Smashcut Founder Daniel Blackman Discusses Online Course Programs With NYU Tisch and New York Times Op-Docs


Technology has revolutionized the education system over the past few decades, but no single event has accelerated the pace of change as much as the global pandemic. The need for online learning options on a global scale, across all industries, became truly urgent over the last two years.

One company leading the way is Smashcut, an online learning platform and content studio founded by ex-Google executive Daniel Blackman. In 2021, Smashcut received Series A funding from Pearson Ventures, the largest education company in the world, bringing with it multiple new opportunities for the company.

“2021 was a watershed year for Smashcut. We got Series A financing from Pearson Ventures and that relationship has opened up some great possibilities. We’re expanding to include subjects like real-time 3D skills, which are in high demand for things such as game design, animation, and virtual film production, and we’re teeing up some major corporate partnerships that will allow us to scale significantly,” said Blackman.

Smashcut was already well established in the higher education sphere, having created courses or collaborated with institutions like New York University, John Hopkins University, Columbia University, and the Digital Fashion Group.

According to a 2020 report by Market Research, 63% of U.S. high school students use digital learning tools on a daily basis. In addition, American graduate (52%) and undergraduate students (39%) consider online learning better than classroom learning and vital to their success.

This week, Smashcut announced an expansion of their current relationship with New York University Tisch School of the Arts by launching a course, Documentary Workshop, which will include lessons created in collaboration with Tisch and The New York Times’s Op-Docs division. This course will allow students from around the world to learn about nonfiction filmmaking and receive feedback from some of the leading names in the field.

“On a personal level, this project is close to my heart, since I first moved to New York to study filmmaking at NYU—back when going online meant queuing up outside a movie theater to see the first Blade Runner. It’s really nice to see things come full circle, and to help my alma mater educate the next generation of visual storytellers,” said Smashcut Founder and CEO, Daniel Blackman.

Documentary Workshop will cover every aspect of the genre, from concept development through research, writing, directing, producing, and editing. Students will learn a range of styles and techniques and become well-versed in the relevant legal and ethical issues facing documentary filmmakers. Op-Docs staffers and filmmakers will be featured in video lessons created jointly by Smashcut and NYU, as well as participating in live Q&A sessions. As part of this initiative, scholarships will also be available. The course will be taught by Shivani Khattar, a New York-based independent filmmaker whose work ranges from feature films to branded content and commercials. She previously made future-forward documentaries for NBC News’ streaming platforms.

“I remember Shivani Khattar as one of our most imaginative and creative graduate students, and since she earned her MFA, I have watched proudly as her work has competed in festivals around the world. Shivani has experience in commercial production, her short documentaries have won journalism awards, and her work as a cinematographer can be seen on major platforms,”said Annie Stanton, executive director of Tisch Special Programs. “To have a working artist like Shivani teaching with the New York Times Ops Doc team in an online platform like Smashcut is ideal. Smashcut truly understands how visual storytelling should be taught and will help us offer the very best online learning experience to aspiring storytellers.”

The NYU Tisch and NY Times Doc Ops news is just the beginning of Smashcut’s expansion plans this year. The studio is teeing up some major corporate partnerships that will allow Smashcut to scale significantly in 2022 and address education in emerging arenas including gaming, AR/VR, virtual film production, animation, and much more.

You can learn more about the NYU Tisch and Smashcut courses at NYU Tisch or email [email protected] for scholarship inquiries.



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