The Voice of Experience: NDS Directors Alumni
J.C. Khoury
Past Showcase helmers offer advice to today’s new talent

SHOOT sounded out several past Showcase directors, asking them to share some advice for the next generation of up-and-coming talent. Showcase alumni J.C. Khoury (NDS 2006), Evan Silver (NDS 2007) and Varda Bar-Kar (NDS 2010 ) offer the following advice for new directors: 

J.C. Khoury director, Shoot First Entertainment
After the 2006 NDS I directed commercials for five years, then switched to writing, producing, and directing feature films. I served as an exec. producer on “Innocence” and “Return to Sender” and wrote, produced, and directed “The Pill” and “All Relative.” There has been a big sea change in the technology used to create content and the way content is delivered. The cameras are cheaper, available light can be used, and you no longer need large marketing campaigns to drive awareness to an indie film because of social media and the way users search for content on the transactional and subscription VOD platforms that barely existed six years ago. If you’re a first time filmmaker and want to make a film today and not wait five years or more in development hell, focus on story and performance, not spectacle. The next most important thing is understanding the nuts and bolts of producing and figuring out how to keep a budget as low as possible. Adhere to the DIY school of filmmaking: do as much producing as you can yourself, be your own location scout, operate your own camera, learn how to edit. The goal is to eventually focus solely on writing and directing, but the various skill sets you learn on your first few films will strengthen your craft and allow you to understand what every crew member does and how valuable their jobs are.

Evan Silver director, Gifted Youth
You should always be working on a personal film or side project. Empower yourself to green-light your craziest and most interesting ideas. The ones that would never get produced if you didn’t decide to bring it to life yourself. Agency creatives are more open and interested in watching a cool, original video than another spot on your reel.  Look at all the cool stuff being done online these days for very little money. Daily vlogs are now featuring incredible drone footage and there’s some really talented artists, designers, DPs that have yet to be discovered by the commercial world. As someone new coming into the industry you can offer a fresh take on how to do more for less. Don’t let the old, “this is the way things have always been done” approach be the rule. Use your inexperience and passion as a positive.

Varda Bar-Kar director, Ravensong
Understand why you want to direct and what you are most passionate about. Commit to excellence. Be excited by your opportunities. Your journey is not linear. Be open. Assemble an inspired team who you enjoy collaborating with. Always strive to exceed your client’s expectations. Before submitting to film festivals consider what you want for your festival experience--exposure for your work? To find distribution? Discover new collaborators? Hang out with compatriots? See films? Get noticed? The answers will help you target the festivals that are right for you. Enjoy the journey. Since being part of the SHOOT NDS, I produced and directed the feature documentary “Big Voice” just picked up for North American distribution by Gravitas Ventures. Under the banner Ravensong, I  work with a talented creative team to write, produce & direct meaningful content including the short documentaries “Balancing the Odds” about a school’s efforts to empower girls in STEM, and “Taste Life on The Land” about Finnriver Farm & Cidery’s sustainable farming approach. I create viral and branded videos for national/global campaigns for clients including Disney, Samsung and others.


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