Alumni Stories


BFA 90 Film

From a boarding school in the Himalayas to the inner sanctum of Hollywood, Tarsem’s path to becoming a highly acclaimed director of films, music videos and commercials was a myriad one. Headed for the United States at the age of 24 to study business at Harvard, he disrupted his plans and, instead, chose to study film at Los Angeles City College, which helped him land a scholarship at ArtCenter.

In 1990 he directed the Suzanne Vega music video “Tired of Sleeping” in the stark, dramatic style of Czech photographer Josef Koudelka, which caught the eye of R.E.M.’s Michael Stipe. Soon Tarsem was on board to conceptualize and direct R.E.M.’s “Losing My Religion” video. Its success catapulted his career after it won a Grammy for Best Music Video and six awards at the MTV Video Music Awards, including Video of the Year, Breakthrough Video and Best Direction. Other music videos bearing his signature include “Hold On” by En Vogue and “Sweet Lullaby” by Deep Forest.

Tarsem has helmed memorable commercial campaigns for top brands such as Pepsi, Nike, McDonald’s, Levi’s, Coca-Cola, Lexus, Miller Lite, Guinness, Smirnoff, Mountain Dew, John Hancock, Philips and Anne Klein. His debut feature film, The Cell (2000), was a visually arresting thriller starring Jennifer Lopez. Following that, he directed The Fall, starring Lee Pace, which he also produced and co-wrote; Immortals, starring Henry Cavill; Mirror Mirror, an adaptation of the Brothers Grimm’s Snow White tale starring Julia Roberts; and Self/less, starring Ryan Reynolds and Ben Kingsley. He also shot the international scenes in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and is director of the NBC series Emerald City, a dark reimagining of the world of Oz.

A master storyteller with tremendous attention to detail and a love of striking imagery, Tarsem has received the highest awards for his talents, including the Grand Prix and several Lions from Cannes, D&AD Award, Directors Guild of America Award, British Academy (BAFTA) Britannia Award, British Television Advertising Award, Next Awards from the Association of Independent Commercial Producers, Epica Award, Kraft Award and Kodak Award. In 2011 he received the Cologne Film Prize for his life’s work. His commercial work is part of a permanent collection at New York’s Museum of Modern Art.

Tarsem lives in London and Los Angeles.

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