Do you really need a degree to be a part of the film and television industry? And what should you be prepared to face?
We spoke to an ad filmmaker, Anand S Iyer, and Sandeep Menon, a director and television producer, to understand how they started their journey in these fields and the insight they have to offer.
Anand S Iyer has been in the ad filmmaking industry for 23 years and has worked with several production house and even independently. He has made over 200 ad films for brands such as Boost, Sunfeast, PayTM, Honda, Bajaj and several others.
Sandeep Menon, 30, is the Managing Director of Fat Monk Production in Mumbai. He has been a producer for several reality shows such as NatGeo’s Mission Cover Shot, Dance India Dance, and Masterchef India, before starting his own production house.
You don’t need to have a media background
Anand was a qualified biochemist with a Master’s degree in Clinical Biochemistry and an acceptance letter for a PhD in John Hopkins University, USA. With a few months to spare before the programme started, Anand decided to use the time to earn money doing odd jobs.
“I saw an ad in the newspaper for model coordinators and I thought I’d give it a shot. Three weeks into the job, I got a chance to go on a shoot. I loved the experience and I realised that this was what I wanted to do. I wanted to be in the creative field,” Anand said.
Anand switched over completely to ad filmmaking and he has not looked back since.
Is it necessary to have a degree in filmmaking?
Not having a degree in filmmaking is not a disadvantage.
Anand has never had any formal training in filmmaking and has developed his skills on the field. “As a director, my job is to anchor the ship and be in-charge of actors, props, editing, music, and other departments. I have a sense of everything but I do not physically operate the camera or edit. I do have a good sense of aesthetics. I can visualise the scenes in my mind and I know how I want my film edited,” Anand said.
Sandeep completed a Bachelor’s degree in Visual Communication and later even pursued a Master’s in Business Administration (MBA) in Media and Entertainment. In spite of this, he is of the opinion that the skills for this trade can be learnt better from experience.
“Skills like direction, cinematography, and editing can only come with experience. A course may teach you the terms, give you the theoretical knowledge, and show you how to analyse films. These things are helpful and you do need a degree at the end of the day. But the practical knowledge can only come from experience,” Sandeep said.
Be prepared to start from scratch
You can’t reach the top of the ladder without starting at the lowest rung. In the field of filmmaking and entertainment, be prepared to keep your ego aside and focus on the learning.
“In my first job as an assistant producer for a music channel, I used to do logging. There was a show in which people would phone-in song requests to a VJ. My job was to write timecodes and hand them over to the editor,” Sandeep recollected.
Sandeep’s advice to aspirants in this field is to never think any job or task is too small or boring. Be ready to try anything. The days will be long and there will be times when you have to work 48 hours straight. Don’t expect it to be easy but at the same time, it will be a lot of fun, Sandeep added.
Anand, too, vouches for the hectic life.
“It is unpredictable. I could be free on a weekday but have a hectic Sunday. Sometimes, I work for months together without a breather. It can be a whirlwind but I really enjoy it,” Anand said.
Advice for beginners
Sandeep’s advice is to start with a small production house.
“In my opinion, it is always better to join a small place where you can learn more and grow faster. When you are looking for your next job, it is always better to say that you were an Executive Producer in a small company rather than an Assistant Director in a big company,” he said.
Meanwhile, Anand urges new entrants to come in with an open mind, ready to soak in all the learning they can.