Ep. 107: Award-Winning Filmmaker Sarita Khurana Follows Her Passion and Tells South Asian Stories On The Big Screen
“You can find ways to make things happen for yourself and things you feel passionate about by finding the right collaborators and people who are going to support you.”
In this episode of the Women Killing It! podcast, host Sally Hubbard, joined by guest co-host, Amita Khurana, a high school senior, introduces us to Sarita Khurana, film director, producer and educator. Her feature film, A Suitable Girl, world-premiered in the 2017 Tribeca Film Festival Documentary Competition section and won the Best New Documentary Director prize.
Sarita started her career as a grant writer for an education not-for-profit, working with youth and community-based organizations. Her immigrant parents instilled a deep work ethic in her, but they didn’t view the arts as a wise career choice.
She was in her mid-thirties before she decided to back to school for a Masters of Fine Arts in Film at Columbia University. She realized she wanted to do filmmaking for her career and still cared about education, but needed to shift the balance of what she would do full time.
In this episode, Sarita shares how film school helped her learn new skills and meet collaborators in the creative community, with including Smriti Mundhra, her co-director and co-producer for A Suitable Girl.
In film school, Sarita learned that the story drives what you make, no matter what style the film is. A Suitable Girl tells the story of arranged marriage in modern India, following 3 young women through their journey of navigating the pressures of marriage, their own careers, and their parents.
Sarita is passionate about creating nuanced and complex stories of South Asians. She works to create films and representations of what she’d like to see in the world, because she never had that representation growing up.
“There’s lots of times you’re going to doubt yourself, or you don’t have any role models, or nobody in your family has ever done that before so they’re not expecting you to do it, but I wish I had learned more confidence and the belief that you can really do a lot more than what you might be structurally limited by, or what your family might tell you, or all kinds of inequities in the world.”
Sarita offers insight into what being a woman of color in the film industry is like and how the industry is changing, and shares how the skills she learned working in the education world transferred to directing and leading with her vision on set.
Now, Sarita combines her education and filmmaking passions at the George Lucas Education Foundation as a video and story producer, making short documentaries about education issues and schools around the country.
Listen to this episode to get inspired by her nonlinear path to success and how she has created a career out of her passion.
“Wherever I’ve landed, it’s been important to keep my eye on what I feel passionate about even if it doesn’t make sense always to other people or even if the career path around it isn’t obvious.”