Born and raised in Calcutta, Petrina started her career as a journalist intern with Zee News and The Times of India and soon after graduating in 2002, Petrina travelled and lived in Australia and New Zealand and wrote for the Sunday Star Times & Sunday News. She graduated from Mount Carmel College in 2002 with a degree in Communicative English (Mass Communication). While in New Zealand she did freelancing with a local production house and did odd jobs – one being at a Barrista where she loved the fact that people would walk in asking for her to make their favorite coffee! She completed her PG Diploma filmmaking in Auckland with a double major in producing and directing documentaries.
She has been part of various co-productions for feature films, television and short films with Greece, Australia, New Zealand and India in the capacity of an associate producer, producer, executive producer and assistant director. Having worked with leading production houses in New Zealand – Greenstone Pictures, Eyeworks Touchdown, Petrina’s trans-global sensibilities helps tremendously when working with co-productions. She has been on the ‘Celebrate Age’ competition section jury at 14th MAMI (Mumbai Association of Moving Images) Film Festival 2012 alongside noted author and columnist Shobhaa De with National Award winning directors BhavnaTalwar, Sachin Kundalkar and noted actor Ranvir Shorey.
She returned to India, in 2009, and started working as a Producer on adfilms and shortfilms. And it was during the time that she spent on the sets when she realized the need for a networking platform for women working in the industry. With plenty of support from the WIFT International chair she initiated the need for a WIFT (Women in Film & Television), chapter in India with the help of the support from the advisory board.
In this exclusive conversation with LifeBeyondNumbers, Petrina talks about her journey, how she started WIFT India and lots more…
Inception of Women in Film & Television (WIFT) India
I knew of WIFT when I was studying and working in New Zealand. I was introduced to the global organisation where they held events regularly to bring professionals from the industry to network with aspiring women who were looking to get a foot hold into the industry. And I thought what a brilliant way to meet like-minded people without having any family or friends or connections in the industry. A great way to find work!
The idea to initiate the platform in India came on one of my shoots in Mumbai when I realized that it was just three women on a set of more than ninety people! I then started talking to women I met while on shoot or at events to gauge the response for a platform like WIFT, where women could come together to support and encourage each other. I started by making cold-calls and sending emails to women who were achievers in the industry to support the cause and to be on the advisory board. This to-date is my most overwhelming experience to see these strong influential women give their time & support to the initiative because they believed it was the need of the hour. Thus began the journey to set up WIFT in India.
WIFT India is set up with the help of the advisory board to encourage and support women working or wanting to work in the film/TV industry. While New Zealand, Los Angeles, UK and other global chapters are more than 20+ years in existence, WIFT India completes two in March this year.
Currently we are concentrating on forming a strong network of women and men who believe in the vision to make it a strong support structure through mentorships, networking workshops, internships, screening of films, masterclasses, etc. We have held regular events and screenings with stalwarts from the industry on screenplay writing, directing, costume designing, masterclasses, in-conversations with Zoya Akhtar, Reema Kagti, Vidya Balan, Anupama Chopra, Umesh Shukla, Akshay Kumar, Ashvini Yardi, Nandita Das, Neeta Lulla, Niharika Khan, Gavin Miguel. We have reached out to directors, cinematographers, editors, other technicians requesting them to place one aspiring woman recommended by WIFT India to mentor through an internship. This is a very big opportunity for those who have no connections, family or friends in the industry but aspire to hone their skills. The team of WIFT India is huge – it includes everyone who is a part of it by volunteering their time, expertise, advice and our sponsors who support this initiative by taking care of costs we at times can’t afford.
The Women Centric Movies and TV Shows
I read an online article about a research conducted by Time Entertainment to measure this growth. The opening sentence made me smile. It says time has come to put the notion that men won’t pay to see movies starring women to rest. Yay! So yes this could be a good barometer to the rise in women centric movies. We are seeing a rise in filmmakers that have strong women centric storylines in mind and are not afraid to call it commercial cinema. As compared to earlier where a woman centric storyline meant it was art house cinema with no commercial gains. With films like The Dirty Picture, Kahaani succeeding at the Box Office, the notion definitely seems like it’s being put to rest. Now to add to this, we need to see the rise in the number of women technicians making films. Of course television as compared to the larger canvas of cinema is different but both are mass mediums of communication. There is definitely a rise in TV shows that are centered around a strong female protagonist, again it is a barometer to what is being appreciated out there.
Challenges, Learning and Future
Both the learning and challenges never stop. If they do then somewhere your motivation is lost to excel at whatever it is you are doing! The biggest challenge I face right now it to get the message about this platform to those who don’t know about it without sounding like I’m marketing the platform. I agree it needs to grow organically, but it also needs to be visible to those who need the support and for those who can be support for the platform, and for that I need all the help from the media to spread the word. And I learnt what F.O.C stands for, after I looked blankly at a venue manager I was requesting to hold a workshop asked me “will this be FOC?” and now I use it now quite shamelessly (laughs)!
The aim is to make WIFT India a strong support platform for women in the film and TV industry, and this will only happen if everyone comes together and does their little bit by giving – I reach out to those who can contribute their time and experience to the lesser privileged who have no connections, family or friends in the industry yet strive to hone their skills through internships and mentorships. My hope is to see a WIFT presence throughout the length and breadth of India especially in states that have a strong film and TV industry, and to conduct regular workshops and screenings in these cities. But again it will take the women from these film fraternities to take the initiative to set it up, and WIFT India will support it every step of the way!