Alumnus Spotlight: Ivan Cash '08 featured in Forbes “30 under 30” for artistic filmmaking

Ivan Cash ‘08 (pictured above) is a Geneseo alumnus who founded a film studio in California called Cash Studios. Despite encountering several obstacles throughout his path to success, Cash has received substantial recognition for his work and was featured in Forbes magazine in 2016 (Courtesy of Ivan.Cash).

It’s not often people credit getting arrested with jump-starting their career. For Ivan Cash ’08, an arrest in New York City for selling t-shirts on the streets helped him land his first professional job in California. 

From there, Cash went on to create his own film studio in 2011—Cash Studios—which makes interactive film projects and videos that have garnered recognition from international news outlets. Cash demonstrates how with the right drive and motivation, even a student from a small school like Geneseo can make big waves.

While attending Geneseo over a decade ago, Cash was a communication major with a studio arts minor. He was a member of Geneseo Student Television, co-hosting their “Sports Block” show, lead designer for a campus publication at the time known as LIVE Magazine and even wrote a handful of restaurant reviews for The Lamron

After graduation, and his subsequent arrest, Cash moved out to San Francisco where he spent eleven months working for an ad agency. Not completely happy in his role, he moved on to a different ad agency in Amsterdam but was once again disappointed in how the position panned out. Cash took his dissatisfaction with these career moves back to America where he worked as a freelance artist for a few years before developing his own business, Cash Studios. 

“I worked better with a longer leash and not having a boss,” Cash said in a phone interview. “After freelancing for a while, I realized ‘oh, I’m pretty much running my own business already. Might as well make it official.”

Since then, Cash has created a number of incredibly insightful art projects and video series such as “Snail Mail My Email” where volunteers take emails submitted by strangers and turn them into handwritten letters for their recipients; the project has also since been turned into a book. 

“Hack Marriage” had participants enter stores that sold dictionaries and place a sticker over the definition of marriage as a union between a man and woman with an updated definition as a union between two people. The project gained so much popularity that in 2013, Oxford Dictionary officially changed their definition of marriage to be inclusive of gay couples. 

Cash credits his everyday experiences and observation skills with giving him ideas for his projects. 

“Curiosity is my biggest source of inspiration,” Cash said.

Cash has also collaborated with international companies such as Facebook and Toyota, and has been recognized by outlets like Forbes magazine who, selected Cash, as one of their “30 Under 30” in Art and Style in 2016. 

“I’ve done a good job of being very singularly focused on my art and my career and it’s been really nice to have that validated and seen and recognized,” Cash said. “And it’s helped me connect to an international community of badass artists.” 

Above everything else, Cash remains humble and thankful for the opportunities his career has given him, including being able to connect with his artistic heroes, such as Shepard Fairey, founder of OBEY Clothing, or Charlie Todd of Improv Everywhere.

As for what Cash is up to today, his latest project is titled “IRL Glasses,” with IRL standing for “In Real Life.” Funded through a Kickstarter campaign, Cash was able to build a pair of glasses that essentially block all media screens. The irony of the project is not lost on Cash: “I’m a filmmaker who’s trying to block screens from people.”

With years of post-Geneseo life experience behind him, Cash feels it’s important for students to be gentle on themselves and to know the value of taking care of their mental health.

“All the success in the world is meaningless if you’re not happy. It’s important for people to find ways of figuring out what makes them happy,” Cash said. “And get more house plants. Those are always good.”