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Victor Migalchan: Hollywood Filmmaker and Martial Arts Champion


Victor Migalchan: Hollywood Filmmaker and Martial Arts Champion

Victor Migalchan is not your average Hollywood filmmaker — aside from directing and producing shows like American Family, aired in the US and the UK on Amazon Prime and Rede Smart in Brazil, he is also a former Martial Arts champion with five world and international titles and an avid proponent of creating TV shows with one main purpose — to educate and unite. Victor Migalchan is very prolific — he has developed three TV show pilots, four shows, and two feature films while working on his first book “The Showrunner” on how to develop and sell your TV show. We spoke with Victor about his upcoming projects, the representation of Central and East European filmmakers in Hollywood and the importance of marketing in TV production.

What was your life like before you moved to the US and started in the film business?

Victor Migalchan: It is a pretty long story, I’ll try to cut it short. I grew up all over Europe thanks to my international family. Thanks to my dad I got into international business when I was like 5 years old. I am very thankful for that experience. My school years went pretty efficiently, I got two master's degrees: the first one is in international business with a focus on branding and marketing; the second one — in diplomatic and consular service. While studying I was developing my business, working and also competing in martial arts. My training was pretty intense. I was lucky to inherit a very powerful traditional school from my 1st teacher (shifu) and Beijing training style from my 2nd teacher. Before moving to New York in 2012, I was working at a Swiss bank, we were developing our own TV platform, I was actively competing in martial arts and building my brand. After winning another pretty important international title in March 2015 I was invited to move to Los Angeles from New York. That is how my new journey in LA began.

Can you tell us more about your most famous projects in Hollywood?

Victor Migalchan: I don’t usually use the term famous, to me the most important is to earn respect and acknowledgment from the titans of Hollywood filmmaking. After working with an international tv station for almost 4 years, I decided to move toward my main goal, which was to create scripted TV shows. In 2019 I developed the concept, the story of My American Family, together with the whole business presentation package. After some time we signed an agreement with an investment company, filmed the pilot in July and it was ready at the end of August 2019. We started showing it to different companies and networks and the 1st season got a green light at the end of October 2019. We did not waste time therefore we were able to start filming early in 2020 and finish the production stage right before the COVID lockdown came to Los Angeles. My American Family is my first scripted TV show and I was honored to work with the one and only Danny Trejo and UFC star Michelle Waterson. We got a lot of great feedback. There aren’t many family-oriented TV shows with traditional values produced in Hollywood. On another hand, we had one of the most diverse casts in Hollywood. The show got distributed by Amazon Prime in the US and the UK. Later on, we got an agreement with Rede Smart TV and got a unique opportunity to present our tv show in Brazil — a country that doesn’t import tv shows. Currently, we are in negotiations with Argentina, Bulgaria, Italy, and Russia.

After the 1st season of My American Family was released we filmed season 1 of the cooking show Dragon Chef, which also is a multicultural tv project; we filmed a pilot of a TV show Modern Kung Fu. It focuses on social issues such as foster family abuse, toxic relationships, anxiety, depression, suicide attempts, detachment from your own culture, etc. The more young people go clubbing, have random and wasteful relationships, and use drugs the bigger this painful void inside their souls grows.

Later on, we decided to shift our focus more toward education and development for kids. We created and filmed season one of an educational reality show “Life Academy”. It focuses on the type of education that no one gets in schools: mental health and wellness; stage speech, presentation, communication, work with the character; marketing, business, finance; physical health, nutrition, exercising, martial arts, In one of the stages we had a very respected and unique military veteran sharing his experience with kids, so they would feel appreciative of this beautiful country they live in. Another show which we developed and filmed its first season is a talent show “OnAir”. It is a practical talent show, which aims to help young talents practically develop their skills, meet professional mentors, get to know how the industry works and have a final product as well as this show.

What are you working on right now?

Victor Migalchan: Well as I mentioned we have finished filming season 1 of Life Academy and season 1 of OnAir. We also filmed two new pilots “Fashion Insider” and “Futurization”. We also filmed 2 pretty important documentaries: one — showcasing the life story of the MMA legend and World Martial Arts Champion Cung Le, and another one - on the Silicon Valley legend, American engineer, inventor and co-founder of Oculus VR Jack McCauley.

Together with the host of London Fashion Week Monique and her team we are developing season 1 of a new fashion and modeling show “The New Face of the Fashion World. It is our main focus right now. The show is aimed to scout for talents and dreamers all around the US and then our European experts and designers will teach them and prepare them for a grand fashion show. It is about high-fashion, show business and again it will be very practical and not toxic. We have a lot of people joining from France, Italy, and Dubai.

As a director and showrunner, I’m happy to have this interest, partnership and friendship from our British and European colleagues. We have a very talented and experienced creative producer Raahim Khan, who is a London-based fashion designer and he directed many fashion shows in Dubai. We have interest from many famous brands to join the show. It is definitely something unique that the industry has not had yet. This format, this content, and the people that we are bringing together, it is all very intellectual, healthy, positive, intercultural and international. Another great thing is that we are scouting for models in the US with no restrictions. We are writing a new page of fashion history.

Another pretty important film that we are currently developing is “Heritage - Stories of children of the Holocaust Survivors”. We will be connecting stories and experiences of the upbringing of the children of Holocaust Survivors with modern kids, in order to keep this knowledge. People cannot and should not forget history. When they do - it tends to repeat.

We learned that you held different workshops and masterclasses. How did that part of your work start and what are your plans in this domain?

That is true, I was invited to hold masterclasses and workshops in LA county, North California, Seattle, Las Vegas and other cities in the US. We also held a masterclass for British filmmakers as a part of Creative Industry Awards 2022. It was truly an amazing experience, we received and keep receiving questions and we love that our participants keep in touch and share their ideas. It was one of the reasons why I started working on my book “The Showrunner”, in which I share a blueprint of how I develop tv shows. We think about creating a video course because some people like to listen and see visuals. Some people like reading. It is like a contribution to the community. I believe it is important to share knowledge and help each other. The more small and medium-sized businesses we create and develop - the better for our economy.

Where did you get inspiration for your TV shows and documentaries as well?

Victor Migalchan: That's a great question. Mostly it comes from within. I get a lot of inspiration from people and their life stories.I focus on creating quality TV that helps people educate themselves, get knowledge, grow, and unite. I was invited to the 2019 EMMY Awards and in 2021 I was invited to serve as a judge at the Emmys. I saw what was being produced. I decided to take a different route because I wanted to present the old-school European values on which I was brought up.
“I get a lot of inspiration from people and their life stories. I focus on creating quality TV that helps people educate themselves, get knowledge, grow, and unite.”

And could you please tell me more about your experience being a judge at the Emmys?

Victor Migalchan: It was intense. We had a lot of shows to review and give our feedback on. I think it took me more than three or four days to watch all of the shows which were in my category. It was definitely interesting. I learned a lot about what the studios were creating and how. It showed me what the market is lacking and how I can make it better. It was another learning process for me. It was a privilege to be chosen to be a judge at the Emmys. In 2022 I was invited to serve as a judge at the Creative Industry Awards in the UK, which was another great experience.

And what are the most common mistakes in storytelling?

Victor Migalchan: I don't think that there is such a thing as “common mistakes in storytelling”. I’d say that a lot of mistakes are being made because of a lack of proper marketing research and planning. The first step in creating a story is doing marketing research. A lot of people make mistakes just by thinking: “Oh, my story's so amazing, I'm a great writer”. We have thousands of writers only here in LA. Can they deliver an efficient project from the business point of view? That is the question. In my case, what I do is I always start development backward: we start with marketing first. When we develop our scripts we use math and we go from editing. To me - it's all about efficiency. You cannot come to Hollywood and be like everyone else. Especially you cannot have and should not have the studio mindset. Sure, for the studios it does not matter how much money they spend, it is about how much they make. However in order to get there to that level you have to be efficient first. You have to be able to perform what others cannot. The way we create scripts is always math and marketing-based. Even a monkey can make a film with $100 million. Can you make it with $50,000 or less? That is the art and that is the question. This is when business knowledge comes in handy. Efficiency is a very important key to success. The way we create our scripts is always based on math and marketing research. We never waste resources, especially time. Locations, actors’ time, nothing shall be wasted. This type of approach helped us to finish filming one of our shows about 12 days sooner than expected, which helped save a lot of money.
“The way we create scripts is always math and marketing-based. Even a monkey can make a film with $5 billion. Even a monkey can make a film with $100 million. Can you make it with $50,000 or less? That is the art and that is the question. This is when business knowledge comes in handy.”

Do you have a preference for a particular genre?

Victor Migalchan: I am interested in a few different genres however I do not have a preferred one. It is not about the genre, it is always about a good story. If it is an interesting story, I would love to work on it. I feel like at this point in life I love working on sitcoms on television and drama and thrillers in film. After I finish all my current projects I will focus more on feature films.

What TV shows do you enjoy watching when you are not producing or directing?

Victor Migalchan: When you work in show business watching films and tv shows becomes a part of your work. It all depends on your goal. The main reason why I usually watch TV shows and films is to educate myself, not just for the sake of watching. I love learning from Quentin Tarantino's films, Martin Scorsese, Steven Spielberg, and James Cameron. Those guys are brilliant. If you want to get to the top, you have to learn from people who are on top. I think that Doug Allen stands out with pretty funny humor. Paul Haggis is a great professional. The creators of Friends are really brilliant. I mean, there are so many amazing professionals to learn from.
“The question of cultural representation in Hollywood has been discussed so many times. This is one of the reasons why My American Family was created. My goal was to break stereotypes, show authentic cultures and introduce Central, Eastern European and Russian cultures.”

What do you think about Russian filmmakers trying to create shows about Russians? Have you seen anything like that lately? We don't really see any stories about the experiences of the Russian or Eastern European people. How do you feel about it?

Victor Migalchan: That is a good question. The question of cultural representation in Hollywood has been discussed so many times. This is one of the reasons why My American Family was created. My goal was to break stereotypes, show authentic cultures and introduce Central, Eastern European and Russian cultures. I was educated by many cultures in Europe as well as Chinese, which is why I pursue this goal of presenting authentic cultures, uniting and connecting people. We have more in common than we think. There are so many forces that try to separate us and we work toward unity.

Getting back to your question: What might be the obstacle that keeps them away from achieving their goal is their ability to tell the story. It is important for a storyteller to learn the Hollywood style and way of storytelling. It is a process of self-education and work with experienced writers. They will help you present your ideas in a way that the audience will understand, accept, will relate and share. Of course, filmmakers have to analyze everything from the marketing standpoint and when the project is ready — present it well. Only then there is a chance that it will appeal to the American audience.
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