“Storytelling can be a catalyst for conversation”: Alec Fischer’s journey from EHS to Forbes 30 Under 30



Alec Fischer smiles while attending the Forbes 30 under 30 launch party.

Celeste Eckstein, Copy Editor

11 years ago, Alec Fischer was a senior at Edina High School creating his first ever documentary film. Today, he’s a professional filmmaker, media company owner, and most recently, a member of the Forbes 30 Under 30 list.
While Fischer’s life hasn’t always followed a conventional path, his love for filmmaking has remained consistent. He began creating short horror films in middle school. In 2012, when he had the opportunity to do a senior project for class credit, he decided to create a documentary about teen bullying and suicide called “Minnesota Nice?”.
Many of Fischer’s projects are driven by a sense of necessity to bring hidden stories to light, beginning with “Minnesota Nice?”. “Adults were trying to avoid [bullying and suicide]; basically, adults didn’t want to talk about it. They were sort of saying it was in the heads of students, we were making it up, or we needed to suck it up and just be stronger. And I was really sick of that,” he said.
At the end of the school year, after hours of after-school interviews and editing, “Minnesota Nice?” premiered for an audience of EHS students and staff. “The screening basically sold out. I mean, we didn’t sell tickets, but people were lining up outside during class to come in and we had to turn people away,” said Fischer.
The news about Fischer’s film spread quickly. Schools wanted Fischer to show his film to their students, and he ended up touring with the film for three years after high school. To continue his anti-bullying advocacy, Fischer lobbied for the passage of the Safe and Supportive Schools Act, which passed in April 2014 and made Minnesota’s policies toward bullying prevention stronger.
Fischer’s path to filmmaking wasn’t straightforward; he either didn’t get into or couldn’t afford his ideal film programs. After he finished touring with “Minnesota Nice?”, he went to the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee to study film, then transferred to the University of Minnesota after his first semester. After graduating with an individualized studies degree, he worked in marketing until 2018, when he was fired.
“I had always been someone who was very proud of accomplishing things and feeling put together,” said Fischer. “When I got fired, it was a lot of feelings of ‘you’re not good enough’ and self deprecation. I spent probably six months applying for new jobs and not getting new jobs and feeling like a failure.” Fischer eventually resolved to give filmmaking a shot, getting a job at a restaurant to subsidize the costs of starting his own company, Fischr Media.
Despite questioning whether or not he would find success in the filmmaking world, Fischer continued to work hard. “I think hearing stories like Lizzo’s story [inspired me], or other folks who put in 10 years of work and had whole years where they were like, ‘Should I stop what I’m doing?’ and they didn’t, and then the tenth or eleventh year, suddenly they were like, ‘Whoa, here’s the success!’” he said. “I just kept that at the forefront of my mind, like [I] might have to put in ten to twenty years before [I] find some success and that’s okay if I’m still doing the stuff that I love.”
Fischer’s determination always set him apart. “He was so self-motivated and self-taught. He really didn’t even have a district [staff member] teaching him [about filmmaking]. He really was just off and running,” English teacher Jessica Froehlich said, who taught Fischer and directed him in the theater program.
In addition to passion, a sense of obligation also plays into Fischer’s work. “I think if there’s something that I feel in my heart that I really am curious about or is important, and it doesn’t fade away, then I know that’s a sign that I have to dive deeper into it,” he said. “The ‘Covid Confessions’ project was the same thing…I thought about it maybe in October or November and it kept popping up. So finally in December, I was like, ‘You know what, I’ll film a couple interviews. Maybe I’ll do a little short film.’ And then more people kept emerging… So it turned into this massive series project.”
In each episode of his “Covid Confessions” series, Fischer spoke to people from a different industry about how COVID-19 had impacted their lives, showcasing emotional, vulnerable moments and amplifying previously unheard stories.
He was planning to travel to Los Angeles for three months and take a break from filming, but people he had interviewed for “Covid Confessions” kept telling him no one else was sharing their stories. In the end, Fischer postponed his trip to the next year. “I stayed back so I could keep telling those stories because it did feel like no one [was] really doing this. And even today, looking around at the scale of what I accomplished and the number of people I talked to, no one has really done that,” he said. In total, Fischer spoke with 335 people in 40 industries.
For Fischer, filmmaking is more about serving others than serving himself. He explained that he sees filmmaking as a medium to create conversation and cause change effectively. Additionally, he emphasized the importance of kindness, empathy, and building trust when conducting interviews for his projects.
“I was doing advocacy work for different communities for a number of years in high school and I had never seen something change the minds and hearts of people so quickly or dramatically as showing ‘Minnesota Nice?’ and seeing their reactions after,” said Fischer. “I realized immediately, ‘Wow, this is a tool for social change that I have a talent for, and I could do some good in the world using [it].’”
“What I really love is that he’s using his talents to help others,” said Froehlich. “All his video stories and projects that he pursues are about showing compassion towards fellow human beings and encouraging other people to show compassion.”
Now, Fischer has been recognized by Forbes, claiming a spot on the Forbes 30 Under 30 list in the media category for his documentary filmmaking, especially his “Covid Confessions” series. “[Finding out] I was selected for the Forbes list was a very affirming moment. I did many happy dances that day in my living room,” he said. Some of Fischer’s inspirations reached out to him to offer words of encouragement, which felt “surreal.”
Fischer sees his achievement in terms of his community rather than only himself. Very few of the Forbes 30 Under 30 honorees hail from the Midwest like Fischer. “I spent a lot of years very resentful that I almost felt trapped in Minnesota,” said Fischer. “And I think something shifted when I was 24 or 25 when I realized that stories here weren’t being told in ways that were authentic, and weren’t honoring the Midwest as this really vibrant, culturally significant place…I think there’s a lot of really powerful storytellers here who are telling local stories locally, but they’re not bridging that nationally. So I realized I would love to be someone to help bring those stories nationally, and now four or five years later I’m seeing the response of people on the coasts saying, ‘This is awesome, we need more filmmakers from the Midwest that we can collaborate with.’”
As he looks to the future, Fischer is enthusiastic to continue starting conversations through his projects. As someone with a non-linear journey to success, he encourages others not to give up on themselves. “It’s okay to not know what you’re doing,” he said. “Stay curious, and let curiosity guide you, even if you think you know what you want to do.”