Hollywood producer Ashok Amritraj receives honorary doctorate
Eminent Indian-American film producer Ashok Amritraj advised students graduating from the University of East London (UEL) on Thursday to have faith in themselves but be prepared to work hard and knock on a lot of doors to get their break.
He also said Hollywood could learn a thing or two about diversity from UEL.
Mr Amritraj received an Honorary Doctorate of Arts from UEL during a graduation ceremony for students from UEL’s School of Arts and Digital Industries at indigo at The O2 Arena.
“One of the things that was really exciting to me about getting a doctorate from UEL was that with your diversity and the cultural programmes that you have, there is this exchange of ideas and exchange of talent,” Mr Amritraj said in an interview on Thursday. “The exchange of ideas and collaborations is how movies and all of these things get better and better all the time.”
“It’s something that we actually have to teach Hollywood a little bit more about, to embrace the diversity of what the stuff that a university like UEL does,” he continued.
Mr Amritraj is one of Hollywood’s most respected producers. During his career he has helped bring over 100 films to life, creating a remarkable $2 billion in worldwide revenues.
Born in 1956 in Chennai, India, Mr Amritraj won acclaim as a young man through his achievements on the tennis court. One of a trio of brothers who excelled at the sport, Ashok played in every major professional tennis tournament, including Wimbledon and the US Open, and represented India in international competitions.
Mr Amritraj moved to California in his early twenties. Deciding to pursue a passion for film that he had developed as a young boy in India, he gradually transitioned from professional sport to the film industry.
Hard work combined with determination have helped Mr Amritraj forge a hard-won role for himself over the past three decades as one of the most eminent producers in Hollywood.
His filmography includes hits such as Bringing down the House, Premonition, Machete, Blue Valentine and Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance. He has worked with numerous stars including Robert DeNiro, Sandra Bullock, Bruce Willis, Jennifer Aniston, and Andrew Garfield and built relationships with studio heads, politicians and royalty.
“The entertainment industry and Hollywood specifically is, first of all, not for the weak of heart. Perseverance, knocking on a lot of doors, having faith in yourself, all of those things are important. I believe a lot in pre-production and preparing yourself,” he said.
“If you bang on enough doors, one of those doors is going to open just enough for you to put your foot in and then you should be able to follow through. Having a strong will power is very important in breaking into our industry,” he said.
Mr Amritraj views his company, Hyde Park Entertainment Group, as an alternative to the traditional Hollywood movie system. He uses his influence to connect east with west, promoting collaborations among talented filmmakers and others across India, Asia and the United States.
“It’s been an extremely beautiful 25 years working with wonderful actors and stars and I couldn’t ask for more,” Mr Amritraj said. “The reality is that my life has sort of exceeded my dreams. Both of these careers, one after the other, I’ve been very blessed to have been so lucky.”