Words of Wisdom- Roberto Fatal

Words of Wisdom is a monthly interview on the Metro EDGE blog with an executive impacting the Sacramento community. Think of these interviews as a mini Executive Insight where you will receive valuable career advice to help you grow as a young professional! This month's interview is with Roberto Fatal[they/them/ellos], a Filmmaker and visual artist whose works center on humans who sit at the intersections of time, space, and culture.  Their latest short sci-fi drama, Do Digital Curanderas Use Eggs In Their Limpias, will make its world premiere this June at Frameline, San Francisco’s International LGBTQ+ Film Festival.

Read Roberto's interview below to learn more about their advice to young professionals everywhere. 

What are three things you wish you’d known as you embarked on your career? 

Three things I wish I had known: 

  • Don't compete with or compare yourself to other people. Scarcity is a myth, there is room for all of us to make it. Your success is not measured by someone's failure, your failure is not someone's success.  
  • Your career, especially in the arts, is a marathon, not a sprint.
  • Always give back to the communities that raised you and those in need when you are blessed with resources and success.

Did you have a mentor? 

I've had many mentors over the years that have helped me grow from one phase of my life to another. That has meant so much to me. 

If so, what was the most important advice they gave you?

Sometimes my mentors have been mentors by showing me what NOT to do. I've seen in my mentor's unhealthy work-life balance and toxic, self-destructive behavior. And learning that from them has been as valuable as the nuggets of positive knowledge they have given me. But in terms of positive things:  My biggest mentors in recent years have been the ones at the Sundance Film Institute's Indigenous Flim Lab. They have taught me how to find my truest voice as an artist, how to support and care for other storytellers around me, how to honor my ancestors and lineages with the stories I tell in my art and how to marry my spirituality, cultures, histories, aesthetic, voice and entertainment together with my work, to help create change in mind and heart for my audiences.


Do you have any suggestions of books, articles, websites, podcasts, etc., that might help a young professional? 

My reading lists is for young professionals, especially men.

  • The Will To Change: Men Masculinity and Love by bell hooks
  • Non-Violent Communication: A Language of Life by Marshall Rosenburg 
  • The Art of Communicating by Thích Nhất Hạnh
  • The Miracle of Mindfulness by Thích Nhất Hạnh
  • Freedom is a Constant Struggle by Angela Davis


What communities are you involved with? 

The biggest communities I call home are my Latinx, Indigenous, Two-Spirit, and LGBTQ artist community. I also am a professor at Sacramento City College, and I find that to be one of my biggest and most uplifting communities. GO PANTHERS!


Share why it is to be involved in organizations outside of work (faith-based, networking, philanthropy, community-based, alumni, athletics, etc.). 

Communities offer perspective, accountability, and guidance for our lives. They offer support to us when we struggle. They show us a path to our truest selves when we are lost.


How is Sacramento different from other places you traveled to, lived, or worked in? 

I've only ever lived in Oakland besides Sacramento, and comparatively, Sacramento feels smaller, and that to me is a good thing, especially for a professional practice. It's more intimate, people know one another, and we have accountability to each other in a way that I didn't see in the Bay, especially in business and art. I don't want to make generalizations about either city, but I am just glad to be back home in Sacramento, making films here and teaching here.


How has living in Sacramento shaped your career and/or identity? 

I was born and raised here, left for 13 years, and then came back. I think I needed to leave to really appreciate it. To give me time to change, to give Sac time to change. Now that I'm back, I feel so supported by this city, by its film commission, by my college. This city has grown up a lot in its acceptance of the LGBTQ communities, and I needed that to come back here and feel safe. Not only do I feel safe, I feel more like myself than I ever have, in part, thanks to how this city has grown.


Is there anything else you’d like to tell the 40 and under business professionals in our region? 

  • Don't try to rush to success, move slow and build foundations for the work you want to do in this world. 
  • Don't sell out your values or community for money.  Make sure you can look yourself in the mirror when you come home from work.
  • Find a way to align your work with the reason you are here on earth. That might sound woo-woo, but I find that work, success, and career is easier when you are living your truth, your purpose, every day of your life. 
  • Corporations don't care about you. 
  • Capitalism is built fundamentally on the exploitation of the working class and resources. Don't exploit your workers, and protect yourself from being exploited as a worker. Value labor.
  • Never cross a picket line or try to union bust.
  • Never profit off of other people's misery or misfortune.