Alumnus discusses students finding their ‘niche’


Frequency TV

1992 film and video alumnus Dan Asma, co-owner of the advertising agency Buddha Jones, found his calling in audiovisual marketing making movie and TV trailers for big Hollywood companies.

By Digital Content Manager

After graduating from Columbia in 1992 with a film degree, Dan Asma moved to Los Angeles to pursue his love of making movies. However, he ended up in a new field—audiovisual marketing. 

After working at various film companies, Asma became an editor, producer and later co-owner at Buddha Jones, an advertising agency specializing in visual trailers. Asma and his award-winning company have promoted popular TV series and films like “Suicide Squad” and “Silicon Valley.”

Asma and his brother Stephen, a professor in the Humanities, History & Social Sciences Department, are hosting a Nov. 3 lecture to discuss how their fields intertwine.

The Chronicle spoke with Asma about his work and advice for students looking for their niche. 

THE CHRONICLE: What makes Buddha Jones a unique company?

DAN ASMA: The marketing world, in general, is in shift. [Buddha Jones] has been around for 11 years, and we are starting to see a significant change in the way the industry is developing. However, we built our reputation as really great storytellers, and from that, it had always been about the creative work.

How has your role at Buddha Jones shifted over time?

I started as one of the founders [working] as an editor. Then that started to shift and change as the company grew. I couldn’t just edit; I had to take a more complicated position as producer. I was doing that for years, and now because the company has grown to a particular size, my partner and I have reached a point where it is really about managing our staff [and] being a team leader for different groups.

Did you ever think you would end up in the field you’re in today?

When I came [to L.A.], I had no idea the industry [I am currently in] existed. I came out here hoping to be a filmmaker. I went looking for post-production work, and that is how I got a job as a production assistant. I am so grateful that I did because I didn’t know this kind of work was out here. I was like, this is everything I’ve wanted because it is really creative.

What advice do you have for current student filmmakers?

If students really know what they want, I want to encourage them to find it. It is important that filmmaking students understand there is a tremendous amount of risk, but there is also a tremendous amount of reward in being able to look at what is packed into the screen of life, how you can participate, and know what it is you want to do as an artist. 

What can students expect from your upcoming lecture at Columbia?

The name of the lecture is “Creativity: Philosophy Meets Hollywood.” My brother, [Stephen Asma], who is a very established author, [will] talk about how the creative process happens in the brain. I am going to talk about more practical examples of how the creative process is done, which is really about storytelling. 

Whether you are a full-length feature filmmaker, screenwriter, editor, video game producer, an artist, a musician—it all comes down to storytelling.