arts and pop culture | April 23, 2013

5 Lessons On Filmmaking From Reluctant Fundamentalist Director Mira Nair

Timed to coincide with the American release of her newest film, The Reluctant Fundamentalist, Mira Nair shared the lessons she's learned from 30 years in the film business in a new keynote. As part of the "Tribecca Talks" series, in conjunction with the Tribecca Film Festival in New York, Nair discussed her unique insight on the art of filmmaking. She also touched on some of the powerful themes presented in her film. The Reluctant Fundamentalist is being screened at the festival this week and will then move into wide release across the country this Friday. In her films, and her keynotes, Nair attempts to bridge gaps between cultures, races, and genders to challenge societal stereotypes.

Here are the five major takeaways from Nair's speech:

1) Take small steps to make a difference with your work: While Nair says there are numerous female filmmakers working in India, the Western film industry is less inclusive. That's why she said she avoided producing her films through traditional means and has taken on a largely female crew. "The trouble is, we only think there’s one way. But there isn’t," she says in her speech. "There are many other ways. But they’re damned difficult." You need to take whatever opportunity you can to make a difference and challenge these stereotypes, she says, in spite of the difficult opposition.

2) Have faith in your work even in the face of uncertainty: "You pursue something without even knowing that you have any fruit at the end of it, or an audience," she told the audience. Then one day, things all fall into place and you are "humbled" by the "powerful response" of those who have been impacted by your work.

3) Focus your efforts: Nair says it is important not to spread yourself too thin. She recounts a story of being a young girl struggling to balance learning the sitar with film-making. She eventually chose to channel her energy into one passion, and has seen incredible success as a result.

4) Take a step back once you've completed a project: While she will often go see her film on opening night, Nair says she then removes herself from critiques and reviews for a while afterward. That way you can gain some perspective and relish in your accomplishment—rather than getting caught up in how other people are reacting to what you've completed.

5) Place value in friendships and distance yourself from negativity: "I don’t thrive on tension, I don’t thrive on division," she says. "I understand, as I get older, you can choose not to be with the disharmonious."