Celebrating community and kindness with Ana Tiwary
According to Ana Tiwary, what helps her create positive change is her impatience with the status quo.
“What I’m trying to achieve here is to speed up the pace of change in Australia, and it’s really difficult.”
“People don’t like change. It comes from people who are privileged, of course, they don’t want any change because they’re benefiting from systems as they are. There’s a lot of resistance to change in Australia, in general.”
“And then, when it happens it either happens really slowly or it goes in circles. I’ve been really working hard to make sure that change happens at a faster pace because I don’t have the patience to wait 400 years for equality.”
Like all our Stellar winners she can’t be defined by any one label.
Her work and roles include director, producer, documentary filmmaker, writer, mentor, activist, advocate, community builder, and founder of the production company, indivisual Films specialising in multicultural stories. Some of her recent work includes producing Australia’s first Asian-Australian rom-com, Rhapsody of Love.
Having produced over 25 documentaries, Ana’s professional journey with film has seen her work on Bollywood sets in Mumbai to the National Geographic Channel which has taken her all over the world, as a Series Producer for ABC’s show, India Now! and has spoken at the Asia Pacific Screen Forum’s panel on authenticity and hosted Sydney Film Festival’s panel on Women’s Cinema in Colour.
Ana’s work has been widely recognised. She’s previously been named a finalist for NSW Woman of the Year, is on the Women in Film and TV (WIFT) Australia Board, named on Screen Producers Australia’s ones to watch, and was selected for Screen Australia’s Talent Plus program that included mentorship with Oscar-winning producer, Emile Sherman (Kings Speech, Lion).
Today the Australian South Asian Centre (ASAC) is honouring Ana as a 2022 Stellar Woman for her generous contributions to Australian media.
In her interview with ASAC’s Co-Founder, Daizy Maan Kaur, Ana shared about her incredible career in film, and the importance of community, advocacy, and representation in media.
Advocacy in Creative Communities
Thirteen years ago, not long after Ana moved to Australia she created the Facebook Group, Diversity in Australian Media to advocate for and support equity, social justice and safe spaces in the Australian film and television industry.
“I realised very quickly that the diversity that we see on the streets doesn’t translate on screen.”
“I found that highly problematic and troubling because if a whole bunch of people don’t have a sense of belonging in Australia [because of a lack of media representation] it’s not great for social cohesion.”
“So, for me, it was really important that the diversity of Australia was celebrated on our screens and not sidelined.”
Ana explained that starting the group was also inspired by an article she wrote for Screen Australia about diversity in Australian media.
“While researching for that article, I realised that there wasn’t much out there and there wasn’t a space where you could find things easily.”
“There was a lot of work being done in the US, Canada and the UK, but in Australia, there were very few things written about diversity or the issues around representation.”
Ana wanted this group to be a space where she and others could share and amplify these international and Australian-based resources and experiences because she felt that marginalised people were talking about important issues, but nobody was really listening.
It was also important to Ana that this group was a culturally safe space that allowed for growth, “I created this really open group, where everyone was welcome from our sector so that we can all learn from each other.”
The group shares important information with members to better equip them professionally and personally, empowers advocacy and offers support to those who are still finding their way in the industry. The group helps mentor emerging creatives and provides a much-needed space for marginalised and underrepresented members and raises awareness of industry inequities.
Beyond this group Ana champions diversity and representation through her writing, producing, directing and providing employment opportunities to uplift diverse talent and creatives and highlight marginalised stories in the Australian media landscape.
Recent examples of this are:
• the comedy series about a Sikh woman she’s currently producing,
• producing Australia’s first Asian-Australian rom-com, Rhapsody of Love (2021)
• her work as a Series Producer of ABC’s panel program, India Now, is showcasing India-centred news and issues in lounge rooms around Australia, allowing for greater cross-cultural sharing and social cohesion.
Ana has also served on the Women in Film & TV (WIFT) NSW Committee for a number of years and with funding from Screen NSW she created and ran the Media Mentorship for Women program.
Ana explained that her South Asian heritage has helped the way she tells stories and her filmmaking, “As a South Asian woman who has lived in different parts of India, I have a deep understanding of the South Asian lens, aesthetics and narratives. My heritage impacts the type of stories I want to tell and how I want to tell them.”
Honouring legacy, culture and kindness
When asked who inspires her, Ana shared, “I look up to South Asian women filmmakers for inspiration. Directors such as Deepa Mehta, Gurinder Chadha, Meera Nair, Kalpana Lajmi, Farah Khan and Zoya Akhtar have paved the way for more South Asian women to thrive in the screen industry.”
Ana went on to praise the culture of mentorship in the Indian film industry that supports aspiring filmmakers.
“I believe we’re in this together. Throughout my life, there have been many people who have helped me along my journey and I’m really grateful for that.”
“In the Mumbai film industry, for example, there is a culture of supporting and nurturing others. You’ll find directors who have 10 assistant directors and they are mentoring them and helping to further their careers.”
“I’m really grateful for the systems that I’ve worked in that taught me to how to create an ecosystem around me where everyone is nurturing everyone. These experiences helped me to have an abundance mindset, that there’s enough for everyone. We can do this together.”
“I don’t see it as a zero-sum game. I feel like if you’re succeeding, we’re all succeeding. I have a collaborative view on success,” she told ASAC’s Co-founder.
“I really respect the women who have come before me, who have paved the path for what I’m able to do. Here in Australia, there’s been a lot of Indigenous women who have fought the big fights, and a lot of people of all backgrounds who have fought for inclusion, diversity, and representation.”
“I also love and respect the new generation, because the new generation of women is really exciting.”
“They’re fearless and bold. They’re just breaking down barriers left, right and centre. Not just for themselves, but for others too. I think my generation sits in the middle of the previous generation and the new generation that’s coming up.”
“To me, it’s really important that anyone who’s in my generation acts as a bridge between celebrating the legacy of what’s happened before and removing the barriers for the next generation as well.”
“It’s also important to recognise that there’s a lot of lateral violence around us and it comes from colonisation; it comes from that history where we were pitted against each other.”
“We were made to believe that there were limited resources and opportunities, like a Hunger Games scenario, where we have to fight each other to get breadcrumbs.”
“I’m not interested in that game. I’m not interested in fighting for the breadcrumbs.”
“What I am really interested in is us nurturing each other and instead of lateral violence, I’m interested in lateral kindness and really lifting each other up. It’s a very conscious decision, and I think it’s one that we can all make.”
From Ana’s perspective, in order to create change, we need to create structures and systems that support and uplift community and underrepresented identities, voices and stories so that we can all feel seen and heard.
When asked what changes she wants to see in the industry, Ana said, “I’d like to see more funding given to diverse small and medium-sized production companies to create a sustainable ecosystem for authentic stories to flourish.”
“I’d also like to see more leadership roles in the screen industry opened up for people from historically marginalised communities.”
Ana’s Advice for a career in media
Ana’s advice for anyone interested in working in media, whether in journalism, film, or production, is centred on community and growth.
“Try not to do it alone,” she advised, “Try to create a community around you.” (And we at ASAC, agree! 😉)
“I think community building is a great way to have a support system around you. I think filmmaking, journalism, media in general, is a really tough, but important space to work in.”
“Don’t give up along the way, I’ve seen quite a few people give up because it can be challenging, and that makes me really sad.”
“Find mentors, but also mentor others. For example, while I have a lot to share with young filmmakers there’s still so much for me to learn too.”
“I would love to have a mentor while still mentoring others.”
Aspiring media professionals can reach out to Ana directly if they’re looking for guidance, “I’m really open and accessible on Facebook. Feel free to message me if you want to share anything, or you can get in touch via Diversity in Australian Media. Everyone is welcome.”
“And just keep learning,” was Ana’s final piece of advice, “That’s the big one, I think.”
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ASAC is thrilled to celebrate Ana as one of the 2022 Australia’s Stellar South Asian Women awardees. We’ve been blown away hearing about how generously she has given back to the community and her passion for creating culturally safe spaces.
Learning of Ana’s advocacy and support for equity, representation and social justice in media has been heartwarming. We know the legacy she’s created will continue to have a lasting impact on future generations of Australian creatives; and goes to the heart of what this award and ASAC are all about.
We’re grateful for Ana’s tireless efforts behind the scenes to bring about positive change to Australia’s media landscape and eagerly anticipating her upcoming ABC television comedy series about a Sikh girl living in Perth, What Would Suki Do?
We wish Ana every success and are eager to see more of her productions on our screens.
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About the Stellar Series
In collaboration with South Asian Heritage Month (18 July – 17 August), the Australian South Asian Centre hosts its Australian Stellar South Asian Women’s series, recognising exemplary emerging and established South Asian creatives, activists, founders and leaders whose voices and work are a force for good. Our awardees are women who are not only successful in their fields but also generous and supportive of those around them; their presence paves the way for future South Asian community leaders.