BEHIND THE BRAND: FOUNDER, MIA DANICA-JAMORA OF MSQUARE PRODUCTIONS
When did you become interested in film?
I never really started my career in film. My background was in creative direction for editorials and print shoots. I then made the transition into film upon finishing a fashion internship in LA. There was an ad for a Production Designer on an indie short film. I applied and ended up working on that set, which eventually led to me finding my love for cinema and production in general.
Did you have any specific influences growing up that led you towards the film industry?
I watched tons of movies and loved going to the video store with my dad and sister on Friday nights to rent out movies for the weekend, but I wouldn’t say I was ever really a “movie buff”. My main influences growing up would have to be my parents. Their work ethic and ability to raise my sister and I in a wonderful environment still leaves me in awe. On the business side of things I grew up watching my mother be a successful entrepreneur in various different fields. Without knowing it at the time, watching her do this really influenced me in the future which eventually led me to do what I do now.
You were just 21 when you started MSQUARE Productions, what were your biggest challenges?
I guess the biggest challenge would have to be devoting all my time to growing the business without actually seeing any revenue at the start. It takes a lot of determination and stamina but I realised I was on the right path because working hard and sacrificing personal time didn’t really phase me. Starting MSQUARE with my partner Michael also made going through these challenges much easier with the extra support and shared vision. Even today I continually face different challenges. I think the main thing to remember is your perspective on the challenges that get thrown your way – you can choose to let them slow you down or use them as a catalyst for growth.
What was your mission when creating MSQUARE Productions? What sets you apart from other film companies?
Starting MSQUARE was really an organic process. We never went into it with a standard business model mindframe. For us it was all about being able to create films. Our first objective is always to be able to facilitate authentic connections and experiences through immersive storytelling. There’s a power behind a well-crafted story to reframe one’s perception of the world. Given our background has always been in film, we produce everything we create with a film-like approach. We always strive for our content to feel like it’s a scene taken from a movie. So for us it all starts with storytelling and everything else follows.
How did you get to where you are today? (study/work experience etc.)
I have a background in fashion and creative direction, so once I graduated uni in Australia I moved to LA to start a career in fashion. I picked up an internship with a well-known celebrity stylist over there and stayed with her for quite some time. So many people used to ask me why I worked for free for a crazy person who made everyone who worked for her do the impossible! To this day I believe that internship taught me so much, from learning to have an unbelievably thick skin to getting shit done (even though it seemed close to impossible) because I had no other choice. I worked with a lot of celebrities that she dressed and assisted her with various talk shows and shoots which quickly gave me an insight into the crazy and unpredictable world of entertainment in Hollywood. I never really laid out a plan to get to where I am today – I think everything just happened organically and as it was meant to happen, just like I think it will continue to do so.
What does your average day look like? What’s your morning routine?
In my life, there really isn’t such a thing as an average day. Due to the nature of our industry my day-to-day changes. If we’re in between productions we’re normally either in pre or post-production for various projects, which means juggling stakeholder meetings, creative sessions, writers’ room, studio time and more meetings. During production days 99% of the time by 4am I’m already on my way to set while checking emails or on the phone, usually to my production coordinator Ceri, discussing our schedule for the day or strategising solutions for any problems we can foresee. Believe me no matter how prepared you are, there are always problems on set. I always say a plan A to B isn’t enough, you need an A-Z!
What do you do to relax?
I don’t think I have a particular thing I do to relax. I live a very busy life but I never feel like I need to “relax” – that probably sounds really bad. I guess when I can, I try to catch something on Netflix or do absolutely nothing. Having always been career focused, I’m a workaholic and live and breathe my job, so doing absolutely nothing is a nice break from it all.
How do you stay healthy when you are so busy?
I grew up in a really health-focused environment with my family being very health orientated, especially my grandmother who only really eats ingredients from her garden and if she does have anything outside of that, she generally chooses organic. I wouldn’t say I actively try to be healthy, rather my eating habits and diet are generally healthy by default. That doesn’t mean that I don’t eat any junk or pig out on Kit Kats, because believe me I do – balance is key right?
How do you split your time between America and Australia?
A while ago, I was going back and forth almost every 3 months. That was a crazy period and was extremely exhausting. Currently, at the start of each year we’ll schedule in certain industry events and meetings we need to be there for at certain times. Other than that, there’s no real schedule for my time between the states and Australia. It’s really dependent on productions, various phases, and meetings that are on throughout the year so trips are very sporadic and can pop up on my schedule quite quickly.
MSQUARE is currently working on a TV series with hopes of featuring on Netflix… Can you tell us a little about it?
It’s been a process but something we’ve been working really hard on and are very excited to announce. We’ve been in writer’s room for the past year and a half now. This October we will most likely be introducing it to the American film market as well as intro-ing it to Amazon Prime outside of Netflix. We’re looking to start castings next year and begin principal photography towards the end of 2018.
What movie, no matter how many times you’ve seen it, do you have to watch when it’s on?
I haven’t seen it in a while but, ‘A Walk to Remember’. I’m a sucker for an extremely tear-inducing drama – still trying to work out what that says about me!
Do you have a fashion muse?
No, can’t say I do. It’s funny because although my background was in fashion I can’t say I care for it that much. I do however really value being well presented. I don’t think this means being dressed in head-to-toe designer but more about being well considered in your presentation, taking care of yourself and taking pride in your appearance.
How do you define success?
Being balanced. In our world, you generally have to live and breathe our industry and production, so it gets tough to find a healthy balance. I think if you can find that balance in life with whatever it is you do, that sounds pretty damn successful!
If you could share one piece of advice for someone starting out what would it be?
Go get it! I hear and see so many people who say they want it, but wanting it badly isn’t enough. You should be hungry for it, hungry enough that you’re not only willing to work hard for but you’re willing to build a road, bridge or ladder to get you there.
What’s next for MSQUARE?
Our TV series is a big thing we’re looking forward to, so keep an eye out for it!