Senain Kheshgi and Geeta V. Patel
PROJECT KASHMIR Directors/Producers/Writers
What keeps them motivated as independent filmmakers:
The content, creativity, and impact drive us. We are both interested in documenting the experiences and voices that are underrepresented. When we see the impact PROJECT KASHMIR makes in communities, and when we think about all the people who came together to make this project possible, it fills us with inspiration and motivation.
Their three favorite films:
Senain: In my own work, I am very inspired by fiction filmmaking, the way stories unfold narratively, without talking heads or experts. Some inspirations are The 400 Blows, The Apu Trilogy, Turtles Can Fly, Dog Day Afternoon, Diving Bell and The Butterfly, Breathless, and the films of Wong Kar Wai, Kiarostami, Andrei Tarkovsky. I could go on and on.
Geeta: As far as documentaries, these come to mind at the moment: Capturing the Friedmans, Harlan County USA, Hoop Dreams, and Style Wars. Recently, I’ve enjoyed The Ghosts of Cité Soleil, In a Dream, and Oh Saigon.
Their advice for aspiring filmmakers:
Senain: Think about what you want to say, but let the subjects of your film dictate the story. It is easy to pick up the camera and start shooting a film these days. Technology has made it easy. What is more difficult but ultimately most fulfilling is to take the time to really think about your ideas, observe the lives of your characters and trust that your story will evolve if you are patient. Making independent films is not a quick process; it takes time living and breathing with your subject, deep preparation, and honest reflection on why it’s important that you tell this story. Many young filmmakers don’t stop, they get wrapped up in the difficult, uphill battle of making a film but the real rewards are in the moments when you as a filmmaker disappear in the process and truly allow the characters and story to reveal itself. You must have clarity of vision that only comes with patience and reflection. If you trust the story to reveal itself and you know how you want to tell that story, then you will find that the rest of the process (grant writing, outreach, etc.) comes naturally.
Geeta: Apply to grants and public television, and try to understand how to make your proposal stronger. Identify your outreach, if you are making a social justice film, because it will help you get grants and support from niche organizations. Embrace the fact that independent filmmakers must more often take on the role of producers for their first films. Surround yourself with mentors and people more experienced than you. Learn how to work with others and communicate your vision, as this is such an important part of directing and producing. And most of all, just take the leap of making your films and following your heart.
Their most inspirational food for making independent film:
Geeta: Peanut butter
PROJECT KASHMIR Director/Producer/Writer
Senain Kheshgi is a Pakistani American journalist and filmmaker who has produced, written, and directed projects for numerous networks, including CNN, ABC NEWS, PBS, and Discovery, as well as BBC and Channel 4 in the UK. She co-produced her first feature documentary, The First Year, with Academy Award-winning director, Davis Guggenheim (An Inconvenient Truth), which was broadcast on PBS in 2001 and was awarded the prestigious George Foster Peabody Award. In 2008, she directed Kitchen Diplomacy, a film commissioned by Morgan Spurlock’s documentary company, Cinelan.
Geeta V. Patel
PROJECT KASHMIR Director/Producer/Writer
Indian American Filmmaker Geeta Patel is a writer and director of documentary and dramatic feature films. She was recently visiting artist in Belarus and Turkey, as one of 29 filmmakers chosen for a new U.S. State Department initiative in the arts. Currently, she is writer/director of a narrative martial arts feature entitled Mouse. Geeta is also director and cinematographer of the romantic comedy documentary film entitled One in a Billion (ITVS/CAAM/PRI), executive produced by Academy Award-winner Geralyn Dreyfous (Born into Brothels).
She began her career as the youngest associate screenwriter in Hollywood. She has worked with Disney, Universal Pictures, Imagine Entertainment, ABC, NBC, and Twentieth Century Fox, including The Fast and the Furious and Blue Crush.
She is a filmmaking advisor for the Center for Asian American Media (CAAM), served on the nomination committee for the Rockefeller Foundation/Renew Media’s Media Art’s Fellowship as well as the International Documentary Association's DocuWeek and CAAM selection committees. She is a graduate in comparative area studies at Duke University.