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FACULTY SPOTLIGHT – SUSHMA KHADEPAUN

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Where did you go to school and what did you study?

I am an alumna of the MFA program at Columbia University where I studied Screenwriting and Directing.

What would you say is your main focus in Cinema? (ex. Writing, directing, camera, etc.)

Writing and Directing.

Who are your top 3 favorite filmmakers? Why?

This is a tough question because there are so many filmmakers I admire and who inspire my work. To name a few: 

    Kelly Reichardt – for her minimalist, slow-burning style of telling stories. Less is indeed more.

    Satyajit Ray – for making very specific, local stories that resonate with a global audience.

    Yashujiro Ozu – for his unique cinematic language and the brilliant static frames.

Other notable filmmakers on my list are Lynne Ramsey, Robert Bresson, Ousman Sembane, Abbas Kiarostami.

Are you currently working on any personal projects?

Yes. I usually work on 2 or 3 projects at a time. One of them is a feature film titled “Salt” which is in advanced stages of development. And others – a TV series and a short film are still in early writing/researching stages. 

What is your main piece of advice to give to students?

Build long term relationships with your peers. Care about your crew and treat them well. 

How long have you been teaching?

I started teaching in Jan 2020.

What’s your favorite thing about teaching?

The process of making a film is inspiring but also extremely tedious. I love that moment when you see the light bulb go off in a student’s head when they are introduced to a new work of art or perhaps when they receive feedback on their work. Their eyes light up! Finding, encouraging and being witness to that moment of inspiration in another human being is what I love most about teaching. Of course, I find these moments in my own work, but sharing this with my students gives me tremendous joy and it adds meaning to my life.

What got you interested in film?

I was a storyteller long before I knew I was one. As a child I would recount every incident at school to my mother in great detail and demand her full attention while I narrated these stories. So when I was introduced to photography in college, I fell in love. I was fascinated by the idea of telling a story through a single image. Filmmaking came as a natural progression marrying my love for oral storytelling and images. 

What is one of your favorite memories since you’ve been teaching at VCU Cinema?

I haven’t been teaching at VCU for long, but one of my joyous moments was when students started actively engaging and asking questions for the first time. It takes a couple of classes for students to feel comfortable to speak in class. Especially with zoom teaching, it has been so much harder for everyone to connect. 

Do you have any other hobbies besides filmmaking? If so, what are they? How do they contribute to your art/craft?

I enjoy long walks in New York city listening to the sounds of many languages (mingled with honks and curses) and smelling all the city smells (that whiff of garbage as a dumpster truck passes you by!). When time permits, I also enjoy cooking and baking bread. I am learning to garden these days. I’m not sure if there is a direct way in how it impacts my craft. Perhaps Werner Herzog said it best, “I’m quite convinced that cooking is the only alternative to film making. Maybe there’s also another alternative, that’s walking on foot.”