“Over the years there have been many favourites. Chelsea, The Return Of Bruno (featuring Bruce Willis), all the Phil Collins and Genesis videos…. hard to say. The sitcom that I’m involved in developing could be a highlight.” Enthusiastically stated by Jim Yukich Producer, Director and Writer, when asked about his favourite project to date.
I love the industry the creatively and the passion that goes behind the scenes in the movie-making and media industry. I am so excited to have been given the chance to talk to Jim Yukich about his adventure to success, including the ins and outs of his work, life, meetings, and including the best moments of his adventure!
Jim Yukich has worked on more than 500 videos and some still in the making, from working with Disney to Phil Collins videos to Chelsea Lately on E Entertainment hosted by the late-night’s most creative presenter Chelsea Handler. He has worked with stars as varied as The Beach Boys, David Bowie, Phil Collins and Genesis, Gloria Estefan, Michael Jackson, and Iron Maiden, as MTV roared to life.
He’s also directed many varieties, comedy, and concert specials, and was the co-creator and first director for the Billboard Music Awards. Jim Yukich studied film at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana. He continues to grow his profile and connections, meeting and greeting, making and creating! I shall let Jim, answer some questions about his adventure!
I couldn’t resist asking the need-to-know question – what made Jim enter the field of entertainment? “I originally had thought that I wanted to be a Doctor… After one semester of Calculus, Biology, Chemistry and Physics I decided that I should look at other careers.” “I didn’t think “entertainment”, it just happened. I took classes in Art, Graphics, Music, Film, Television, but really had no idea what it would lead to.
Finally, after graduating with a communications degree (with a major emphasis on Film and TV) and a double minor of Art and Music, I decided that I needed to work in Advertising…. well, creating TV commercials.
moved to Los Angeles, because there were very few opportunities in my hometown of Chicago, and looked for a job as a music score copyist. I thought that might lead to composing for television and films. At the time that I arrived, there was a major strike going on and almost all of the TV and Film production was shut down, so I got a job in the mailroom at Capitol Records. I soon discovered that there was a video department, and was able to get transferred up to the 11th floor to work as an assistant.
Luckily, I had learned how to edit video while at Purdue,so I started to edit all of the in-house commercials. It was then that MTV was launching. With the high demand for music videos… and the fact that I could edit, I knew music, and I knew how to direct… I was sent with a crew to oversee and direct a music video in Canada. The video was received very well, and I was immediately thrown into the fire. I started directing in-house videos for Capitol-EMI.
A few weeks later I was sent to Philadelphia to oversee/direct “Modern Love” for David Bowie. David loved the results and that gave me the credibility to become a sought-after Director.
That was the start. I went on to direct about 500 music videos and then eventually started doing concerts and specials for TV. I also ran two movies. Sorry that the answer was so long… I just wanted you to see that I really had no idea where I would end up. I always loved the entertainment business, it just took a while for me to realize that I should be in it.”
We love answers like that! Such a fascinating jump from the passion of wanting to be a doctor to where you are today, it just goes to show you may never know what the future may hold for you. What about future projects? For the first 25+ years of my career, I was always looking at future projects. For the last 7 years, I have been directing a show called “Chelsea Lately” and working with the wonderful Chelsea Handler.
Because of our shooting schedule, I was able to do other projects on the side… I did a number of stand-up comedy specials, music concerts, documentaries and even a few music videos. Now that “Chelsea Lately” is coming to an end, I have been working on a few other projects that might fill the space until Chelsea returns (hopefully in about 16 months). I’m currently co-creating a sitcom, and looking at a few concert videos and music documentaries.
I have to ask! As a huge fan of the show, how is it working on the set of Chelsea Lately? The greatest job that anyone could ever have Chelsea is Chelsea’s; I can’t describe what she means to me and to all of us there. That’s why it’s sad for all of us that we are taking this extended hiatus, but in the long run, it’s the best thing that could happen for Chelsea and the show. Over the years, we have created a machine. We could almost put the show on autopilot. The atmosphere is always fun; the staff and crew are always cracking jokes; it’s like a big family.
I think that is so important in the world of entertainment, humor, jokes, fun…. One for all the ones studying directing, what does it take to be a successful director? There are many types of directors, most with different skills. But in general, you need to know more than a little bit about a lot of things. What I mean is that the director places a big part in the final decisions… questions about the set, set design, lighting, casting, camera lens, camera placement, shot composition, music, show timing, editing, scriptwriting, acting, comedy and dealing with fellow human beings (crew, cast, audience, producers, location managers, etc.).
So my advice would be to learn as much as you can so that you are prepared to make decisions. If given the opportunity, you must be able to deliver the goods calmly. I say calmly because I prefer non-screaming directors!
It is very important to remain calm instead of shouting! How might you go about choosing your next act/show? Usually, I’ll either get a call from my agent, a friend, or a producer telling me about a project that’s moving forward. If it’s something that I find interesting, and it works within the schedule of other projects that I’m doing, then I will tell them that I’d like to be involved. Over the years I’ve mostly done projects that… I can have fun doing, can learn something new, can meet new people/contacts, etc. I prefer fun over work if possible.
Did you need any form of training or experience to get to where you are today? I think that I answered most of that in the first question… the thing that I would like to add is that most universities/colleges offer degrees in TV and Film related fields, but they really don’t give you a solid education in Film and TV directing. The problem is that unless you go to a school like USC, NYU, UCLA (and even those sometimes), you’re being taught by teachers that have never really participated in the entertainment field. Most of them may have slightly been in the business at one time, but their experience is mostly from books.
So, you need to know how to use them… for what they can teach you. Learn about lighting, cameras, and in particular editing. Editing is a great way to see what works and what doesn’t. I remember editing projects (before I was directing) and seeing what great scene coverage looked like, why establishing shots were important, and what you needed, to make scenes work. You learn just as much editing projects that were directed and/or shot poorly… you learn what not to do and what is missing.
Guisman: [to Billy and Jimmy as he’s being taken away by the cops] You think I’M bad, wait’ll you meet my lawyers!
You directed that fantastic “Double Dragon”. What was it that made you want to be part of this production? I’ve never heard it called Fantastic. I watched it with one of my sons for the first time in 17 years a few weeks ago. I was exhausted just remembering what we went through to get it all done! I got a call from my friend Alan Schecter (Double Dragon producer) asking me if I wanted to direct the film. I read the script, came in for an interview with Alan and the other 2 producers, got the job, and then began reworking the script. I wanted to get into film directing, and I thought that I could add something to the project.
The biggest challenge that I saw was that the original script floated between being a kid’s movie and a major action/special FX film… and that the producers could (or could not?) really agree which way it should go. Alan wanted it to be an action film (he had worked on some big action movies ie. “Die Hard”), Ash Shah saw the potential in going after the younger market, and Sunil Shah felt it could go either way, but that we needed to figure out which way we could get the most for the budget that we had.
I was leaning towards the kid’s action approach since we didn’t have the Joel Silver, Michael Bay type budget. The biggest disappointment was that after removing most of the violent scenes, and limiting the language, the film still got a PG-13 rating. That really killed it at the box office.
Young kids couldn’t get in without a parent, and older teens didn’t want to see a kid’s movie. Aside from all the ‘business” issues, it was a terrific experience. I certainly learned a lot about special effects, working with talent, and shooting action.
A must know question, if you were able to work with anyone past or present who would it be and why? I would love to be able to work/learn from Martin Scorsese. Anyone that can make “Good Fellas” and “Casino”, then turn it around and do “King Of Comedy” and “After Hours” is a genius. I would love to see the entire process. It would be great to do a project with some of my comedic hero’s, Larry David and Ricky Gervais. I would be laughing the entire day.
Your job is just fantastic; you are so lucky, what is the best part of your job? That I’m able to do what I do and get paid for it… and that it’s rarely ‘a job’. It’s mostly fun. Fantastic outcome and inspirational quotes and advice! So thrilled to hear the scoop on Jim’s creative life! Make sure to keep your eyes out there for the latest episodes of Chelsea Lately, as well as any future projects and past! I know what my day is going to include now, popcorn, soda, and TV………….. bring it on E!.