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Road trip with alumnus Rohit Iyengar

We speak with Rohit Iyengar, graduate of Raffles World Academy in Dubai. This summer he is chronicling his road trip across the United States. Rohit studied Cinema Art & Science at Columbia College in Chicago and is working as a Manager of International Deliveries for a Film Distribution company.  Rohit earned a spot in the IB YouTube hall of fame for his parody video “IB Style” 

Why did you originally decide to pursue an IB Diploma?

Rohit: I did my IGCSE (G9-10) at Raffles World Academy and wanted to continue at the same school. The International Baccalaureate looked like the most comprehensive high school program compared to the other alternatives with regards to course offering and international coverage.

What inspired you to begin making films?

Rohit: My path into film was more of a 21st century story. At the start of high school YouTube content started to take off and I was instantly hooked. I was watching creators like Ryan Higa (nigahiga) and Ray William Johnson (Equals 3) making people laugh on a daily basis and wanted to create my own content to achieve the same purpose. The democratization of filmmaking was the result of the falling cost of a camera and editing technology and I was able to quickly create my own films using the cameras and editing software I had at the time. Social media allowed me to easily share my creations with friends and family and get instant feedback. I kept making films and worked on continuously improving their quality. After a certain point, I decided to go to college for film to continue improving.

You put yourself out there with a number of really fun and goofy videos, particularly for parody? It feels like there’s some element of risk-taking to this work. Have you always been comfortable putting yourself out there? Has this ever backfired?

Rohit: My online persona has always been separate from my persona in real life. Call it compartmentalization or an alter ego. At the same time, I take full ownership of all the videos I have uploaded. The internet itself is a funny place. One of my most popular videos initially backfired. My rap video about the Malls of Dubai got a lot of hate shortly after it’s release. Some of the comments even made me want to take the video down, however, the hate also drew a lot of attention and subsequent support from the community. Today the video has over 200,000 views and 200 more likes than dislikes! For a video to truly backfire it would have to get a very low response and there have been many of those: “I see a nice women,” “Your Profile picture should be your face” and the “Chicago Red Line Train” music video are a few that bombed! You can’t make a viral video, you can only make a video that goes viral.

Perhaps my riskiest video was a satirical AutoTune remix I made of Indian Prime-ministerial Candidate Rahul Gandhi. As the video started gaining traction, I remember getting phone calls from my grandparents in India asking me to “be careful.” In fact, the video itself was taken off YouTube for “copyright infringement.” I disputed the claim on YouTube, they determined the concerns were unfounded and the video was reinstated. Unfortunately, I lost views as duplicate videos popped up and there was a sneaking suspicion that other forces were at work trying to quash freedom of speech.

We asked a number of graduates about your video. They had all seen it! What do you think makes the IB experience resonate so strongly across border and countries?

Rohit: Globalization and Standardization! Just like McDonalds is synonymous worldwide with quick, tasty and unhealthy fast-food the IB is synonymous for being rigorous, requiring time-management and those catchy two & three letter acronyms. (IB, IA, CAS, TOK, EE etc.) No other high-school program has so many universal buzzwords that people worldwide can relate to!

What obstacles do you think young film graduates face? Do you have advice for them as they enter the job market?

Rohit: Perhaps the best advice I can give recent film school graduates is the following “your degree is worthless.” The first thing I realized when I arrived in Los Angeles as an outsider from Chicago was that the value of experience, networking skill and the ability to sell oneself far exceeded the perceived value of an undergraduate degree. This is especially true if one wants to work in the corporate, business and studio side of filmmaking which is what I was interested in. You have to be able to be able to talk about a 2 month internship as if you were a part of the company for years. Los Angeles is definitely the place to be if you wish to build and develop a career in English film since it’s the place where all the projects are controlled from development to distribution regardless of where the filming takes place. My last piece of advice to IB students looking to pursue a career in the film outside of their home country is to study the immigration policies of that country. Given the freelance and highly competitive nature of the film industry, it can be hard to gain the necessary work permits that will grant you the opportunities to realize your full potential. The IB might make you feel like a citizen of the world however not every passport is equal.

See more of Rohit’s films and follow him around the United States this summer by visiting his YouTube channel.

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