New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

Beyond NYU: Mastering movies and music videos

Tisch alum Jason Baum moved across the country to produce music videos for some of the music industry’s biggest artists. He now has five Grammy nominations and one Grammy win under his belt.
Tisch alum Jason Baum. (Courtesy photo by Nadirah Zakariyah)

Tisch alum Jason Baum initially entered the school’s Undergraduate Film & Television program with limited industry experience, but has since transformed into an award-winning producer, collaborating with A-list stars on their music videos.

Baum wasn’t always headed toward a career in video production, having also had success as a filmmaker. His feature film “It’s What’s Inside” premiered at the 2024 Sundance Film Festival, leading to a deal with Netflix for $17 million — one of the festival’s most substantial acquisitions to date. His video production work, which has garnered 5.51 billion views on YouTube, includes music videos like “Cheap Thrills” by Sia and “HUMBLE.” by Kendrick Lamar. His contribution to Lamar’s “Count Me Out” earned him a nomination for Best Music Video at the 2024 Grammy Awards.

In an interview with WSN, Baum discussed exploring filmmaking at NYU, getting his start in music video production and transitioning to creating long-form feature films.   

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

WSN: What influenced your decision to study film and television at the Tisch School of the Arts?

Baum: I actually didn’t know I wanted to do film and TV when I came to NYU. I had made a short film in high school and I didn’t think too much of it, but I had a really great time making it and ended up submitting it to the undergrad film program. When I got in, I was just curious about what they saw in this short film that I made. So, I came to NYU to explore what filmmaking was and if it was right for me. I knew that at least I picked a school that had a lot of other great programs in case I wanted to change. But once I got to NYU and learned more about film, I fell in love with it so I decided to stick with it. 

The Maui native spent his time at NYU interning for notable music video companies such as RadicalMedia, Atlantic Records, Anonymous Content and DNA Films in Los Angeles. Baum said he always knew that he wanted to move to Los Angeles, which he saw as the “heart of filmmaking.” He fulfilled his dream the day after he graduated from college and moved to the city. 

WSN: What was it like to transition from life in New York to Los Angeles?

Baum: Not a lot of people moved as quickly as I did from New York to LA, so I had to start over in a lot of regards. I started building a network, and from there started at the bottom of the filmmaking chain as a production assistant before working my way up in the office from office production assistant, to production coordinator, to production manager. I was really trying to learn a lot — there’s only so much you can learn in school. I’m constantly growing and evolving in the sense that I started in music videos and commercials and have been very slowly working my way toward narrative features and long-form things.

Baum worked almost exclusively in music videos for 10 years after moving to Los Angeles. Baum said that the first “real” music video he produced was for Nada Surf’s 2010 song “Electrocution.” He worked to gradually build his resume, taking on smaller opportunities, including as an associate producer on Sia’s controversial 2021 film “Music” — only to eventually become a co-producer on the project. Baum said that the “turning point” in his career was his first Grammy nomination, which he received in 2015 for “We Exist” by Arcade Fire, starring actor Andrew Garfield.

WSN: How do you decide what kinds of projects you want to work on?

Baum: I’ve gotten to a point in my career where I can be very selective about the projects that I take on and make sure that they are things that are genuinely interesting to me and that I can be really proud of. My baseline standard for anything I take on is when I watch it, do I think this is cool and does it warrant my attention? I just look for things that push culture forward in some form. It’s hard to describe it — you know it when you see it. Either things that technically haven’t been done before or just are very challenging in the storytelling, or visually or with the technology. 

Baum won the 2018 Grammy for Best Music Video with Kendrick Lamar’s “HUMBLE.,” and has five total Grammy nominations and an Emmy nomination. He has produced media for various artists from Childish Gambino and Spike Jonze to Olivia Rodrigo and Beyoncé, but said that one of his favorite projects was Childish Gambino’s “Telegraph Ave” because it was shot in Hawaii, his home state. One of his feature films is titled “Beastie Boys Story” — which was nominated for an Emmy and Critics’ Choice Award in 2020 and a Grammy in 2021. He is currently working on a horror film called “It’s What’s Inside.”

WSN: Did you always want to be a producer? 

Baum: Naturally anyone who’s a creative person would leave NYU’s film program enamored with wanting to be a director, but the unfortunate reality is directing is one of the hardest entry-level jobs that one can try and pursue. When I was in LA post-graduation, my goal was still to direct, but I knew I had to make a living, so I started to do production. Directing is still something that I am passionate about and I would still love to pursue further. I’ve had a couple of opportunities over the last 17 years to direct every so often — including music videos for a friend of mine named Zee Avi who’s an amazing Malaysian musician and an Antonio Brown documentary for Nike that came through one of my good friends. I’ve also developed this amazing creative relationship with Sia over the last six years and she trusts me to creative direct a couple things for her. My directing opportunities have come through people I know that want to give me the chance. Otherwise it’s pretty hard to find directing opportunities.

On an average day, Baum simultaneously works on three projects — one in pre-production, another in production and a third in post-production. He said the hardest part of being a freelance creator is the financial challenge associated with high-quality projects.

Baum is in the final stages of completing “It’s What’s Inside,” which he said will hopefully have a Netflix release in the coming year. Baum also wants to work on another feature film as soon as he secures financial support, and said he is open to working on any shorter film projects that may emerge in the meantime.

WSN: What is the most rewarding aspect of your career? 

Baum: It’s very easy to answer the most rewarding aspect of producing — meeting people and making things. Since I didn’t intend to be a producer from the start, what has been really amazing for me is meeting such a wide variety of directors, learning from their talents, understanding their points of view and then get to actually have something concrete that is out in the world for other people to enjoy that you created together. Just the act of creation is the thing that I’m most thankful for being able to do every day.

Contact Aashna Miharia at [email protected].

Leave a comment
About the Contributor
Aashna Miharia
Aashna Miharia, Deputy News Editor
Aashna Miharia is a first-year studying journalism and public policy with a minor in business studies. She’s from the Boston area and a novelist, coffee enthusiast and lover of independent bookstores. You can usually find her listening to an audiobook while wandering around New York City or on Instagram @aashnamiharia.

Comments (0)

Comments that are deemed spam or hate speech by the moderators will be deleted.
All Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *