An Interview With a Globetrotting Movie Maker

by Anders Bruihler / Apr 28, 2013 / 0 comments

I’ve always liked making videos about various things, and love putting together photos and short clips into something that tells a story. When I was living in Montenegro, Tony Pappa came to make a film about our international school. I was intrigued by what he did, taking photos and videos all around the school during two days. When I saw the final product, I was really impressed with what he had created.


My mom and dad met Tony when they were working in Lithuania at The American International School of Vilnius (AISV). I was four, and in preschool, when Tony made his first school video for AISV. His website says “In 2002, after completing a short promotional film for the American International School of Vilnius, the late William D. Rose (the director) met with Tony and said ‘You’ve got to make more of these. Schools everywhere are going to want a film like this. You can feel the warmth.’” That was how he got started with his business of making promotional videos for international schools.


Tony Pappa


Tony’s a really nice guy, and when he was in Montenegro, he came over to dinner one night. He told us about how he gets to travel the world making short films about international schools, and how he works when and where he wants.


I was fascinated with all of this, and it sounded like a great way to make a living and travel the world at the same time.


Now that I have begun making more videos, I wanted to contact him and ask him some questions about what he does. I wrote a letter to Tony and I sent him a link to my 15 minute project of What We Did in Nepal as an example my work. He answered my six questions.


What is the hardest part of your job?

The hardest part of my job has become data management. It takes a great deal of time to sort through all the images and organize stuff so that it can get to the fun part, which is the editing - that is, aside from the travel aspect.


What kinds of software do you use?

For my work I mostly use Final Cut Pro X & Final Cut 7.0 editing software. I also use Quicktime and Photoshop a lot. When I make a DVD, I use DVD Studio Pro. I have dabbled with iMovie, but it's too simple for the things I need to accomplish.


How long does it take to produce each video?

That's a good question. I usually film for three to four days. It takes another 2 days to get the data in order and the transcripts of the interviews done. Then I can put together a script in a few hours and edit the film in another two to five days, depending on how long the film is. Some clients get five minutes, others get 30. So it really depends. But a good ballpark figure for an average production would be eight days.


What suggestions and tips do you have for making videos?

I just taught a course to 12 middle school aged students in India for one week. The first day I spent almost entirely on the concept of FOCUS. You have to focus first your ideas. Then your scripts. You've got to get all your shots in focus. And have a clear vision of the storyboard for editing, which is easy if you've focused yourself at the start. It goes full circle.

What you did in your film [see my Video of Nepal] was nice. It had a good story and flow. You used a variety of techniques and interlaced still pictures with text and motion. It looks like you had a good storyboard to work with... or at least a solid idea of the flow. That makes a lot of difference. This is why the data management, including transcribing the interviews, is the toughest part for me.

With good focus, then you can start to perfect things like composition and editing. Learn some rules about film making techniques. You are taking this course online now and I used a lot of online short video clips for helping my students during the course.


What advice do you have for someone who wants to make professional videos?

My advice would be to learn as much as you can about the techniques and practice. It's so easy to get ahead of the game now. I wish I was growing up in this age. College and film schools are good for learning about philosophies and theories, but ultimately you can get your hands on the equipment and learn faster on your own these days. Not that I am encouraging anyone not to go to college, but anything you can learn there you can learn through reading and practice.

Making a movie is a great challenge. In Hollywood it requires years of slaving and desperate attempts for work just to catch a break and work on a film. I tried in California for years to get into the industry after film school. It wasn't until I moved abroad that I had the chance to make my first film at AISV - I bet you are in it somewhere.

What I learned from that was to seize on the opportunity and follow through. Now with digital film making if you have a great idea, you can make it for a fraction of what it would cost in Hollywood. And all over the world they are looking for great ideas. So my advice would be to think, live, and work outside of the box (Hollywood) to get that first break... or make that break for yourself.


What have your favorite places been?

It's always been the toughest question to answer. I loved visiting Yemen. I also really like Oman in the Middle East. My favorite country to visit is Italy, though I've probably been to Prague more often. I am a big fan of life in Asia. But I often miss the old town feelings of European cities. Basically, I love new adventures, which is why I don't seem to want to settle down. Which is also why living / working remotely is the wave of the future!



Reading what Tony had to say about videography in general, and also his comments on my videos, was really inspiring. I hope to use them to improve my videos, and possibly start on a career similar to his.


If you want to check out some of Tony’s work, head over to





Anders Bruihler is a member of the Youth Travel Blogging Mentorship Program


Photo courtesy and copyright Tony Pappa