Interview by Yash Panchal
Bala has an M.FA. in Screenwriting from the University of California-Riverside, an M.A. in Theater & Cinema from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and an M.A. in Theater Arts from the Hyderabad Central University.
For the past 19 years, in the United States, Bala taught in Film & Theatre Departments, conducted workshops in various educational settings such as special schools and correctional facilities. As a film professional, Bala has written/produced/directed award-winning English language films, held numerous crew positions such as Casting Director, Script Consultant, Actor Trainer, Executive Producer & Co-producer. Bala consults for foreign writers, directors, and producers who want to start their careers in Hollywood. Bala founded 160-H Productions-Hollywood and has been running it successfully since 2001.
Bala divides his time between USA and India, actively undertaking production endeavors and academic work.
Experience in the education industry
We’re in Film/Media Education, one of the fastest growing educational sectors in the world. Industry: We’re educating our graduates to meet the skill gaps in the Film/Media industries, which also can be termed as M & E: Media & Entertainment sector.
Challenges to tackle as the Dean of Academics of AISFM
Film & Media education is growing at a rapid pace. A challenge we often face these days is that the industry is absorbing the graduates so rapidly, this is perhaps one of the rare industries where the demand is higher than the supply of skilled professionals. We have a Bachelor’s degree & Master’s degree in various majors. However, these graduates come out only once a year. Hence, we’re also running short term courses on various crafts of film & media, so that, we can meet the demands of the skill gaps in the industry. Perhaps, it’s an opportunity more than a challenge, though it’s challenging to train people at world standards, re-calibrating every moment, as per the developments in the industry today.
Ensuring best practices of industry through an updated curriculum
We have a Curriculum Committee, consisting of Industry professionals, Academicians, our internal faculty, and alumni of AISFM. The industry experts are from all over the world, hence we make sure we update our curriculum & teaching methodologies as per the latest developments in the industry & education.
Our curriculum is well balanced with the right proportion of theory & practice. Our ‘practice’ sessions are not the usual ‘mock’ sessions of film/media schools which are not part of the industry. Our unique position of being located in a working film/TV studio offers exposure to our students to ongoing productions of various scales. Students are provided with internship & master class opportunities with the experts through the year. These expert interactions/master classes make sure our students get the latest industry inputs.
Mr. Bala Rajasekharuni on what he looks for in an aspiring Film & Media student
Passion, commitment to their own dream, ownership to their education/training, and willingness to work hard, as the industry demands for smart & hard workers. Students MUST not indulge in ‘entitlement’ mentality, and be humble & wise to see the worth of every opportunity that comes by, without being judgemental.
Film & Media students should also be open and accepting of constructive critique of their work by their teachers, and a strong will to improve their work with those inputs.
Surprising element for the students at the start of the program
They’re pleasantly surprised how encouraging and generous our faculty members are in sharing their knowledge, and their utmost care for each and every student. Many students are pleasantly surprised to know how well the faculty has been trained, experienced, and yet, are nice to them on a democratic platform, while mentoring their projects. They’re also thrilled to see top industry celebrities interacting with them frequently, spending sufficient time with them during those sessions, which is not possible unless they are part of AISFM community.
Establishing a cordial relation with the students
We at AISFM believe that every human being is unique, talented, and gifted with a unique voice of their own right.
Our faculty members pay attention to each & every student, and make a sincere effort to understand them closely. Once a clear understanding forms between the faculty & students, they all function like one family, pursuing education as a collaborative endeavor. Our faculty understands, empathizes, recognizes the talent & needs of the students, and guide/inspire them to take on challenges that push their creative boundaries, to grow as artists of calibre.
Growth of students through placement opportunities available at AISFM
We have a dedicated Placement Portal. This body keeps a constant connection with the industries around, identifies skill gaps, conducts orientation to students to get them industry ready, and invites frequent campus & off-campus interviews for the deserving students. Our Placement Portal is connected to film & media industries, corporate industries, and various industry professionals, to be up-to-date on career opportunities in the job market.
Leadership philosophy of Mr. Bala Rajasekharuni
My philosophy of leadership is – to treat your team like a family, understand their strengths & shortcomings thoroughly, help them, mentor them, inspire them to do their best for the growth & reputation of the organization, by making it a better place for all involved. I believe in a democratic way of leading a team, where everyone shares their views without hesitation, take ownership for their tasks, demonstrate responsibility and commitment to the common cause, without obligation or pressure.
Suggestions for the current youth
Respect, love and honor your parents. Yet, be open and honest with them about your passion, career ambitions and future plans. Be grateful to your parents/guardians, teachers and the support system, which is the reason why you were able to pursue this line of education. Grab every opportunity to learn something new, without a value judgement, work hard, yet, enjoy your life, but, responsibly, safely, respecting the law & the society around you.
Do NOT settle for anything less than excellence at your work/education/performance.