Film Courage: Where did you grow up?
Karan Choudhary: I was born and raised in a small town called Faridabad in India. I’m the youngest in a close-knit family of five along with my older brother and sister. At the time of growing up, tv was the only medium for us to be connected with the big cities lifestyle and to the rest of the world, except there was no electricity for most of the time in my town. Schooling wasn’t very interesting to me and I was always afraid of my father to do well in my exams. I wasn’t the kind of kid who would watch cartoons all the time. Food was the only interesting thing in my life during those days. I was a chubby and happy kid.
Film Courage: Did your parents lend support to your creativity or encourage another type of career?
Karan: My parents supported me as much as they could. Although my father wanted me to have a more stable career like my older brother in computer science or finance. But my brother and sister have always been supportive of my career choice and lend support time-to-time.
Film Courage: Did you go to film school or study dramatic arts in college?
Karan: No, I did not go to any film school or dramatic arts in college. Honestly, I didn’t even know those courses and degrees existed when I was out of school and ready to start the college. I took “Correspondence” classes and studied marketing and accounts. I never attended any class in college, I would only show up on the day of final exams. I could not afford to go to a regular college and I chose to work as a salesman in a clothing store in New Delhi for about $20 a month.
Film Courage: How were you discovered as a model in India?
Karan: I always wanted to do something meaningful with my life and never wanted to die unknown. At one point I used to be a gym trainer at a fitness club in Gurgaon and got so comfortable doing these odd jobs. I totally forgot about my ultimate goal. I use to have a crush on a girl those days in my gym and she told me, “she would never introduce a trainer to her parents.” I guess that was enough for me to resign the next day and in less than two weeks I moved to Mumbai (Bollywood) to pursue modeling and acting. It wasn’t easy for the first couple of months but after that, I started booking jobs as a model.
Film Courage: At what point did you make the decision to come to the States? What was this like for you?
Karan: I stayed in Mumbai for about four years and pursued modeling and acting simultaneously. I was part of a theatre group as well. But I was nowhere in my career, no progress, and after tons of auditions, I was disappointed to find myself in the same spot from which I started. There was an urgent need to make a big change and that’s when I decided to leave everything behind and move to the States. I had to start the journey all over again from the scratch. It wasn’t easy because I could barely speak the English language and understand the culture. But things got better over the years.
Film Courage: Did family and friends fully support your move to New York City?
Karan: Yes, my family was supportive but they didn’t know what to expect in return. I remember a lot of people were laughing and I wasn’t really sure why I was putting myself in this situation. Self-motivation was my only hope those days. Every day I would have just one thought in my mind, “I would prove everyone wrong and be where I always wanted to be.”
Film Courage: What was it like being accepted to the famous Neighborhood Playhouse School of the Theatre?
Karan: It changed my life. Not school in particular but being in New York and having the opportunity to pursue acting 24/7. It was like having a blank canvas and have the freedom to draw whatever I want. I enjoyed my first year so much at the Neighborhood Playhouse because everything was new to me but I was not so thrilled in my second year. I was just waiting to get out and take the control in my hands. I couldn’t wait to face the real world of acting than being in the acting school all day long.
“In the beginning, I didn’t really know what type of tools I needed in order to be a working actor and I believe many of us don’t. I was out of acting school after two years of training and I thought, that’s it. I’m ready. But after tons of research on YouTube, Google and reading books about the business side of this profession, it made me realize how little I knew to start my career.”
Film Courage: What was the admission process like?
A good friend of mine came across an acting book by Sanford Meisner. That’s when we read about the school. My friend and I came up with the idea to call The Neighborhood Playhouse and ask about the procedure for admissions. They asked us to interview for the playhouse over Skype and gave us a date.
I had ten days to figure it out, how I was going to handle this interview. I didn’t know much about this school and the interview proceedings so I started asking people around me about theatres in America. Everybody was laughing when I said I’m applying to a theatre school in New York. I did tons of research on American theatre history using Google. There was a lot of text to memorize because I wasn’t a very good English speaker at the time and can’t improvise the whole interview in English. I finally had my interview after ten days and how ironic it was that the very first question came from the director of the school was “What do you know about American theatre history”? And when I heard “American Theatre History,” I just spit everything out. The first theatres in America, who were the early actors, what kind of work they were doing from 17th century till 2013. It took me about 15-20 minutes to spit out everything. Her response was, “It’s great, but we don’t need to hear this for this interview.” She said “I see that you’re having trouble speaking in English, I don’t even know if you can understand what I’m saying to you” and she was right. I did have a lot of trouble understanding what she was saying in English.
She said, “There’s no doubt that you’re a hard-working guy but is it good enough for you to move to New York?
I prepared one more paragraph, just for this moment. Because I had a feeling, she might ask me something about my ability to speak and understand English.
And I said “I’m sitting in front of you with very limited resources, I don’t have anybody to guide me or tell me what to do. I wasn’t brought up in a family that comes from an artistic or theater background. But what I can tell you is that your decision is going to change my life.” That was the end of my interview.
And after twelve days of the waiting game, I was accepted to study at the Neighborhood Playhouse school of theatre. That was the first time in my life I saw an impossible thing to become possible.
Film Courage: “I think GOOD is not enough in show business…” Can you expand on this sentence?
Karan: What I have learned from my experience in the show business is that you might be very attractive, charming or super talented director, actor, writer, producer etc. and still be unemployed for months, if not years. Cities like L.A, New York, London, and Mumbai are full of artists who are good, but being good is just an average in this industry. You have to be great in order to land the Job. Even luck comes to those who are in the process of becoming great for years. I think as an artist it’s essential to grow our skills.
Film Courage: How many auditions do you go out on a month? What is your process for preparing?
Karan: This year I have had about ten to fifteen auditions a month including films, tv, theatre, and commercials. For tv, film, and theatre there is always a script and it can be anywhere from three to ten pages long. I like to memorize my lines and get off the books as soon as possible. Because It allows me to move freely without thinking about the next line. Then I start putting it on its feet and rehearse with a friend or whoever is available. Finally, I choose the outfit for the character. On the day of the audition, I like to leave early and have enough time to get mentally ready and have a final prep. before I enter the room and face the casting directors.
Film Courage: Aside from keeping your outer self in excellent health, how do you work on staying mentally fit?
Karan: “I think I was just born hungry to do well in my career.” This thought is always with me and keeps me motivated. I stay away from watching excessive TV shows, spending time on social media, and reading unnecessary stuff online. Most of the time I surround myself with likeminded people who share the same passion towards their career as I do.
Film Courage: Are you an early riser or a night owl? How does this choice shape your life?
Karan: I’m an early riser. I start my day about 4:30-5 a.m. every morning and go to bed around 9:30-10 p.m. I like to use maximum hours of daylight and be productive while the sun is out. It also makes me feel better as I’m always available for any auditions, meeting or last-minute shooting schedule. I would never want to decline any work call because it was super early or I woke up late and someone else replaced me. This scheduling choice has been super successful.
Film Courage: Are good looks and simply showing up enough to ensure a successful acting career?
Karan: I bet, a lot of people think that. I think looks may get your first five minutes of attention to get you in the room with an agent or manager. But you will be dropped as a client very quickly if you are just trying to cash in only on looks. I have seen good looking people get replaced very fast. And showing up is also not enough if you are not well prepared for the part and if your skill set is not growing up. This industry is full of artists who just show up at the audition or a job but only a small percentage of people have done the homework and have the ability to adapt to the situation.
Film Courage: What did you not understand about the business of acting that now you feel you have a better grasp on it?
Karan: Having the right tools is the key to move forward in the show business. In the beginning, I didn’t really know what type of tools I needed in order to be a working actor and I believe many of us don’t. I was out of acting school after two years of training and I thought, that’s it. I’m ready. But after tons of research on YouTube, Google and reading books about the business side of this profession it made me realize how little I knew to start my career. Like, getting good head shots, acting reel, finding a suitable agent, manager, developing your craft every day, doing research on actors, directors, characters, sometimes more classes etc. It’s a 24/7 career, not a 9 to 5 job. It’s a business and you need right tools to be considered for the job.
Film Courage: Are there differences between Indian and overseas audiences and their ideas on the craft and business of acting?
Karan: Big difference. As an audience lot of people don’t know that being an actor or creating a character is a long and tiring process. I never thought what goes into the craft of a character or its development or how a film being made. I believe most people have that mind set in India. In overseas I have seen hours-long interviews about how a character came to life and what was the process of making a film. Which is not the case in India.
Film Courage: Do American audiences take as much delight in US films as Bollywood audiences to with their own movies?
Karan: It depends on the movie I think. Any audience would appreciate a well-made and entertaining film despite being where it’s made.
Film Courage: What inspired the story for New York’d?
Karan: A couple of years ago in acting class my instructor shared a story of how a particularly wonderful day turned into a nightmare by an unforeseen chain of events that could really only happen in New York City. That story stuck in my head for a long time, probably because the same thing happened to me, on several occasions, in fact. As I thought about the story, I felt pretty certain that this probably happens to most New Yorkers eventually. “New York’d” grew from that simple story.
Film Courage: For your new movie New York’d, did you come up with a film budget first before coming up with an idea?
Karan: After my first film I just wanted to get busy again and make a different film. I was brainstorming the ideas and never thought about any budgeting or anything else. All I had in mind was that I need an idea, that can turn into a short script and easy to shoot it.
“I’m sitting in front of you with very limited resources, I don’t have anybody to guide me or tell me what to do. I wasn’t brought up in a family that comes from an artistic or theater background. But what I can tell you is that your decision is going to change my life.”
Film Courage: How long did it take you to write the first draft?
Karan: It took me about seven days to write the first draft and after that, I started sharing it with my friends and people I trust to give me an honest feedback. In next three weeks, I wrote about ten more drafts with my co-writer based on the feedback I was getting.
Film Courage: How many people did you share the script with during the writing process?
Karan: I shared it with a lot of my colleagues in the acting/ filmmaking profession. When I had the final draft, I took it to a writers group and have people critique it. After that, it was sent to everyone on my team.
Film Courage: How long have you been planning the film? What went into the pre-planning?
Karan: This whole project was made from scratch to final film in about four months, I was planning the film in my head when I was in the post-production of my first film. The script was ready in one month and it was fifteen pages long. One and a half month was spent on finding locations, what kind of equipment’s we were going to use, budgeting, and assembling the whole team. We shot the film in one day (Which I would never do it my life again) and it took me about a month and a half in post-production.
Film Courage: Where did you shoot the film/secure the locations?
Karan: We shot the film at one of my producer’s home and in the streets of Greenwich Village in Manhattan New York.
Film Courage: What camera(s) did you use?
Karan: We used Sony a7s ii. We only used one camera and the whole film was shot on 35mm and 50mm lenses.
Film Courage: How did you get New York’d on Amazon? Where else is it available to watch?
Karan: I found a distribution company in England who helped us and made New York’d available on Amazon Prime. I also distributed both my films to Shorts.tv. It’s an online short film channel.
Film Courage: Did you show New York’d at any film festivals?
Karan: New York’d has been seen at many film festivals. We have had seven official selections so far and we got three nominations and four wins in different categories. We are still waiting to hear from many film festivals. It was premiered in New York last month at New Filmmakers Film Festival at Anthology Films Archive and It’s premiering in L.A on May 19th in Hollywood Blvd Film Festival. I just want my work to be seen at this point whether its Sundance or any local film festival with a very limited audience. So, the selection to choose film festivals was very easy.
Film Courage: Are there any other plans for distribution of New York’d?
Karan: I haven’t had an exclusive distribution deal yet so I’m still shopping with New York’d and is available to acquire on multiple platforms.
Film Courage: What’s next for you creatively?
Karan: So many things. I’m actively going out for acting auditions in film, tv, theatre, and commercials. I have been working on my next short and it’s going into pre-production this summer. The film will be made by the end of this year. I’m developing New York’d into a ten-episode web series and hoping to find a right producer for it. Also, I have been a reviewer and a judge for two film festivals in Norway and in Washington DC. This has been an incredible experience of learning while watching someone else’s work on screen and critique it.
CONNECT WITH KARAN CHOUDHARY:
Karan Choudhary IMDB
Karan Choudhary Facebook
Karan Choudhary Twitter
CONNECT WITH NEW YORK’D:
New York’d Facebook Page
Watch it on Amazon here
New York'd poster
The Timepiece poster