Photo courtesy of Samiksha Thakur / Instagram.

Samiksha Thakur, an 18-year-old filmmaker born and raised in North Bergen, has her eyes set for a future laid out on the silver screen; And so far, that future is looking bright.

Writing, directing, and editing two award-winning short films, “Miss Fortune” (2021) and “Blue Iris” (2020), Thakur has been praised for her talents among the international film festival circuits, and has officially released her latest short film, “Clean Sheet”, which can be watched for free on YouTube.

Within two years, she has received recognition from festivals such as the All-American High School Film Festival, SE PA Teen Filmmakers Showcase (“Blue Iris”, Best Actress & Best Picture Nominee), the Lift-Off Sessions U.K. (“Blue Iris,” Audience Favorite), the Golden Door International Film Festival (“Miss Fortune,” NJ Filmmakers of Tomorrow Award), the NYC Teen Film Festival (Finalist), to name a few.

“Clean Sheet” is currently running the awards circuits, and has won Best of Fest at the High Tech High School Film Festival, and 

For Thakur, her love of film, and her desire to create, originated when she was five-years-old. She reminisced about the days of when her and her mother would venture through video rental stores to pick out movies to watch.

“My mom and I used to go to Blockbuster every week, and we’d rent some DVDs. Then ‘Coraline’ came out when I was in preschool going into kindergarten, and that was a surreal to experience,” she told Slice of Culture.

The stop-motion techniques used in Coraline is what inspired Thakur to create her first, award-winning short film, “Cheesed and Squeezed” (2017), a fun, whimsical vignette into the ventures of a mouse using its wits to snatch some yummy cheese from a trap. The film even includes an alternate ending to add some dark comedic flavor.

Eventually, Thakur would pursue her creative talents further by attending High Tech in Secaucus. She stated that she was shy at first, but found her place amongst like-minded peers in the school’s film club, eventually becoming the club’s president for four years.

“I’d stay after school and go to the film club. We’d watch movies and have these little episodes during Christmas that we’d have to write and direct ourselves,” said Thakur. 

“That’s when I really started using the program [High Tech] had to my advantage and really making my own stuff.”

Over the years, Thakur used the tools she was given in high school to eventually direct and produce “Blue Iris,” which marked not only her first more professionally produced short film, but also a valuable learning experience.

Samiksha Thakur is a homegrown filmmaker with international recognition. (Courtesy of Samiksha Thakur)

“Blue Iris” is the story of a young artist who is going through a crisis of insecurity. 

She lacks confidence in her work and doesn’t believe that her talents will develop into a successful career. Suddenly, she is thrown into the deep end when she is forced to submit a piece to an art gallery in just four days. 

Frustrated and confused, she embarks on a journey of rediscovering what made her an artist in the first place. Along the way not only does she gain confidence in her work, but she has built a stronger foundation that cannot be so easily shaken again.

The film, Thakur indicated, is a reflection of herself and how she feels about her talents. Her initial insecurity with embarking on larger projects was something that drove her to make this film in the first place. 

“I don’t feel a lot of these insecurities anymore now because I’ve created a few short films [already],” she said. “But I, at that moment, I was really scared to do this first really big project with an actual crew. And when you have these people bring your story to life and you’re seeing it happening right in front of you, it’s a really great experience. So editing the final cut, that was really cathartic.”

Thakur learned many lessons from her time making “Blue Iris,” and it was these lessons that she brought into her later work, “Miss Fortune”.

“Miss Fortune” is a rom-com about a burgeoning love between two high school sweethearts, whose initial interest in each other suddenly encounters tension. After a first date gone awry due to some oddly specific fortune cookies, the protagonist, Jane, must make sense of the uncertainty caused by them, and attempt to heal the relationship that seemed ready to blossom.

Her second entry garnered a lot of success, receiving numerous awards and accreditations. With two successful films back-to-back, there seems to be little in the way of Thakur’s success as a filmmaker and producer. 

“Clean Sheet,” her latest upcoming short film, had reached its crowdfunding goal of $1,100 in just under two months, and even surpassed it by almost $200. 

Not wanting to give away too much of her upcoming project, Thakur stated that this film would be a coming-of-age story like her previous titles – this time about a friendship in jeopardy.

Behind-the-Scenes of Samiksha Thakur’s upcoming work, “Clean Sheet”. (Courtesy of Samiksha Thakur)

Thakur stated that her current inspiration for her work is stories related to coming-of-age. She feels that aside from the convenience of having young, teen actors to use in her work, she thinks that these are the stories she herself can relate to the most.

She also shared that she wishes to create more films based more on the human condition, inspired by works she has read in school such as Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut and Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe. She is also particularly inspired by the films of writer, Charlie Kaufman, whose notable works include “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” (2004) and “I’m Thinking of Ending Things” (2020).

“I can’t produce these kinds of [stories] right now because of the resources I have,” she said.

“But these are stories that I’m really interested in and I hope to delve deeper into that going into college.”

Behind-the-Scenes of Samiksha Thakur’s upcoming work, “Clean Sheet”. (Courtesy of Samiksha Thakur)

Thakur will be continuing her studies with the film program at Montclair State University, and is also part of the YoungArts network, a program which dedicates itself to fostering the next generation of artists of all disciplines.

Growing up as a woman of color, Thakur remarked on the sense of obligation that artists in her position would make to use their platform as a medium for activism. While she is passionate about the issues surrounding the current political environment, she feels like activism is currently not her place to be in.

“Being an Indian girl who’s young, I feel like sometimes I’m expected to tell my stories regarding activism…to say something about the political world, or current affairs,” she said. “I feel like I have to tell the stories because I am Indian. Because this is what people look for.”

“I don’t think it’s my responsibility right now to use this sort of activism as a form of entertainment in my films,” she continued, remarking how she wishes to focus on more personal, human stories. 

“Films that are made by women of color, that aren’t necessarily about the communities they belong to, are still important stories to be shared.”

Thakur (right), graduated from High Tech earlier this year, and will be studying film at Montclair State University. (Courtesy of Samiksha Thakur)

Growing up in Hudson County, she remarked how the diversity that she encountered throughout her life also contributed to her influences in her filmmaking, highlighting her experience at High Tech.

“I met people of cultures and ethnicities that I wasn’t exposed to before. Growing up in North Bergen, everyone here is Hispanic, and my sister and I were the only two Indian people at our school,” she said. 

“That definitely shaped my upbringing here. But it was great going into High Tech because there are people of so many different walks of life.”

For her, she says that if she could speak to her younger self about the future, she’d have some wisdom to share.

“To my younger self, I’d say don’t be so uptight,” she said with a chuckle. “When I was in middle school I was in so many extracurriculars…I was working so hard, I was not feeling good.”

She continued:

“There were so many times where I worked so hard for something and I didn’t get what I wanted. [I’ve learned] that what you don’t have isn’t always meant to be yours. I think that is what I have to come to terms with coming out of high school in regards to my personal life and to my filmmaking career.”

When asked to impart advice on other younger filmmakers, she expressed humility instead, remarking how she is still young and has a lot more to learn.

“Clean Sheet” has officially been released and can be watched for free on YouTube

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