Meet the SHEROES - Pooja Kohli
Pooja was born and raised in New Delhi on a steady diet of Bollywood films, bhangra music and spicy chaat. At the age of 22 she produced and directed a 13 part series on Shiya Muslims, Shiya-Ya-Ne-Hind, for I.R.I.B., the national network of Iran.This early success encouraged her to further her knowledge and she studied filmmaking in London, before procuring a Masters in Visual Media Arts from Emerson College, Boston. After graduation, Pooja joined IFP, as Managing Director of the IFP Market. She also serves on various screening committees and juries including the Emmy Awards, Asian American International Film Festival, Tribeca Gucci Fund etc.
To fulfill her absolute dedication to give voice to the Diaspora of the South Asian Filmmakers she started with the MIAAC Film Festival in 2002, and was the Festival Director till 2007 when she left to form FilmKaravan to produce, distribute and disseminate speciality films from the subcontinent in the global marketplace.
Upon moving to the Silicon Valley in 2011, she combined her passion for film distribution with the emerging technology around her. She ran an Intel funded, consumer portal called Mela to bring Indian Television and Film, over the internet, to audiences around the world for 18 months soon to realize that Film Distribution was her passion, and thus began the journey to distribute Indian Film and Television content via platforms like iTunes, Netflix, Amazon, Google Play, Facebook and more to reach audiences in more than 110 countries.
Pooja lives in California with her Google husband and her two sons, who are training to beat Usain Bolt's record.
Tell us more about yourself
I am often referred to as a bull in a china shop. I have the most suportive family and 2 lovely sons that encourage me to do my best. ?Travelling to India every other month from California, racks up miles faster that you can imagine. My motto in life is " if everything is moving along fine, you are not working hard enough"
I enjoy time with friends and try to connect with as many of them as possible, through my travels. I hate talking on the phone, and checking voicemails. Social media is a godsend. ?
What motivated you to take up film-making?
I love stories, and when my grandmother used to tell me tales, I used to visualize them in my head. Soon, I realized I loved talking to an audience and spreading messages, whether it was the cause of National Literacy Mission or Sports. This lead me to take up MC and VJ jobs jobs, right out of school. Working withAce teams from Iran, motivated me to tell my own stories. After 13 docs on Shiya Muslims in India, I went abroad to pursue Filmmkaing. But after finishing school, I realized all the stories I wanted to tell were back home, so I joined IFP to run a filmmaker fellowship program, so that I could help the participants tell their stories.
Give us a glimpse of your journey so far.
The Indian Film Festival was a part of my initial journey for 5 years, which lead me to start FilmKaravan, as I was convinced that no one is able to watch the 50 splendid films we presented in a week. Through this company we distributed unique and important films like Sita Sings the Blues, Supermen of Malegaon etc. I am a true believer of technology therefore Digital Distribution was something I got on to, as an early mover and today my company delivers Indian Film and TV content to iTunes, Google Play, Facebook, Amazon, BSkyB and many more. It's my way of bringing the content and audiences closer to each other.
What is work life balance to you?
Ahhh, that's a tricky one. For my work, I have to be away for every other month, in India. It is tough on my kids and family. But it is a choice I made, with support of my husband and family. When I am back in California, they have my full attention (work hours are nights with the time difference in India) ?so while it is tricky, I believe, one day they will grow up and follow the same work culture. Till then, thank god for daily video chats!
What are you currently working on?
Working with A-list celebrities to feature original content on their social media pages. It's going to be an amazing year ahead!?
I am also training for a marathon (when I get a chance)!?
What advice would you give to SHEROES planning a career in film-making.
Just passion is not enough. It's a starting point, but you have to be good at what you believe is your calling. And the only way to be good at something is to learn. Ask questions, find mentors, get training, evolve, persist.