Ep 38 | Fassa Sar - How I Became One of Sony Pictures Youngest Executives (And Why I Left To Change Hollywood Networking)

Credit: Sony Pictures


Note: Please be aware this transcript is generated by AI, there will be small inconsistencies with the published podcast. Direct quotes are not attributable to the host or guest.  

Mike: [00:00:00] Hello, Mike here. Today's guest is the fantastic FASA sar, formerly one of the youngest ever executives at Sony Pictures, and now co-founder of a new filmmaking collaboration platform, Callo. In the episode, we discussed fast's journey from politics to media, how she strategically planned her career to become an executive as quickly as possible, what it's like to work in film acquisitions and how to get your own film bought by a Hollywood studio and discussion of her goal to break down barriers in film and television with her new company.

That's enough of me. Here we go.

Hello and welcome to Red Carpet Rookies. My name is Mike Battle, a film crew member turn screenwriter working in London. Each episode I bring you life lessons and stories from the people behind your favorite movies and shows to help demystify the business for aspiring filmmakers and fans alike. Thanks for joining me.

Let's get started. [00:01:00] Today's guest began her career as one of the youngest ever executives at Sony, where she was part of the team that brought the now iconic, fully onscreen movie, searching to our screens, as well as many other projects such as Broken Hearts Gallery executive produced by none other than Selena Gomez.

Since then, like a young Reid Hastings, she's made the move into the world of media and technology with her film and TV networking company, Callo. My guest is Far Saar. How are you doing

Fassa: today? So good. Thank you so much, Mike, for having me.

Mike: No, it's great to have you here, FARA. Now I ask all of my guests the same first question, funny enough, and that is, what did your parents do and did it affect your career choices moving forward?

Fassa: Yeah, this is such a good question. I, it's hilarious because I think like many kids, they go exactly what their parents did. They go the opposite direction. Um, but funny enough, I, you know, I grew up with a single mom and so my mom was really like my mother and my dad. Um, and [00:02:00] so I really just looked to her as kind of this person in my life as.

Doing everything. And so she had the opportunities to work at all these different tech companies because I grew up here in San Francisco Bay Area. So she worked for Apple and PayPal and, and launching these incredible products. And so I kind of saw this and I was like, this is exactly what I don't wanna do.

I don't wanna even be close to this. Um, and I think. Really looking at her as kind of this pinnacle in my life and, and seeing, okay, this is what you can do, this is what you can accomplish. But for me, I think I was like, this is technology. This is progression. I wanna kind of do something else where it's really focused on, on kind of tradition and legacy businesses.

And so I went kind of this route of, of going into media and entertainment and even touching into, and policy and politics for a little bit. But I think because my mom was so exciting and and kind of exhilarating and trying to look for the future, I did [00:03:00] exactly the opposite. I was like, this is not what I wanna do.

But it's

Mike: interesting that I guess you've come full circle now, coming back to the tech world, but now with learnings along the way, so obviously you've got there in the end, but prior to that, you followed politics and then media. Could you talk a little bit about that?

Fassa: Yeah. Yeah. So because I grew up in, in the Bay Area, I think, you know, I grew up in Berkeley.

I grew up in Oakland. I think one of the biggest things that we're known for is kind of this activism and policy making and, and kind of, when you think about uc, Berkeley, and, and hippies even, uh, you think about this idea of like, okay, we are standing for something. And so I went into politics very early and decided to be a political science major, even in college because I said, Noah, I think I could really help people.

I think this is what I'm meant to do. I think I'm meant to support others who have a little voice or not, you know, not have the resources to even have a voice or even be in the room. [00:04:00] And so I thought, okay, well what if I go down that pathway of, of policymaking and what if I could be a politician? You know?

And I even thought about that and played with that for a while. And so I went and I worked on a few different campaigns like Kamala Harris, um, Harris's campaign for. Senate. And then I also worked as a fellow for a congressman in Washington, DC and I just remember this moment of like being in the Capitol building and in Washington DC and kind of just saying like, oh, like there's something about this that I just don't love.

You know, there's this privilege and this, um, kind of elitism. And I remember being in line, getting my badge at the Capitol building and you know, you're in this line. Trying to kind of just get your badge and giving people your name. Then you're seeing kind of someone to your left and someone to your right who's also in line, and one person goes to Harvard and the other person goes to Yale and you're like, okay, I, I don't know if I belong here at all.

Um, [00:05:00] and so I think for me, I was very much like, I believe in the cause and I believe in helping people have a voice. But is this from the. Perspective of policy and, and kind of law making. And so I kind of just went down this pathway, but realizing that, you know, the way that we look at kind of communities and society is never by law, it's never really by regulation, but it's actually by, by the, what we see on television and what we see in film and storytelling.

And so I said, you know what, what if I could actually. You know, help people the way that I want to, like using my kind of this through line, but do it in another place in in, in the world, which is like in Hollywood. And so that's kind of how I made it to, to this like crazy life of, of working in film and television.

But it was this moment of like, I wanna do something that is fruitful, that could help people have a voice. But in this case it was help people have a creative voice.

Mike: Amazing. So gimme the play by pay. [00:06:00] You are, Inter politics, you're in the White House, et cetera, you know, capital building. And I'm sure there's lots of people out there who are in an equivalent, you know, another career basically.

Mm-hmm. And they want to work in media or film, tv, Hollywood, it's very easy to often listen to people and be like, and then I became one of the youngest executives at Sony. Could you gimme the play by play of what happened in between? And also, Your opinion on joining Hollywood, because one could also argue that that is also quite a privileged world.

Mm-hmm. Yeah,

Fassa: exactly. Definitely very privileged. Just from another angle, um, I kind of went into media and entertainment because I had this experience in, in Washington DC and, you know, when I first tried to go into median entertainment, I was still in college at this time. Um, I was still, I was living in Los Angeles and I, you know, I.

Thought, okay, well if I'm in Los Angeles, it should be so easy to like get a job, right? Like, this is, this is, I'm not a director. I'm, I'm not a writer. I, [00:07:00] I wanna be on the business side. Like, I, I felt that I had, I had worked in Washington, DC like in, in this kind of most business oriented place. Like, how come I can't get a job in, in entertainment?

This doesn't make any sense. So I started just applying and this was definitely, you know, During the time of, like, LinkedIn was still coming through in the media and entertainment, um, world. And so I just started applying to places and I just kept getting rejection notices, uh, rejection letters over and over and over.

And I just kept restructuring my resume and I was like, I just don't understand, like, what do I need to add in here? Like, more creative, um, kind of adjectives. Like what, what makes sense? Um, and I just remember, you know, being so defeated about this and I called my mom and I was just like, I don't understand why I can't get a job in this, in this realm.

And she kind of said to me like, why do you want a job in this realm? This doesn't make any sense. And so it was just kind of like, you know, she was so, so [00:08:00] supportive of me, but I think at the. Same time, she kind of had this idea of like, oh, you should be over here, so don't worry about it. And I just, I felt very defeated about it.

But then finally I got this internship at Variety Magazine and this interview was like the most, the craziest interview I had because it was so unlike anything I had been through. You know, it was very much resume work, experience, focus. But then, you know, she was asking me questions of like, What's your favorite movie and what's your favorite television show and like, um, what, who's your favorite director?

And just, it was very emotional interview and I just remember thinking myself like, this is exactly where I wanna be, because I love, I love entertainment and I love media and I love storytelling. And so she had. Said, you know what? You are the most like untraditional, unconventional intern that we've ever had.

But let's go. Like, I will hire you and this will be like the mark. And so this was, you know, variety Magazine. It sits very different from kind of the rest of [00:09:00] the industry, but it is a definitely a part of the ecosystem and is a real voice in the ecosystem. So I think that was like my first kind of foray into media and entertainment.

And then from there, I, uh, you know, I got a internship at United Talent Agency. I did work in the mail room a little bit. Um, and I, that was very strategic because I was like, I don't wanna be an assistant. I have to figure out a way not to be an assistant, not to work in the mail room. Uh, but I will do it as an intern.

And so I kind of just went down this pathway and then finally, I remember getting kind of a call from Sony picture saying, okay, hey, like, we have something open for, for an assistant. And I just, I thought to myself like, again, I don't wanna be an assistant. Like, why does everyone, because when you're. In the San Francisco Bay area, the idea of being assistant is very much for C-Suite.

It's like you're a secretary. Mm-hmm. And so there is not really this idea of like being assistant in as [00:10:00] like a job to get to the next level. Um, and so I don't think that I came with that kind of upbringing. And so it was very foreign to like my friends and my family. Like they didn't really understand that.

And also too, like to be an assistant and only make like. $30,000 a year or $40,000 a year was just like not really heard of. Um, and so I think I definitely had to kind of just get into this, this mindset of like, I'm going to be an executive. Like I will do anything to be an executive. So I will be very results driven.

I'll move from this job and then I'll only stay in, in, in this job for one year and then I'll only do this role for two years. And then I was very, um, Just very key about how long I would stay in my roles and, and figuring out like, how can I get to the next level by also getting the experience that I need, making the relationships that I need with directors and with writers, and being able to use that as my [00:11:00] mote and then being able to go to the next place.

Mike: Interesting. I like how strategic you are. It's very clever. I can, I can feel it coming off you. So you became the executive there and you were in acquisitions. Mm-hmm. Could you tell us a little bit about what that is and then also why you left it? Because I'm interested to know. You were obviously with that statistic, you know, which I'm banding around and I'm sure everybody else does about you, that you, you run for a big career at Sony, so that must have been hard to turn away

Fassa: from it.

Yeah, of course. I think, you know, I was sitting in a, in a position where, and I had an incredible team. Um, the acquisitions team at Sony Pictures is remarkable because the way that it operates, it's very, Um, very communal. It's, uh, everyone really has a voice. Everyone has a, a seat at the table to make a decision about a project, um, but also to this idea that like, you have a point of view and you're here for a reason.

And so with that though, it creates this kind of idea of like, [00:12:00] you have to be a grown up in the room very, very young. Mm-hmm. And so, as I mentioned before, I kind of, I. You know, was very strategic about my roles and, and so I did feel like a little bit of like an imposter because I was just thinking to myself like, oh my goodness, I have a point of view, I have a voice, but like I'm, I moved through so quickly and I, and I think one thing about my career that I, and I noticed about kind of myself and how other people talk about me is like, I really jumped before I'm ready.

I really do. I really kind of go into it thinking to myself, I know I'm gonna gain so, so much, and so yeah, why don't I just put myself out there as, as much as possible and, and figure out like, how can I get the tools, ask for what I need to be able to get to the next level. And so I definitely think in, in the acquisitions world, that's very important because you have to be able to be really fast and get projects really quickly.

You have to meet, uh, creatives in the most unconventional places that [00:13:00] no one knows, and you need to be able to kind of get to the table. First, and so I definitely kind of, I created that, that mission for myself while I was at Sony and, and I know that all the other executives really did have a, have that as well, but we all sat at very different sides of the table.

And so being an acquisitions executive is very, Different, I would say, than being really on the development side because you're looking at projects from all different stages, from like very, very, very early, early stage where you know, there's just a director, sometimes just like a director, writer, and maybe a producer to like, okay, now there's a more creative team.

There's heads of departments. Um, okay, could we potentially finance this now? To, okay, maybe not now, but maybe during production. And then we start to see some dailies. We start to see some, some of the work come through and then we're like, uh, maybe, maybe not right now. Like maybe we need to see it, um, after the film is done.

And so then we wait and we go to all the different film festivals and then, you know, hopefully [00:14:00] that film is playing at a festival. And then we say, okay, actually, This is where we should come in and, you know, and that's really what happened with searching. It was very much like, okay, maybe not right now.

Maybe not right now. Maybe not right now. Okay, now this is the perfect time. And, and now we see that this is going to be an unconventional film that's going to, to really make a, make a staple in cinema. So that's kind of, you know, the idea of acquisitions and that's also the flexibility of acquisitions, which is so different than I think in creative development.

Mike: Interesting. And for the listeners that I'm sure would want to ask, it's a difficult question, but is there anything you've picked up from that time on them asking the question, how do I get my film acquired?

Fassa: Yeah, definitely. I, you know, it's funny because I, I would say that there are different ways in which, um, you know, there are pipelines that sit.

In, in how ac, how acquisitions teams usually look for, for projects. Um, you know, the, the very smart acquisition executives [00:15:00] will typically move away from those conventional pathways, and they will start with, okay, who are the filmmakers that I really love because I have seen their short film, or I've seen their first film and now they're onto their sophomore film and now I'm tracking them.

And so it's this idea of like, okay, how can I track this? This filmmaker, um, and this team, and then see what they do next. So those are for like the very, very smart acquisition executives. And then there's of course the more traditional pathways where it's like you go to agencies, you have relationships with agencies, and then you of course have, um, your festivals.

And so those have historically been like the different pathways. Now from the perspective of a filmmaker, the idea then would be like, okay, well you should just. Try to figure out how can you be in a festival or how can you be represented by a agency, or how can you get on, you know, on the radar of a studio or acquisitions team.

And so I would say all of those, all those pathways are quite rigid, really. [00:16:00] Um, except for the pathway of, you know, again, being on, on the radar of an acquisitions executive. I definitely would say those pathways are very outdated now because of just all the bottleneck that happens and the gatekeeping that happens.

And that's something that, you know, I'm really, really focused on and, and kind of what I, uh, I didn't answer this question really before of like why I turned away, but it's like I. Because you have these kind of specific traditional pathways that you're supposed to look at. And if you're not looking at those, or if you are only looking at those, then you essentially have to, you're essentially.

Not able to look past that, look out of the box. And I think I became really kind of frustrated with that. Um, I became frustrated with this idea of like, I can only look here and I can't look anywhere else. Um, and I think definitely as a filmmaker there needs to be more visibility and there needs to be more pathways to visibility.

And I don't think that we have enough. And that's [00:17:00] exactly why, you know, that this idea of Callow really came to be because if you only have those three kind of rigid pathways, Then it becomes very disheartening and there's a lack of option. So I definitely think that that's something we have to work on as an industry.


Mike: agree. Thank you for that lovely answer. Now, could you tell us a little bit about what color is? I can tell there that obviously you used the word outdated for some of the old industry ways of going about things, and how does your idea fix that? I guess.

Fassa: Yeah, so Callo is a digital platform that connects creatives, production companies and studios.

One of the biggest things that, you know, I saw while at Sony was the inability to build a team. So, you know, there's this idea that if you just had the right people around you, if you just had the right collaborators and your team would be your, your project would be made. Um, and so what we really kind of looked at was like, Okay.

Well, why are the, what are the, some of the reasons why creative teams can't be built? One, because not enough [00:18:00] people have the visibility. Um, they don't have the access, they don't have the resources. It's already really difficult to get a, to even make a movie or to make a television project. It's like, why do we have to put extra hurdles and just finding the right collaborators.

So whether it's finding that right producer or finding that right writing part. Or, you know, really what I saw again at Sony is this kind of idea that if you just had those individuals, then you'd be able to make this movie and you'd be able to come back to Sony. But what if you never got there? Hmm. And so I wanted to really figure out a way to be able to, again, Create a platform that facilitates thoses connections so that you can then go to Sony, that you can then then go to a 24 or Disney or web, wherever it might be.

Um, you know, I really want to be able to kind of democratize the, the access that's given to, to individuals so that they can create and do what they do best. And so really, Callo serves as a way [00:19:00] to connect people so that they can get their projects out sooner and launch them sooner.

Mike: Very cool. Now to play devil's advocate, there are obviously some existing internet ways and of course old school analog ways of people meeting each other in the film and TV industry.

What is it about color that may be different to perhaps a Facebook group? People still unbelievably do still use them.

Fassa: Yeah, they do. They do still use Facebook groups. You know, the, the interesting part about Facebook groups is that they are typically made for people that already know that those Facebook groups exist.

And so what we do at Calo is that we allow for people to find each other through curated recommendations, essentially through matchmaking. The idea that, uh, matchmaking really allows for the right people to come together so that you don't have to waste your time trying to cipher through all of these different networks or groups to be able to find the right people that are perfect for you.

And so one of the things that we had, Seen, [00:20:00] especially through, uh, again, our testing, but also to through, again, experiences and talking to loads of producers and loads of directors. It's like, it's not just about finding anyone, it's about finding the right person for you. And so what we really do is we focus on finding new people based off of your creative taste and your needs and your preferences, and we then curate them right to your inbox.

So it's not really, um, this idea of like spending hours and hours and days and days to be able to find the person that's right for you. It's about being able to get closer to having that meeting so that you can then get closer to collaborating and creating with them. And so that's really how we have positioned the entire platform is through these curated recommendations or matchmaking.

Mike: Sounds very cool. Algorithmic. Uh, sort of people dating instead of, um, Netflix algorithms, that sort of thing. Right, exactly. Exactly. And before we wrap up with a bit of a quickfire at the end, FARA, uh, to bring back to the beginning, what does your [00:21:00] mom who works in tech, think of your now algorithmic, uh, Netflix model.

Fassa: She is, uh, she's very proud. She's very proud. She's, um, she's definitely one of the biggest things is she said, I can't believe you're going into tech like this makes no sense. Um, you know, but she's very excited about technology coming into the media and entertainment sphere. Um, this is one of the, the only.

Really true industries that has been untapped or ripe for innovation. Um, and so if we could just figure out a way to, to just make it more efficient, more accessible, um, and level the playing field, that's, that's what we wanna do and that's why we

Mike: exist. Lovely. Now to wrap up on red carpet rookies, FARA, I always ask the same questionnaire, which is my own ode to in the actor studio.

So if you're ready, I'm gonna bang through them one by one, if that's okay. Yeah, let's go. It. Now number one is what is one of the best pieces of advice you've ever been given?

Fassa: I would say stop looking up, look [00:22:00] around. So definitely look around to your peers. Focus on how you can create community with your peers.

Instead of always feeling like you need to go to that c e o or to that chairman or to that director that has done 20 movies already. Really figuring out how can you create that community. And that's like what Francis for Coppola has done and Martin Scorsese, that's how they've come and been united.

Mike: Very true. There's a good episode of Founders Podcast on that, if anyone wants to check that out. Number two, do you have a favorite film? Oh,

Fassa: this is impossible. This is, this is an impossible question. I would say it's actually a documentary, uh, gyro Dreams of Sushi. Oh, cool. By Miguel?

Mike: Yeah, I haven't seen that.

I'll have to check that one out. Number three. What gives you a reason to get out of bed every day for a day of working the business?

Fassa: Mm. Such a good question. Um, I would say feeling like you're the constant underdog because you're, because you're con how that feeling? Yeah. Cuz you're constantly starving.

You want, you want more. Um, [00:23:00] so definitely, definitely that feeling Very

Mike: true. Number four, which job in the industry would you do if you weren't doing yours?

Fassa: I don't know if this is a job in the industry, but I definitely feel like a lot of people need it, which is to be a therapist for creatives. I would a hundred percent be that the Jonah Hill guy.

Oh yeah, definitely. Okay, so this is a job. This is a real job.

Mike: I. Yeah, he's got that documentary on his therapist, isn't he? On Netflix. Oh, right,

Fassa: right, right, right. Of course. Okay, so this is exactly what I would, I would do. I would be perfect.

Mike: Number five. If you could work with one person, living or dead, who would it be?

Sorry, that's even harder.

Fassa: Mm. Yes. This is hard. I would say James Turrell. I think. James Terrell probably.

Mike: Yeah. Cool. Number six. What is a book, ideally career focused, but doesn't have to be that everyone should read?

Fassa: Yeah. I would say Save the Cat by Blake Snyder. Definitely.

Mike: A classic varying opinions on it in the industry, but it's definitely got some good advice in there.

Fassa: It's definitely, I [00:24:00] mean, it would, I would think that it saved my career a hundred percent. I definitely think I came to it multiple times to be able to really understand story structure and, and the importance of it. So I definitely think it's, it's a book to read.

Mike: Cool. And finally, if you won an Oscar, who would you thank?


Fassa: my mom. That's a boring, that's a boring answer, but,

Mike: but it's the right

Fassa: answer. But it's the right answer. Exactly. Exactly.

Mike: Fantastic. And on that note, we shall bring our conversation to a close. Thank you so much for sharing your journey with us today, fasa and amazing advice from, I can see a very structured, clever career path.

Fassa: Thank you so much, Mike, for having me.

Mike: Thank you for listening to another episode of Red Carpet Rookies. To help us grow and be able to interview more amazing film and TV professionals, please do subscribe and drop us a rating on the Apple Podcast store, on your iPhone or online if you're an Android user.

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Thank you again for listening. We'll see you next time.