We had the good fortune of connecting with Roma Sur and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Roma, we’d love to hear about how you approach risk and risk-taking
I believe, if one has a vision, then risks need to be taken, in order to bring that vision to fruition. Every innovation has a risk element at its core. One must do the research and take calculated risks.
I am in the business of filmmaking. As a female filmmaker of color, it’s a constant rendezvous with risk. If we do not take these chances, many voices will remain unheard.
Every film I have made, has been a risk project. My first feature project was a documentary, titled The Golden Hour. After one conversation with my Producing partner, Jessica McGAugh, we flew off to Delhi in the summer of 2011 to shoot the film. In 2019, I flew a team of eleven students from the Film and Television program (FITV), as well as from the music program (MEIS), at CU Denver to Whistling Woods International, Mumbai. This was FITV’s first study abroad program of this stature. I designed the program and worked with the students from conception to distribution of a bilingual short film. The film was shot on location, in Film City, Mumbai and it screened at multiple festivals. At every step there was a risk involved, bringing so many students in the heat of Mumbai summer. However, it was a life-altering experience and we are now planning our second trip for Summer 2022.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I am a screenwriter and a documentary filmmaker, based in Denver, Colorado. I write young adult and female driven dramas with levity. They are a cross-pollination of my immigrant experience of living in the US for twenty years, and my childhood in India. My works are usually bi-lingual, Bengali and English.
I am excited about completing my most recent project, MAA, a 38-minute documentary. I am proud that it’s my first film entirely in my native language, Bengali. MAA is a personal and human angle documentary shot over a two-year period in Kolkata, Ontario and Colorado. MAA is a love letter from a daughter to her eighty-year-old mother, whose dream to see the Niagara falls, pivoted due to COVID19. The film is a testimony to my Maa’s strength of mind and to the year 2020, that tested human spirit, in so many ways all over the globe. I appreciate the Dean’s office for supporting this two-year project with multiple grants.
Was it easy to get where I am today? Certainly not. It never is, is it? It’s been a rocky road throughout and I am proud to be a self-made person. I create my own opportunities, and fight for them, similar to the characters in my stories, who are often extracted from their comfort zones. What helped me was recognizing my voice as a storyteller, then having faith in it. I have learned that it’s important to pause and listen. One must constantly research the works of those who inspire us. While it’s important to create, it’s equally important to bring projects to the finish line, and find ways to distribute them among your audience.
I am proud of our recent distribution of Three Worlds One Stage on Amazon, iTunes and ten other digital platforms, by Freestyle Digital Media.
There is no fixed formula to success and all our journeys are different. We have to be willing to think laterally, when literal thinking does not work, and a path will present itself. As one of my characters, Jennie, says, “when the bob cut doesn’t work, go asymmetrical baby!”
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
If it’s summertime, I will take my friend for Shoshone white water rafting on the Colorado river. We would go on a scenic bike ride from Vail village to the town of Edwards. A few evenings of live classical music at the Bravo Vail festival. If it’s wintertime, I would take my friend up to Beano’s Cabin, in Beaver Creek. It’s a sleigh ride with spectacular views, up to the top of the mountain, where a lavish spread awaits. A drive-in movie or live concert at Red Rocks is a MUST! Finally, I would bring my friend home, for a special, Sur-spiced chai and homemade Bengali cuisine.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I will always remain grateful to my mentor of twelve years, Craig Volk. From him I learnt how to teach screenwriting and the importance of crafting one’s unique voice, as a screenwriter. He is a true advocate of diverse and unique voices. I am thankful to my beautiful cross-cultural partnership with my colleague, Jessica McGaugh. We have co-produced two feature films, web series, and now on to our next big project, The Rock Within, a bilingual feature reflecting our own decade-long collaboration. I will always remain thankful to my professors at the University of Denver, Diane Waldman and Sheila Schroeder. They encourage me to push my boundaries. They truly wish to see me succeed in all of my endeavors as a filmmaker and as an educator.
Finally, I am thankful to my mother and my sister, who are the biggest risk-takers I’ve ever known. They are the fierce characters who inspire my writing. A shout out to my husband, Abhi Sur, who taught me – if you dream, dream BIG!! Then act on it. Talk is cheap.
Womanhood Series Photos by Sofia Shappell