We had the good fortune of connecting with Kaith Karishma and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Kaith, what principle do you value most?
A principle that drives me to succeed despite working in an industry that is very unkind to its minorities is that my success rests on uplifting the people around me. I used to think that I wasn’t good enough to be a filmmaker. I thought my creativity wouldn’t mesh well with the industry, and that there would never be a place for someone like me in cinema. But the more I learned about film, the more I realized that I desperately needed to reframe the way I looked at my self and the industry; it wasn’t that I wasn’t good enough for the film industry, it’s that the industry isn’t good enough for me. Just look at award shows and how there is hardly any representation for black people, indigenous people, and people of color. Queer and trans people are on the fringes of contemporary entertainment, having to claw our way to any sort of mildly decent representation. The most common cause of death in the film industry is driving while exhausted after criminally long shoot days. I could go on. Once I realized that, I decided that I wasn’t going to conform to that. I promised myself I would do everything in my power to uplift marginalized people like and unlike me. I promised I would do everything in my power to make sure my sets are safe places, where cast and crew can talk to me about issues that come up and where we will never have to worry about dying because we were worked too long or hard. I hope one day that can be the industry standard, but right now it’s just my own goal.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I had to ask around because sometimes it’s hard to observe myself objectively rather than just focusing on the big GOAL I have right now. But one of my friends said something that really resonated with me, which is that I am extremely good at collaboration. My ability to encourage my friends, family, coworkers, crew, etc. is what really stands out. I am able to coax creativity out of any person in any situation. And honestly, getting to this place where I can work with other people and showcase my talents was extremely difficult. Growing up, I felt like that person who really never worked quite right. I know now that my brain just works differently than other people’s, and I know now that who I am and where I come from is beautiful and something to be celebrated, but our education system (not to mention other systems) is really subpar if you’re not white, cisgender, heterosexual, neurotypical, etc. None of which I am. I remember entering community college and thinking that my opinion mattered the least – that I was the least intelligent person – to enter this room, or any room, ever. It took a LOT of therapy to unlearn all that nonsense. I’m very privileged to have gotten that opportunity, and now I want to do my best to help make the world a better place. That’s what all my art is about – reaching and connecting with people, and showing them they’re not as alone in the world as they think.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Honestly, first things first, I’m bringing them home to my apartment and we’re having a dance party. Me, them, and (depending on which best friend) a bottle of tequila. Obviously a tour of my apartment because they haven’t seen it in person (because of Covid), and then we’ll pick a restaurant from my list – a list of 43 and counting restaurants in Los Angeles recommended by fellow queers (preference given to Indian restaurants because I’m, you guessed it, Indian). We eat and watch movies til we pass out and then when we wake up I’m dragging them up to hike to skull rock first thing in the morning. I finished university at UCSB, which is a big biking campus, and I never lost that biking bug. Cities just feel better on the back of a bike sometime. Or when you have a bike you can throw at someone when they get too close. So we’re gonna go biking along the coast, which has been on my bucket list for ages, I just need some motivation to get out there. I’d definitely want to explore LA more with them because I haven’t honestly gotten to explore it. I’ve only lived in the city during covid times, and I wonder at what it could be once we’re not worried about a pandemic. I think on their last night here I’d take them to a drive in and get really emotional about how much I love them. I’ll probably cry. I’m really good at being sentimental at my friends. It’s always been more about people than places to me.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I want to give credit where credit’s due. When I talk about uplifting others, there’s no person I can think of who uplifted me more than my mentor, James McNamara. I met him in class at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and I immediately realized this teacher was like no other that I had ever had. He saw my differences (neurodiversity, queerness, transness, indianness) not as a hinderance but as an asset. A large part of my confidence as a creative comes from working with him and having his encouragement to pursue writing, directing, and filmmaking as the person I am and not who others want me to be.
Instagram: @kaithisms, @kaith.karishma
Kingdom of Your Own, dir. Kaith Karishma, 2021