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Rising Star Hanna Zakouri: “Goodness truly is already within all of us; It’s a matter of finding it and bringing it forth to whatever it is you do; Starting to love oneself is the foundation of good relationships, health, education and professional success”

I’d have Eckhart Tolle’s The power of Now be a required educational reading. Goodness truly is already within all of us. It’s a matter of finding it and bringing it forth to whatever it is you do. I believe living fully in the present and starting to love one self is the foundation of good relationships, health, […]

I’d have Eckhart Tolle’s The power of Now be a required educational reading. Goodness truly is already within all of us. It’s a matter of finding it and bringing it forth to whatever it is you do. I believe living fully in the present and starting to love one self is the foundation of good relationships, health, education and professional success. Our relationships with others are what makes the world go round. As explained in the book, they can be our biggest obstacle but most importantly they are the door to enlightenment. The fear of missing out has become so pervasive. Our industry changes not just decade to decade or year to year, but on a 24/7 basis. Younger generations need to be more conscious of the present and less worried with regrets or about the future.


As a part of my series about pop culture’s rising stars, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Hanna Zakouri. Born and raised in Paris, Hanna was originally trained in Art Direction & Graphic Design but realized early on in her career that she loved bringing ideas to life and talents together to create great imagery.

For the past 6 years, she managed productions and assisted Directors in Paris and New York.

She worked alongside Directors, Illustrators, Editors, Creatives, Strategists, Producers and Developers at Sid Lee and BBDO to produce print, video and digital campaigns.

In 2016, she assisted Ryan Staake with commercials and music videos at Pomp&Clout. She assisted Director Nathan Silver on his indie black comedy “The Great Pretender” which premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival. As well as managed the production of Kris Lefcoe’s comedy pilot “Giving up”.

She became Head production manager of Parallel Studio in Paris in 2018.

Her multidisciplinary creative experience and love for craftsmanship enable her to set up an environment for talents to develop labors of love and ultimately drive projects forward.

She’s currently Senior Producer at Meero in New York. Meero is the on-demand professional photography start-up and France’s newest unicorn (clients include AirbnbPlus, UberEats, Knotel, Minthouse,Foodora, Door)


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?

Igrew up in a Jewish modern orthodox Family right outside of Paris in France. I have 2 younger brothers I’m the daydreamer one! I studied art direction in advertising and worked in Paris for 2 years. I was headstrong and focused on breaking free from my suburb life and being independent. I moved to New York when I was 22 to study Film production at the New School and make my daydream come true.

Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?

I was a huge fan of the TV show Prison Break and binged on their making-off and behind-the-scenes. That’s how I got hooked into Filmmaking. I realized Production is like music, it requires harmony and therefore a conductor. I truly had this moment of realization that my passion could be my job and decided to become a Producer.

Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

Back in 2016, I was assisting Director Ryan Staake when he had the most brilliant idea — making a music video about making a music video where the star didn’t show up on set: Young Thug’s song “Wyclef Jean” got more than a million views in 24 hours.Young Thug ‘Wyclef Jean’ Director on How He Saved His Nightmare ShootThe music video for Young Thug’s song “Wyclef Jean” was released late last night, and has become an instant sensation…www.rollingstone.com

Ryan is the founder of the Brooklyn-based production company Pomp&Clout. Assisting him and coordinating production for a year was without a doubt the most interesting, insightful and fun experience I’ve had professionally. Ryan’s boldness and non-traditional viewing experience taught me to look at my potential ingredients like a box of Legos. He embraces technological disruption and masters the art of finding a visual hook to convey an idea. I got to experiment and produce VR content for Facebook and the Museum of Sex. With projects like Dope Dealer and Adidas collaboration with Alexander Wang, I got to experiment and learn more about VFX tools, techniques and camera technologies. Working with such talented team truly reinforced my love for the craft of filmmaking.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

It’s not really funny because money was wasted but it did become a private joke in the office. One of our client had ordered a pricy custom-made table with purple swing chairs for a pop-up event. The delivery of this huge piece of furniture didn’t go as planned and didn’t make it on time to the event. I can’t say more but let’s just say we had to keep the table at the agency.

I learned to never assume anything, always ask questions and to triple check every detail in whatever it is I’m doing. The creative industry is collaborative which makes it a source of great positivity and inspiration but since it involves a lot of people, information can get lost easily if you’re not cautious and pro-active.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?

I’m Senior Producer at Meero in New York. I produce photo and video shoots Trial phases for every new client. It’s a challenging and rewarding position because it’s my role to ensure the success of the production and the quality of the medias delivered in order to partner with new brands. I work alongside the Operations department, Client success managers, Editors and of course the photographers/videographers themselves.

What’s exciting is I get to experience AI as a collaborator. It is challenging creatives roles in the sense that it’s creating new tools and allowing us to experiment new outcomes. Most importantly, it’s allowing us to earn invaluable time.

As far as personal projects, I’m producing a couple photoshoots with photographer Neige Thébault. One of them involves shooting dancers in a greenhouse in New York so I’m excited. I’m also in the early process of curating a mixed media exhibition with talents from the Lower East side (where I live) around the theme of the mind.

We are very interested in diversity in the entertainment industry. Can you share three reasons with our readers about why you think it’s important to have diversity represented in film and television? How can that potentially affect our culture?

Thankfully, I feel like the movement towards greater diversity has accelerated. Whether it’s gender inequality, race, religion, age, disabilities. It’s a long-standing issue which affects our culture because it has the power to construct our perception of the world we live in. We must give a voice to voiceless communities and craft more accurate portrayals, find intriguing stories to demonstrate the plurality and reality of our world.

#1 — Creativity thrives on diversity, it’s intrinsic to the process of creating. The more influences, the more authentic and interesting will be the work. Whatever it might be. The storyteller is as important as the story and diversity influences both how and what stories are told. The world has never been about one story or one vision, it’s everyone’s vision. It’s a story of many coming together. Each voice is another color or flavor to the melting pot. Plurality in Film and Television means more diverse and true stories are being told and that is crucial to collaboration and to conversation.

#2 — Representation matters because it has an educational impact on audiences. The entertainment industry has a profound impact on our psyche and therefore on our culture. Medias influence how we view ourselves and how we view others. Diversity is essential to the future because the talent pool of the future is being shaped. The world we live in is complex and is a mosaic of languages, religion, cultures and history. People need to see themselves as well as “the others” represented in stories and it can’t be limited to “positive” stereotypes. We can’t live in a diverse world but portray a homogenous one.It would feed the social distance that already separates different groups. The creative industry is being challenged with new tools, new ways to communicate and to share knowledge, so the need for a balanced on-screen and behind-the-camera world has never been more important. What’s at stake now and the complexity is that it takes couple seconds to successfully get an idea across with an audience.

#3 — Inclusion and diversity are essential for the good of the world as well as for business opportunities. There’s an established relationship between diversity and performance. Embracing a more diverse entertainment industry increases the quality of its output and broaden its audience. Ultimately, having a diverse range of stories makes it easier for more people to relate to the content. There is higher engagement when people feel like something applies to them. A wide range of voices and perspectives is a driving force. Diversity among the Cast & Crew improves access to talent and strengthen employee engagement. It also enhanced decision making and depth of consumer insight, which are key to any successful project. Intelligent insight generates engagement and engagement drives conversation and conversion.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

#1 — Never stop working on your craft and perfect it. Define what your personal taste is. Why should someone choose you over another freelancer/creative? It’s so important to work on your personal projects just as hard as commissioned ones. First because that’s how you get to experiment without any limits but your own, which is pure delight let’s be honest. Second, because you never know who’s going to see your work. Chances are personal work will become commissioned work and commission work will feel personal. That’s when I personally feel the most accomplished. Parallel Studio’s Unsatisfying series of animations is a great example. The 3 creative directors won a Vimeo Staff Pick and a Motion Award. Their personal summer project was highly successful and it inspired commissioned projects — Happy Loops for Dacia and a Christmas animation for The New York Times.

#2 — Be patient. It’s the most important skill in production: On the job — because YES you are going to be chasing people for invoices. As well as in-between jobs: Do not wait for opportunities to come your way, make them happen. I personally left my amazing Producer job and beloved team at Sid Lee Paris to see what New York had to offer. I believe we make our own lucky breaks.

#3 — Start in a small tight-knit team where you’ll explore multiple disciplines. That’s where you’ll learn the most because that’s where you’ll get to do the most. For me, working at Sid Lee Paris was the most hands-on experience I’ve ever gotten. I learned so much from my co-workers and clients, both technic and collaboration. Their openness to figuring out the unknown, paired with deep caring and learning for and from one another has gotten me where I am right now personally and professionally.

#4 — Get credits . No matter how behind-the-scenes your contribution was. If you participated in a project and you’re proud of the work you’ve done, get your name out there. Make it tangible, it will be a personal accomplishment and it will come in handy. Your portfolio will speak for itself. One of my favorite part of the job is meeting a talent (wether it’s a photographer, illustrator, sound designer) and listen to them speak about their craft and labors of love. You will be called again to do more of the same.

#5 — Hope for the best but prepare for the worst. When something goes wrong, take a deep breath, focus and ride the chaos. I learned this early enough from producing commercials and music videos.

The creative industry and producing in general come with their own — sometimes trivial — stresses but if you’re prepared enough you will anticipate issues and problem-solve creatively.

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

To thrive, definitely the importance of assisting great mentors and having skilled collaborators along the way to push any vision. Ask questions and pick their brains. Personally it all began working alongside the Heads of production at Sid Lee Paris and Art buying at BBDO Paris. They’ve taught me passion and dedication to details makes all the difference. Even later on as Head Production manager of Parallel Studio, the Founders-Creative Directors taught me the importance of great craft and how every story deserves it.

To not burn out, I’d recommend the skill of patience. To be mindful that you’re going to be learning for the rest of your life. Once again, the creative industry doesn’t exist without synergy, so I believe it’s important to be a person that’s easy to work with. Be kind to everyone, avoid gossip, respect and value people’s time. I also strongly believe taking a lunch break the French way truly helps. Do not eat at your desk. Get some fresh air, listen to music, call your Mom, spend time with friends and family. Take the opportunity to break and breathe a little.That’s when the best ideas and encounters come along.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I’d have Eckhart Tolle’s The power of Now be a required educational reading. Goodness truly is already within all of us. It’s a matter of finding it and bringing it forth to whatever it is you do. I believe living fully in the present and starting to love one self is the foundation of good relationships, health, education and professional success. Our relationships with others are what makes the world go round. As explained in the book, they can be our biggest obstacle but most importantly they are the door to enlightenment. The fear of missing out has become so pervasive. Our industry changes not just decade to decade or year to year, but on a 24/7 basis. Younger generations need to be more conscious of the present and less worried with regrets or about the future.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

Ryan Staake for giving me the opportunity to work with him and trusting me from the moment we met!

After graduating from the New School in 2016, I was looking for a job where I would get hands-on experience and wear multiple hats. I emailed and called many New-York-based creative studios. The whole team at Pomp&Clout had that “chasing the creative-high” mindset that I was yearning for.

Most importantly, they were as kind and down to earth as they were talented. Whether it was in Ad agencies, creative studios or Film sets I’ve been lucky to work with kind-hearted, truly passionate and hard-working people. I have learned to really look out for the people I’m working with. Ultimately they will be the ones defining the outcome and quality of what I will produce.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

Tracht gut vet zein gut” from the Tzemach Tzedek (third Lubavitcher Rebbe). It means “Think good, and it will be good” in Yiddish.

I truly believe the mere exercise of thinking and speaking positively produces positive results. Life is essentially good and positive perception and living is a matter of choice. We each own a personalized lens which frames and distorts the way we see ourselves and the world around us. In order to live in the most meaningful and effective way possible, I’ve learned that I need to adjust my default frames. Once you realize there’s good in everything, you see the world and handle its obstacles differently.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

David Attenborough because his voice brings joy to my heart and because I could learn from his storytelling skills.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

On instagram @zakookoo

This was very meaningful, thank you so much!

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