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Meet Sooraj Saxena of SHVKTI in San Francisco Bay Area

Today we’d like to introduce you to Sooraj Saxena.

Sooraj, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
You see, for seven years (11-18 years old), I felt destined to be a rapper. The idea of being famous & inspiring other people through lyrics felt like everything to me. I was your typical teenage sound cloud rapper. The high end, very crisp music videos & backyard/pop-up shop events. I had a group of friends who polished my music video image & it made me feel confident in pushing forward. In 2016, after my last “album,” I released my senior year of high school. A couple of my buddies moved down to LA to pure their filmmaking careers full-time. I was in an awkward transition where I didn’t trust anyone else with the image that we had developed & didn’t believe anyone could execute the style of videos that I had accomplished. I gave up rap shortly after.

Simultaneously, at the end of high school, my father was raising money for his Biotech start-up. The company had married technologies from national labs developing a low cost portable diagnostic product that could detect breast cancer with a drop of blood in less than 45 min. The head of business development at the time requested they need short marketing videos talking about the problems they were addressing, access to healthcare in 3rd world countries & their product solution. At the time, heavily decked powerpoints & another long-form one or 2-hour videos did not grab an investor’s attention. My father said to the head of bis dev, my son is familiar with video. I met with the head of business development & he pitched me the project. From my previous experience of watching my friend edit my videos, the video production classes I took in high school, I felt somewhat confident in executing the scope of work they had envisioned. Fast forward, with the help of the various videos, it assisted them in raising $21 Million for their Series A round.

Going into college at San Francisco State University, my father helped me get my first DSLR. I came on as a video content intern working under the head of business development. Having a camera then opened the door to a world of possibilities for me. I would shoot music festivals, pop-up shops, concerts, events & started to become well versed with the camera. Eventually, my developed skills took me to shoot music videos for different up & coming artists. I grew a ton of attention on social media & saved a ton of money working as a freelancer. In November 2017, I made the quick decision to start my LLC at the later age of 19. It was a good & bad move.

I didn’t fully grasp & understand what it took to start a business, especially the risk that comes along with it. I also let money cloud my vision for a while & relied on short term gratification + experiences for happiness. The significant change came when I began investing in a ton of high-end camera gear & not insuring any of it. In August of 2018, I finished a shoot in the SOMA district for a wearable tech concept, as I was heading home, I stopped at a specialty mac in cheese restaurant in North Oakland called Homeroom. I went for a quick 20min solo dinner, to come back to my car broken into, back seats pulled down & 20K worth of gear stolen out of my trunk. 2 years of hard work gone in a blink of an eye. Luckily, I still had my first DSLR camera untouched back at the office, which I still use to this day.

Fast forward into 2019 & 2020, artists & small start-up companies would still frequently contact me for business while I was in school, which kept the passion alive. I would rent gear & become well versed in a variety of cinema cameras, which helped me grow as a cinematographer. Over the past year, I’ve been taking time to reflect on the stories I want to tell & recover from the hit back in 2018. It’s not about the gear you own; it’s about your creativity & drive that pushes you forward. Storytellers don’t give up because they don’t have material things; they tell stories because their purpose is tied to communicating in a way that nobody else can. By allowing yourself to show your OWN story, you give the world permission to tell theirs.

Has it been a smooth road?
No, it has not been a smooth road. It wouldn’t be fun if you didn’t make mistakes. 2 main struggles would be not gathering a team early on. Being too caught up in quality control & just having control of the whole process hindered the chance of hyper-growth with others. The second struggle was jumping into video blind, coming into the video industry without understanding how things are typically done puts you in position to learn things the hard way. Without having a clear plan, the business becomes very tough.

We’d love to hear more about your business.
SHVKTI helps communicate impact, vision & values through cinematic storytelling. We believe cinematic experiences are one of the most powerful tools to evoke an emotional response. Our target market is dependent on those who we share good energy with. We tell stories about people & brands, making a positive impact in our lives. Our focus is towards revamping & bringing a commercial film look to the life science industry. I am the founder & executive producer at SHVKTI. I specialize in cinematography, directing, editing in particular. Our most notable accomplishments were executing the first two music videos for THEMXXNLIGHT. We like to think about what separates us is focusing voices that aren’t commonly heard as well as producing original content.

Is our city a good place to do what you do?
To be honest, we reside in the Bay Area, but we’ve done plenty of work down in Los Angeles. I believe for anyone starting out, you make the most of whatever location you’re in. Just like how material possessions don’t define your success, the location shouldn’t either.

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