Producing is the art of managing people and egos”, says Yash Arora, a film producer based out of Burbank, California. He’s worked on creative projects with Netflix, Disney+Hotstar, Microsoft, One Plus, and Nestle among many others.
What enticed you to the world of producing and what were you doing before this?
My background is that I come from a business family of car AC parts and service centers across Mumbai. My dad built this business from the ground up, having left his house with only Rs 300. Growing up, I’ve tasted hard work and struggle, and this made me cognizant of my privilege. This is why even though I was gifted a BMW on my 21st birthday, I decided to sell that car and invested that money into launching my career in the creative field.
I always knew I wanted to be a part of films, one way or the other. I started auditioning when I was around 7 years old but failed miserably. I knew a part of me belonged to the film world. So, I started directing short films, but I wasn’t enjoying the process. When I started out, I had no idea what a producer even does. I was the youngest intern in Sony Pictures Network. There I met some incredible people like Pragya Mehra and Amogh Dusad and they made me realize how important it is to be part of something bigger. I used to go to college, reach my office around afternoon and work till midnight. This was my daily routine. It was only then that somebody recognized my work at Glitch and that’s how I became an Associate Producer there.
What’s been the most meaningful project you’ve worked on?
The most meaningful projects are the ones that have made you cry. The projects that never wrap up – the ones that you take back home, and keep you awake at night. Those are the learnings you take back in life. There was this one particular project where I doubted myself as a producer for a brief moment. You end up blaming yourself for the mistakes of others.
That project was meaningful for me, because I realized that you can be the best producer in the world, but your team needs to believe in you and support you to push out meaningful work. It’s easy to put the blame on others, but more vital to be there for each other when you’re on a film set. It’s important to have each other’s back on set because, at the end of the day it’s everyone’s film, not just one person’s.
“A producer is a mediator between the business side and the creative aspect. They can’t let greed ruin the artistic aspect of the film.“
How do you approach each project?
Most of my projects start with a team meeting before we go on set. We talk about our concerns and huddle up on the day of the shoot so that we are all attuned with each other. I want to make sure we’re comfortable on set. And as soon as the shoot is over, we celebrate. Even if it’s the worst shoot of our lives, we make sure to celebrate.
We then get on a call again to look back and introspect. We do the postmortem of a shoot and discuss what went wrong, what could have been better. I am grateful for the things that went well and am learning from things that went wrong. Creating a collaborative environment on set, from the lowest to the highest level is important to me, The grip on set is as crucial as a producer and I want everyone to have a say on how the shoot is going.
What are some of your influences?
As a producer, sometimes you don’t know what you’re getting into. A producer never really knows what he is doing. He is a mediator between the business side and the creative aspect. A good producer not only knows how to manage others egos and perspectives, but also their own ego. They can’t let greed ruin the artistic aspect of the film.
So, I consider my mentors at work as my biggest influences. Supriyo Sen Sharma & Pragya Mehra taught me everything I know about being a producer. They taught me about the ethics and discipline that is required in this field, and they taught me how to hustle.
“Collaborate with as many people, and give them as much as you can.
And don’t lose yourself behind chasing money or credits.”
How do you battle burnouts while working in the Film & Tv industry?
Who does not face burnout. I am a little flawed in the sense that I take too much on my plate. I sweat blood at work, but I’ve realized that a balance is required for sure. Since the last 4 years, I’ve only been working, and I ended up doing way too much work to a level of utmost exhaustion. I was also a chain smoker, and used to smoke a packet a day for years.
And one day I decided this was not for me so I quit smoking on a whim. My advice is to have a work-life balance, live a healthy life where your mind and body are in conjunction, and know that there is no rush or deadline to finishing any project. Slow down. At the end of day, it’s only your own validation that matters the most.
What’s one thing about you that most people are not aware of?
I’m known as the technologically challenged producer on sets. I’m so bad with tech. I also call myself the 49% Buddha. Because, you can’t ever reach even 50% of what Buddha is. You can live your life to the fullest capacity and still will never reach enlightenment. A lot of people don’t have the privileges you have in life. The remaining 1% is the ego that comes into play, so one needs to work hard towards attaining that last per cent.
“We make sure to celebrate. Even if it’s the worst shoot of our lives, we make sure to celebrate it.“
Are there any anecdotes from your career that you would like to share?
During one of the shoots in LA, I was sharing my creative inputs and we were discussing how the set was not up to standard. The director told me that I can’t give creative inputs to them. To which I said – “You have 2 choices – either fire me from the set or let me do my job?” It’s funny because most directors don’t think that producers also have a passionate and creative side to them. And on set, I would rather not be there if I can’t be my 100% authentic self.
Is it different working as a producer in LA than in India?
I wanted to shift my base from India, because it wasn’t challenging me enough. Life has to be up and down, and I didn’t want to be seated in the same spot of comfort throughout my life. Within three months of coming to Los Angeles, I managed to produce 3 Digital Dialogues, 3 Music Videos and 3 Short Films with a passion project – The Amindment Podcast in the pipeline. I follow a simple mantra in life – surround yourself with talented people, and learn from them. And at the same time teach them what you know. If you’re generous with your knowledge you get things back, you’re always going to grow and you’re always going to be better.
“There are filthier people in other businesses. Just because it’s show business, we are noticed more.“
You’ve also done an MA in Producing from New York Film Academy. How has your experience been there?
You have to work off your ass to get up the ladder. People at NYFA come from money, but I come from a space where I’m rejecting my privileges and I am sponsoring my own education. I came to NYFA because I wanted to make a switch to long-format. And to become a producer, you have to see all aspects of filmmaking, be it creative ads or films.
The biggest lesson I’ve learnt at school and otherwise is that my journey will not be the same as anyone else’s. The hardest truth for me to swallow has been to get rid of what I thought my career journey should look like. I am learning to be present and embrace where I am on my journey.
Being a part of the film industry, have you seen the underbelly of Bollywood at close quarters?
Yes. I’ve seen that side too, but I must say that there are filthier people in other businesses. Just because it’s show business, we are noticed more. And it is because of that, that we also come out stronger than others. Thankfully, I’ve never met anyone in life who has asked me to do something I’ve been uncomfortable with. I can’t change the world, but I can work on changing my environment.
If somebody wants to start out in the industry, what advice would you give?
Don’t run behind tags. We lose ourselves as soon as we start chasing labels of being a “producer” or “cinematographer”. Be open to doing anything that comes across the way. If you love something, and you’re good at something, the credits will always be there. Collaborate with as many people, and give them as much as you can. And don’t lose yourself behind chasing money or credits.
Today someone might take your credit away, but tomorrow it’ll all be yours. Keep your ego aside. Because when your ego overpowers your work, it dilutes the essence of what you’re trying to do. At the end of the day, an idea is intangible but bringing that to reality is what we do on sets. And lastly, if you make a commitment, then respect it. Even if you’re not happy with the creatives, give it your all. Honor the duties, and respect the time and energy that they pour in you.