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Brown Geeks Spotlight – Sim Dhugga

Brown Geeks Spotlight – Sim Dhugga

How did you break into this industry? Thanks to my mom, actually. She’s always been my biggest advocate and is a firm believer in the idea that if you don’t tell people what you are trying to accomplish, how can they help you. And she ended up doing just that. I was about a year out of college and struggling to find a way in [I didn’t go to film school by the way, so I didn’t have any connections]. I would apply to countless internships and assistant jobs through various job portals but it always felt like I was sending my resume into the void. I honestly have no idea why it came up, but during a very random conversation my mom was having with the woman that handled our AAA insurance, she mentioned that I was trying to break into the industry and low and behold the woman’s daughter happened to be the former assistant to a high profile independent producer. My mom got the daughter’s number and texted me right away. It took me a while to reach out – I was very shy and easily intimidated back then – but once I finally did she went out of her way to help me and got my resume in front of someone that handled hiring interns at her former job. I got an interview and was hired shortly after. 

I probably owe my mom a fancy car or a nice house when I make it big. 

What is the best part of being in the industry? Telling stories for a living. It’s my dream job and I’m grateful to be here. I would also say collaborating with others. The job has never been about sitting in my room alone writing. My most fulfilling days are when I’m working with a friend to help bring their idea to life or they’re helping me push mine even further. 

What is the most challenging part of being in the industry? I think this depends on where you’re at in your career. In the beginning, I would have said getting my foot in the door, but now that I’m here and working towards building a successful career as a writer I would say that the most challenging part is actually getting something made. The term development hell exists for a reason. There’s a lot that goes on in the background before something gets greenlit [don’t even get me started on the pitching/development process] and there can also be a lot of politics at play. That process can be very frustrating and heartbreaking. I’ve had friends get to the final step and right before they thought they were going into production, find out that their project has just been axed. 

Complaining to my therapist gets me through all of this. 

What is a typical day like for you? Lately, constant doom scrolling on every single social media platform. I might just throw my phone away. Otherwise, right now I’m working freelance so my days vary, but typically my morning routine is taking my dog out for a walk, making coffee [we recently got a Nespresso machine which is basically god’s gift to coffee lovers everywhere so my morning coffee has become my new favorite thing], doing a quick meditation [I love the Peloton app or Insight Timer] and then tackling my morning pages [I recently hit a huge creative block so I started working through the Artist’s Way, morning pages came out of that]. After that my day oscillates between getting work done for Avaaz, meetings for my personal projects, and then of course actually getting some writing done. Admittedly, I need to be better about structuring my time, but I’m very go-with-the-flow so I like to jump around between tasks. 

What did you want to be when you were a kid? The next Mia Hamm. 

No joke, I honestly thought I was going to be a professional soccer player. Now my only form of exercise is walking my dog. 

I’m a bit of a late bloomer when it comes to writing. Oftentimes, you hear writers tell stories about how they loved to write as a kid or were avid readers. My sister was the reader, I liked listening. Growing up, I loved sports, remote control cars, action figures, taking things apart and putting them back together, and was really good at science and math. All of this carried well into high school. I didn’t realize that I wanted a career in some sort of creative field until halfway through college. And it came very quietly, more of a calling really. Something inside me pushing me to realize that I have stories I want to tell. 

What are you hoping to accomplish in your career? I admire the careers of artists/creators like Issa Rae, Neil Gaiman, Hayao Miyazaki, Bong Joon-ho, and Ava DuVernay to name a few. Not just because of what they’ve accomplished in terms of oscar-winning features or hit tv shows, but largely because of the type of work they’ve put out [or championed] and the types of conversations that are created because of their work. 

I guess at the end of the day it’s really about the work of the work. As much as I’m working towards being a successful writer/director, I want to make sure my work is impactful. Even if that impact is helping someone finally feel seen and heard and represented. I would never assume to have all the answers, but if something I created sparked meaningful, much-needed conversations around important topics such as representation, mental health, racism, war/peace, climate change, etc. – I’d call that a great accomplishment.

How successful do you believe you are currently and what would success look like for you in the future? I might need a session with my therapist before I answer this. 

I’ve been working in the industry for over 7 years now in various roles from development to production, but if I had to be honest 2020 was probably when I really started finding success in my writing and hitting my stride. I co-created/co-wrote an audio drama podcast, wrote some great editorial pieces, and finished a pilot that at the beginning of this year helped me land a manager. I’m proud of everything I’ve done so far in terms of my roles in production on some amazing show as well as various digital content and shorts I’ve helped produce over the years, but when it comes to writing, I guess in some ways I feel like I’m on the brink and ready for all that’s to come. 

Success in the future would look like continuing to build off this momentum so I can accomplish the goals I’ve set for myself in writing and directing. 

But honestly most days your real success will be your resilience and determination to continue despite the odds. 

What would you like readers to know about your industry that they might not realize currently? There are a lot of moving parts that go into making your favorite show, especially if it’s animated. It’s not all glitz and glamour. 

Are there any changes or improvements you would like to see made in the industry? Diversity and representation. I could run an entire masterclass on this. Not just in the types of stories that are being told, but who is actually telling them as well as who is being represented on screen. I actually wrote an article on this very question. I’ve seen a lot of improvements over the years but there’s definitely still a lot of work to be done. 

Do you have any advice for someone who is trying to get into the industry? Take it one day at a time. I felt very overwhelmed when I was first trying to break into the industry. It helped to break things down into small tasks – what step can I take today to help me get closer to my goal. 

Also, networking is very important. Gross, I know. I’m an introvert that’s also generally a grumpy person, I’ve always hated networking, but it’s, unfortunately, something that really helps open up doors [it’s not the only way, but it is one way]. The thing that’s always helped me get through it is being 100% authentic the entire time – like telling people I hate networking because almost everyone does. 

And just some general advice – always be kind. We’re all out here trying to make something happen, there’s never any justification for being a jerk. Kindness goes a long way. 

Is there anything else you would like to add or that you think is important for people to understand what you do? Nope! I can barely explain it to my mom and grandma.  

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