Embracing Abundance in Business
From the Series: Ethnocine
This series is a collaboration between SCA's Screening Room and the Ethnocine Collective whose members are Elena Guzman, Emily Hong, Miasarah Lai, Laura Menchaca Ruiz, Mariangela Mihai, and Natalie Nesvaderani. The series was envisioned by Mariangela, organized and produced by Elena and Natalie, and supported by Emily, Miasarah, and Laura. See also our introduction.
Bad Feminist Making Films is a podcast produced in collaboration with Rhiza Collective that features conversations with feminist filmmakers who are changing the industry. Bridging the academic and filmmaking worlds, our series embraces Roxane Gay’s (2014) idea of the “bad feminist” by acknowledging that we are flawed human beings doing work that is necessarily imperfect, collaborative, and processual. Rather than expecting to have all the answers, we build community with other filmmakers, lift up their personal stories, and reflect together on the mistakes and the hard-earned successes of our work. The BFMF episodes curated for this Screening Room series will focus on strategies for using the podcast as a teaching tool, outlining episode themes and teaching methods that instructors can use to foster dialogue about doing decolonial film work in educational settings.
In this episode, we talk to bad feminist filmmaker Reaa Puri, an award-winning filmmaker, TEDx speaker, and co-founder of Breaktide Productions. Reaa talks about her journey of overcoming imposter syndrome and understanding her worth and value as a filmmaker. She shares how a twist of fate pushed her to overcome a mindset of scarcity and embrace one of abundance both individually and collectively through the work she does with the collective she co-founded, Breaktide. Reaa gets into the nitty-gritty of filmmaking collectives such as deciding on projects, creating a sustainable model, and finding clients that align with collective visions. She ends with practical advice for women filmmakers to embrace their value and empower themselves through collectivity.
We thank Erica Kaunang for transcribing this podcast episode.
Gay, Roxane. 2014. Bad Feminist: Essays. New York: Harper.
Interlude: Full Service radio.
[00:00:25] Miasarah Lai: From Full Service Radio, this is Bad Feminists Making Films, a podcast presented by Rhiza and Ethnocine Collectives. We talk to bad feminist filmmakers who are confronting and changing the filmmaking industry through intersectional and decolonial practice. This is your host Miasarah and it's just me today.
[00:00:43] I'm one half of the co-hosting team today because Maggie and the season one cohost, Emily Hong are recipients of Tribeca All Access, so they're working on their documentary called Above and Below the Ground, which tells the story of brave indigenous women activists and punk rock pastors who come together for struggle of environmental self-determination in Northern Myanmar.
[00:01:08] But I'm really excited to be joined by today's guest Reaa Puri who is an award winning filmmaker, TEDx speaker, cofounder of Breaktide Productions, a woman of color owned production company. She has won numerous international film awards from New York to China and London, and was selected as Sundance New Voices Lab semifinalists. Her original work frequently explore sexual violence, accessibility, and transnational identity from shooting mission-driven campaigns for brands like Nike, and having her photography published in Vogue magazine, to working on documentaries on her activist movements in Hawai'i, Kashmir, Oakland, and beyond. She earned her bachelor's in film from the University of California, Berkeley, and grew up between California, India, and Kuwait, which influenced her decision to intersect media with social justice.
[00:02:08] So without further ado, welcome Reaa!
[00:02:10] Reaa Puri: Thank you for having me, it's awesome to be here.
[00:02:13] Miasarah Lai: Yeah. I'm super excited to be talking with you specifically because I think it's one thing to make films. That's a whole trade and skill on its own, but then there's another thing to make a living from making films, and doing that in ways that nourish you on various levels and align with your values, from day to day. So I'm super excited to hear more about your journey. And how are things going with break time? How about we begin with your background? How did you get into documentary filmmaking?
[00:02:43] Reaa Puri: I think in a lot of ways, it really helped to have creative parents.
[00:02:48] My mom's a fashion designer and she pretty much started her business when she was eighteen, right out of high school. Despite it being something that good Indian woman didn't do at the time. And so that was really encouraging for me to see as a kid, just growing up with watching my mom work on her designs every day from our dining room table.
[00:03:10] And it really pushed me to think of creativity as a serious thing that I could make a living out of. And eventually I was drawn to film just because of the possibilities that it had. I think a creative medium, it really looked like this thing where I had this responsibility and power to really move someone or inspire someone to the point of action.
[00:03:34] And that idea really made me excited. And so eventually that's, that's kind of what started it all. Then I was like, let me just try this and see how it feels. And I loved being on set. It's like the perfect situation where I feel like I can thrive. I love being in group settings and film is all about collaborating.
[00:03:53] So it also felt really good just logistically. And then I love the possibilities that this medium has.
[00:03:59] Miasarah Lai: So then tell me more about the formation of Breaktide Productions. Like who are you? Who did you co-found it with? And where did the idea to start that come from?
[00:04:09] Reaa Puri: As we know, so Breaktide is a film production company owned and operated by women of color.
[00:04:17] And I'm one of the three co-founders. And really it started because the three of us were at points in our career where we were doing great work as freelancers, and yet there was just something missing around the level of work we wanted to be able to create at. I was working with Hearst at the time, a great full-time gig.
[00:04:39] But in a lot of ways, I still feel like I wasn't having the space. Like I started, I wanted to get into film so I could do documentary work and narrative work. And I just had gotten wrapped up in the cycle of earning a living from the like day gigs, the nine-to-fives and Alex, one of our partners, she was working at Apple and she was there for five years.
[00:04:59] Similarly she was drawn into film, more from a need to serve her community. She was living in Oakland and had learned about the lead poisoning crisis in Oakland. Right. And that literally drove her to quit her job and investigate how she could turn her need to look at this into a documentary.
[00:05:17] We had just randomly met through Jalena, our third partner, who I went to high school with. She's just an amazing person, had grown up doing acting and dance and all of these other creative things. And she's also just, you know, really interested in figuring out ways to expand and grow the work that she was doing as a freelancer.
[00:05:37] We all met up at a cafe in Berkeley in December of 2017. And it all happened very fast. By March of 2018, we filed our LLC paperwork. So it's been a year. It hasn't been really long. And it really came from a place of like, we were so aligned on our values of wanting to create work, that address social justice and social impact, and also wanting to find a way for us to really enjoy our careers as creatives and to earn a living as creatives. And we were like, "what can we do together that can help us achieve all of our goals individually and collectively to have more spaces for women of color and underrepresented folks to have a sustainable filmmaking practice?"
[00:06:22] Miasarah Lai: In Hearst Media, were you creating films? What kind of content were you creating?
[00:06:27] Reaa Puri: So at Hearst Media, I was their Bay Area producer and shooter for one of their Facebook pages that they had. I handled all of our Bay Area video content. I was single-handedly producing these stories around lifestyle-oriented videos, you know, what's the coolest?
[00:06:48] Like "look at this like weird food at this place!" Or like, "look at the skating ring in a church!" Just really interesting lifestyle-oriented projects. I would do everything from like producing those videos to then going out and shooting them and meeting the people and asking them all these interview questions.
[00:07:05] And then every week I would ship over that footage to New York. And then, you know, I'd even write a paper, edit for the story, which would then get edited by our New York team. So it was fun. I think it didn't ultimately reflect the kind of work I wanted to be making, but it was a great, steady job.
[00:07:26] And I think that attracted me, I think, you know, I think there was a lot about . . . there was a moment in a period of sort of crossover from when we started Breaktide. And I was still at Hearst until March of last year and both the other partners were already, freelancing. And I just, I think there was something about the safety and stability and like having a full time job that I was really hesitant about letting go of. I've told you a little bit about that.
[00:07:54] Miasarah Lai: What made you make the leap to like say no longer working for Hearst, and gonna do a Breaktide full time.
[00:08:06] Reaa Puri: So, I mean, I had been thinking about it for a while, but I didn't feel quite ready to quit. And I remember one day, one evening, my partners called me up and they were like, okay, like, we need you to do this full time with us.
[00:08:20] Like, when are you quitting your job? And I was like, I don't feel like I'm ready yet. I need a few more months. I need like five more months. And then I promise I'll quit. And we'll do this together, like full time. And the very next morning, the bosses of my boss at Hearst who had never spoken to before they called up our whole team.
[00:08:39] And they were like, We're shutting the steam down. You're all laid off. You have like five hours to wrap everything up. So in some ways the decision was made for me and on my behalf. And, it was really scary. I'm also like, looking back at it—I'm so glad it happened because I think I wasn't going to give myself that. I just wasn't going to give myself that permission that I needed to give myself.
[00:09:03] And it's almost like, in them doing that for me, it showed me that my perceived notion that this was stability and this was safety—like all of those thoughts went out the window and I realized that this wasn't actually giving me that stability. If they can just do this to me, then what does that mean?
[00:09:23] What am I putting my own dreams on pause for?
[00:09:27] Miasarah Lai: Yeah, that's a good point. I mean, in a lot of ways. I think you were being really smart and conservative and like a lot of people are in your position of like, "okay, well this is steady income." Was that the only reason why you were staying behind?
[00:09:38] Reaa Puri: I mean, ultimately, yeah. Ultimately I was scared Jalena has this really interesting concept that she always talks about and it's this scarcity mindset versus abundance mindset. As a woman of color entering this industry, like I was totally operating from the scarcity mindset of like, you know, "I'm going to stick to what I have. This is a great gig I'm working remotely. I can kind of decide my own schedule. It's a full-time job. I'm getting health benefits." And I wasn't really looking at it more holistically at what my full potential and contribution to the world as a creative was.
[00:10:20] No, I wasn't thinking that big. And I wasn't giving myself that space to think that big after this layoff happened, it really it just broke a lot of those preconceived notions of like what the space should look like and what, and how I should be thinking about my role in this industry.
[00:10:41] Being in partnership with two other amazing women of color helped me go from this scarcity mindset to an abundance mindset. Because now what we do is we encourage each other in that, in our financial success, in our mental health and just creating a holistic space for ourselves as creatives, that feels like it's sustainable in the long run.
[00:11:04] And the nine-to-fives weren't even close to ever offering me that.
[00:11:09] Miasarah Lai: That's super interesting. So could you maybe give more tangible examples of like how you're manifesting this abundance mindset? What has changed? Like how do you organize, organize yourself differently?
[00:11:20] Reaa Puri: Collectivizing is really, it just puts everything in a whole, on a whole different space for how we are as a, as a brand.
[00:11:28] So there's one, you know, there's in terms of like how we operate now—like obviously there's one how we operate as individuals and then how we operate as a company. As a company it's like now our success is that and, strengths that we had as individuals are now threefold in a collective space.
[00:11:46] So already what that's offering us is a little bit of stability through each other's personal success. When we just started out at Breaktide, we were starting off with much smaller-scale projects, events where not all of us were working on a project. We just initially started bouncing rates off of each other.
[00:12:06] And that in itself was a big deal for me to bounce off a cinematographer a day rate off of Alex and Jalena and them say to me, I'm asking for too little. It was a very small example, but it meant a lot for them to say that. And then it became this like constant practice where we started to advocate for each other in these situations of our financial success as individuals.
[00:12:33] And then translating that to like our financial success as a company.
[00:12:37] Miasarah Lai: Yeah. I think that's like a good, transparent one of like, "I'm not just gonna accept what I'm given," but asking other people and getting feedback and transparency around that to get what you deserve.
[00:12:49] Reaa Puri: Yeah, and I think we're just so used to getting underpaid and also really not asking our worth, and some of that is, there's so much around, it's kind of true.
[00:13:01] It's like having the confidence of a mediocre white man. That's a real thing. I'd been shooting for seven, eight years, and still, if I really look at it, getting underpaid for most of that, just because I felt like, Oh, I'm not good enough. In asking for that, what I really was doing was under serving myself and like hurting my own.
[00:13:27] Self-esteem in some ways around like what I deserve and like what I'm worthy of. And I think this is something that as a women of color and even just beyond women of color, like anyone who comes from an underrepresented background, really look at what that means for you and how that makes you feel.
[00:13:44] What would it look like to ask for what you really want and to have that met. And how that can change a lot of structures. So even as a company, now, when we hire out, we know . . . we implement those same practices. Because these things around financial success, they're only gonna take you so far if you're just thinking about yourself.
[00:14:05] So there is something about thinking as a network that is hiring out. What can we do to undo these exploitive systems that have been at play for so long? Cause it's not enough just to think of watching out for yourself and then not paying it forward or not creating a system on set that is sustainable.
[00:14:28] And that is, filled with a space where people feel valued and it's so much about like the dollar amount is so much about being valued. Sticking to the timeline and the hours on set that you said you would—it's about the value and how can we create a culture where everyone is valued and respected?
[00:14:48] Miasarah Lai: Yeah. I love that. And then I guess in terms of the kinds of projects that you're working on, how do you guys decide what you are working on and how is that different from the other projects you were doing for that nine-to-five job?
[00:14:59] Reaa Puri: Yeah, I mean, there's so much freedom around that now, and that's been amazing.
[00:15:04] We get a lot of interesting clients and ultimately we look at who aligns with our values and the project itself. How does that align with what we want to uplift? Our mission is to uplift underrepresented communities and to have them in the decision-making rooms.
[00:15:24] So a lot of times, we've done a lot of campaigns around women's health, campaigns around--we did, the Black History Month campaign for Nike, which was really awesome because it did give back to the community in a lot of important ways. And so as a company, we're obviously always grappling with.
[00:15:40] How are we investing our time and how is it going to come back into the kind of work that we are proud to be a part of? What we also do is we work on branded content for half the year, the other half of the year, we work on our own documentary projects, our own narrative projects.
[00:16:03] And that was a really important piece for us to incorporate into our model because we're, I don't think we're the kind of space that just always wants to get hired out, to do other people's work. I think in a lot of ways, we want to have the time and space to also just be creative and produce work that really comes from, you know, our passion and not from serving a client's need, ultimately.
[00:16:29] Miasarah Lai: On that note, can you talk more about how you even approach finding clients? Sometimes at least for me, this is something that I struggle with. Like the people or the nonprofits that I want to produce work for don't necessarily have the budget. So then how do you figure out who to target and you know what to go after?
[00:16:49] Reaa Puri: So in all transparency, I think it was our social media and how we put ourselves out there on our website and our branding that attracted clients to us. All of the clients that we've worked with so far had approached us and we had not approached them, which is rare in some situations as an agency. So I think, as we expand out and we build capacity, we're looking at ways to make sure that we're partnering and finding the right people to work with. So far it's really been people from our existing communities that have that work with different brands that have noticed the work we're doing and have actually reached out to us because they're excited about what we're doing.
[00:17:30] So I think it's really helpful. Whether you're a freelancer or you have a small agency. To just be really upfront and real in all of your branding and social media about who you are, what your values are, what are the stories you're trying to tell?
[00:17:45] Miasarah Lai: Cool. I think that's a really good tip. On that note, I want to take a really quick break and we'll be back.
[00:17:57] Interlude: The track you're listening to during the break is, Can Find Ya by Quito. If you're tuned in, you're listening to Full Service Radio, we'll be right back.
[00:18:22] Miasarah Lai: From Full Service radio this is Bad Feminists Making Films. And this is your host Miasarah, I'm speaking with Reaa, who's a co-founder of Breaktide Productions, about the kinds of projects that she was working on. I would love to hear more about how the three of you organize specifically, do you subscribe to traditional ways where it's like there's a COO, CEO, CFO, or—how do you guys work on projects together?
[00:18:50] Reaa Puri: I think in a lot of ways we run more as a collective than as a traditional production company. Although I think as we expand this year, there are going to be facets of the organization that will divide in certain ways. Right now I'm our social media person. Alex, for instance, did our website, but what we really do is, so far we've been checking in, every week we have calls, primarily because we're working out of three different cities this year.
[00:19:21] And so we have a lot of organizational tools that we deal with around just checking in with each other and chatting on what the needs are and who can fulfill them. And this year I think we are looking a lot around capacity building. And what would it look like for us to hire more folks and get a traditional office space—is that something that we want to do?
[00:19:42] So the way we often work right now is, we'll get a project. One person will get a project on and they get a cut as a finder for the project. And then a cut goes to Breaktide. And the rest of it really is like people get hired on as different roles on the project.
[00:19:57] So in a lot of ways it is more as a collective. Because we work out of three different cities for at least like more than half the year. It's so important for us to be organized online. We do have a Slack channel that we work off of, and we've got different conversations and threads going on about like different facets of the work and what we're doing, which is really helpful for us.
[00:20:20] And we also have different, organizational materials, like the Google drives, all of that is super helpful. I think we run our company with a lot of structure around the details, but there is a lot of ease and flexibility. Again, just because our main concern is creating, creating a career that is sustainable for all of us.
[00:20:40] And so that's hard to do when there's like too much on our plate all at once. So we're constantly checking in around like what's doable. What's the best way to get something done and having flexibility around that is really helpful for us. I think, especially because when we go out on projects and shoot, we'll have weeks where we, aren't sleeping, they're really long shoot days and then prepping all night for like the next day.
[00:21:04] So when we're not on a client project, we really make sure to kind of give each other that, sense of support. You know, if you've got too much going on today, we'll reschedule the call and that's okay. And there's not going to be any shame in that. You know, I think that kind of like that kind of thought process and environment is really enriching to us in a lot of ways.
[00:21:23] In some ways, self care is an important part of our business model. That's not something that traditional companies prioritize, right? How can we make our work a nurturing and rejuvenating experience? Like that's radical and revolutionary.
[00:21:43] Miasarah Lai: Totally. Yeah. I really love that. But what are other ways in which you would say that your work is kind of like, self care and rejuvenating?
[00:21:50] Reaa Puri: Well, I think we're going on a week-long retreat in June, somewhere in Europe, most likely Portugal this year, which is really awesome. And that's something that Jalena is always like, okay, what's our next retreat. And it's a really good time, especially because we're not around each other in person a lot—for us to like every few months to get together in a low pressure sort of scenario where we can have time to just unwind. And then when we can also have time to get creative and brainstorm, and then we can have time to look at logistical items that are pending. That's a really great way for us to like, get excited about the work. That's definitely like a big thing we look forward to every few months, so that helps a lot.
[00:22:34] And then I think also just being on set, right? Film sets are traditionally places that can be very mean and cold for us. It's really important . . . that we have the structure. It's important that we get the job done. It's important that we're efficient, but it's also important, that we create a community on film sets.
[00:23:00] Miasarah Lai: Perfect.
[00:23:00] Reaa Puri: That's a core for us. And when we worked on the Nike project, this was a big thing that people really found—basically, our crew really noticed this and we got a lot of positive feedback around that, which meant so much to us.
[00:23:16] Miasarah Lai: So how do you do that? What kinds of things were you implementing on set that maybe are different than a more traditional set?
[00:23:23] Reaa Puri: I think in a lot of ways, it's not really what you say, but how you treat each other. Right? And so it was just important for us to create this vibe where, you know, Alex is directing, I'm DP-ing, Jalena's producing, we've got an order of protocol and kind of establishing that this needs to be a respectful space.
[00:23:42] And at the same time, we want to make sure everyone just feels valued. So it's not even like what it's like, it's more like the people at the top of all of these departments, they're the ones who need to implement it in each of their departments and move that way through the days. Right? So it's not like we were like, announcing like, "Hey, we're going to be really nice to you!"
[00:24:04] But, it's like, "we're going to get the job done, but we're all in this together," that kind of attitude and atmosphere really helps. And then we had a wrap party afterwards in Atlanta and that was awesome. And people really appreciated that we did that and just had time for all of us to hang out.
[00:24:22] Miasarah Lai: But that project in particular, you were the DP, Alex was the director, and Jalena was the producer. So do you usually take those roles or how is that decided from project to project?
[00:24:34] Reaa Puri: Yeah. I mean, it's really decided, depending on the needs of the project. We all are directors, we all do all kinds of technical work as well. On this project because the Nike project was focused on Black History Month, it was important for Alex to direct that and lead that ship forward. And it was important for us to also hire predominantly a Black crew and a crew that was comprised of people of color. So those were things that we made sure to implement wherever we could. And so depending on what the project needs are, and it always starts with like, who's the community we're representing here and who needs to represent that community on the other side of the lens.
[00:25:14] That's something that we think about.
[00:25:16] Miasarah Lai: I mean, it's only possible because you all have various technical skills, so you can change roles, you know, depending on the project.
[00:25:23] Reaa Puri: I think it's important just to have humility around asking ourselves, "are we the right people for this project?" And that's something we always consider.
[00:25:32] Cause it's just important. Film, has its roots in a lot of exploitive systems and it's almost like, in every small and big decision we make we're always thinking of ways to always resist that way. It's like, "how can we make sure that this project is ethical and equitable and, and is doing all the things that it should be doing? All the things that aren't dominant practice in this industry, all the things that should be, what can we do as creatives and as people who now have this power to hire folks to build narratives. What can we do that's radical and revolutionary and what can we do that represents all of the things we believe in and stand for?"
[00:26:17] It's just so simple.
[00:26:19] Miasarah Lai: I love that. It's like thinking of every step along the process of really challenging yourself and questioning yourself and thinking like, "Can this be better? Can we do this better? Can we do this to further align with our values?"
[00:26:31] Reaa Puri: Yeah and you know, it really just starts withlooking at film, right? Like you have this power and you have this responsibility, and knowing that our artistry and our creativity and our work here is a real responsibility. And just that's it. It's just that simple.
[00:26:50] Miasarah Lai: Yeah. That notion of responsibility often isn't taught—not even in schools, of like, what is my responsibility here?
[00:26:58] It's not enough just to say, you have to make the film. You have to think about the modes of production and how that production is impacting the world because you are impacting the world by what you're creating. So I think that's what I really admire about you guys and about what you're doing.
[00:27:12] Reaa Puri: Thank you.
[00:27:13] Miasarah Lai: I would love to ask more like nitty-gritty questions about numbers and stuff. Bad Feminists Making Films were produced by two collectives. So we have Ethnocine and Rhiza Collectives, and then at least for Ethnocine Collective, whenever we get a project bare minimum, like 15 to 20 percent we take for our collective, because if we don't take at least that much, the money that we're getting, is that enough for what we're doing?
[00:27:36] But how are you guys thinking about numbers?
[00:27:38] Reaa Puri: I mean, it's essentially the same. There's always a minimum 10 percent finder's fee that goes to the person bringing the project. And then, you know, 15 to 20, at least going to break tight as an agency, just to help us run our day-to-day operations.
[00:27:53] Just because there's so many costs associated with running, having an LLC and having all the little things that you need to run the company. But to be honest, I think with the rest of it, there's a lot of flexibility that we have here, I think so far, because it's just three of us. This last year has really been focused on asking and answering whether we can create a sustainable filmmaking practice for ourselves financially.
[00:28:19] And so that's what we've been focused on. But now, as we've seen that there is a demand and people are seeking out our work, we're trying to figure out, you know, should we be looking at, investors that, stand in with our values that we'd want to help kind of take our company to the next level? But it's not something we've answered yet.
[00:28:39] So it really is because our overheads are low and because we have the talent and the equipment that we need to run, you know, to make this happen, it's really like, when we get a project in that the costs really help us invest in ourselves for our company.
[00:28:53] Miasarah Lai: I think that's a good point. So when you guys were starting, you already had the equipment and stuff like that?
[00:28:58] Reaa Puri: Yeah. We had a lot of the infrastructure we needed, but honestly, it's like, you know, you're going to put in rental costs anyway, whether you own them or not. So it kind of works out the same. But we, yeah, we had, we had the know-how around, we'd been doing this for a few, at least a few years, you know, really kind of had a good sense of what we need to make a production come to life.
[00:29:19] And it was fairly easy to get it off the ground. The overheads were really low. We don't, we're not really putting in major costs unless we have a project coming in and then we know that money is getting used properly.
[00:29:32] Miasarah Lai: So along those lines, do you have any tips for women of color who are freelancing out there maybe on negotiating rates or other things that come to mind?
[00:29:40] Reaa Puri: Yes. I think the biggest, like the biggest thing for me that really helped change a lot of, you know, the level of work that I'm doing and the way that I'm doing it as collectivizing right? I think it's so important for us to start collectivizing and networking with other women of color, with people who stand in and represent the values that we want to help uplift and see more of.
[00:30:05] I think it's really important for us to get in those spaces together. And instead of always looking for people who don't represent our interests or don't necessarily believe in the same things. Like, I'm just, I'm not interested in that anymore. I'm just interested now in, in thriving with the people who have these beliefs and values and with the people who really see their work as a responsibility—like that's, that's what I'm interested in.
[00:30:31] And I think it's really important that we start seeing each other as stronger together in a lot of ways, I think with other women of color, it can help you in so many different ways, but in, just in terms of negotiating, you're already stronger. If you're showing up not as an individual. So that's really helpful.
[00:30:52] And I think the, the point about scarcity mindset, I think it is important to start thinking about, from a place of abundance in your financial conversations, you know, getting comfortable, really asking for that dollar amount that you want and aiming high and knowing if the person says no, it's okay—but it's still your responsibility to ask for what you want.
[00:31:12] And to know that that is okay, and that is. Like you deserve that, like, you know, stop, stop underselling yourself and stop believing that you're not at a place to be, you know, asking for what it is you want. And also another really important piece of this is that like, when you are in a position of power and you are in a position to hire other people, it's really our responsibility to help bring our community up with us. So it's important to hire other women of color and to really pay it forward because that's the only way we grow, actually, it's, it's, it's through growing together and with each other.
[00:31:49] Miasarah Lai: What is, what was I hearing? Oh, which I think goes so well with that, you know, with your, the name of your production company Breaktide is like "the only way—" Oh man, I'm gonna mess it up. It's something along the lines of like, "We all come up together once . . . once the ti— when the tides are high, not when they're low" and I forget I—I'm totally screwing it up, but it's like something of that tend to network it's like we can only go up together.
[00:32:12] Reaa Puri: Yes, exactly. And Breaktide, we're here to break these exploitative systems and create, create a new world and new waves where this way of thinking and being and existing is possible. And it's one that really is for everyone. But I think just as a society, our voices need to start getting valued more, which I think they are I think we come from a legacy of women who have been doing the work, just not getting the credit for it.
[00:32:45] Miasarah Lai: Yeah, totally.
[00:32:47] Reaa Puri: People have been doing the work for a really long time.
[00:32:49] Miasarah Lai: Yeah, a lot of this work has been happening in generations before us. We're not saying anything new.
[00:32:56] Reaa Puri: We're echoing the same things our grandmothers have been saying, and their grandmothers have been saying. And I think, especially in the context of U.S. history, the work that Black women have been doing.
[00:33:07] I mean, just this weekend, I was at the SF Film Festival where Madeline Anderson was being given this lifetime award to honor her work. And, you know just doing film school at UC Berkeley, I took a documentary class where I think I learned about pretty much every white male filmmaker on the face of this earth.
[00:33:31] And I was like, why have I not been introduced to Ms. Anderson's work? She was doing work in the fifties. Amazing, incredible work. Her short film I Am Somebody. It pretty much features these Black women striking for higher wages at hospitals. They were nurses and Loretta King even spoke at this rally and it's just a beautiful film that really centers their voices.
[00:33:58] And I'm like, "this is radical. This is revolutionary." And I was so pissed off that this isn't celebrated more.
[00:34:06] Miasarah Lai: I totally hear that. I totally hear that. I remember feeling that way when I was getting my MFA in documentary where I'm like, "we're only watching films by white people" and it was like 2014 and like, seriously? Like y'all are getting paid? Like I'm paying you to teach me this? Like, Oh my gosh.
[00:34:25] Reaa Puri: And what if we lived in a world where not only wasn't the white man the default and the standard to aspire to . . . what if, women of color were? What if black women were? What if trans women were? The whole way we operate would be different.
[00:34:49] And I think, I mean, I think the history of colonization, I think every little thing we do in this world, from the way that we network, the way that we communicate to the way we deal with our social relationships—they are so informed by colonial practices that I think we're not, we're not fully there around really what we could, where we could be if we totally threw that out the window.
[00:35:13] Miasarah Lai: But I'm with you on that. That is why we started this podcast, how can we reimagine the world? How are people trying to do that? And what strategies are they implementing? How are you trying to implement that? In filmmaking, not just in the final product, but in the process of it?
[00:35:33] Reaa Puri: When we got together with Breaktide, it wasn't just about us making a sustainable filmmaking career for ourselves.
[00:35:42] It was about reimagining a whole industry. What we're trying to do here is so much bigger than us. It's really for our community though. Yeah, it is for trying to reimagine it for women of color, for queer and trans folks, for people who aren't considered when we think about this industry. They're just not the kind of people we have historically prioritized in this industry.
[00:36:09] Right? We've always been the people to look at, to be looked at.
[00:36:13] Miasarah Lai: Well girl, we can talk about this forever, but we really wanted to thank you for all that you've shared about your work and the way that you're thinking about things. I did want to give you a moment to like shout out how the Bad Feminists Making Films community can support you on any projects that you're working on moving forward.
[00:36:31] Reaa Puri: We're working on so many amazing things. So most recently, I'm co-directing and DP-ing, a web series called Be Escapist. It's about three best friends that follow their dreams and disappoint their families in the process.
[00:36:45] Miasarah Lai: Yay! [Laughter]
[00:36:46] Reaa Puri: And we're screening in San Francisco. Our premiere is happening on April 26th.
[00:36:50] We were super surprised that our event was sold out in less than twelve hours, but you know...
[00:36:57] Miasarah Lai: Whaat! That's crazy!
[00:36:57] Reaa Puri: But we will be launching, we will be just dropping our pilot episode on YouTube on May 1st. So please follow our Instagram at @theescapistwebseries and subscribe to our YouTube, do all, do all the buttons, click all the buttons—it'll really, really, really will help us a long way. One of our documentaries OAKLEAD, if you follow @Oaklead is about lead point, the lead poisoning crisis in Oakland, that Alex is directing. Another documentary Standing Above the Clouds is a story of native Hawaiian mothers and daughters standing for their sacred mountain Mauna Kea against a thirty-meter telescope that plans to be built on that mountain.
[00:37:38] So you can also follow that Instagram channel @standingabovetheclouds. Yeah, I think, I mean, I think that's an follow us @Breaktide. Feel free to email us, message us, connect with us. We're always looking to connect with other women and women of color.
[00:37:56] Miasarah Lai: Cool. So, you hear, press all the buttons, like all the things, go on their website, check out what they're doing.
[00:38:02] Again, so happy to talk to you and so excited about the work that you guys are doing.
[00:38:07] Reaa Puri: Thank you so much. And thank you for having me on your show. We really appreciate it.
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