Go With The Flow
My journey in the film, television, and performing arts industries was unplanned. However, my instincts have worked towards goals and dreams with a “Go with the flow” attitude.
One day, I visited a dance academy called Darpana Academy in Ahmedabad, India. I’ve been a natural dancer since childhood and wanted to learn the Indian classical dance Bharat Natyam. It was the evening of 28th October 1982. I still remember it as it was the day I entered into the world of theatre as an “actor” instead of a dancer. From then, up until about 1989, I was crazy busy with acting jobs for theatre, television, and films. Also during that time, I got an opportunity to graduate in performing arts from the National School of Drama (NSD), in Delhi. But due to family commitments I had to say goodbye to my acting career, at least for the time being.
I did get a Government Job in 1989 in Doordarshan Kendra, India (State TV broadcaster) as a production assistant for television programmes in the Gujarati language. It was a great time to learn to edit, direct, and produce because of the staff shortages to create TV programmes for local audiences. I was lucky enough to get intense filmmaking training at the Film Institute of Pune (FTII), India, which is equivalent to the South Seas Film School in Aotearoa. I quit that job in 1993. I was missing acting and theatre due to that job, so I resigned and started my own production company named “Bermuda Telefilms” to produce films, television programmes for local tv stations, and stage plays/dramas in the Gujarati language.
From 1993 to 2003, before I migrated to NZ, I produced, directed, edited and acted in several stage plays/dramas, TV programmes, and films in India. I left India in 2003 to make Aotearoa, New Zealand, our second home to give our daughter a better life. My wife and I left all our loving jobs/work to settle in NZ with the same attitude “Go with the Flow”.
2003 to 2008, for five years, I tried hard to get work in the film and television industry and tried very hard to convince many producers and production houses so I could become a part of the NZ film and television industry. However, everything was a struggle with no money, no recognition, language difficulties, the colour of my skin, and my thick accent. I did odd jobs without losing hope and confidence.
I was lucky enough to have a good old friend in Auckland from my home town to rescue me by showing me the right path to get into the industry, DR. Shuchi Kothari (Thanks heaps, Shuchi). She asked me to do a post-graduate diploma in screen production from the University of Auckland, and I did it in 2007-2008 to develop an awareness of the NZ film and television industry. After my PG diploma, my first job in NZ was with The Walt Disney Company (New Zealand) Ltd for fantasy drama series The Legend of the Seeker season 1 & 2, as an assistant editor, recommended by Vanessa Alexander and Zane Homes (Thank you both).
I have worked as an assistant editor and editor, plus an actor (with Auckland Actors) in the NZ film and television industry, Since 2008. I have held myself back from directing and producing in New Zealand because of my lack of confidence with my english and racial biases in the film and television industry.
My love for my own Gujarati language pushed me to go back to India (after the graduation of my daughter) in February 2018, where:
- I acted in a Gujarati feature film Hellaro, which won the 66th National Film Award for Best Feature Film in 2018.
- I directed a Gujrati feature film Saheb, which was released successfully in February 2019. It’s available to stream on Amazon Prime. Saheb was critically acclaimed in regional cinema.
I returned home in August 2021, after 18 months, as I felt that Aotearoa New Zealand was my first home. Being stuck in lockdown due to the pandemic meant I couldn’t return to India in December 2021 for another feature film project. I did begin working in post-production again whilst in lockdown.
Now again, back in India due to the sad demise of my father in the last week of June 2022. I’ll start working on my next project once everything gets back to normal in my life.
About Shailesh Prajapati
Shailesh is an editor, director, and actor originally from India and now residing in Aotearoa New Zealand. He has worked on tv shows, films, and short films including award-winning short film Perianayaki, which won Best Short Film at NZIFF.
How I Got Started in the Industry is a guest blog series from the Directors and Editors Guild of Aotearoa New Zealand (DEGANZ). Our members reflect on how they made their way into assistant editing, editing, and directing—with no two stories the same. They offer advice for those starting out. Get in touch with email@example.com if you’re a member and would like to share your story.
Last updated on 3 November 2022