Cool Kaurs

Kaur Careers: Filmmaker

Welcome to the fifth article in our newest series, “Kaur Careers”.  Often times a lot of us just aren’t aware of all the career options out there. So, in an effort to highlight non-traditional career paths and to inspire Kaurs to explore different educational and job options, Kaur Life launched a new series called “Kaur Careers.” 

Today, we’ll take a look at Sikh woman who has turned her hobby of filmmaking into a career! You may have heard about Harpreet Kaur from her films, “We are Sikhs,” “Saz of Gurmat Sangit,” “The Widow Colony,” and “A Little Revolution.”

Profile_PICName: Harpreet Kaur

Occupation: Filmmaker

Describe what you do:

I experience life through story telling! I meet people, listen to their stories, understand them and learn from their lives. Being a filmmaker and directing a project is extremely difficult especially when you’re working on documentaries. There’s really no separation from my profession and the life I lead because this isn’t a 9 to 5 job, it’s a lifestyle. The work I do goes beyond the screen and the time I spent in production. My work is my legacy, not my name! All my films from shorts to feature length have left a mark and most importantly they will live beyond my life time.

When and how did you realize this was the career path for you?
I always wanted to be in the field of media which is very broad of course so, I did everything from print, radio to television. In fact, I was a story teller from a young age. At every sleepover I would come up with horror narratives to freak everyone out! From what my cousins tell me, I came up with some
good characters, plots and endings . They’re still waiting for me to make a horror film but no, I don’t think that’s the reason I choose this career path. What really reinforced my decision as a child was when my parents bought a camcorder which became my new toy. That’s probably what gave me
the opportunity to capture my imagination and the creative freedom to do what I enjoyed which lead me to this path.

Considering it is nontraditional, what were your parents’  reaction? How did you deal with their response?
My parents have always been my number one fans and supporters. They never influenced my decision or dictated what career path to take. In fact, they were my first audience when it came to making films as a child. My dad bought a RCA camcorder which was to be used on family vacations, birthday parties and during family kirtans. I remember it was an expensive camcorder and I was young, but my parents never discouraged me from handling it. Soon it was used daily at home to document everyday life, capturing activity in the kitchen, living room backyard to directing short films and producing talk shows with my siblings. I loved doing everything from operating the camera, directing my siblings
and coming up with story ideas. My parents were always excited to watch what we would come up with regardless of the length or quality. They would get a kick out of sharing the videos with guest which was very embarrassing, so we decided to hide them…I mean stored them way. (wink)

Harpreet_ProductionWhat do you enjoy about your job the most?
The most rewarding part of my job is knowing that the film has gone beyond it’s screen value and has made a life changing impact on both the viewers and those in the film. Sometimes those changes can be measured and other times it’s just a simple comment someone says to you after watching the film or a personal email about how the film has touched them and in some cases changed them. What I enjoy most about my job is being able to talk to people and share their stories. When I interviewed survivors of the 1984 anti-Sikh massacre for my documentary, The Widow Colony, the women poured their hearts out. They were glad that someone was there to listen to them. It was therapeutic and healing for
the widows to talk about their eye witness accounts and for them to hear other women open up and share their stories. The simple act of listening goes a long way and it’s comforting to know that I’ve given them some relief even if it’s just for a short period of time. One embrace, smile and touch of reassurance means a lot.

How do balance family and work and hobbies?
It’s simple, I’ve taken my hobby and made it my career. The down side is that you end up working all the time! The constant traveling, living out of the luggage for months at a time and being away from family is both physically and emotionally tough. However, I work hard and play hard! To rejuvenate I spend time with my nieces and nephews and take plenty of vacations. It’s simple, I’ve taken my hobby and made it my career.  The down side is that you end up working all the time!  The constant traveling, living out of the luggage for months at a time and being away from family is both physically and emotionally tough.  However, I work hard and play hard!  To rejuvenate I spend time with my nieces and nephews, take plenty of vacations and shop for the most exclusive outfits.

People often admire my sense of style and fancy, colorful wardrobe.  I feel as an artist one is naturally expressive as a whole so, it reflects in the way I dress I like to be creative and experimental in my choice of clothing.  Sometimes I’ll just take a simple outfit and customize it to my liking so that it looks completely different.  I dare to buy things most people would categorize as strange, but I see the same outfit as being unique.  It’s important to find an outlet to inspire your creativity so, if you get that fuel from traveling, meditating, shopping or simply being in isolation then that’s what you need to do.

ALittleRevolutionHow do you feel Sikhi inspires your work?
My faith is an integral part of the work I do. The Sikh history is so rich and full of amazing stories of our Gurus, heroes, battles and sacrifices. We have so many stories that need to be told and put into perspective so that children today are able to relate and connect to our past. In India, when I see countless people regardless of their economic status or caste sitting together eating langar, I’m inspired. I’ve traveled to historic Gurdwara’s, touched the ground where our Gurus stood and seen the the bullet holes at Darbar Shaib from the June 1984 attack! My Sikhi inspiration comes from my daily experiences and reflects in my work.

What elements of Sikh values are in your work and what lessons  have you learned about Sikhi through filmmaking?
The foundation of Sach Productions, my media organization is based on the principles of Sikhi. My work has given me the opportunity to serve humanity through story telling. I’ve been blessed to meet the most amazing, heroic, powerful to influential individuals. For over a decade I’ve talked to women, children and elderly who have been suffering, struggle to survive and die a hundred deaths everyday! Sikhi is all around me when I’m in the field working and talking to these people. When I was making my film, A Little Revolution, I was surrounded by children who were living in poverty. These kids had nothing and it tore me apart, but when they smiled, laughed or hugged me I experienced something magical. When your heart opens up and I mean in a way you can’t explain in words, I’d say that’s the greatest Sikhi lesson.

Panjab_productionWhat advice do you have for young Kaurs who are unsure of what career they should pursue?
Don’t rush or ever feel pressured to make your career decision. There’s nothing wrong with switching careers even after you’ve been in the profession for years. It’s never too late to educate yourself in any field because it will only enhance your experience and broaden your horizon. Most importantly be honest and fulfilled with the choices you make from a financial and personal perspective. At the end of the day you have to be happy with what you do and if the money, people and environment don’t interest you and you’re not satisfied perhaps you should reconsider the career you’re thinking of pursuing. Sometimes taking a detour within the same field can open up many doors.