic identity-crisis,” I decided I wanted to diversify my creative energy. I’ve always felt I had an artist soul with a business mind, and starting my own branding agency Connecting Dots Guru, was an empowering step. I knew I could build a branding business in a way that no one else had done before, and give companies the opportunity to be branded through a filmmaker’s eye and screenwriter’s pen. The storytelling language I spoke could be translated into building artistic, bespoke, and unique brand identities. We launched almost three years ago, and though it took a bit of time, it’s really taken off. The clients we are working with are so inspiring and my team is churning out deep, insightful, mindful, color-prescient work!
What excites you about your work?
Connecting Dots Guru is a full blown branding agency – storytelling & creative disrupting is our calling card. We are trendsetters who lead, not follow, and I fully believe in breaking the rules.
We like to work with rising and emerging photographers, and try to avoid using stock photography. We engage and work with other artists who pride themselves on their originality. Every design item we build is curated and created through an artists’ lens.
Our most exciting news is the launch of our newest service called BrandQ TM, a unique approach to branding through a strategic partnership with Nusa Maal and her company SenseSmart. Maal is a master sensory-mapper who, quite literally, maps out the history of a brand. She gets into the deep psychology of an organization to understand their holistic brand ethos, and then hand draws maps of the company’s journey that reflects their history and their future trajectory. After the mapping phase, Connecting Dots Guru jumps in to create the organization’s most authentic brand identity.
You create brands for many organizations and people. What do you view as something close to your own personal brand?
Creative Disruptor. I was a born activist. It’s in my DNA. My family has always fought for what they believe in, and I am no different. My grandfather Sam Kramer, a garment labor union activist, led the May Day services in the Bronx for over 40 years. My mother, a Guatemalan Jew, marched in PFLAG parades honoring my sister in the 80’s.
During the 2008 Obama election period I created and directed the “You Vote video,” featuring celebrities such as Bradley Cooper, Blake Lively, and Samuel L Jackson to encourage people to get out the vote. I also co-founded “Go Ghana Girls”, a foundation which raised funds to send girls in a Ghanaian villages to college on a full scholarship. In 2018, I conceived the “Erase Hate” campaign to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the horrible hate crime murder of Matthew Shepard.
After the verdict on Breonna Taylor was decided, I heard the cries of disheartened people saying they weren’t planning to vote, since they felt nothing would change. That ignited me to create another voting campaign. I knew I had to somehow participate in what I believed to be the most important election in my history. So within a week, I filmed a PSA on zoom called “Be Dope Vote” with Billy Porter, A$AP Ferg, Allison Janney, and others. It was viewed and shared by millions, and made me an active participant in this year’s election.
I’m all about paying it forward! I ask every person and company we work with to explore their commitment to philanthropy by donating to one of my five favorite charities (ACLU, Heifer International, Save the Children, Every Mother Counts, and Emily’s List). I believe that if all companies implement a commitment to philanthropy and giving we can truly change the world.
Are there any projects or organizations you’ve branded recently with Connecting Dots Guru that you’re exceptionally proud of?
Yes! As someone who identifies as a Latina, I care tremendously about the world of Diversity and Inclusion. About a month ago we launched a brand called Incluvations. Jeannine Carter, who was one of lead Diversity and Inclusion officers at Facebook, was launching her own consulting firm. She chose Connecting Dots Guru to create her entire brand identity, including brand naming, logo design, website design, and color branding.
I decisively chose to work with rising photographer Rob Woodcox for Incluvations, as his work’s mission is the inclusion of all people. The photo we chose is one of the most beautiful photographs I have ever seen to artistically capture the fanning world of Inclusion and Diversity. Other design elements created for Carter’s firm were Matisse-inspired graphics, and an animated labyrinth of words which illustrates her brand ethos and values. I’m extremely proud of the work we did for Incluvations.
What prompted you to become a member of Fotografiska?
I am a very proud Founding Friend of Fotografiska. I was asked to join about a year in advance of the museum opening, and I leapt at the chance to become a founding member. I love the building (I’m a design-a-holic, including architecture), I’m in an ever-lasting love affair with NYC (to this day I still look at the Empire State Building in awe), and I live for photography as a viewer, collector, and filmmaker. I also had a wonderful experience at the restaurant, Verōnika. I went opening weekend and felt like I was transported into Vienna. I have to write a new film, just so I can shoot a scene at the Verōnika bar!
I’ve always gone to photography exhibits and collected work and books, and I make it a mission to meet the photographer of every book I own, especially if it is signed. I need to hear the voice behind the lens. Sometimes it takes years, or other times it’s a serendipitous moment as it was when I met Peter Beard and William Klein in Paris. In late December, a few days after you opened, I was gifted one of Danny Clinch’s signed books. But of course, that was not enough – I still had to meet him! The night he was going to be in concert with Lucinda Williams I made my way up to the 6th floor while they were rehearsing. Danny and I connected immediately because I was a friend of E-Street band legend, Clarence Clemmons, who Danny knew intimately from shooting Bruce Springsteen and his band most of his life. Danny actually took the time to bring me around the exhibit and told me the stories behind his photographs. I felt we had an artists’ connection, which always fuels me up for weeks!
Everything about Fotografiska – the Lobby and Cafe, the exhibitions, the hidden bar inside of the church, Verōnika, the sense of community – brings me so much joy. And it’s here in New York, the city of my heart’s affection.
Thank you, Sue, for being a member of Fotografiska New York and taking the time to speak with us. To learn more about Sue and Connecting Dots Guru, you can visit her website, Instagram, or connect on LinkedIn.
We host a Member Spotlight every month and would love to hear from you. Please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to be featured.