Film School Alumni Advice: Live From New York! Director Bao Nguyen

When MovieMaker asked a range of successful indie filmmakers to participate in our Film School Roundtable article for our upcoming Summer issue, we received a wide range of insightful, hilarious, and diverse answers.

The three questions we asked each alum: What did you do right in film school, what did you do wrong, and what advice would you have for 2015’s incoming class of budding auteurs? Like the cool upperclassmen whose brains you always wanted to pick, but were too shy to vocalize, we’re happy to step in as your moderator and fraternal big brother.

This week, Bao Nguyen (School of Visual Arts, class of ’11) shares his wisdom. The director’s documentary on Saturday Night Live, Live From New York!, opened in theaters on June 12.


1. What did you do right when you were in film school?

Bao Nguyen (BN): One of the things I guess I could say I did right in film school was work on the thesis films of nearly half of my class. I have a background in photography and cinematography, so it was a natural fit for me to shoot a lot of my classmates’ films. There is nothing that compares to hands-on production experience so it really supplemented everything I was able to learn in the classroom. Not only did I learn a lot of the technical skills of filmmaking through practice, I was able to observe all the challenges that my classmates went through for their projects, and anticipate those same problems during my shoots.

2. What did you do wrong when you were in film school?

BN: One of the advantages of film school is having access to all this amazing high-end equipment free of charge and I do regret I didn’t take advantage of that a bit more. Once I got out of film school, I realized how much some of these items rent for in the “real world” and it made me yearn for the days where I could just get them free from our equipment room.

3. What’s the one best piece of advice you’d give to an incoming film student, so that they can make the most of their time at film school?

BN: I was told by a friend of mine, who comes from a prestigious West Coast film school, that you should always think of the audience when making your film and never yourself. Coming from schools on the East Coast, I was taught the exact opposite: You make the film for yourself because you are the only audience member that you can truly account for. I would say that there is room to follow both schools of thought, but I’ve found the latter to be much more artistically and creatively satisfying. MM

Live From New York! opened in theaters June 12, 2015, courtesy of Abramorama. Featured image by Pham Tan.

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