She is a film writer, director, and producer. She is also a children’s book author. Meet Nikita Hattangady. In this interview, she shares about multi-tasking as a mother and busy professional, how her team came together for the award-winning short film Falafel, the inspiration behind her book We Are American, and the book’s inclusive message. Please join us.
Disclosure: This sponsored interview shows the power of creativity and passion, as well as how one woman promotes inclusion through her children’s book
Interview with Nikita Hattangady
This conversation covers many topics, which is fitting, given how multi-talented Nikita is! From talking about the film industry to finding one’s identity and the quest for inclusion, there is a lot to discuss. Let’s get to the first question!
You are multi-talented! You are a film writer, director, producer, and author. How do you manage different hats in your career?
Thank you for your kind words and an opportunity to share with your readers. My background is actually quite different. I have degrees in Electrical Engineering and Business and worked in those industries. But after I became a mother, I worked for my children!
Mothers have to wear many hats; house manager, cook, babysitter, teacher, chauffeur, best friend, policewoman, and more. Even though I studied management, I didn’t really learn how to manage until I became a mom. I am inclined toward the creative arts, and I always wanted to pursue that line. I worked as a volunteer in the film industry while the kids were young and eventually decided to seriously pursue my passions as they got older .
Independent artists have a tight budget to work with and have to handle multiple jobs. I think when you love something, you will learn to manage the many different roles you have to play. Plus, I have an incredibly supportive family that fully participates with me in every venture.
Support is everything! Have you always wanted to be in a creative role?
Yes! I always dreamed of doing creative work. I am an Indian-American, and almost all Indian kids in my generation in the US studied Medicine, Engineering, or Law.
So, it was a given that I would pursue one of those disciplines. But my heart always loved the arts: film, dance, music, writing, and fashion. Movies are an incredible medium to share ideas and stories. I grew up watching Hollywood and Bollywood films and just ended up pursuing what I loved most.
What inspired you to create Nouveau Journey Productions?
My son and daughter often felt confused about their identity. Being of Indian origin, they travelled to India frequently. We had the great opportunity to live in Europe for three years as well. When we returned to the US, they kept wondering what we were; Indian, French, or American!
We live in a predominantly Caucasian area of Texas, and most of their friends innocently kept telling them that they couldn’t be American because they looked different. I experienced the same thing in my youth.
I decided in the spring of 2010 to make a picture book about diversity in America for their friends, just for fun. It was to introduce the youngsters to the founding principle of America: A nation of people from all over the world living together as one community.
When I finished the illustrations, my family encouraged me to publish it. I made the company Nouveau Journey Productions to make books about themes I believed in, and my first publication was We Are American. As I moved into the film industry, the company also became my production company.
What a wonderful thing to create for your kids – and others! We’ll get back to the book in a bit. What projects are in the works at Nouveau Journey Productions?
I just completed my second short film, La Pietra, a drama about a yesteryear opera singer in Italy who lost the spark in her life. I am in preproduction for my third about a street artist in Mumbai.
Exciting! The short film Falafel (2020) you wrote and directed has received much positive attention. Please share a bit about the plot and public feedback.
Falafel is a romantic comedy about two British Indians living in London and having an awful day. As the day progresses, their moods change, as do their lives.
I never expected people to respond so well to it, but they did. The story revolves around young adults that want their own identity but want to be loyal to their parents, who have different dreams for them.
I think most people fall into this category. We want to be true to ourselves, but we love our families too. I think that subtle message of how bad we feel when we let our loved ones down but still want to find our individuality is what resonated with audiences worldwide. So many people told me they loved the story, the innocence of the two characters, and the surprise ending.
Here is the
Falafel Film Trailer from Nikita Hattangady
Were there any unexpected challenges while making Falafel?
Even though I had been volunteering in other local projects, I didn’t have a team that could make my vision a reality. Not knowing where to begin was my biggest challenge.
I eventually sent an email to the head of the film department at our local community college requesting to be connected to professional filmmakers in the area. I was given some leads, and although none of those worked out, each of them spread the word. I met my would-be cinematographer in a Starbucks, and he introduced me to the rest of my crew!
I met my lead actor at a Public Service Announcement shoot we were both acting in. I told him I wrote a story and would soon be looking for a team. He was so enthusiastic and messaged me as soon as we left the shoot.
He and a student of mine, who is a dancer, did a cold read of my script, again at a Starbucks, a few weeks later. At the end of the read, I knew I was ready to roll and locked in the leads. BTW, I don’t drink coffee, but I love to hang out in coffee shops.
Such a great story of how the team came together! What is your favorite part about the film industry?
Film is an incredible medium to dream, see the world, learn about ourselves and just feel good. I love that we can float away into another world while watching a film and learn something from it.
Let’s talk more about We Are American. What is the book about?
The colorful book introduces the reader to 37 countries, their flags, and traditional dresses. Children will learn how to say hello in many different languages. Although each of those children and their families immigrated from other countries, they ALL are American.
It’s also a first reader book. Children learn to recognize words through repetitive sentences. I hope that each child that reads and looks at the illustrations in We Are American will learn to appreciate different cultures while being proud of the concept of America; people of various traditions living pluralistically next to one another in harmony.
It’s a gentle way to let our preschool children know that Americans come in all colors of the rainbow. The book is used in some schools in Texas and the state of Washington as a teaching tool for diversity.
The illustrations were made with free software that we get with our computer operating system. Each illustration was made with multiple layers and was made to appear as if a child made them since the book is for children.
I can see why schools are using this book as a teaching tool. Looking ahead, what do you see in your creative future?
We have completed a few more books for children, and I hope that we will be releasing them by the end of 2023. This year we will also be releasing two more short films.
What else Nikita Hattangady wants you to know
I did not enter the industry until after my kids were grown. For years I was a stay-at-home mom.
Many women feel age hinders their ability to pursue their dreams. That’s not true. In fact, when we are older, we are more pragmatic, more experienced, and wiser.
I loved being with my children when they were growing. They still are my whole world. When they were in school, I planted the seeds to my future pursuits through acting lessons, volunteering, and writing whenever I had a chance. Once they became independent, I was ready to jump in.
Don’t be afraid of age or being a newcomer. Women are great managers. You can do it. You can do anything.
Get your copy of the book We Are American
The children’s picture book We Are American by Nikita Hattangady is available on Amazon. You can also order directly from Nouveau Journey Productions. Or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Schools and large orders can get significant discounts, so email is best.
Connect with Nikita Hattangady online
Find Nikita through her Instagram for Nouveau Journey Productions and stay current on her creative projects. Alternatively, contact her directly through email (address in the previous section)
Find out more about her current film project La Pietra, information on Falafel, LinkedIn, and other websites she is connected to at Nikita Hattangady’s Linktree profile.
Thank you to this multi-talented woman for taking the time for the interview! Wishing you all a creative day – As Nikita says, “you can do anything.”
Top photo courtesy of Nikita Hattangady