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Living the Dream “Late Night” director Nisha Ganatra chats with YouTube star turned real-life late night host Lilly Singh Story By Christina Campodonico | Photos courtesy of Film Independent


olden Globe-winning film and TV director Nisha Ganatra intimately knows how fickle the wheel of Hollywood fortune can be. After the success of her first feature film “Chutney Popcorn” at the Berlin International Film Festival in 2000, she thought her career would take off in many new directions, but could barely make the trek back home to her apartment upon returning from the festival. “They send this Mercedes to pick you up and drive you around and you win this award and you’re getting free drinks and all that,” recalled Ganatra of the way she was feted in Berlin, “and then you literally fly back to Brooklyn … and you’re like, ‘I can’t afford the taxi from the airport to my apartment.’” Ganatra, who directs the new film “Late Night” starring Oscar winner Emma Thompson and Mindy Kaling (the mastermind of “The Mindy Project” and screenwriter/producer behind “Late Night”), shared honest tidbits like this during the Film Independent Forum, held at LMU’s Playa Vista campus on Saturday, April 27, and Sunday, April 28. At the time, “Late Night,” which opened in Los Angeles June 7, had already gained buzz for its $13 million sale to Amazon Studios at Sundance, but Ganatra seemed even more proud of the fact that her collab with Kaling — itself an unlikely-to-get-made comedy about the mentorship between an older female late-night comic (Thompson) and a young-and-hungry diversity hire writer (Kaling)—carried a ReFrame Stamp of approval. (That means that

Ganatra gushed over Singh, telling her she was her inspiration

at least four out of eight key areas of production were helmed by femaleidentifying people.) “It really takes on the idea that who’s telling the story is as important as what stories you do,” she told YouTube star Lilly Singh, who moderated. “It does matter who’s doing your makeup, who’s recording your sound, who’s deciding where the camera goes. … All of that matters … That makes me proud of the ReFrame Stamp.” Uplifting female voices in Hollywood was a theme throughout their discussion—from the comedic and playful Singh encouraging the humble

Ganatra, who’s made a point of placing female creatives in key behind-thescenes positions since her first film, to talk about her elite and unlikely film education (studying cinema with Spike Lee at NYU; before that sneaking into film classes) to serious fan-girling between the two media-makers, both of Indian descent. “You were saying, ‘Who inspires you?’ And I didn’t want to be cheesy, but you,” Ganatra told Singh. “Oh my god, stop it,” replied Singh, who has over 14 million YouTube subscribers.

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