Pouya Shahbazi

Cinema Art and Science (BA)

What would you say has been the most surprising thing you learned at Columbia? 

The most surprising thing I learned at Columbia is the value of collaboration. Being a part of a creative process at Columbia taught me how to behave among other individuals and be an influential member of a group.  

The most satisfying aspect about collaboration is the influence that people have on each other’s work; this is another surprising life experience that I [had] at Columbia. [I learned that] my work will never be “perfect” or “done” without the overlap of my teammates, especially in a creative process like film production. For example, as a director of photography my work will never be finished without the work of a production designer or an editor. In filmmaking, every single role matters, and the film cannot be [fully appreciated] without [those roles].  

What experiences or courses at Columbia do you feel have been most beneficial? 

The practicality of Columbia heavily influenced my decision when I was looking for a film school, and it exceeded my expectations by creating a professional environment that allowed me to experience and practice what people do in the actual film industry. The most beneficial experience for me was being able to experiment [with] things and make mistakes without consequences, which never happens in real life. In addition, the accessibility to the high-end equipment, such as cameras and lighting equipment in the Cinema Art and Science Department is another beneficial and yet valuable aspect of Columbia. I enjoyed and appreciated every single cinematography course I took, and tried to learn the right way of thinking, developing and creating things. 

What are your plans for after graduation? 

I am planning to pursue my passion in cinematography after graduation to the point where I can collaborate with different filmmakers and create moving images. As of now, I am planning to stay and work in Chicago, since I believe Chicago is a great home for artists with many opportunities and platforms [for development]. Plus, Columbia created a great environment for me to meet many talented individuals who might be my future colleagues in the industry. 

Do you have any advice for current students? 

I strongly believe that students should always experiment different ways of doing things in school, especially at Columbia, which allows students to learn by exploring and making mistakes.