Career and Creativity Path
No matter what stage you are in your career, chance encounters can still make a huge impact on your path and lead you to new levels of growth and possibility.
In 2009 he met Ava DuVernay, who was a publicist and aspiring director at the time. She had her own script and a modest budget to produce a film but recognized Howard had the equipment and infrastructure to make it happen. While his focus at the time was commercial, Ava was relentlessly persistent and eventually Kandoo Films co-produced her debut feature I WILL FOLLOW in 2011.
Fast forward to today and the pair have seven collaborations, including the 2016 Netflix documentary 13TH that garnered an Academy Award nomination and won four Emmys. Ava is one of the hottest directors in Hollywood, recently directing Disney’s A WRINKLE IN TIME and partnering with Oprah Winfrey on the QUEEN SUGAR tv series.
“My work with Ava has everything to do with Kandoo Film’s new focus on developing content from emerging filmmakers,” Howard said. “If I could help launch her career, maybe I could help others. I’ve put together a fund to produce work by first and second time directors. We look at all kinds of films by passionate story tellers. It’s a fun initiative because we’re introducing the world to new voices and working with people who are really excited to be there.”
A passion project for Howard, Kandoo’s emerging director slate has three films in the can, including the noir thriller HOSPITALITY which has a limited Toronto release Dec 7-20, 2018, and another film in production January 2019. He credits these films and the mentorship he is doing through producing the indie films as giving him some of the highest personal satisfaction of his entire career.
Howard felt family pressure to pursue business or law school, but he wasn’t drawn to that path at all.
“I was always messing around with my dad’s super8 camera and in highschool I also got involved in community access television,” Howard said. “When it came time to pick a university program it was almost a relief to find that a film program existed. I was totally drawn to it. At the time York was expanding the television section and my community access experience really helped me get my foot in the door. Even getting accepted changed my life. Who knows what I would have done?
Howard’s university years shaped his future path by learning what he didn’t want to do in his career.
“At the time, the focus at York was on artistic films and that wasn’t my way. I always wanted to make commercial products. It was a lightbulb that went off very early on.
“What my degree did do for me, was allow me to touch every aspect of film. Without York I would have entered into the industry in one niche. The day that I walked out of film school I thought I knew everything but quickly realized there was so much more to learn in the big picture. I started as a production assistant and then became an assistant director, doing a lot of scheduling like the foreman of a crew, and sometimes rolling up my sleeves as well. Film school really set me up for that.”
He also has a huge appreciation for the film theory and history classes he took and in hindsight he would have taken the academic portion of his studies more seriously.
“If you are going to be a great filmmaker you need the theory and that is an important part of what you get from school. You don’t learn theory on the job in the real world.”
Words of Wisdom
As a parent who has watched his children go off to school and live on campus, in contrast to his own experience as a commuter who lived at home, he sees the exponential personal growth that comes with the new independence of living away from home.
“There is an awful lot to be gained,” Howard said. “People mature faster in terms of responsibility, time management and making more friends. A lot of my friends were my highschool buddies, because after school I would go home and hang out with them in my spare time instead of my new friends from class.”
Kandoo Films works regularly with interns, in fact Howard is working with AMPD to create Experiential Education opportunities for York students this summer for a study abroad course in Los Angeles in June 2019. His biggest piece of advice is for students is to take those work placements seriously.
“Some interns come through realizing that this is an opportunity of a life time and they milk it for all it’s worth. Other ones discount and discard, like it’s a chore to show up. If you have the opportunity to get hands on experience and build your network, recognize the value of what is in front of you. You can’t get that shot again.”
“Don’t wait until the day you graduate to start making contact into the working world,” he added. “The film industry doesn’t require a university degree. It’s about who you know gets you in the door and then what you know keeps you there. Start going to industry events, read trade magazine and join organizations. This is the foundation to find a gig when you get out. Use school time to meet people and get your name out there. Your phone won’t start ringing when you graduate.”
For folks who want to make their own indie films he cautions it is not an easy road but it can be an amazing community.
“Don’t expect the community to support you if you’re not supporting it. Go to screenings, stream films, follow companies like Kandoo Films on social and get involved in the conversation. Social is so important to building an audience. We want to get to know you and friends help friends. Introduce yourself. There is no downside to engaging in the conversation.”
Howard wants to know what you think of his films, found OnDemand and streaming with all the major services. HOSPITALITY screens in Toronto at select theatres until December 20, 2018. Tell him what you think on twitter @hbarish. Follow @KandooFilms on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.