Chantal Rickards praised the students' creativity, emphasising the power of education to shape future leaders in the media and creative arts sectors.
Chantal Rickards OBE, renowned British Film and TV Professional and Former CEO of BAFTA Los Angeles
Whistling Woods International (WWI) hosted an exclusive masterclass featuring Chantal Rickards OBE, renowned British Film and TV Professional and Former CEO of BAFTA Los Angeles, offering students insights into ‘Planning a Career in Hollywood and Beyond!’ With a distinguished career spanning four decades, Chantal Rickards shared expertise on content creation, storytelling, brand building, and the future of media. The event, moderated by Rahul Puri, Head of Academics at WWI, also explored changing perceptions of Indian/South Asian movies and potential collaborations with Hollywood. Chantal Rickards praised the students' creativity, emphasising the power of education to shape future leaders in the media and creative arts sectors.
Q - How do you find India as a talent pool and what does the external world say about the Indian film industry?
A - The talent in India is incredible, but there's still confusion between Hollywood and Bollywood. They are distinct but excellent in their own ways. There's mutual learning potential between East and West, and the rise of Asian talent in recent years, both onscreen and behind the camera, is noteworthy. However, from a Western perspective, there's insufficient understanding of Indian filmmaking and opportunities for international collaboration. And I would love to see that grow more. India offers stunning locations and a rich creative environment that are second to none. If Western filmmakers grasped the potential of tapping into India's system, language, and storytelling, they could learn something extraordinary from the Indian creative community.
Q - What is the unique thing that you found about the talent here? What do you think the West should learn from India and the Indian creative community?
A - What struck me most about the talent here is their unbridled excitement and a "yes-first" attitude. Surprisingly it’s a lot more advanced than I thought. It is progressive in terms of equality and understanding the younger generation's desire to drive positive change in racial and gender spheres is pleasing. I didn't expect these to be routine discussions, and it pleasantly surprised me. The unanticipated discovery of young people embracing life, storytelling, and a commitment to bettering the world is thrilling. I believe there's immense skill here, and the West could learn from India's enthusiasm, progressive values, and the depth of storytelling and creativity in the Indian community.
Q - You spent, a good amount of time with Whistling Woods International’s student and faculty here. How is WWI contributing in general?
A - The contributions of Whistling Woods International are truly remarkable. During my time here, I explored their outstanding amenities, especially the immersive lab where cutting-edge equipment is tested before industry release. The SONY Media Technology Centre at WWI provides an incredible opportunity for students to familiarise themselves with innovations before the wider industry. It's a unique advantage that I hope the students recognise. The focus on technical training in cinema is evident, and the academic staff's emphasis on storytelling and visual excellence is the right approach. WWI is shaping individuals who not only master the technical aspects of cinema but also excel in creative storytelling and image creation.
Q – You must have seen the kids out here and the pupils abroad. Do you believe that the students here are equipped to work in the entertainment industry, not just in Bollywood but also in Hollywood?
A - For young creatives, focusing solely on the creative aspect is natural, but navigating the business side is tough but crucial for success in the entertainment industry. It's challenging to consider funding, breaking into television, handling media attention, and recruiting talent during the immersive creative education phase. However, these concerns become apparent once you enter the industry. During my interaction with the students here, I aimed to impart a glimpse into the business of media & entertainment industry. Emphasising the importance of understanding the industry's dynamics early on is key because without a grasp of the business side, creative endeavours may face significant challenges.
Q - We learned that you are now working on specific projects; can you walk us through your route to those projects, and do you wish to include any WWI students in those projects if possible?
A - One of my current projects has a special place in my journey, spanning over 30 years since my first job in television on the show ‘Through the Keyhole’. This unique concept involves showcasing famous residences, turning it into a guessing game for celebrities. Recently, we've partnered with a French firm as the new global distributor, expanding the show's reach worldwide.
Q - How do you think the Indian entertainment industry is evolving and, you know, it's going global?
A - The evolution of the Indian entertainment industry is fascinating, particularly in its growing global impact. Traditionally, Indian content resonated primarily with the domestic audience and the diaspora. However, the current trend of storytelling with a global perspective is making Indian narratives more international.
Take, for instance, ‘RRR’, a film that, a few years ago, might not have had the same global impact but became my favourite last year. We organized a large BAFTA showing at the British Academy in London. I had the pleasure of meeting SS Rajamouli a few years ago during his Hollywood visit to promote ‘Baahubali’. Eagerly anticipating his next creation, touted as the costliest film ever made, I was intrigued to witness the outcome. Exiting the movie, I found myself dancing with the joy of discovery. Despite unconventional elements—a dance routine, an animated tiger, and characters attempting to murder each other—it worked brilliantly. The film's holistic brilliance left a lasting impression, defying expectations and showcasing the power of innovative storytelling.
Despite my Western upbringing and creativity, the film resonated with me, and I believe with a lot of people outside India, leaving a profound impact. Such narratives are opening doors for India to be embraced globally in unique ways.
Q - What is the one piece of advice you would give students about the learning aspect? Or even being in this academy, going out there, working with people, and making their imprint in Hollywood, Indian Cinema, and any other entertainment sector out there.
A - Firstly, cultivate a killer sense of humour – the kind that has you laughing until your sides hurt and tears streaming down your face. It's not just good for the soul; it's a powerful remedy when life throws challenges your way. A hearty laugh can turn things around faster than you imagine, so keep those funny bones well-oiled and ready for action.
Now, for my second piece of advice – strive to leave this world a better place than you found it. It might sound ambitious, but every individual holds the power to make a positive difference, no matter the scale. The joy of knowing you've contributed positively to this unpredictable journey called life is unmatched. So, laugh more, leave the world better – it's a winning combination for a fulfilling and impactful journey.