Raised in what she calls “cowboy country,” Fort Collins, Colorado, Indian-American filmmaker, Shilpa Sunthankar, found solace in storytelling from an early age, acting in productions and classes, both locally and in nearby Denver. Shilpa entered college expecting to follow in the footsteps of her engineer father and physician mother; however, after a couple of semesters, she made the decision to “discover what really motivated her life” and went to Los Angeles for intensive actor’s training while auditioning for a TV pilot season. It was there she discovered a calling for filmmaking.
Shilpa applied to several prominent film programs in the country; to distinguish herself from other applicants, she submitted a short film created in 8mm – a more deliberate and meticulous medium. After being accepted into all the schools to which she applied, she chose to attend NYU’s acclaimed Kanbar Institute of Film and Television at Tisch School of the Arts. Shilpa made use of her time - making fifteen short films and contributing on numerous student and independent productions, including Chutney Popcorn (1999), a feature length film starring Jill Hennessy (Crossing Jordan) and Ajay Naidu (Office Space).
In her final year of school, she went overseas to intern in London for the BBC and Elstree Studios, and was accepted into the Master Class in 35mm Filmmaking at FAMU in Prague - whose alumni include Oscar and award winning directors Milos Forman, Jiri Menzel and Agnieszka Holland. Shilpa says the time abroad taught her a completely different approach to filmmaking. “I learned to paint a frame with light and color in a way that wouldn’t have been possible elsewhere.”
Shortly after graduating with honors from NYU, she relocated to Portland, Oregon. Attracted to the area’s creative and independent approach to filmmaking, Shilpa hit the ground running. While writing a feature screenplay and producing short films, she freelanced in production for award winning animator Chel White of Bent Image Lab (animated SNL segments and commercials for Kellogg’s); Wieden & Kennedy (Nike, Starbucks); among other prominent production companies in Portland.
Shilpa’s 2004 short film Biography of anAmerican Hostess, which she directed, produced, wrote and starred in, successfully toured festivals in the U.S. and Canada, and was awarded the Rumblefish Post Production Award by the Northwest Film & Video Festival. Her current screenplay, Seeta’s Demon, a modern day vengeance thriller paralleling the ancient Hindu story of The Ramayana, is winner of the 2008 Wildsound Screenplay Contest (Toronto), finalist in the 2008 Visionfest Screenplay Competition (Tribeca), and was under consideration for the 2008 Sundance Screenwriter’s Lab. Shilpa is working with producer Ryan Crisman of Read Entertainment to complete development.
Shilpa continues to work professionally in Portland, is married to prominent Portland artist Ben Adams, and is currently working on several projects for the future, including short film The Company of Thieves, which is in post-production. Visit Thieves on Kickstarter or Vimeo!