There was one question that popped up repeatedly when the DGA held its first-ever reception and panel discussion for past and present honorees of the ABC/DGA Fellowship Awards on November 1: "How do we make the jump from student filmmaker to working professional in the industry?"
On hand to answer the 15 aspiring filmmakers, honored in four categories that included Best Latino, Women's, Asian American and African-American Films, were a trio of rising DGA director members — moderator Jamie Babbit (But I'm a Cheerleader), Patricia Cardoso (Real Women Have Curves) and Jay Chandrasekhar (Super Troopers).
A member of the Independent Directors Committee, Cardoso cited persistence as the key to her successful leap to feature film director. She recalled how she won a DGA Student Filmmaker Award in 1995 and spent the next several years doing different jobs in the industry and gaining additional experience before making Real Women Have Curves in 2001.
Chandrasekhar credited his successful start to his writing, adding that he and his partners in the Broken Lizard comedy ensemble were inspired by Monty Python. "Where do you get good scripts? Write them. I know that's not an easy answer. But if you don't write, hang out with writers."
Among additional tips the directors had were to get a job as a temp at a talent agency (Babbit) and get yourself immersed into a project so they can't take you out of it (Chandrasekhar). With both Babbit and Chandrasekhar having done TV series work as well (Popular, Malcolm in the Middle, Undeclared, and Arrested Development respectively), they talked about making that transition.
After completing But I'm a Cheerleader, Babbit told her agent, "I want to direct — TV, music videos, commercials, whatever." Chandrasekhar cautioned that as a newcomer to television, "You have to earn the respect from Television actors who've done 20, 30 or 50 episodes."
Interestingly enough, for three filmmakers whose directing careers began with features, all recognized that the art of directing is beyond restrictions of format and length. They recommended that emerging filmmakers grab all opportunities to direct including music videos and television and to use that experience while they work on their feature film projects.
Following the discussion, the honorees had a chance to continue their discussions at a wine-and-cheese reception. Anjali Sanda, an honoree for her film Arrangement, spoke about what she learned. "I guess I knew these things, but it's helpful to reinforce things." Krutin Patel, honored for ABCD, added, "It's inspirational to hear from people who've already made it."