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How a motion graphic designer from Cumilla is making it in Hollywood

In Hollywood, the world’s pre-eminent industry for commercial cinema, everything must meet a high bar in terms of quality and technical proficiency.

The same exacting standards and production values informing a film must also usually reflect in its trailer – a crucial element that acts as the centrepiece of all activities aimed at promoting a movie once it is made. The same would apply to more contemporary innovations or interpretations of the trailer, e.g. teasers, that are well-suited to the age of social media.

This is the story of a young man from Laksham in Cumilla, Bangladesh – Jisan Kamrul Hasan, and how his relentless pursuit of a dream has taken him all the way to Culver City, California – the most populous as well as economically advanced of the 50 constituent states that comprise the United States of America – and the home of Hollywood.

Culver City itself is a hub of film and television production, best known as the home of the renowned Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, or MGM Studios. But how did Jisan end up there?

More importantly, what was this young Bangladeshi motion graphic designer’s journey like, on the road to getting to work on the teasers and trailers for some of the most popularmovies and series in recent times, from the critically acclaimed “Last Night in Soho” to the graphic-intensive hit "Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness,” from Marvel Studios.

Following a recent interview with a leading national daily, Jisan became known to the nation, and naturally many in the entertainment industry as well as netizens are waiting for an opportunity to give vent to their curiosity to learn more about Jisan and his journey.

“My journey actually started at a very early age back in 2002, when I was stunned by the majestic visuals in “The Lord of the Rings.” I wondered about the motion graphics, and I decided that I would learn this,” Jisan said in a telephone interview with UNB from his Hollywood home, engaging at length on different topics.

It wasn’t until 2007 though, that Jisan would even get his first personal computer.
“At this stage though, things started moving very fast in my lane in life. Soon, sometime in 2008, I moved to Dhaka and began practising Photoshop on my own, thanks to YouTube.

His interest and practice in 3D animation and motion graphics led him to begin his bachelors in CSE at Ahsanullah University of Science and Technology (AUST).

“I was already making money from graphic design and photography at that point and got my first opportunity as a motion designer after one of the seniors of my mess roommate approached me in 2012 and asked if I would be interested in working for his business as a graphic designer.”

That’s how a lifelong passion was stoked inside a young man with his future ahead of him.

“In 2013 I bought my camera and started photography as a freelancer. This phase of my life circulated around the dream of being a filmmaker. I made some short films, done wedding photographs, made a bunch of creative and talented friends and used to have regular and frequent visits to ‘Chobir Hat’ at Dhaka University’s Charukala,” Jisan reminisced.

Then in September, 2016, Jisan moved from Bangladesh to New York in the US East Coast, where he began working for a newspaper as a graphic designer, courtesy of an expatriate journalist Kazi Shamsul Hoque. “Little did I know, my real struggle was just starting,” Jisan says.

“I moved to Los Angeles in 2017, and the first year I had to survive with the bare minimum. A big and totally new city, a pretty costlier environment, and thousands of other obstacles. I survived, but then COVID-19 hit and I finally realised that was it, I had to put everything aside and give my passion a final try.”

It was a “Now or Never” situation for boy from Laksham, and so he embarked on this one last attempt with everything he had.

“I left my job, started learning motion graphics design from video tutorials and reading articles and books, evaluating movies, and learning new software such as After Effects, Cinema 4D, Houdini, and Nuke -this routine continued from March 2020 till December that year, every day for 15 to 18 hours. It was unimaginably tough for me as a newbie, but I made it through sacrificing nights of sleep and other luxuries,” Jisan recounts.

He then prepared his showreel from January 2021 till May that year, then took a short break from June to August when he came home to Bangladesh to spend the Eid-ul-Azha holidays with his family, after five long years away.

However he returned to LA in August and started applying for jobs, this time for the position that would let him pursue his true passion – as a motion graphics designer. Everyday, Jisan would send off his showreel/portfolio to 30–40 different production companies, hoping to at least strike a chord with some of them, or even one of them. But in those first few months, it just wasn’t to be.

“I was, unfortunately, not getting too many interview calls,” Jisan continued. “I even personally messaged my showreel to many directors and producers, and finally, after three months, my current employer, Wild Card Creative, contacted and selected me. I joined here in November 2021.”

Run by a husband-wife partnership with years of experience and lucrative contacts in and around the industry, Wild Card Creative’s star has been rising in Hollywood over the last decade or so.

Jisan’s first experience creating a trailer was for the movie “Last Night in Soho,” although he considers a clip for “House of Gucci” to be his first significant piece of work. Thanks to his employers’ growing reputation, he eventually got opportunities to contribute to the promotional trailers and teasers for some pretty major recent productions like “The Batman,” “Morbius,” Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” and legendary director Steven Spielberg’s 2021 remake of “West Side Story”.

In addition to these movies, he also worked on a number of television docuseries, including “Bosch: Legacy,” “Tehran”, (Season 2) “The Kardashians” and others.

“We made the teasers and trailers which are distributed among all major social channels including Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, YouTube, and Snapchat, alongside our productions for theatres and television,” Jisan told UNB.

Defining the industry and the trailer market, Jisan said, “This is undoubtedly a multi-billion dollar industry, as teasers-trailers are the first gateway to reach the audiences. There are two kinds of trailers that we make – for domestic (US) audiences and the other version is for international viewers.”

He also drops some valuable insight: “if we analyse the industry for the last six months – viewership of series and docuseries is rising with the blooming of more and more streaming sites.”

When asked to define the technological barriers or advantages he observes in the US, in comparison to the industry of his motherland – Jisan said, “I personally don’t think technology is the barrier, because I have seen similar or close to similar types of equipment in Bangladesh as well. It’s the dedication and hard work that matters the most, in this industry. I even made a trailer up to 200 times before finally producing a quality one.” He added, “The colleagues are cordial and helpful, they never discouraged me when I tried to make something new.”

As Jisan was born and brought up in Bangladesh, and also worked in the entertainment and creative industry here for a while, he needs no lowdown on Bangladeshi content. “I have seen the trailers of recently released and well-received films including “Hawa,” and I do believe the industry will thrive again like our glorious past if we continue quality filmmaking for the upcoming years as well.”

Like most Bangladeshis, Jisan has a soft corner for the 1971 Liberation War. His uncle, Shaheed Dr Abul Khair Mohammad Golam Mostafa, the elder brother of his mother, attained martyrdom as a freedom fighter.

Deep inside, Jisan retains a drive to make a film on the Liberation War. Perhaps that could be the culmination of his dream, to use his skill in crafting a full length feature film, beyond just trailers.

“I won’t leave my profession as this is the one for which I passionately struggled day in and night out. Deep down inside I do have the dream to make a film on our glorious Liberation

War – but from a unique perspective. And that will only be possible if I get the proper creative freedom and budget for the purpose of my storytelling.” This proud flagbearer for Bangladesh in the cut-throat US entertainment industry yearns to see more Bangladeshi colleagues around him.

“At the age of 32, I finally realised what I want to do for the rest of my life. This field of work is a lifetime commitment for me, and I wish to see myself as a successful art director in the coming years,” Jisan says before we finish the conversation.

He now has a nation’s prayers with him.