Producer-director Shardul Sharma shares his journey in the Entertainment industry and how in the blink of an eye, his life changed.
Your journey to date?
I knew from the beginning that if I have to work somewhere then it has to be in the Entertainment Industry. I started working with Shiamak Davar (ace choreographer/ dance director/ producer) at the age of 16 while I was still in my first year of college. I danced and performed in several national/ international shows including most of the film award ceremonies, representing India in commonwealth games 2006 closing ceremony, 2 Bollywood films (Kisna and Bunty Aur Babli), trained several A list actors as their personal trainer and also taught regular classes at his institute. Soon after I finished my college along with working for Shiamak, I also started working with 108 productions (a post-production company in Mumbai) as a producer/ partner, which used to make corporate films, ads, commercial films and music videos. In 2007 I met with an accident and after working for six years as a part of the core team for Shiamak, I had to quit dance. By then Shiamak had become like my family and everyone in his company were like my family members.
I left dance but continued working in his office and started managing the business operations for Shiamak. I was head of business operations by the end of my term of working Shiamak for 12 years. Leaving India and moving to the United States was never in my plans. It was one, my close friend, back home who did a filmmaking course from New York Film Academy in Los Angeles. Upon her return, she suggested me to take a break from work and try the same course. Initially, I wasn`t sure, but I thought a lot about it and after consulting my other friends who were way senior to me in Indian Film Industry, I took this huge decision of going to Film School even when I was doing so well professionally in India at that time. I thought if I have to make my mark in the industry, then I will have to change my approach that is different, new and better than what was already happening. I am glad I made that decision because now after 8 years I have the opportunity to work at Paramount Pictures. Paramount Pictures is the oldest and among the biggest film studios in the world and being a part of a studio like this was always a dream for me. Paramount Pictures is a part of Viacom family and currently, it’s among the top 5 entertainment studios in Hollywood. It’s a great opportunity and a sense of achievement to work at a studio of this magnitude. It was never an easy journey but I am very thankful for what I achieved in the time I have spent in this career.
At Paramount Pictures, I co-ordinate the Physical Production for the film department. Since I have joined I have worked on 2 films ‘Clifford: The Big Red Dog’ directed by Walt Becker and ‘Infinite’ directed by Antoine
Fuqua. Both these films are scheduled to release later this year. It’s been almost a year since I started working at Paramount and I am thoroughly enjoying my time working with such big names in the industry.
I have produced several short films, commercials, music videos and feature films both in India and US. The last movie I produced here in LA was ‘Normal’ written and directed by my dear friend Mragendra Singh. Normal premiered at LAAPFF (Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival) and has been well received in several other film festivals worldwide including Singapore South Asian International Film Festival and Jagran Film Festival in India (both in Delhi and Mumbai). The next screening of Normal will be at Seattle Asian American Film Festival next month. Right this moment, we are in talks with major digital networks for releasing this movie by later this year. I am also developing and producing independent feature films here in the US and India. I have 3 films and 1 TV series that will go into production this year. Link to my IG profile (for my pictures): https://www.instagram.com/shardulssharma/
Link to my IMDB page (list of my work): https://www.imdb.com/name/nm5558729/
I am an Independent film producer living in Los Angeles. I started my producing career with an internship at Ashok Amritraj’s production company Hyde Park Entertainment in 2012. That was my first job in LA and right after that, I started producing films on my own. It was tough initially but I never gave up and continued doing whatever I could with the resources I had. I started with short films, student films, films with absolutely no budget and gradually with time, I started getting better work. Now after 5 feature films, few short films, music videos and tv commercials, I can say I am doing decently as a producer. I recently started working at Paramount Pictures for their film department coordinating physical production for the studio.
Tell us about your transition to the new country into a new career. What made you change careers when you already had a successful career with Shiamak in India?
I had never planned to leave India and move to the United States to work in the industry here in LA. I was very happy being with Shiamak, he is still my mentor, my guru and everyone working in his dance company are like my own family members even today. I worked with him for over 12 years and it wasn’t easy at all to leave everything I had earned and to start once again right from scratch. But somewhere in my heart, I wanted to try something new. It was then that one of my close friend back home who did a filmmaking course in Los Angeles, upon her return she suggested me to take a break from work and try the same course and then decide. Initially, I wasn`t sure, but I thought a lot about it and after consulting with my other friends who were way senior to me in Indian Film Industry, I took this huge step of going back to school (a film school). At that time, I was still the head of business operations in Shiamak’s company. Shiamak has always been very supportive and in fact, he encouraged me when I shared my thought to switch career and move to LA. I thought if I have to make my mark in the industry, then I’ll have to change my approach which is different, new and better than what was already happening. I am glad I made that decision because now after 8 years I have this opportunity to work at Paramount Pictures which is one of the biggest film studios in Hollywood. It was never an easy journey, but I am very thankful for what I achieved in the time I have spent in this career.
Being a producer did you ever think about directing films or acting in movies?
No, I did not. At the very beginning when I was still learning about films, I had to direct my own short films as no one would trust me with their projects. But the more I did I realized that actually I enjoy producing way more than the creative process of writing or directing. I think I can do better on the business side of filmmaking than the creative side or being on screen.
That’s a tough one. Out of all the jobs I have done, my motive has always been the same which is to touch people’s lives through my work. Whether it’s teaching a dance routine in a class or sharing a story through my film. I take it as a big responsibility when my audience chooses to spend a few hours of their day to see or experience my work and my motive is to make that time worth it for them. Making someone forget the daily struggle of life, making someone laugh, giving someone hope, sharing dreams. Hence clearly my favourite job is to be an entertainer where I have an opportunity to share and create all these emotions for my audience through my work.
Your journey with the Paramount films…
Working at Paramount Pictures has been a dream come true. I had only dreamed of working on such big productions and in a studio environment like Paramount. Since I have joined, I have worked on 2 films ‘Clifford: The Big Red Dog’ directed by Walt Becker and ‘Infinite’ directed by Antoine Fuqua as a coordinator in physical production for the studio. Both these films are scheduled to release later this year. It’s been almost a year since I started working at Paramount and I am thoroughly enjoying my time working on such big projects.
Where do you see yourself in the next few years?
I believe in taking one step at a time and at the moment I am only planning of becoming better at my art. If everything goes well, I should be among the few known independent producers who work both in Indian Film Cinema and in American Film Cinema.
In your opinion where is the major difference between Hollywood and Bollywood?
Hollywood has the technology, huge budgets, extremely skilled talent from all over the world and a huge world audience. Whereas Bollywood has most of everything that Hollywood has but falls short with a limited audience and that’s because of the language. I would say, that there used to be a lot of difference in storytelling between both these industries a few decades ago. But now with time, that difference is narrowing down. With the help of digital platforms like Netflix and Amazon, the Indian audience is getting used to western films/ tv shows and they are enjoying it more than Indian films/ tv shows. Also, the work culture in the film industry is changing rapidly in India. Here in Hollywood, we have a set pattern and a very organized way of making films, along with various labour and talent unions and government support such as each state supporting filmmaking with tax incentives and rebates. India is now doing the same by having unions, different state governments have started giving tax incentives and rebates to filmmakers, etc. So other than the audience reach everything else is pretty much the same.
Of all the projects you have handled to date, which one is your favourite project?
All the projects I have worked on have been very close to me. I have liked each one of them and that’s why I chose to work on them in the first place. But with time I am getting opportunities to work on better projects. Like my most recent work is the movie I produced here in LA ‘Normal’ written and directed by my dear friend Mragendra Singh. Normal premiered at LAAPFF (Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival) and has been well received in several other film festivals worldwide including Singapore South Asian International Film Festival and Jagran Film Festival in India (both in Delhi and Mumbai).
The next screening of Normal will be at Seattle Asian American Film Festival next month. Seeing the success of your work makes it even more special. So, for now, I can say ‘Normal’ is one of my most favourite projects though I am very excited about my upcoming projects too.
Your word of advice for your fans:
Life has been very kind to me that today I am at a point where I can share my story with others. From my experiences, I would like to say that never doubt yourself when you dare to dream big. You can achieve anything and everything that you desire but you need to believe in it, believe in yourself and never shy away from giving your best shot. Nothing comes easy and there are no short cuts. You need to go through rejections and failures to succeed. To summarize I will share this quote I read the other day “The difference between who you are and who you want to be is what you do.” – unknown.