While attending Sobrato High, she picked up camcorder again to film ag documentary

Sruchi Patel’s film “LADKE” will be one of 270 films showcased at the Poppy Jasper International Film Festival next month. Photo courtesy Sruchi Patel

By Kelly Barbazette

As Sruchi Patel was crafting her college film project, the Morgan Hill native drew inspiration from a source she was painfully aware of as a college film student — imposter syndrome.

Her tender, coming-of-age short film “LADKE” will be one of 270 films showcased at the 2024 Poppy Jasper International Film Festival running April 10-17.

“The story is very much about a young woman trying to gain confidence in herself,” said Patel, 22.

I recently had the pleasure of talking with Patel about her first camcorder and classes that sparked her love of film as well as the uneasy imposter syndrome she said shadowed her while studying film alongside her peers at UCLA.

“You may not feel like you belong sometimes because there are people who know a lot more and you have to catch up,” she said.

But Patel said she began figuring out everyone’s start in life looks different.

“I don’t have to be the smartest person in the room, and I can learn from this person,” she said. “But it took a second to realize that.”

Patel graduated from UCLA last June. She’s excited to attend the film festival with her parents and 15-year-old sister. Celebrating its 18th year, the festival spans eight days and five cities. It kicks off April 10 with the youth and student film festival at Gavilan College Theater, where “LADKE,” which she wrote and directed, will be showcased.

Photo courtesy Sruchi Patel

“I used to volunteer at the Poppy Jasper Film Festival,” she said. “It’s a really full circle moment.”

Patel’s interest in film ignited in eighth grade when her dad bought her a camcorder. It was fueled at Jackson Academy of Math and Music, where students participated in a video newsletter. She and classmates filmed segments in front of a green screen.

“That was one of the first places where I realized I wanted to be behind the camera,” she said.

While attending Sobrato High School, she picked up her camcorder again to film her documentary about Morgan Hill’s agriculture scene for a Future Farmers of America project.

In the absence of high school film classes, Patel’s school projects and her own independent research kept her connected to film. During the summer, she learned video editing software at De Anza Community College.

“I was always filming and capturing things,” she said.

After volunteering at the Poppy Jasper International Film Festival in high school and seeing the videos she had amassed, she realized filmmaking was the path she wanted to explore. During that time, the “Me Too” movement around the issue of sexual harassment and abuse of women in the workplace grew prominent. Patel recalled Oprah Winfrey’s speech at the 75th Annual Golden Globe Awards in which she honored women who chose to say, “me too.”

“It was a very inspiring year to apply to college,” she said.

By her junior year in college she said she had found her footing. She met fellow creative collaborators who also became her close friends. She also discovered community through the Rickshaw Film Foundation, a Los Angeles-based non-profit group dedicated to uplifting South Asian voices and stories in the film and TV industry. Patel applied for and was accepted into a writer’s room program through the foundation. She wrote a half-hour TV pilot during the 10-week program and has helped plan networking events and screenings.

“Everyone is so welcoming and there is no competition,” she said.

During her senior year, she chose film directing and set about working on her short film project. After writing the script and casting actors, she and a crew of about 35 students shot “LADKE” over four days on UCLA’s campus and a student apartment.

“We wanted to tell the right story. And we wanted girls to relate to this narrative,” she said. “It was a process as well. Seeing it come to life and working with other people who were passionate about his project was so crazy.”

Patel spent another three months editing and working with an animator to add an animated version of her main character to the film. She vividly remembers screening the film at UCLA during the week of her graduation with her film producer and their families.

“It was a really proud moment for me, and we were fortunate to have parents who are supportive,” she said.

This will be Patel’s second film to be screened at Poppy Jasper. During her senior year, a short film she created in high school was showcased.

“I was so nervous and very proud of the film I made at the time,” she said. “But, at the same time, the types of stories I wanted to tell aren’t the same stories I want to tell now.”

In November, Patel started a new job as an executive assistant with Rain, a talent management, media, and production firm in Los Angeles. It’s interesting for her to see a behind-the-scenes look at the industry and learn the best practices of an agency representing writers, actors, directors, and producers of film and television. Patel also continues to head community engagement at the Rickshaw Film Foundation, creating networking opportunities for South Asian filmmakers and writers.

“I’m starting to get settled into my job,” she said. “On weekends, I’m going to a coffee shop and writing.”

The most rewarding part of making films for Patel is being part of a new generation of directors emerging to share their stories.

“It’s learning how to be a little unapologetic and taking the story’s narrative to heart and having the confidence to say this is my film,” she said. “That’s been really rewarding.”

She is motivated by her parents’ consistent support. She is also inspired by witnessing new film directors receiving acknowledgment and accolades, including the creator of the Netflix series “Beef” and Fremont filmmaker Sean Wang whose documentary about his grandmother was nominated for an Academy Award.

“That’s so motivating,” she said in praise. “People are starting to open up to new voices and younger voices in Hollywood.”

Asked what advice she’d give to other young women, she said to stay true to yourself.

“I feel like that’s much repeated advice because I think it’s going to be easy to feel the imposter syndrome and feel like there’s so many other people to catch up,” she said. “But you’re on your own path. And whatever will happen will come your way because you’re being yourself.”

Kelly Barbazette is a freelance writer who has lived in Gilroy for more than 20 years.