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In The Mix
October 16, 2015

Champion of Change

Different is good.

Janice Rhoshalle Littlejohn

Nisha Ganatra has directed independent films, telefilms and series such as The Mindy Project. But with the new Amazon series Transparent, she found her happy medium: a near-seamless, streaming telefilm.

“We shot the whole thing like a movie,” explains Ganatra, who directed three episodes of the first season. “It was planned to be 10 half-hour episodes, but it was fluidly a whole story that was like a five-hour movie.”

The work environment on set was “extremely collaborative,” she says, and for that she credits creator Jill Soloway.

“She was pretty radical in her approach,” says Ganatra, who was also a consulting producer on the first season. “She didn’t follow this sort of hierarchy of, ‘I’m showrunner and everything I say goes.’

“Jill and I both have sons around the same age,” she continues. “Often we would meet at her house, and our kids would go off and play together so we could work. It was really nice working with another mom because she got it, and I got it.”

Soloway’s tale of a transgender parent struck a chord for Ganatra, a lesbian single mom who is also a feminist.

“I had a really loving mom,” she says. “When it came time to expand [her heart] so she could keep loving her daughter — who didn’t turn out the way she’d pictured in her head — she expanded. That’s the core of what I wanted to bring to Transparent — that when your loved one asks you to find space in your heart to accept them, to see them, that’s what you have to do.”

Growing up in California, the daughter of Indian immigrants, she couldn’t have foreseen this kind of career. “TV was this magical thing that appeared in our living room,” she says. “I didn’t know there was a group of people making it!”

But she wanted a career that was “revolutionary” and found it at NYU Film School. Now, as she develops her own series, her joy on the discovery of filmmaking rings true: “I thought, ‘I can change the world this way!’”

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