They say, “you never know until you try” and for Shivani Srivastava, that meant trying different career paths until she found the one that was right for her.
What she found was a passion for the silver screen.
While most people watch movies from the comfort of their couch or in a popcorn-scented theatre, a high school co-op term gave Shivani the opportunity to be on-set, working on the production of the scare-tastic horror flick House at the End of the Street.
The Queen’s University student wasn’t born with a camera in hand and dreams of a director’s chair. Originally, she had planned on being a high school science teacher, but when she realized that she didn’t love learning about science enough to teach it, it was back to the career drawing board.
This realization came as she was nearing the end of high school, an age at which most typical teenagers favour watching television and movies over studying for their classes. While Shivani shared her peers’ love for vegging out with a good flick, she realized that she was tuning in for more than just the entertainment value.
“I’d always wonder why the director and editor chose to cut the scene at a specific place, or why the camera was placed where it was, or why an entire outdoor set needed to be built for one line of dialogue,” she says. “Once I actively realized that I was picking apart TV shows and movies, I entertained the thought of studying film and/or TV production…Everything kind of blew up from there.”
But before screaming lights, camera, action on a completely new career path, she wanted to make sure she was heading in the right direction. So she headed to her high school co-op coordinator and set up a summer placement with Zed Filmworks, the local film company shooting a not-so-friendly neighbourhood horror film starring Max Thieriot (pictured above with Shivani) and a pre-Hunger Games Jennifer Lawrence.
Even though it was her first time on a movie set, Shivani was put straight to work. She worked on everything from the receptionists desk to set building to helping the actors to organizing extras and assisting the directors and producers.
“Everything was very surreal for me,” she says. “Actually being on a set brought the illusion of Hollywood and celebrities and fame and everything else much closer. I got a look inside into how everything works and comes together.”
While working on a real film set for a major Hollywood production gave Shivani great connections and a standout addition to her resume, she says that the biggest takeaway from her co-op experience gaining confidence in her pursuit of the film and television industry. Going in, she didn’t have a clear idea of what she wanted to pursue after high school, but once she left the set that summer and headed back to school, she says she had found her industry.
“Truthfully, I don’t know. Some days I think I could be a screenwriter, and some days I think I could be a producer. All I know is that I want to pursue work in the film industry. I feel that after studying more, and experiencing more, I’d be able to offer something different to the industry,” she says.
Shivani, whose favourite movie is the classic Bollywood film Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, is now majoring in Film and Media studies at Queen’s University.