Category Archives: Crossovers

Premiere Christy Clark meets with Prime Focus Films in LA

Christy Clark makes quiet visit to Hollywood

News article concerning BC Premiere Christy Clark’s visit to Hollywood and her new effort to re-energize the post-production and digital animation sector. The article was posted on facebook by Wayne Bennet, the man who spearheaded the SaveBCFilm movement in in January 2013 in Vancouver which challenged the BC government’s stance on film production incentives and bringing the Times of India Film Awards to Vancouver later in April that year.

Article written by  Richard Verrier and published in the Vancouver Sun.

 

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Crossovers: Jessica Dhillon (AKA DJ Goddess)

Crossovers is a series of interviews with film and media professionals in British Columbia and India whose experiences demonstrate the already strong crossovers and community ties between the two industries.

Jessica Dhillon

Jessica Dhillon is the subject for our fourth Crossovers interview. She is a film producer, DJ (DJ Goddess), and choreographer from Vancouver, working between Canada, US, and India.

What are you working on at the moment?

I am actively DJ’ing and working on a few film projects at the moment. For film, my focus is on projects between the US and India.

What’s your background in that?

Well Ironically, I’ve done a major in biology and a minor in commerce at UBC which is completely unrelated except for the business aspect. I’ve actually been very fortunate with how things happened. I fell into acting in my second year of university after I spent a summer in England and watched a production of Bombay Dreams in London and that was when I decided I wanted to act. I was studying as if I was going to med-school and was taking acting classes on the side. I absolutely fell in love with acting and the film and entertainment industry. From there I met a producer who thought I had strength for the business side of it and told me to try out film production. So, I did just that and that’s how I fell into production about 3 or 4 years ago. Ever since then I have been very focused on the production side of film.

With DJ’ing, I had been on set a lot and had just wrapped a 3 month film contract in the US so I had a lot of down time when I came back to Vancouver. I thought DJ’ing would be a cool past time. Once again, I never looked back and DJ’ing has really kicked off internationally.

So tell me about getting into production?

I started off with a producer in Vancouver as an intern for him. Just like Anne Hathaway in The Devil Wears Prada. And from there he became Managing Director of Kerner Studios, which is the former George Lucas physical effects company in San Francisco. The CEO there was Eric Edmeades, so I started working with him as well. I worked my way up from intern to Excecutive Assistant to Production Associate and before I knew it I was a Management Consultant between Bollywood and Hollywood. It took a lot of thinking outside the box and a lot of drive. I brought Eric Edmeades to India and set him up at FICCI Frames, an annual film conference in India, and he spoke on visual effects and it garnered the attention of a lot of Bollywood film executives. That’s how I ended up becoming a management consultant between the two industries.

Ever since, all the other projects have stemmed from my experience at the studios

How did India come into play?

Well I think going to India was the biggest thing. Bollywood is growing fast at an exponential rate. Bollywood is making so many films, and the South is making even more. All of the film companies like Disney, Fox Studios, and Warner Bros are all expanding into India so I thought it would be a good niche market for Kerner to wet their feet as well. Being Indian definitely helped me as well.

Do you speak Hindi?

I speak it with a Canadian accent! Actually I grew up watching a lot of Bollywood films so I did understand Indian culture and I grew up in an Indian family. Watching Bollywood growing up gave me an understanding of who’s who and what production companies make the blockbusters, who are the greatest directors, producers, and actors as well as the turnover with new actors. That definitely helped as well.

Tell me about the projects you’ve been working on with India and the US?

I had been working with Kerner Studios for approximately 4 years.  Kerner has a slate of some of the greatest blockbusters in Hollywood including Pirates of the Caribbean, Avatar, Airbender, Transformers, Elysium, and many more.  We had gone in for the conference to talk about 3D animation and educate the Indian market on Kerner.  Shortly after, the physical effects shut down due to the popularity of CGI. Bad timing, but the Indian market is still really going into the 3D space.

During my time at Kerner, I met the team who were pitching an India-Hollywood coproduction at a Ted-X event Kerner was hosting. We had David Arquette, his producer Jane Charles and director Jeffery Brown who is an Oscar winning director, and they talked about a coproduction film that was based around child trafficking entitled Sold.  Instantly I gravitated towards the cause of the film.

I worked on Sold as an Executive Co-Producer and it was shot Nov-Dec 2012. We’re looking to release it this year 2014.

It’s based on child trafficking and has a really strong message. Child trafficking is such a huge problem in South Asia. Kids are trafficked to India from Nepal, and it’s a message that touches a lot of people’s hearts. We’ve even had investors who are more concerned over the message getting across than their ROI.

Based on your experience, do you think there is something the West can learn from the Indian film industry or vice versa?

I think because I come from VFX, I’ve noticed that VFX is not as strong in India. There are a lot of animators and VFX artists that are very talented, but the quality in overall production is not very strong, especially in action films. We can say (for lack of a better word) that they’re corny. It almost becomes comedic.

Why is that?

I don’t know if it’s the story lines or if the producers don’t have enough experience with vfx but it’s a question I would like to look into more. However, recently I saw the trailer to Krrish 3 and it looks phenomenal. The VFX look equivalent of Batman or Spiderman and they did a fantastic job on the trailer. I’m actually looking forward to seeing the film. I think that film has adopted the vision of huge action directors from Hollywood.  Another reason is that the budgets of action films in Hollywood are much grander.  In fact, Krissh was made with 2 percent of the budget of an average Hollywood big budget action film!

On the other side, Bollywood has a lot to offer. They have a lot of deep stories, and that’s why I love them. They’re very romantic. There’s a unique culture you don’t see elsewhere. Hollywood romance films don’t seem to touch our heart as much as Bollywood films. Hindi is also a very poetic language. They put a lot of heart into their films and that is something that Hollywood could adopt. The studio Yash Raj was known for many years of romance and somebody once said that there was a little less love in the world the day Yash Chopra passed.

Anything outside of VFX that you see being of big potential between Canada and India?

I think there is a market there that is still largely untapped. I would love to be a part of that market, and even being from a VFX background I think there is a lot of potential there. However, it is crucial to get a storyline though that will appeal just as much to a Western audience as it would to an Indian. Perhaps get the VFX and production value to a level that is equivalent to Hollywood with a storyline that is a bit more Bollywood. Something like Slumdog Millionaire.

What advice would you give to someone looking to get involved in both industries?

I think it’s important to understand both markets. I think you have to immerse yourself in both markets. Really study what the trends are. The markets are very, very different which is something I continue to learn every day in India. They don’t work the same way that they do here. Contracts aren’t the same, culture isn’t the same, and people aren’t the same. It’s important to understand the people, the culture, and how they do business. Indians work really hard, really long hours, and on lower budgets. 30 million in Hollywood could be made for 10 million in Bollywood. Really do your research.

What is happening next for you?

I’m doing another DJ tour February in India. The benefit of this is I can DJ and do film production at the same time. I have been really blessed in that way and hope to inspire other women to pursue their dreams in the entertainment industry.

As for film, I’m working on a few deals at the moment and hopefully they work out. Hopefully they will be Us-India productions.

–  Interview by Paula McGlynn

 DJ Goddess’ Website              DJ Goddess’ Twitter  

 Jessica Dhillon’s Website                 Jessica Dhillon’s Twitter

More Crossovers Interviews

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Crossovers: Munish Sharma

Crossovers is a series of interviews with film and media professionals in British Columbia and India whose experiences demonstrate the already strong crossovers and community ties between the two industries.

Our Third Crossovers interview is with Munish Sharma, Producer, Actor, Writer, and Dancer. Based in Vancouver, Munish works in the film and television industry and has performed in such theatre performances like Bollywood Wedding. Munish Sharma also writes poetry and short stories on his blog, The Ranting Poet.

Munish Sharma

Munish Sharma

My name is Munish Sharma and I guess I’m and actor first. I went to theatre school at the University of Regina where I did a BFA. Since then I have taken on many other roles than a performer such as producing, writing, poetry, and dancing.

What has your experience been in the industry so far? 

It has been quite good. There have always been ups and downs which are normal in life, but things have progressively gotten better since I finished theatre school about six years ago.

I’ve started doing a steady amount of television, commercials and I also do one or two theater shows a year. I’m in a comedy troupe called “I Can’t Believe it’s not Butter Chicken” and a smaller group called “Bollywood Shenanigans” which Butter Chicken was created from. So yes, things have been quite fruitful since I moved to Vancouver 6 years ago.

Tell me about I Can’t Believe it’s not Butter Chicken

Bollywood Shenanigans technically came first, which was simply being up to no good, joking around and combining that with our enjoyment of Bollywood.

I Can’t Believe it’s not Butter Chicken is a small sketch comedy group that myself and my business partner Leena Manro co-created, in 2008. Essentially both her and I have a similar comedic taste and we grew up in the 1980’s watching a lot of Bollywood films. So what we started doing was making fun of certain things we started to notice in Bollywood movies. We do love to dance and sing, so that also came from watching a lot of Bollywood growing up. So we wanted to take that love of Bollywood and show it through comedy, and combine it with growing up as a first-generation Canadian. Still, some stuff is just jokes and jokes and jokes.

It’s live theatre sketch comedy our shows tend to be between 75-90 min. We also had a sketch variety show on the radio station RJ1200 for a while.

What kind of an audience do you have?

It’s about 60% South Asian and 40% other. Since we started doing shows in the CBC here in Vancouver over the past couple years our demographic has definitely increased in the multi-ethnic area.

What sort of things do you talk about in your show?

Well honestly the topics are very universal and aren’t only about South Asian people or India. A big example may be: you have parents who want you to get the best, highest paying job so you can succeed in life (whatever their idea of succeeding is) or to just make a lot of money so you can have everything you want in life. Certain jobs are above the rest like becoming a doctor, or engineer, or anything to do with computers… Being an actor is typically seen as having a lot of uncertainty so it’s not very high on the list. We address this in our comedy show. We also talk about ideas of marriage, arranged marriage, and the even deeper specifics within Indian arranged marriage like religion, caste, family, background, and of course Bollywood… The story lines, character types in the movies, the songs and dancing are commonly featured topics in the show.

What challenges do you face as an actor of Indian descent in Canada?

Well since I finished theatre school I have had a multitude of people telling me I should try out in Bollywood just because of the fact that it’s had a huge influence on how I act.  However, it’s never really been a personal goal of mine, but you never know what could happen in the future.

A common challenge may be finding your type. I’ve been told I can play more mult-ethnic characters. Also, this might sound incorrect and I have not intention of offending anyone, but there is a very strong difference in projects where you will have either a lot of people of one race or background or a lot of Caucasian people. There aren’t many shows out there yet where there is a proper diversity, what ever that may mean to you. I find it very unattractive sometimes when I go to a show or watch a show and it’s not diversely cast. Even with our own sketch show I have tried my best to have the show apply and related to all walks of life. I find that there’s a lot of talented people around the world who are of different race, creed, and color and I think it needs to start being portrayed a bit more in things like television and live theatre. So we can properly see, what we see when we step outside our doors everyday.  Luckily I have felt in the last few years that we are starting to become more unified in our desire to create something great.

Aside from that, there are the usual challenges of an actor. You have chosen this life for a reason and your creativity is important to you and it will pay off if you work hard and work smart.

You were recently visiting India. Did you see anything you really loved about the Indian film industry that you don’t see here in Vancouver?

I’m a bit backwards when it comes to Bollywood film. I was a very huge fan growing up until about 18 or 19 years old. Since I’ve become older the formula just hasn’t sat well with me. However, from what I have learned I have realized that it is changing. Now I see there is an independent scene going on, and multi-media-wise they are growing and progressing. I do think that the Bollywood Industry could be more open-minded because it’s a family-run industry and that is something they can work on changing.

But the biggest thing is that Bollywood is developing… most definitely. And there is more opportunity growing.

When I was in India I met a number of producers who were doing their own thing. I had never heard of them before but they were making their own films. Although the quality could have been better, they were still doing it!

Where do you see the most potential for BC and India’s film industries to crossover?

BC and Vancouver have been used by Bollywood as a location in the past. There is also a large South Asian community here. BC and Vancouver are great places to shoot a Bollywood film and you would find a bunch of people here who would also want to work too. There are a good number of very talented South Asian actors who may not be directly from India but there is a strong community here and great to make a cultural crossover film.

If there was a film that wanted to do something new and break industry barriers, they could do it in BC for sure. It has the production ability and the talent.

There is also a difference in markets. My Indian cousins tell me that there are North American Bollywood Stars and then there are Indian Bollywood Stars. There is a difference. In North American, the tops stars could be, for example, Sharukh Khan and Hritik Roshan. In India there are many more big stars who may be more popular then them. From what I remember, Salman Khan is huge in India right now and his films speak to the average Indian, he’s had like 5 or 6 hits in a row! But if you hear Sharukh Khan’s name anywhere else in the world (Or Amitabh Bacchan, although everything he does anywhere is great) people go crazy. So learning that difference was very interesting to me.

So you think that newer types of Indian films could be marketed more outside India?

I think that if Bollywood took the initiative, they could make successful border-crossing films that can be huge in the rest of the world rather than waiting for Hollywood to come and do something. There’s movies like Gandhi, Bend it Like Beckham, or Slumdog Millionaire which were funded by the West and were for a Western audience and people of non-Indian heritage. I have no idea if those films did well in India. Bend it like Beckham is the only film I have seen that seems to have done the crossover properly. There is an avenue and an audience. It can be done. Instead of a film like this happening once every three or four years, it could be happening a few times a year even. It just has to be done correctly.

So do you consider yourself Indo-Canadian or just Canadian?

I am one of those people who likes to believe they are Canadian with South Asian or Indian heritage. Because I was born here in Canada I would call myself a Canadian first since the idea of Canada is multi-culturalism and we are supposed to pride ourselves on that. I believe saying Indo-Canadian or Chinese-Canadian shouldn’t be important. Europeans who first came to this country don’t say Polish-Canadian or English-Canadian. However, you can call yourself what ever you want.

What’s happening next for you?

I’m working on writing my first one act play called, Mrs. Singh and Me and also currently underway on creating a web series.

Click here for the entire Crossovers Series

– Interview by Paula McGlynn

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