This fellow Indian Hong Konger is working day and night to create a much-needed platform for Asian talent. He has been at it since his college days and has been successful in bringing to us a number of untold Asian stories through Dream On and Off The Cuff.
We at HKYantoYan.com go behind the scenes and bring to you the story of this multi-talented Producer, TV Host, Actor and Entrepreneur – Nick Daryanani for our series of interviews with select Indians in Hong Kong.
Q) Tell us a bit about yourself. Your early childhood, schooling and growing up in HK.
I was raised in Hong Kong and went to KGV. I had a really fun childhood, loved playing cricket and grew up with 3 brothers in the house. Having 4 boys under one roof was real chaos for my parents, but we all look upon it extremely fondly now.
I always loved Drama and Cricket, spent most of my time either on the field or doing theatre. It was hard to pick between the two, but anyone who saw me playing cricket will be very glad I picked producing and acting as a career.
Q) Tell us about 24 Frames, what have you done, are working on etc.
24 Frames is my production company that I started with my business partner, Brad Wayburne. There are two facets to the business: one is the passionate, creative side where we make shows and entertainment like Off The Cuff or shows for Food Network.
The other side of the business is the commercial side where we have been lucky enough to work with some incredible brands such as CNBC, WSJ, Tag Heuer, North Face, JLL, Barclays, Sotheby’s and others.
Our aim is to create truly culturally diverse entertainment and to tell Asia’s untold stories. No matter what you watch, whether it’s a TV show or a commercial, if it doesn’t have a good story you are never going feel emotionally invested. I think a lot of today’s film-makers forget that, so we take film-making back to the basics and simply tell really great stories.
Having a really strong team at 24 has allowed me to innovate and create my own shows and films, which has always been my dream.
Q) Tell us a bit about Off The Cuff, how did it come about?
After watching tonnes of amazing American talk shows, we just felt like there isn’t something that celebrates talent in Asia the way they do in the States and Europe.
Asia is so diverse – with hundreds of different languages and regions. We wanted to create a platform for Asian talent to represent its uniqueness and diversity. Off the Cuff seemed like a great starting point. When it all started, Brad and I talked about it and we decided if we were going to make a talk show it needed a twist.
We didn’t have the Jimmy Kimmel/Fallon budgets to build a huge set with a faux skyline of New York or L.A. so we were going to show our audience a real one and that’s how the idea to use the tram came about.
Q) When did you decide that you want to be in the entertainment business? What was the reaction of your family? Did your parents want you to join any particular profession/ business?
I’ve always been passionate about Drama. When I told my parents I wanted to go to acting school they were worried. I can’t blame them. This career is extremely uncertain and if you don’t play your cards right you can end up pretty devastated. I remember sitting down with them and agreeing that if I would get a degree, I could pursue any career I chose. A few years later, I
graduated from Exeter with a degree in Psychology. Little did they know the second I got to England all I did was write and produce and act in student TV shows and films.
My first production was called ‘Beige’ – a story about 5 students with diverse racial and cultural backgrounds. They were forced to live together due to a shortage of student accommodation and end up solving hilarious crimes around campus. The show got nominated for best drama at the National Student Television Awards UK.
I think it was after that, that my parents realised that nothing would stop me pursuing my dreams. They rallied behind me and supported me all the way, which was really endearing. They really are and have always been my strength in life.
Q) What are some of the challenges you faced early on, and still face now in terms of being in the industry (and if any challenges being of Indian descent)? Any incidents, good/bad/ weird experiences?
I think it’s been a real mixed bag. I came up with a similar idea to Off The Cuff a little while ago and approached a quite well-known media company with a partnership deal. After discussing the project at length and a lot of back and forth, I was told candidly that due to my “Cultural Differences” I wouldn’t be a good fit to present my own show. I remember walking out of that meeting bubbling with anger… I was adamant that I’d prove them wrong.
The idea evolved and we ended up partnering with the awesome Sassy Media and shot Season one of Off The Cuff. I ball-parked the views at around 5,000 estimated for the first episode. I told our editor I’d attempt to swim from Hong Kong Island to Kowloon in our glorious harbour if we
beat that. We opened to 45,000 views, luckily he never held me to my word.
Q) As someone of Indian descent and in the entertainment industry – do you feel like you’re representing India or Indians in Hong Kong in any way? Or is that not something you actively think of?
I certainly feel proud of my heritage and culture, that being said growing up there weren’t enough people that I could look up to on the screen. Whilst that is slowly changing with outstanding talent like Aziz Ansari, Hasan Minaj and Priyanka Chopra, I want my work to be a representation of the fact that anyone can do it.
If there is a young boy or girl out there who is worried that they aren’t good enough because of their race, culture or skin colour, I want them to know that they can do anything they set their mind to.
You just got married – congratulations!
Q) Indian weddings, especially for Indians living abroad, are a big affair. Tell us a bit about your experience?
Thanks so much, I am over the moon! We’ve been together since she was 15 and I was 16 so a fair few years! She’s my best friend and my partner in crime in every way. It’s quite tough getting started in a career like media where before you’ve even started people are already second-guessing your chances of success, but she was there for me every step of the way regardless of how tough the journey has been. I really owe a lot of my success to her.
The wedding itself I’d say were some of the best days of my life. Our best friends were all there our families it was just an incredible feeling. Indian weddings take an insane amount of time to plan, despite having a year and three-month-long engagement we just didn’t feel like we have enough time. Looking back in hindsight all the little things we were worried about just didn’t matter when we were actually there surrounded by the people we love most.
Q) What career path would you choose if not the entertainment business?
I am almost certain I’d be a chef. My wife and I are going to open a restaurant or cafe at some point in our lives, we both just love food and cooking.
Q) What’s in store for the future? For you, Off the Cuff, 24 Frames and any other venture.
I am currently setting up a base in London so will be between London and Hong Kong a lot. We plan to launch the next season of OTC in London and then come back home and do season 4 here.
Thanks to Off the Cuff, there’s a bunch of other shows I’ve been asked to produce and star in, picking the right opportunities are key in this industry.
I am also working on a project called Staying Alive which drama/comedy series about three misguided foreign expats who are looking to make their mark on cinema in Hong Kong. It’s a hilarious project and it represents foreign film-makers in Hong Kong and Asia. A lot of the stories have come from our actual lives. We will have a few private screenings for the press in October later this year but are in the midst of working on distribution deals for the show.
That is quite an inspiring journey and yet has a long path ahead! We all wish immense luck to Nick Daryanani!
Do you know another Indian in Hong Kong who’s story should be shared on www.HKYantoYan.com? Let us know in the comments section below, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org