Take Five with Carly Hugo ’06

Carly Hugo
Carly Hugo ’06 is an Emmy-nominated producer and the co-founder of Loveless, a New York City-based film and television production company. She has produced more than 25 films, which have premiered at the Sundance, Cannes, Berlin, Venice, Toronto and New York Film Festivals. For the past five years, Hugo has been producing documentaries with HBO, including the Nora Ephron documentary Everything Is Copy, which was nominated for two Primetime Emmys; Agnelli; Suited; and Swiped. Hugo is currently in production on a docuseries for Showtime and in post-production on a narrative feature film with A24. Her films include Mother of George, Five Nights in Maine, Higher Ground, Bachelorette and Hot Coffee, which was awarded a Television Academy Honor from the Academy of TV Arts & Sciences. She has produced videos and commercials for Beyoncé, Condé Nast, Refinery29 and RCA Records, among others. Hugo is a mentor for the Sundance Creative Producing Program and has been a fellow of the Tribeca Film Institute, IFP and Film Independent.

What were you like when you arrived at Columbia?

I grew up outside of Boston and attended a large public high school. Although I loved my high school, as it was there that I discovered my passion for film and television production, I was incredibly self-conscious about coming to Columbia. I was convinced that everyone was going to be more worldly, better educated and more prepared for a rigorous course load. Thankfully, by the end of Orientation week, I realized that Columbians were “my people,” and I was going to fit in just fine. I was so excited to move to NYC — the whole summer before freshman year was spent daydreaming about the glamour and pace of living in New York. I was wide-eyed and eager for my life to begin, and looking back, that’s not an overstatement.

What do you remember about your first-year living situation?

Most of the women who remain my best friends to this day were all clustered on the elevator side of Carman 7. The housing gods brought us together. I have nothing but the fondest memories of my time in Carman — blasting Britney Spears until 4 a.m., cramming 30 people into our room for “cocktail parties” (we only knew how to make Cosmos) and choreographing dances in front of the elevator. I didn’t sleep much that first year. I was overwhelmed by all the brilliant, fascinating people on Carman 7, and would find myself bopping from room to room (as I procrastinated). I remember doing all of my work in the hallway, just so I could soak up the energy.

What class do you most remember and why?

I took a class in the Middle Eastern studies department called “Revolution & Cinema,” which explored the films made around the time of the Iranian and Cuban revolutions. Although the two were 20 years apart, the similarities in the films of these eras were remarkable — the themes that emerged pre-revolution, during the wars and in the period that followed enforced to me how movies can be cultural tools and can help heal broken communities. I didn’t know much about the history of either country before I took the class, but I found that I was able to significantly contribute to the discussions from a cinematic point of view. I also really loved “Movie Musicals” with late film legend Andrew Sarris ’51, GSAS’98 — it felt like illicit fun to be able to take a class about musicals at one of the best universities in the world!

Did you have a favorite spot on campus, and what did you like about it?

When I visited Columbia as a senior in high school, I saw an unbelievably cool girl reading on one of the ledges of the upper steps of Low Library. She seemed to be on top of the world. I turned to my dad and said, “That’ll be me one day” (cocky and corny, see above: “What were you like when you arrived?”!). For the next four years, I made this my secret spot. Whenever I read or did work up there, I would be reminded of how lucky I was to be a part of the Columbia community. I’d sometimes shout at friends walking by to get their attention, but mostly I spent my time up on that ledge as a makeshift sanctuary, being grateful and soaking it all in.

What, if anything, about your College experience would you do over?

I was so eager to be a working film producer when I graduated that I sacrificed large chunks of time at Columbia to internships and production assistant jobs. By my senior year, I had arranged all of my classes so they were at night and on Fridays, so I could work four days a week at a production company. While I don’t regret any of this, because it got me where I am today, I wish I treated my college years more preciously and allowed myself to be a kid for just a little bit longer.