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Conversations with Shriya Rana

Today we’d like to introduce you to Shriya Rana.

Hi Shriya, we’d love for you to start by introducing yourself.
“A long shot and a whole lot of why not”. I’m not going to sit here and tell you that all this was planned, it wasn’t. Sometimes the tiniest of decisions can change the course of your entire life. In my case, one small internship made me realize what my goal is, more importantly, who I am. Okay that’s a bit dramatic, but hear me out. Born and raised in Himachal Pradesh, India.

Hailing from a family of professors and defense personnel, one would think the options would be few and paths would be predetermined. Nope, that’s not how it works in Rana family. After high school, my father sat me down and had a mature conversation about life, in fact too mature for my unpolished, novice mind. He presented me with an array of choices but me being me, I was like wait, what are my friends doing? Engineering? Sure, I’ll do it. I was always good in science, I’ll farewell. So I went in, loved every minute and just like I thought, and not to blow my own horns but I really did farewell. Great! Right? I mean everyone around me was content, but it wasn’t enough for me. Engineering wasn’t my path, it was “a” path. I noticed this feeling of dissatisfaction, and my heart wanted something more. So was like what do I do with my life now?Take an engineering job? Oh hell no, I noticed the surge in MBA’s and the knowledge they possessed, so I was like that’s it, my mind accepted the thought before my heart could. Shriya Rana the MBA grad, I had already envisioned it. Why? I said why the hell not. The fear of being average makes me do things I never expected I’d do. So there I was again in a new world full of possibilities and out of comfort zone. “Out of my comfort zone” should’ve been my mantra all along, anyway, moving on — I was once again back to school, acing at classes but the feeling of dissatisfaction hadn’t gone. I pondered hard as to why this was happening? While my MBA peers were getting ready to face the world, and my engineering buddies had three kids each (don’t ask) I wanted to know more, learn more.

I enjoyed every bit of college life, met some amazing people, and made some interesting choices along the way. One such interesting choice was to intern at a production house instead of the regular MBA options. And boy did it turn my life upside down. I worked in post-production. It sort of opened my eyes to two major things. One, how to market and sell yourself as well as your property. And two, that a movie is made thrice, first when it’s written. Second when it’s made and third, in post. And I loved it. I wanted to be part of the whole thing, from conception to completion. It was then that I realized what had just happened to me. I CARED FOR SOMETHING SO MUCH. My eureka moment. You know it’s true when you go through at least a tray full of emotions in less than a minute. It wasn’t “a” path anymore, it was “the” path. My calling. And you thought my opening statement was dramatic. My parents the cuties that they are were like if that’s what you want to do, then don’t let us stop you. Go chase your dreams they said. What? No drama? Not in my family apparently. So I did my due diligence, found out the best schools and figured my dream lied overseas. I packed my bags and flew to Los Angeles to study filmmaking. Once again, to a new world, to study something from scratch all over again. You really need balls and ambition and I had three bags full of them.

One extra bag for all the lip-smacking sweets my sweet mother had packed. I was having the best time of my life, making movies and memories, feeling content and then there something happened. My grandpa, my nanu, had fallen very ill. And I couldn’t take it. He didn’t want me lose focus and be affected by his condition but I knew what I had to do. “Family is everything”. I pulled the brakes and went back home to see him. Spend some time with him. He left us shortly after, and It affected me for a really long time. But I knew I had to get back on track, and the brief stint at NYFA gave me clarity in terms of what segment of filmmaking I was attracted to, and it was directing. I realized I loved it all and it was time for me to command the ship and took directing at UCLA wherein I met amazing people from all over the world who share the same dream, to be heard. Loud and clear. Knock the doors down and enter with a bang, metaphorically speaking of course. After graduating from UCLA, I landed a job at CBS in post. Life does come full circle. While all that’s sunshine and rainbows, I’ve not left my desire to make movies, tell stories that I also do in coherence and harmony with my current job which is what I’m currently doing.

Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way. Looking back would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
I wish I could say that the journey was all fun and games. And for the most part, it has been a ride. But the start of this was a bit bumpy as I had no connection to the movie world or knew anyone who studied filmmaking whatsoever just the production house that I had interned at. But since that left a sour taste, I chose to figure things out myself. I reached out to former students of New York Film Academy, asked a gazillion questions, understood the curriculum, how things worked in Los Angeles and Hollywood in general. So I prepped myself, brushed-up my cursory knowledge to face this new world. Now that was the easy part. After moving to Los Angeles, I noticed a clear cultural clash — it was a different lifestyle, something I wasn’t accustomed to at first, so I had to work harder, try harder.

Now I’d like to call myself a go-getter, an extrovert — I’m pretty outspoken, but sometimes change can be overwhelming. When I figured all that out and could see myself adjusting and adhering to practices, I realized the cost of living the second time was way too high than I had anticipated. I knew I had to do something about it and I did. I started working as a Gallery Ambassador at UCLA’s Hammer Museum, worked in the mornings while attending school in the evenings. It’s probably the best decision I’ve taken in my time here in Los Angeles as it not only helped me monetarily but taught me customer service and kept my spine upright about discipline and duty, and that in turn gave me an extra boost to go out an intern at “Brett-Morgan’s” Public Road Productions, socialize, explore, network, meet more people and finally to make movies with all of them, which all along has been the dream. I had been laser-focused on the end game, only to realize there’s never going to be one. It’s the journey that counts, the ups and downs, living and breathing around artists and the pleasure of spinning meaningful, fun tales. And if I ever do make a tale so good, wait for my next one. Just you wait.

Thanks for sharing that. So, maybe next you can tell us a bit more about your work?
I work as a director. I’ve Written and Directed – “Ayesha”, my most recent film which is about a young woman struggling to lead a normal life in a homophobic society. This film is really special and every person in my crew gave their best. Directing is the ultimate goal and when I’m not directing, I like doing 1st AD. Currently, working in post-production at CBS interactive, Beverly Hills. I’m one of the few who got a job during pandemic. I mostly work on Primetime and Latenite shows. Working with the best team on the launch of the new giant “Paramount Plus” and Grammy’s 2021 will always be the highlight of this job for me.

Can you share something surprising about yourself?
I love black tea (not black tea but the colour black and a strong cup of tea) and all things “ART”. I’m guilty of having concerts in my showers and patching-up old clothing. Also a brief warning, you may find me breaking a leg on “shake it off” on the middle of the street. And if you do stop me, boy oh boy we have “bad blood” between us. Oh yeah, I’m an avid Taylor Swift fan, a Stan perhaps, for all the like-minded millennials out there. Yes, I’m religiously getting into the know-how of today’s lingo but you know, “the more that you say the less I know.” Okay, I’ll stop.

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