[100 Emerging Women Leaders] From Lucknow to Los Angeles, how Shivangi Singh found her calling in art direction
For someone who was not much into films or TV, entering an unchartered territory like art direction and seeing success in both Indian cinema and Hollywood has been a dream come true for Shivangi Singh, who has worked in films like Bajrangi Bhaijaan and Margarita with a Straw.
However, the Lucknow girl says she liked one thing from the beginning -- fine arts.
“I had moved to Delhi after my Class 12, and I realised I had other options,” says Shivangi in a conversation with HerStory.
She joined the Jamia Milia Islamia University to pursue her degree in Fine Arts. Recollecting her college days, Shivangi says it was here that she was exposed to different forms of art, and during an international film festival, she was intrigued about art direction.
“By then, I had worked at art exhibitions as a researcher and project manager with some of the country’s finest contemporary artists and curators, including Raqs Media Collective,” says Shivangi.
But initially, Shivangi had no idea of the world of films and how it works.
“As someone from the outside, you believe it to be a closed industry. And it is often associated with the prominent people. But you realise there is so much more to films and film making.”
Coming from a middle-class Indian family, Shivangi had to veer off several acquaintances’ suggestions to not work in the film industry. Her family, however, has been a constant pillar of support.
She explains, an art director’s job is to design the visual look of a film, the sets, the look and colour palette, sourcing props, etc., while coordinating with the film director, production designer, and cinematographer.
“I put in myself and my work out there. I wanted a break, and simply wouldn’t take a no for an answer, and I reached out to people across the film industry in India and globally. It was then that I got my first break as a storyboard artist for 'Margarita with a Straw' in 2012,” says Shivangi.
She then moved to Los Angeles in 2016 to pursue higher studies at the Art Centre College of Design in California, and began a career in Hollywood. She worked in several commercials, short films, including films like ‘Children of War’.
Stepping out of her cushy life back home, Shivangi ended up in an industry with less than 20 percent women.
“As an Indian immigrant woman, I have constantly felt the need to keep proving myself and work harder than my male colleagues to earn my spot. Breaking stereotypes and building confidence in women that ‘you can do the job equally well, if not better’ takes time and involves constantly proving yourself,” says the art director.
After spanning a decade-long career in the film industry, Shivangi says, not only did she break stereotypes, but also made her mark in the industry working with some of the best directors like Shonali Bose, Buddhadeb Dasgupta, Kabir Khan, and Pradeep Sarkar.
Shivangi won the Production Design Fellow Award from Hollywood Art Department Union, Art Director’s Guild of America. She recently wrapped up the work as a set designer for Secret Life of Pets Facade at Universal Studios theme park in Hollywood.
“I just hope I can inspire more girls to come and achieve their dreams, and remember, if you can dream it, you can do it too,” says Shivangi.
She is now working in Dharma Productions’ upcoming film ‘Jug Jugg Jeeyo’, directed by Raj Mehta.
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Edited by Megha Reddy