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Talent, Details, and Creative Risks: What Makes Imposter the Real Deal



Executive producer Avtar Khalsa and producer Alex Brinkman tell LBB what makes the LA and NY-based production company Imposter tick - and why they’re embracing the changes in a post-pandemic industry

Talent, Details, and Creative Risks: What Makes Imposter the Real Deal

Nestled on each coast of the US, you’ll find Imposter. But there’s nothing deceiving about this team. 

A mixture of creative vision and practical know-how tied together by a purposeful thread, Imposter has already made its mark since first popping up almost three years ago. In fact, to really understand the company’s origins, you need to start in Los Angeles. 

“My story is so LA”, laughs founder and executive producer Avtar Khalsa. “In 2003 I was unemployed after leaving my job as Flea’s personal assistant. Shortly afterwards, a friend from my yoga class asked me if I wanted to be a PA on an indie film called 18 Fingers of Death! Yeah, none of that is made up”.

From there, it was a case of Avtar joining up the dots before starting up Imposter. “That film gave me my first credit, and I was hooked! I loved being on-set”. 

For Alex Brinkman, Avtar’s fellow founder and producer, his journey into the industry was no less unique. “Growing up in Montana I was obsessed with filmmaking and knew I wanted to pursue it as a career”, he says. “So I was emailing every production company I could think of and got a reply from Caviar, asking me if I lived in LA. I lied and said ‘sure’, and caught a flight the next morning”. 

It was during Alex’s time with Caviar that the pair’s paths crossed, and they collectively built up a roster of directors which became Imposter. That big step came at the start of 2019 - when the world was a very different place. 

Into The New World

“We’ve always believed in being nimble and adapting to situations”, says Avtar, “because even without Covid throwing a stick in things, the world of production is an ever-changing animal”. 

That spirit of reinvention was almost uniquely suited to the challenges of 2020. “I remember we immediately set out to find creative solutions to film remotely”, continues Avtar. “That led us to create our short film, Exquisite Quarantine, in collaboration with all of our directors”.

Above: Exquisite Quarantine was created through footage filmed by each Imposter director from their homes. 

However, it wasn’t just the pandemic that made 2020 such a line in the sand. “After shooting wherever in the world our directors happened to live during COVID, it’s become apparent that we have many more options - often internationally”, explains Alex. “But more than that,  the awful and systemic violence that took place against the BIPOC community in the pandemic climate of 2020 caused us to take stock and re-evaluate whose voices we were showcasing”.  

As a result, both Avtar and Alex resolved that there would be no turning back from the cultural moment which 2020 threw up. “As a production company it’s our responsibility to hold ourselves accountable and make sure we’re using our platform and privilege for good”, notes Avtar. “That means prioritising BIPOC directors, creators, and crew and always making an effort to push for diversity when hiring individuals or signing directors”.

Getting To Work

Despite the turbulent social context, you can still see common threads linking the work that’s come out of Imposter since the company’s inception. 

“I think our work for The Venetian stands out as our breakout piece”, says Avtar. “Not only is it a stunning piece of work, but I understand that it’s one of those projects that is frequently referenced by other directors and agency creatives in their decks and presentations. I’ve even been on creative calls with Kinopravda where the agency team has admitted that it was the inspiration for their whole campaign!”. 

Above: Imposter’s work with The Venetian represented Kinopravda’s first major US production. 

“It was such a special project”, agrees Alex. “I remember when we received the boards we knew there was such a huge opportunity to make something giant and lavish, and for Kino to flex their strengths. Also, it really set the precedent for how we like to pitch”.

That precedent continues to feed into Imposter’s wider culture. “The passion around that project was undeniable”, recalls Avtar, “and it’s set the tone for how we approach work ever since”. 

“We’ll intentionally take risks when pitching to agencies”, explains Alex. “That’s who we are - sometimes creatives will walk away, and clients take some convincing - but you have to have a creative vision! That’s absolutely fundamental”.

The Right Direction 

As if to underscore that point about creative vision, Imposter’s growing roster of directors is testament to the appeal of the company’s philosophy. “Since the start of the pandemic, we’ve added female, BIPOC and LGBTQ+ talent to our roster”, says Avtar, “and we have some other new talent we’re excited to announce soon!”. 

Investing in - and then championing - directing talent is part of what has become a cycle of success for Imposter. Now able to point to household name clients such as Smirnoff, Hyundai, Corona, Honda and WeTransfer, the team are mindful of the talent that has helped establish Imposter on the market. “90% of our clientele is due to our directors, for sure”, says Alex. “Any success we have is because we know each project is a chance for our directors to take what was written and put their stamp on it. Our job is to support them in that”. 

Taken as part of a whole, that directors-first approach is the point at which many of the threads uniting Imposter come together. The company has shifted its approach following the events of 2020 to be more conscious about the diversity of voices it elevates as directors. Following that, steps are taken to protect those directors’ clarity of voice and their creative vision. And then, at the end of the process, the result is work that - in the words of Alex - ‘elevates and subverts’. 

That joined-up philosophy also serves as an underlying purpose for Imposter’s founders. “I love our directors”, says Avtar. “Of course they are all talented and great at what they do, but I also genuinely care about them as people. If we weren’t working together I’d want to hang out with them anyway! That motivates me to keep going despite the present challenges. 

“I’m deeply invested in their career trajectories and will keep working hard to get them more, and better, projects”.

And after reflecting on the work that has come to define Imposter so far, no-one would surely bet against that vision coming to fruition. 

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Imposter, Tue, 09 Nov 2021 00:05:20 GMT