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Exclusive: Get To Know Filmmaker & Co-Founder of Ten Twenty Productions – Sayali Upadhye!

Sayali Upadhye is a rising filmmaker in Los Angeles, California, and the co-founder of Ten Twenty Productions! Sayali has some exciting news on new film productions confirmed!  Read below our exclusive Q & A with Sayali Upadhye to find out the latest!

Q: Where are you originally from and where are you located now on the map? 

Sayali – A: I’m originally from India. I grew up in the city of Pune, where I went to college. And now, I’ve been based in Los Angeles, California, for the past 3 years.

Q: What motivates and inspires you to be the best at your profession and what do you love most about film? 

Sayali – A: I have been in love with films since I was a kid; my parents love films too, so I grew up watching a lot of Indian, American, and British cinema. But the first time a movie truly left its mark on me was when I watched Cinema Paradiso at my design school’s film club. 

That experience hit me hard. The story, the performances, the visuals, and especially the soul-stirring soundtrack moved me deeply. As the credits rolled and tears streamed down my face, I realized I wanted to develop my art with that same passion to create something that touched people the way Cinema Paradiso touched me. That feeling has stuck with me ever since. Ever since that moment; I’ve been driven by the desire to make a film that becomes someone’s cherished memory. 

What I love most about movies is how they transport you to a different world for a couple of hours. It’s like escaping reality and living someone else’s life for a bit. Only stories have that kind of power. And film, with its visuals and storytelling, does it best. There’s a certain magic in experiencing a story unfold on screen with a group of strangers, sharing collective gasps and laughter. 

And when it comes to making movies, I love how there are no limits to your creativity. In essence, the beauty of filmmaking lies in its ability to serve as a limitless playground for creative expression. Whether crafting fantastical worlds or exploring the depths of human emotion, filmmakers have the power to captivate, inspire, and transport audiences through the sheer force of their imagination. The process of bringing a film to life involves the concerted effort of hundreds of individuals, each contributing their unique talents to fulfill a shared creative vision. There’s a poetic beauty in the collective synergy of so many people coming together to create something extraordinary. In my eyes, there’s no other art form as inherently collaborative as film. 

Q: Do you have a top 3 favorite actors, filmmakers, or directors you want to work with within the business? 

Sayali – A: Oh, there are so many talented filmmakers. I would love to work with Dev Patel in any capacity! He is a phenomenal actor, writer, and director. I would love to do more authentic and unique South-Asian narratives with him. Maybe even a rom-com! I would also jump at a chance to work with Celine Song. Past Lives was my favorite movie of 2023, and I was immensely inspired by how much of her own experiences she put into the film. My third filmmaker is probably on everyone’s list. I am an artist and photographer at heart, so I value good cinematography. I would love to work with Greg Fraser on an Indian sci-fi fantasy series I have been developing for a while. The Dune series is a visual masterpiece and teaming up with him on an epic saga would be a dream come true! 

Q: What is your favorite genre of films to work on?  

Sayali – A:I enjoy a mix of everything in cinema, making my taste feel like a big potluck. I love dramas like any film enthusiast, and I believe comedy to be the truest reflection of society. I am interested in exploring it as a tool to address sensitive and difficult topics while blending it with other genres. I’m also a huge fan of sci-fi and fantasy, as they offer a great escape from reality. However, what truly matters to me when choosing a project is whether the script has heart. 

Beyond genres, I’m drawn to certain themes. Stories about chosen families, personal identities, and moral dilemmas captivate me the most. I’m passionate about exploring these themes across various genres, as they provide a rich ground for storytelling and connection. 

Q: Can you share with us something people may not know about you? Any hobbies or other secret talents you have and or like to do in your spare time

Sayali – A:I grew up in a very creative household and was always drawing as a kid. I’m good at sketching, illustrations, and all sorts of art. This skill helps me a lot when storyboarding and working with other creative heads as I can easily create a sketch to visually communicate my ideas. I went to design school for my undergrad, studying graphic design and product design. Because of this background, I often design posters for the films I produce. I even designed some space travel equipment for a sci-fi film I produced last year. My secret talents are mostly related to art and design, but they are incredibly helpful in filmmaking. 

Q: What are some projects that you’ve just wrapped up recently or that you’re currently working on now? 

Sayali – A:My favorite question, haha! I recently finished a film called A Karaoke Space Odyssey, which I produced alongside my producing partners Bobbie Green and Trey Sutton. Achim Mendoza, a longtime collaborator, wrote and directed. It is a sci-fi comedy about finding a true connection while struggling as an immigrant. The film has since then been showcased at the San Diego International Film Festival, The Asian American Showcase, and the LA Shorts International Film Festival. We will have our East Coast premiere in July at the New York Asian Film Festival. 

I also recently wrapped a short drama, Terms and Conditions, written and directed by Mar Sudac. The film has Rosa Salazar (known for The Maze Runner and Alita: Battle Angel) and George Basil as leads. The film is a modern take on the story of Adam and Eve and sheds light on the nature of modern-day relationships. Working on the movie with Mar, Rosa and George was an absolute delight and a rewarding experience. I can’t wait to share it with everyone. We are just about ready to start our festival run this fall. 

Apart from these, I’m currently in pre-production for 2 projects under the banner of Ten20 Productions, a production company I recently founded with Bobbie Green and Trey Sutton. The first one is a short thriller, Sparrow Falls Boulevard, written and directed by Albert Pritchard. Brett Pawlak is set to be the director of photography. The film delves into the dynamics of domestic violence and Generative AI. 

The second one is a coming-of-age film, Coconut Girl, which follows Swetha, the 7-year-old child of South Indian immigrants, who struggles to reconcile her Asian heritage. The film is written and directed by Ayesha Agarwal. The script won the 2024 WAVE grant by Wavelength Productions. Both productions are set to go into production in the summer, and I’m grateful to be a part of these exciting projects. 

Q: What are your official social sites on the web we can follow?

Sayali – A:My Instagram handle is @hi_im_saay

You can also follow my Letterboxd @saayduck