Today we’d like to introduce you to Anisha Madzounian.
Anisha, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
My story really starts with how I found my way to producing. My dad, who is an independent filmmaker, encouraged me at a young age to get into production having seen certain qualities in me growing up. He also thought I’d be a great horticulturist but that may have been a joke. I remember having conversations with him and his friends who were all independent filmmakers- directors, DPs, production designers, etc- and hearing the same piece of advice from them, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” That intimidated me at the time. I thought my only option as a producer would be to freelance and that instability scared me away. So I studied Sociology, simply because of my fascination with human behavior, and entertained the idea of becoming a music supervisor for film and tv. The ambition landed me a 4am time slot DJing for an audience of 2 insomniacs at my college radio station. Truly, some of the best times I’ve ever had. I also launched a music blog which at that time was, I suppose, “new age.”
When I moved back home to LA after graduation, during the early days of YouTube and blogging, I linked up with my young and ambitious filmmaker friends to add original content to my blog by putting on concerts in my friends’ backyards and producing a video series of these intimate shows. They were called ‘Ice Cream Sessions’ (no ice cream was served) and I still don’t know if my friends’ parents ever knew we did that. We didn’t have a huge following but it didn’t matter. I was doing something I loved, and I loved bringing a community together over a shared love of music. I still do.
I eventually felt that it was best to keep music separate from work but these experiences made me realize that I had an innate ability to find talent, crew up, organize, tell a story…to produce.
By that time, I had secured a marketing gig at the Los Angeles Times. I led some tech-y, data-driven marketing initiatives and every now and then dabbled in creative. It was enough for me to know that I wanted to get more hands on with that and to get into storytelling. I reached out to anyone I knew who worked at an agency and was eventually referred to apply for a job as a Junior Producer. I had no “professional” experience producing video content but my interviewer and I connected over music, live shows and the work I had done with my blog. She saw my potential and felt I would bring good energy to the team and hired me. I owe much of my career shift to her.
It’s fascinating to notice things that are not visible to the eye until you are removed from the present, reflecting on the journey to date. My dad’s instincts were right; and I am now a producer. I just had to find my own path to get here. And that path definitely included knowing some really, really good people. Every now and then, I still live out my adolescent dream of being a music supervisor when I get the chance to work on selecting music for the spots I’m working on. Even my degree has found its way into what I currently do since producing is as much about managing relationships as it is about managing projects. Things come full circle. I was leading a community through music then and am doing so through film now.
Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
It has taken me hard-working years to recognize that the journey, with all its trials and tribulations, deserves to be celebrated just as much as the end goal. Of course there were struggles and there still are. I think in my earlier years, I used to be really hard on myself for not having stayed on a chosen path since I’ve had career changes. But that’s all about perspective. When I look at my journey to date, I realize that every decision I made was intentional. I know now that even if a move does not yield an immediate result, it is only getting me closer to what I want. Let go and trust that time will take its course.
We’d love to hear more about your work and what you are currently focused on. What else should we know?
I like to imagine myself as a conductor on every project I work on. It’s my responsibility to keep everything and everyone in sync. Every project is trying but the more enjoyable you make that process, the more motivated the team stays to get to the finish line. I have found that the energy you put in is the energy you get back so I prioritize building relationships based on mutual respect, understanding and above all else, kindness. The industry is moving away from the traditional AOR model to project-based assignments. Those that aren’t shifting with the tide no longer have the stability and assurance of long-term partnerships. I firmly believe that in order to last in the marathon, you of course have to find smart solutions and create great work but you stand out when you are good to your partners (co-creators, clients) along the way.
I currently work as a Senior Producer for a creative agency called Mofilm. We create audience-relevant video content for brands. We’ve spent the last ten years building, nurturing and collaborating with a 10,000-strong community of professional filmmakers and photographers with diverse backgrounds, passions and skill-sets in 182 countries giving us a “creative department as diverse as the world we live in.” That means every piece of content we make has an authentic voice behind it. We also source our creators local to the markets we’re shooting in, making us very green. We’re basically breaking the agency production model for the better; it’s pretty awesome.
All of the brands I have worked with- Mastercard, Facebook, McDonald’s, DoorDash, Foot Locker, Crown Royal, to name a few- embrace what our model values: representation and casting behind the camera being as important as in front of it. Filmmakers who reflect your audience and have creative input can ensure your work resonates with the communities you want to reach. You’ll often find more diversity in local talent pools than large production companies. And I’ll tell you, there is no shortage of incredible creatives out there. You just have to look beyond what is typically put in front of you.
What moment in your career do you look back most fondly on?
Is it too soon to say this year? We’ve had quite the year with most productions in the industry shutting down during the pandemic but we’ve managed to produce over thirty Covid-19 Safe productions since April because of our ability to produce smartly, nimbly and locally. Creating opportunities for filmmakers to keep going during this time has been one of the most rewarding moments of my career. They’re not just thankful to be working, they’re thankful to be creating. It’s a humbling experience.
Zac Manuel & Chris Haney (for image VoyageLA001), Gembong Nusantara (for image VoyageLA002), Benitha Vlok (for image VoyageLA003), Lie Feng (for image VoyageLA004)