Alumni Spotlight: Namrata Abhyankar

Name: Namrata Abhyankar
Graduation Year: 2013
Major: 
Film and Television Production
Minor: News, Media, and Society
Hometown: 
Orange County, CA
Fun Fact: I have ten screws and a metal plate
holding my ankle together – not because I fought
a bear but because I took a clumsy fall on a hike.
LinkedIn
Website

What roles/positions did you hold at Trojan Vision? Any favorite memories?
I started with CTPR 409 my freshman year and then followed up with Directing and Broadcast Producing. The memories all blurred together a little bit but most memorable was a CU@USC episode with rapper Dirt Nasty where he insisted on drinking his “chlorophyll drink” on camera and concluded the show by tossing pillows at the host.

In my later years at USC I helped run underGRAD, which at the time became USC’s longest running scripted TV series run by a volunteer crew of 25 students. We worked hard to convince Trojan Vision to pick up the series and broadcast it alongside the other flagship shows. underGRAD ran for almost four seasons and totaled over 12 hours of original programming. A huge credit is due to the series creators and EPs Evan Iwata and Nick Rodriguez, as well as my fellow EPs Evan McGahey, Megan Niquette, and Zaid Ziauddin.

How was the process of transitioning out of USC and into the workplace?
I had assumed that bearing a film degree from USC and my reel of short films would be enough to land a decent job in Hollywood but the truth is that in this industry you have to be constantly hustling. You have to be able to market your talents, toot your own horn, and claw your way into positions. Truthfully, I was disheartened by the Hollywood system and tried to find other avenues where I could express my creativity while being paid and having basic benefits. I started to explore advertising, which ultimately said “Hey we’ll pay you to make really really short films – like 30-second-long long ones,” and I jumped at the opportunity. What I love about my job is that I’ve never produced the same thing twice – every production is different and presents a unique set of problems that need solving. It can be painfully difficult at times but I find myself energized by the constant learning and growing.

Can you give us a brief summary of your experience in the industry in production?
My role as a producer is to balance creativity, strategy, and budgets to source the best partners in the industry to help bring an idea to life. I work in tandem with a creative team (writer and art director) and alongside brilliant directors, editors, VFX artists, composers, and more. Various productions have taken me to unique corners of the country and destinations abroad. My experience now spans four different agencies between LA (including Saatchi & Saatchi and RPA) and most recently in San Francisco at Venables Bell & Partners. In that time I’ve produced ads for a variety of national and global brands like Toyota, Southwest Airlines, Intuit QuickBooks, Reebok, and Frito-Lay. In this era, the ads appear anywhere from broadcast TV to connected TV, social, and public spaces – even the Super Bowl! Along the way my work has been recognized at creativity award shows like the Clios, Webby’s, One Show, and (most notably) Cannes Lions.

How has Trojan Vision helped or influenced your career?
My experience on Trojan Vision and underGRAD taught me valuable leadership, communication, and presentation skills. What I loved most about Trojan Vision was that it was made up of students from so many different programs at USC – not just cinema students but journalism, engineering, business, theater and others. It gave me exposure to people who had a variety of interests and talents, not necessarily driven by their majors. So much of what I do today is managing different personalities and confidently leading teams in stressful scenarios.

Any fun things you’re up to now that you’d like to share with us?
In the past two years I produced commercials starring Cardi B, Shaq, and Mark Morrison. My role shifted significantly during COVID as we adapted to doing full productions 100% remotely and advocating for extra security measures to keep crews safe. Furthermore, the awakening on systemic racism following the murder of George Floyd pushed the advertising industry to take a long look in the mirror and understand the role we play in society. There was finally extra importance placed on hiring women and minority talent and acknowledging the immense value diversity brings to the creative process. It’s been especially refreshing, and as a woman of color in production, I’m hoping to capitalize on the moment to bring better representation to the work I produce – both on and off the screen. Today, I work in-house at a startup bank helping to build a team of creative thinkers and doers.

Any advice to current USC students?
Keep making stuff. Make short films, paint landscapes, design furniture – whatever forces you to bend and flex your brain muscles. Bring your friends into the process and take on fun projects together. Never be comfortable doing the same thing everyday and lean into the problems rather than fighting them. You learn so much about yourself and what you’re capable of with every project you take on. And if your friends are by your side you’ll have double the fun too.

Seek out mentors and follow the right people – not the titles, the flashy names, or the pretty logos. The mentors and people you let into your inner circle will become your biggest cheerleaders and advocates. Together you’ll open all the right doors and unlock your potential. I’ve been fortunate to have received valuable mentorship, guidance, and support from an army of badass women in the industry who helped me get to where I am today.

Please reach out to our Industry Relations Manager, Phoebe Lai (pelai@usc.edu) to get in touch with our Notable Alumni or be featured in our next newsletter!