'Just do your best show every day and move from strength to strength.'
She is the force to reckon with in the indie space.
She is known to meticulously pick her projects and put them on global stage.
And her effort is making India proud at various film festivals and ceremonies.
She is Guneet Monga.
Her production The Elephant Whisperers, directed by Kartiki Gonsalves and distributed by Netflix, has been nominated for Best Documentary Short at the Academy Awards, and Guneet is using her creative muscle to bring the golden statue home.
This isn't her first time, of course.
In 2018, she was the executive producer on the Oscar-winning Documentary Short, Period. End of Sentence.
Guneet tells Mayur Sanap/Rediff.com, "When I saw The Elephant Whisperers, I had just come back from Period. End Of Sentence. I go by my intuition and was blown away by the story and Kartiki's strong visual sense."
What drew you to this project? And how did it come along?
Firstly, who can say no to baby elephants, right? Kartiki's passion and vision was a driving point for me as well.
She discovered this story and worked on the subject for over five years.
She made the trailer and took that to Netflix. Then the Netflix team and Kartiki reached out to me.
I've been on it for three-and-a-half years now.
When I saw it, I had just come back from Period. End Of Sentence. I go by my intuition and was blown away by the story and Kartiki's strong visual sense.
What made you trust her vision as director?
I find this story almost spiritual.
Her visual strength is so nice.
She has been a photographer for a long time. Now, getting into audio-visual and making a documentary is quite something.
We had 450 hours of footage and we brought it down to 40 minutes.
When you're shooting in the wild, you lose track of how much you are rolling. We were rolling constantly to catch a smallest of moments from elephants.
What emotions did you go through when you heard the Oscar nomination announcement?
Oh, surreal! I mean our videos are online, it was absolutely surreal and yeah, it was just gratifying and overwhelming.
What is your mindset as producer when you get on the Oscar journey?
I'm just grateful to be on this journey with Netflix because there are years of experience that we can tap into.
A nomination brings so much publicity on a film that more people are watching it and the message of co-existence of animal and human can go forward.
How did you get your film noticed by the Oscar jury?
It is a two-step campaign.
The first is to get shortlisted for the nomination and the second is from the nomination to wining.
You first have to apply for the Oscar qualifying festivals where it is seen or awarded.
The Academy has its own system to watch the films and give out the list of top 15, which is the Shortlist. From the Top 15, a campaign is initiated and five are nominated.
During this shortlist-to-nomination campaign, only people from docu branch can vote. During the nomination-to-win campaign, the whole Academy can vote.
We were shortlisted on December 21.
On January 24, we were nominated.
Your first journey to the Oscars was in 2010 with Kavi. What's been your most valuable lesson?
You can never predict an Oscar nod or an Oscar shortlist or a nomination.
Just do your best show every day and move from strength to strength.
How do Bomman and Bellie feel about the Oscar nomination?
Of course, they understand that it's a big deal.
There are a lot of more people showing up at the reserves to meet them.
There is a lot more attention.
You are among the strong voices of women empowerment in the industry. How important is it to have women representation in your films?
It's really important for me.
There are less than five per cent women film-makers. I would really like to increase that.
We need to push and make more spaces comfortable for women behind and in front of the camera.
We have suffered years of patriarchy.
Naatu Naatu and All That Breathes are in the Oscar race too. It is a great time for Indian film community, isn't it?
Yeah, absolutely! In all our diversity and all our colours.
It's a moment to rejoice.
Your project lineup includes one with Tahira Kashyap. What can you tell us about that film?
It's very early days.
She's an incredible female film-maker that I definitely would like to back.
We are developing something very interesting.