In 2010, Andrew Makadsi graduated from The University of Toledo with dual bachelor’s degrees in film/video and communication. He headed to New York to work in the fashion industry, not as a clothing designer, but as an intern.
These humble beginnings when he worked for free, or nearly free, helped him make contacts in the fashion industry and earn a name for himself. In less than six years, all of that hard work got him noticed, not only in the garment district, but in music industry circles among artists like Beyoncé.Makadsi’s passion for fashion began long before he left the University. Inspired by top clothing designers and the artists who create the images that promote their work, his film class projects often combined his love of photography and art design with his obsession with fashion. Some of his non-class student projects involved fashion design installations, such as one he helped create for a Student Filmmakers Showcase after-party. The party theme and décor essentially comprised an art installation that was film and fashion-based.
He gave credit to his UT teachers as instrumental in his success. He said it was important to have “teachers like Holly [Hey], who convinced me to major in film. I learned a lot of great things, editing and the software tools, and also a lot about other filmmakers.”
He added that the intimacy of the program meant “having teachers who pay attention to you. Holly really saw something in me and inspired me.”
While the UT film program presented Makadsi with opportunities to branch out to explore other artistic venues, it also allowed him to develop his fashion aesthetic on a deeper level.
“I did a film for Tammy’s [Kinsey] class and other classes that leaned toward that vibe, toward that genre. If I was asked to do something different, I would, but they would also let me express my passion,” he said. “This is not to say they weren’t strict and hard, because they were. But they let me do it.”
Another critical aspect of the program was that the technology was up-to-date and readily accessible.
“Everything was so hands-on,” Makadsi said. “The equipment was available all the time. So we always were able to develop an idea that was in our heads.”
Clearly, Makadsi made the most of it.
Holly Hey, UT associate professor of film, concurred: “Andrew was one of the hardest-working students that I ever taught. He set the bar high in my classes, and his work combined excellent technique, complicated storytelling, and emotional honesty. He epitomizes hard work, making the most of opportunity by showing up, giving it your all, and being a generous collaborator.”
It was his collaboration with other artists in New York that created the opportunities for work and projects that brought him recognition. Over time, free projects led to paid gigs and eventually full-time work.
Makadsi said he never wanted to settle into any one area of the industry, which is what intrigued him about art direction. One of his major full-time jobs was with Industrial Color, a creative production and post-production house; it was there that he learned he enjoyed the full spectrum of art direction.
“I would shoot images, do productions, and I realized that I should be an art director, then I could be involved in so many different things not just one thing,” he said.
His work in fashion drew the attention of music artists who were looking for new ideas for videos and tour concepts. He has worked with Kanye West, Jay Z, Swedish House Mafia, Big Sean and others, most notably Beyoncé, starting from the On the Run Tour until Lemonade and the Formation World Tour. He has created the art direction for many of her videos, tour visuals and promotions. Initially, Makadsi said he worked on a few projects and now works for her full time “keeping everything that goes out about her on-brand, from little things to the big things. I’m part of an amazing team. They are just the most creative people.”
Hey said, “I am so happy for Andrew’s success, but I am not at all surprised by it. It was clear to me that he knew what he wanted when he graduated, and that it was really all about how hard he pursued it, working his first jobs without pay, meeting people, making connections, and collaborating with artists in film, fashion, music videos and photography.”
Makadsi has some advice for film students: “Follow your instinct and the voice within, but make sure you work hard. Talent is 20 to 30 percent of what makes you a good filmmaker and artist. But having the discipline and working hard makes the biggest difference.”
He also advised students to get lots of internships and to prepare to be rejected. “I have been rejected from the silliest and dumbest internships. Don’t let it get you down.”
Makadsi added that whether it’s paid work or internships or free work, it should include “having a new challenge every day, having a job that teaches you and takes you to a new level.”
He also encouraged students to be strong self-promoters on social media: “So many people have been hired off Instagram and Tumblr. Be natural. Have [your online portfolio] be a reflection of you and your image. People will want to hire you based on your work and who inspires you. They hire you based on your vision, especially in my industry. Never settle. Even if you think you’re happy with it. Never get too comfortable. Always take it to the next level.”