Concordia University

Off to the races

Alum Joey Franco brings his passion for storytelling to work at his Montreal studio and his Formula One magazine
November 27, 2017
By Matthew Scribner

According to popular belief, the media market is over saturated with legacy publications filling up every niche, with no room for newcomers. Yet that hasn’t stopped Joey Franco, BA (journ.) 09, from going wheel to wheel with established institutions. Nor is he letting expectations about the nature of “the media industry” define his own business.

Joey Franco, BA 09 Joey Franco, photographed under the Brooklyn Bridge in 2012, lived and worked in New York City after he graduated from Concordia. Photo: Studio Zoetropia

Franco is the founder of Studio Zoetropia, a communications consulting company that is firmly grounded in Franco’s journalism training. He also recently launched GP Traveler, a magazine that has found its place in the crowded market of Formula One publications, and an outlet for Franco’s own love of F1.

Even in a fast-paced career, there is always some time to stop for a tune-up. Franco answers some questions about the importance of passion and mentors in business.

What did you study at Concordia?

Joey Franco: “I majored in journalism at the Loyola Campus, and I also took many courses at the John Molson School of Business at the Sir George Williams Campus.”

How did that benefit your career?

JF: “Looking back, I can consider myself fortunate to have studied both journalism and business because those are the two most important elements in everything I have done to date. It is a strange mix, but I would encourage anyone to take the same route.

Journalism school was incredible because it prioritized experience over theory. Go out to the courthouse, or the municipal council, or the streets of Montreal, and go find your story — it wasn’t always easy or pretty, but life isn’t either. It was real, and that was our education: go out there, make mistakes, and learn.

Business school was also very helpful because there was a huge emphasis on working with others. Teamwork and human relations is the single most important element in business — not money or profit!”

Did any professors especially stand out?

JF: “Linda Kay was one of my first professors in my first year of J school. Linda was a trailblazer; she shared a Pulitzer Prize for her reporting when she was a young journalist in San Diego with the Evening Tribute. The first lesson she taught was to never assume — ask the right questions and never leave anything to chance.

The main thing I drew from Linda is that you have to carve out your own life path, and you can’t let yourself be categorized. We are all unique, and we all have our own sensibilities. We all share our own mixes of insecurity and bravery, failures and successes.

Linda dove right into a male-dominated world of sports journalism, and she never let anyone tell her she did not belong there. She became the absolute owner of her circumstances.”

So what do you do for a living?

JF: “I’ve always struggled with this type of question. Every time I meet someone new at a cocktail party and they ask me what I do, I sort of cringe — and that goes back to my belief in who we are as people and as professionals.

I hate to categorize myself as being in a profession, whether it be journalist, photographer, entrepreneur, filmmaker, consultant — these are all things I do, or rather tasks I engage in along my professional journey.

I have come to the realization that the best word to describe myself is ‘storyteller.’ Images, words and sound are just the tools I use to tell these stories. The stories that I tell are true, and that is where the journalistic predisposition comes in.

I was editor-in-chief of a New York City online magazine shortly after graduating. During that time, I also directed and produced a documentary film series called New York Wisdom, where we interviewed 12 New York City icons, from past mayors to athletes, artists, and entertainers.

Two years ago I relocated permanently to Montreal, where I founded two initiatives: Studio Zoetropia and GP Traveler.

GP Traveler is a Formula One travel and lifestyle publication. Hundreds of media outlets cover F1 as a sport, but none really approach it as a cultural happening. There is so much history, technology, tourism and entertainment surrounding the sport, so we tell the stories that are found off the race track.

Joey Franco interviews Formula One legend Niki Lauda Joey Franco interviews Formula One legend Niki Lauda at the Canadian Grand Prix in June 2011. Photo: Studio Zoetropia

The idea behind Studio Zoetropia is that everyone has a story to tell. We specialize in content consultancy as well as the design and production of content plans. Each plan is tailor-made. We like to call it bespoke content!

Currently, we are working with a magazine in Austin, Tex., several companies and professionals in Canada and even a social media platform in India.”

Were there any surprises in your career?

JF: “I have surprises every week. If your career does not have surprises, it is boring.

Some surprises are good, others are bad. Recently, I had the opportunity to interview one of my idols, Cal Fussman, who writes for Esquire. He is one of the reasons I wanted to tell stories. Last year, I got to toast my 30th birthday with former F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone. These are the cool, unexpected moments that make what I do even better.

The bad surprises almost always involve relationships. Inevitably, some relationships in business will deteriorate and go bad and, like I said, human relations is the single most important element in business — it can make or break a project or business.

On those rare occasions, it’s important to handle the situation in the most respectful manner possible and not let your emotions take over. Emotions are for our personal lives, and should not be confused with passion. We need passion in business, yet emotions cloud our judgement.”

Do you have any advice for students and recent graduates?

JF: “My first piece of advice would be to surround yourself with positive people. Positivity feeds off positivity and will ultimately lead to success over the long term. We live in an era that romanticizes the destination but overlooks the journey. Aim for the big goal, but focus on the little steps that will get you there, and give it time.

My second piece of advice would be to leave your comfort zone as often as possible, in both your student and professional life. If you are studying in the arts, dive into something in the sciences. If you are an introvert, engage in extrovert activities.

My last piece of advice would be to work with people from different age groups. Each generation seems to have strengths and weaknesses. People in startups tend to be younger and stick together, but we shouldn’t underestimate the importance of wisdom and experience from those who have been in the workforce for a longer time.”

What’s next for you?

JF: “Our video and visual content is growing significantly. I am working on developing several independent film projects over the next couple of years. All I can say is, stay tuned.

Another important element in my future projects will be cause. If there is a purpose behind what we are doing, no matter our field, it makes it all the more satisfying.

In my case, as a storyteller, I am seeking cause and impact behind the stories I tell. How do I bring awareness to a particular subject, how can I inform and cause people to look at things in a different and more critical way?”


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