By Katie Chambers
Welcome to NYWIFT, Priya Mishra! Priya is an award-winning screenwriter and director. She wrote, directed, and co-produced her debut short film Bath Bomb in 2019. Currently, Bath Bomb and Only Business, the second film she directed, are both having successful runs on the festival circuit.
A queer second-generation Indian immigrant, and a girl who lost her mom during her junior year of college, Priya’s work centers love, grief, acceptance, social-critique, and embracing your anger. Priya hopes that her work will make audiences feel more connected with other human beings, more angry at the state of the world, and more willing to improve it by embracing vulnerability and kindness.
Priya spoke to us about identity, wildly fun times on set, and exploring grief through her creative work.
Tell us about yourself – give us your elevator pitch!
Priya Mishra is a queer South-Asian American writer and director who’s burning white Hollywood to the ground!
What has been your favorite project to date and why?
My favorite project to date is probably Let’s Do Drugs, which was the first short film I was majorly involved in during college. The film is so special to me because it was the film through which I realized I wanted to be a filmmaker. For some reason, even through equipment failure, power failure, audio issues, and bad weather (all culminating in us being forced to film during a freezing, rainy Tuesday 2 AM on Coney Island), I thought to myself, “Man, there’s no place I’d rather be than on this set.” I knew then that there was nowhere else in my life where I would ever feel such a sense of purpose and belonging through such strife. After making that film, I felt so powerful. I felt like I could do anything at all I put my mind to- and I knew I wanted to be making movies.
There is also just something so, so special about getting to make a movie with some of the people you’re closest to in the whole world. It was truly a magical, transformative, and gratifying experience.
You started as a writer and visual artist, then transitioned into filmmaking. How does your past experience influence your work as a filmmaker?
Ever since I have been writing and drawing, especially once I hit my pre-teen years, my works were always covered in a melodramatic, over-the-top shroud. My art would be bursting with the highest forms of joy or melancholy, my writing full of characters pushed to their limits. As an adult, I realized that so much of my work, my personality, and my life, was influenced by the steady diet of Hindi-Language films from the 90s and early aughts that I devoured as a kid. Love, all sorts of love, is always at the center of my work. But the raw, tender, vulnerable, and dramatic ways that love is portrayed can all be traced back to this one medium.
It often feels like filmmaking is in my blood, just from the sheer love of it being passed on from my family. I feel like you tend to hear a lot of North-Indian people in the US talk in such a way.
Film did not seem like anything I could feasibly be involved in until I entered college. Yet as soon as I was on set, something in me seemed to light up. I feel like the aural element of film was the thing that really tempered my art. The addition of sound with writing and visuals created a sort of alchemy that allowed me to be more expansive within this blended medium. My writing and art didn’t seem so intense, or “too much” – in films, it really felt like the only limit was my own imagination.
You have mentioned that much of your work explores love, grief, anger, and acceptance after you lost your mother in your junior year of college. We’d love to hear more about that – and how her spirit is present in your work.
So, as you could probably imagine, losing my mother after a brutal and grueling year of terminal cancer has been one of the most painful and lonely experiences I’ve ever been through.
My first film, Bath Bomb, was written as I was coming to terms with the fact that I was never able to come out to my mom before she passed away. Would she have loved me as much as she did, had she known? By not telling her all of who I was, had I tricked her into wasting her love on someone who did not even exist, and did not deserve it?
For a while she haunted me. When people said, “Your mom is always with you,” I was always filled with a sense of foreboding – my mother is watching my every move, and she is finding me lacking, finding me a liar.
Only very recently did I realize that when people say that to me, it does not mean my mother is some ghost, looking over my shoulder. Instead, she lives in me like an ocean, not some specter. All the love she poured in me over the course of my life still resides inside of me, the biggest and most affirming body of water. When I make my work, I definitely draw from that well. Making the work is an act of love, love that I learned from her, and self-acceptance.
What do you hope audiences will take away from your work?
That’s they are intrinsically worthy of good things, and they are not alone. That they have more power than they could ever imagine, and that power is not a bad thing. That even through every terrible thing that happens, life is still a wonderful thing.
What is the best advice you’ve ever received? And the worst?
I think the best advice was when I was told that love is not sacrifice, and that living is not about being perceived. These are things I wrestled with for a long time, and definitely still wrestle with. But they’re things that have made me more comfortable in my own skin as a person, and more willing to advocate for myself – which are two qualities that have been very helpful as an artist.
I think the worst advice I ever received is that I should be willing to do whatever it takes to land/keep a job, even ones with poor pay and grueling conditions, because experience is important. I am still very early in my career, but I do know that I have never hated myself more than when I was being used as a tool for someone else. And I think that we are in a really cool era in film where we can truly make our own experience, our own art, without needing anyone’s approval or permission.
Every system and person putting you down is betting on you not betting on yourself – and you don’t have to do that! You don’t have to suffer at someone else’s hands to earn your place. You have to trust yourself and your own abilities so you can take the journey in the way you desire.
What inspired you to join NYWIFT? How do you hope to engage with the organization?
It’s so funny because I was in the middle of working on a NYWIFT application when I happened to win a membership by winning “Best Female Filmmaker” at Katra Film Series. It truly felt like a moment of serendipity, or synchronicity, as Julia Cameron would call it.
I hope to make a lot of new friends who are creatives and build my filmmaking community! I want to support others and work on more cool projects, and also get more mentorship on how to navigate the industry.
And what is next for you?
I am working on a live-action Scooby-Doo reboot where they’re all queer people of color who are in love with each other. It is definitely not sanctioned by anyone by any means, but I have been working on it for a few years now and it just feels very, very right. At the very least I’ll get a writing sample out of it.
I’m also working on a lesbian revenge-thriller feature (think Thelma and Louise meets The Handmaiden), a queer poly-romcom (I’m so sick of love triangles!), and a spooky short about working retail at a pumpkin patch and healing the inner child.
Connect with Priya Mishra at priyamishra.co or on Instagram and TikTok @priyamishra.mkv. Feel free to shoot her an email at firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to chat or collaborate!
Meet the New NYWIFT Member: Katrina Montgomery
Please join us in welcoming new NYWIFT member Katrina Montgomery! Katrina is an NYC filmmaker with an affinity for the Bronx, the neighborhood where she grew up and still considers home. Katrina served as both Director and Director of Photography for Get Away For A Day with Allyshia Renay, which aired on BRIC, MNN, and BronxNet. Currently, she is studying film directing at Brooklyn College’s Feirstein Graduate School of Cinema and will be receiving her diploma shortly. Katrina spoke to us about her inspirations, using comedy to tackle tough topics, and lessons learned from a successful fundraising campaign.READ MORE
Meet the New NYWIFT Member: Derya Celikkol
Welcome to NYWIFT, Derya Celikkol! A proud graduate of the Experimental Theatre Wing at Tisch Schools of the Arts, Derya Celikkol is a Turkish filmmaker who lives in New York City and has contributed her extraordinary artistry to numerous projects. In addition to acting and production designing, Celikkol has directed and produced films, some of which have been showcased and won awards at film festivals worldwide.READ MORE
Meet the New NYWIFT Member: Kate Walker
With a knack for merging film with her passion for science and journalism, Kate Walker has triumphed as an environmental and science producer, director, writer, and editor. Her projects, which have aired on networks such as PBS, Vice, HBO, IFC, and MSNBC, among other media platforms, typically raise awareness of prevalent social and environmental issues such as marginalized identities and climate change. Read more about this former high school science teacher’s remarkable career journey as we discuss some must-see documentaries and Kate’s approach to developing a captivating filmic style that simultaneously educates and entertains audiences.READ MORE
Meet the New NYWIFT Member: LaKisa Renee
Welcome to NYWIFT, LaKisa Renee! LaKisa is a multitalented media/film industry professional, journalist, host, actress, videographer, voice artist, and award-winning makeup artist. She is the owner and Founder of LaKisa Renee Entertainment, a media, fashion and events company. As a media professional, she is a contributing journalist for Cultured Focus Magazine, In Black Magazine, and Steller Magazine. LaKisa spoke to us about her wide range of roles in media, fashion, and entertainment.READ MORE
Comments are closed