Aishwarya Sonar and Shira Alon moved to the United States in 2018 from India and Israel, respectively, to further their career in film. They met at UCLA while studying acting; A trip to New York, quarantine and a lot of banter later, found themselves writing and creating stuff, which soon turned into a partnership with their production company, ASAProductions. They want to tell stories from their combined unique cultural perspective and experience. What is better than to own a company with your best friend and work on your dreams together, a little home away from home. Shalom Namaste!
1. Your film Shift has become an Official Selection our
competition. How was the film inspired?
Aishwarya: Firstly, thank you, it means a lot. And where shall we start? Shira, do you want to tell the story?
Shira: What story? The story of how we just sat at a coffee shop, whining about our future as immigrant actresses…
Aishwarya: I don’t whine… Anyway, the story of how we sat at a coffee shop, and decided to make our own stuff..
Both: Apparently, it all started when we both sat at a coffee shop thinking about our future as actresses. We knew the first thing we needed to have as an actress is a reel (and in our case all our prior work was not in English, let alone with an American accent). So we figured we should take fate in our own hands and just write and film scenes with roles that we want to portray, such as strong confident women as Carrie and Tiffany. We reached out to a friend of ours who is a cinematographer and a director, Cesar, to help us out with this. We got so excited about this scene that we decided to make it into a short; a simple story about twostrong women with differing opinions on the moral spectrum; and now cut to 8 months later, we have a production company. Shift gave us a lot and we needed this, especially during this very bizarre and difficult year. After all it turned out to be worth it, no?
Tell us about your background and when did you decide to become an
Aishwarya: We’ve always wanted to act and produce-.
Shira: Speak for yourself, I’ve never wanted to become a producer, you made me become one.
Aishwarya: Yeah and you shouldn’t complain.
Aishwarya: So anyway, cliched answer incoming- In the back of my mind, I have always known that I wanted to do this. Long story short, I worked in Bollywood (India) before moving here for about 4 years, I worked on a national award winning film, Ventilator produced by Priyanka Chopra and went on to act in a film produced by her, and for this experience I feel incredibly grateful. This led me to taking the leap of faith and moving to LA.
Shira: I was twelve years old when I decided to become an actress. It all began in elementary school, when our drama teacher gave me the role to play our classroom teacher for the graduation party. The minute I got on stage, everyone started laughing (except for my classroom teacher who was mildly… I mean wildly insulted). Since then, I knew acting was what I wanted to do in life. Meaning, after finishing my military service, I moved to Tel Aviv to study acting and then came to the States right after.
3. Films that inspired you to become an actor?
Shira: Let’s start with the first film that ever caught my attention as a child – Miss Congeniality. Sandra Bullock immediately captured my heart in this film. The way she struggled fitting in the “beauty world” of women, and the way she made a fool of herself on stage (and all with such grace), just reminded me of me! At that moment, all I wanted was to find her and tell her, “I feel you!” Then I realized: I want to have the same impact on other young girls as she had on me. After all that’s what we’re here for - to have an impact in this world.
From that movie basically every women empowerment movie was an inspiration- Erin Brockovich, Monster, Boys Don’t Cry, Million Dollar Baby, Bombshell…
I am still looking for Sandra btw…
Aishwarya: My family had a pact to watch a movie every night, for real, and mind you none of them come from a film background, or arts for that matter. So naturally, since I was very little, films have been a very important part of my life and my growth and also responsible for myquest of understanding humans, this world and finding truth. I'm trying not to be diplomatic, but it is very hard for me to pick specific films that inspired me -I feel like I'm cheating on the others.
Shira: She loves the word cheating.
Aishwarya: I don’t know what that means... but yea i’m a lover of all things film.
4. Who is your biggest influence?
Shira: So after thinking about this question for several minutes, we’ve both decided we don’t have a specific answer to this question considering we had different influences throughout our life.
Aishwarya: We actually did this abundance challenge and wrote down the names of people who have had an influence in our lives- and the list didn’t end, there is a lot to be grateful for.
5. Do you have a favorite genre to work in? Why is it your favorite?
Drama. For once we like being serious about something.
Shira, Aishwarya: No seriously, we love mixing genres as long as drama is part of the mixgreat comedies have drama too, right?
6. If you could work with anyone in the world, who would that person be?
Shira: Sandra Bullock! Aishwarya: Nicole Kidman!
That was easy.
7. The one person who has truly believed in you throughout your career.
Our moms. Hands down
Aishwarya: She sends me inspirational quotes, edited on a picture of me every morning, it’s super cute. I am here because of her (well, literally) constant trust in me.
Shira: Basically my mom and I have changed roles; I kept telling her it’s a waste of time and money to pursue acting, and she kept telling me if that’s what you want to do in life you should go for it! For that I owe her the Oscar yet to come.
8. What was the most important lesson you had to learn as an
Aishwarya: Team work, team work, team work. And oh, patience. Read the following in a monotonous robot voice- Rejection is part of the process and if you persevere, success is inevitable and even if not, the journey is beautiful. Well, don’t miss your mark and appreciate the crew. And also never compare one set to another. What worked on a particular set wouldnot necessarily work on a different set. And the hardest one- just listen!! Wow, I sound so preachy!!
Shira: Yeah whatever she says. And also- just be yourself!
9. What keeps you motivated?
Each other. At times like these you either need family, good friends or people with the same goals as yours. In our case we had the fortune to win all three.
10. On set, the most important thing is…
Shira: To think ahead! and solve problems!
Both: And know how to let go and lose control of stuff that are not in your control.
Aishwarya: The only thing we can control is our emotions. Namaste!
11. The project(s) you’re most proud of…
I think we can both agree that “Through Her Glasses”, which is in post-production right now, is our pride point.
Aishwarya: But also, miles to go, before we sleep..
Shira: Don’t ruin the moment!! But wait I do want to say that my film “Line 25” that I did in Israel (produced, acted and edited) is also one of my biggest prides, and the reason is because it was made so spontaneously and with such short time (4 days including pre and post) and the film just turned out so authentic, funny and charming. Sometimes going with the initial idea you have, just like that without overthinking it, is better.
Aishwarya: I need to learn about not overthinking.
12. The most challenging project you worked on. And why?
Aishwarya: All of them. Haha.
Shira: Stop being diplomatic.
Aishwarya: I’m not, I swear, every project comes with it’s own challenges. I still remember my first day on set of the feature film I did in India, I was sweating in the first scene I shot, we at least did 20 takes. Uff, you learn and unlearn. Namaste.
Shira: Ok so I would be the adult and choose one project. “Three’s Definitely a Crowd” which is also in post production, was the most challenging project I've worked on. Why? Because it was my first time producing on such a big set and taking care of all the logistics and the technical stuff (which I’ve always wondered who in the world would ever want to take thatjob… and yet look at me). On this set I’ve learned 2 main things about me- one, as a producer there is only so much you can do to make everyone happy - and that “so much” has to end somewhere! Two, if I'm not in the spotlight I am not having fun! (Sad but true). Which reminds me of what my therapist used to tell me- if my brain is not occupied with the creative side of me it gets bored really fast and then I’m losing it. So there you go!
Aishwarya: Producing involves a lot of creativity, but sure yes!
Shira: True ! But that’s not enough for me.
13. What are your short term and long term career goals?
Shira: Short is to get our O1 ! You hear that immigration? If you read this article please oh please approve our visa!
Aishwarya: Shira you are not supposed to say that
Shira: Yeah it is easy for you to say, you have better chances than me!
Anyway but long term as artists- We want to create a place with our production company for filmmakers, actors, producers, writers like us, coming from different places in the world, so we can help each other make our dreams and stories come to life.
As actors – I mean win the Oscar!
Aishwarya: The only concern is what happens if we’d both be nominated in the same year
Shira: That’s not the problem, the problem is what’s gonna happen if only one of us gets to be nominated and the other doesn’t.
14. Your next projects?
We have 4. Which one do you wanna hear about?
Through Her Glasses and Three’s Definitely a Crowd, as we mentioned, are in Post Production right now. Shift is still doing the festival round, Line 25 is in sound mix. We are working on 2 short films. We did a super fun quarantine web series Coronaville- we actually play a couple from Brooklyn in that, it’s in post too.
A short film I acted in, Ayesha, is in post as well.
Shira: The feature film I acted in, Fragile Heart, is in post too. Wow everything is in post right now ha..
Aishwarya: Story of our lives!!