I am so excited to have been given a chance to talk to Jim Yukich about his adventure to success, including the ins and outs of his work, life, meetings, and the best moments of his experience!
“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.
Jim Yukich has worked on more than 500 videos, some still in the making, ranging from working with Disney to Phil Collins videos to Chelsea Lately on E! Entertainment hosted by the late-night show’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 of 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 help but wonder what prompted Jim to pursue an entertainment career. “I originally thought that I wanted to be a doctor. “After one semester of Calculus, Biology, Chemistry, and Physics, I decided to look at other careers. “I didn’t think “entertainment”; it just happened. I took art, graphics, music, film, and television classes but had no idea where they would lead.
Finally, after graduating with a communications degree (with a significant emphasis on Film and TV) and a double minor in Art and Music, I decided I needed to work in advertising—well, creating TV commercials.
I moved from Chicago to Los Angeles because there weren’t many job opportunities where I lived. I wanted to work as a music score copyist. I thought that might lead to composing for television and films. When I arrived, a significant strike was 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 a video department and could transfer to the 11th floor as an assistant.
Luckily, I learned how to edit videos at Purdue, so I started editing all the in-house commercials. It was then that MTV was launched.
With the high demand for music videos and the fact that I could edit, I knew music and how to direct… I was sent with a crew to oversee and produce a music video in Canada.
The video was received 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, which 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 had no idea where I would end up.
I always loved the entertainment business; it just took a while 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 shows you may never know what the future may hold for you. What about future projects? I always looked at future projects for the first 25+ years of my career. For the last seven years, I have been directing a show called “Chelsea Lately” and working with the wonderful Chelsea Handler.
Because of our shooting schedule, I could do other projects on the side. I did several stand-up comedy specials, music concerts, documentaries, and even a few music videos.
Now that “Chelsea Lately” is ending, 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 massive fan of the show, how is it working on the set of Chelsea Lately? Chelsea’s is the most excellent job anyone could ever have; I can’t describe what she means to me and everyone 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 mask on autopilot.
The atmosphere is always fun; the staff and crew joke like a big family.
That is so important in entertainment, humour, jokes, and fun. 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 about many 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 essential to remain calm instead of shouting! How might you go about choosing your next act/show? Usually, I’ll get a call from my agent, a friend, or a producer telling me about a project moving forward.
If it’s something that I find exciting and works within the schedule of other projects, I will tell them I’d like to be involved.
Over the years, I’ve mostly worked on projects that… I enjoy doing where I can learn something new, meet new people, make new contacts, and so on. I prefer fun over work if possible.
Did you need any 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 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 who have never really participated in the entertainment field. Most of them may have 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 excellent scene coverage looked like, why establishing shots was necessary, and what you needed to make scenes work.
You learn just as much editing projects that were directed and shot poorly… you know 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.” A few weeks ago, I watched it with one of my sons for the first time in 17 years.
I was exhausted just remembering what we went through to complete it! My friend Alan Schecter (Double Dragon producer) called me asking if I wanted to direct the film.
I read the script, came in for an interview with Alan and the other two producers, got the job, and began reworking the script. I wanted to get into film directing and thought I could add something to the project.
The biggest challenge I saw was that the original script floated between being a kid’s movie and a significant action/particular FX film… and that the producers could (or could not?) agree on which way it should go.
Alan wanted it to be an action film (he had worked on some big action movies, i.e. “Die Hard”), and Ash Shah saw the potential in going after the younger market.
Sunil Shah felt it could go either way but needed to figure out which way we could get the most for our budget.
Because we didn’t have the kind of budget that Joel Silver or Michael Bay had, I was leaning toward the kid’s action approach.
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 learned much about special effects, working with talent, and shooting action.
A must-know question: if you could work with anyone, past or present, who would it be and why? I’d love to collaborate with or learn from Martin Scorsese. Anyone who 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 can do what I do for a living… 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 on the latest episodes of Chelsea Lately and any future projects and past! Now I know what my day will include: popcorn, soda, and TV………….. bring it on E!