Name: Ritesh Mehta
Graduation Year: 2015
Current Positions: Intern, Episodic Storytelling Lab, Sundance Institute; Executive Producer and Story Consultant at Rough Diamond Productions; Contributor, MovieMaker Magazine; Screener, American Film Institute Fest; Screening Committee, New Filmmakers Los Angeles
First Position after Graduation: Development Intern, Imperative Entertainment
Dissertation Title: Tacit Anticipation among Student Filmmakers: An Ethnography of Making Movies in Film School. Committee: Henry Jenkins (Chair), Larry Gross, Patricia Riley, Nancy Lutkehaus (Anthropology).
Mehta, R. (In review). "Hustling in film school as anticipating early career work in media industries," Poetics.
Mehta, R. (In press). "Freedom (of expression) via film," MovieMaker Magazine, 120, 23.
Mehta, R. (2016, June 21). "Sex in the village: An interview with Indian director Leena Yadav about her buoyant Parched," MovieMaker Magazine.
Mehta, R. (2016, May 26). "2016 Los Angeles Film Festival preview: 10 feature film picks from a diverse lineup," MovieMaker Magazine.
Mehta, R. (2014). "Sherry Ortner, 'Not Hollywood': Independent cinema at the twilight of the American dream," International Journal of Communication.
How did you decide to pursue a path in the entertainment industry rather than academia? It's not an either/or for me. After completing my dissertation, I experienced burnout and needed to take a break from academia. So I decided to take advantage of my status as an international student and work for one year in the industry, under USCIS's Optional Practical Training option. While doing fieldwork for my dissertation, the storytelling and filmmaking bug had bit me. My deep passion for film and TV had brought me to USC in the first place. So I decided to set aside my researcher hat and plunge headlong into diverse sites in “Hollywood.”
However, I am committed to a long-term career that involves #AcademiaAndIndustry. I have been working on academic journal articles this past year as well. I have been talking to university presses about writing a book from my dissertation. I want to be able to teach. I am back on the academic job market this year, even as I continue seeking paid work in the industry. We'll see where I land in 2017.
How does your academic background influence what you're doing now?
(1) Perspective. Having examined the industry from a scholarly standpoint has helped me better grasp process, hierarchy and discourse in the organizations I have been embedded in.
(2) Discipline. Completing a mammoth task like a dissertation has given me discipline, so I am not daunted by workload and am often able to exceed expectations regarding mundane and challenging tasks.
(3) Writing and Research skills. (a) My bosses have recognized me for my ability to give exhaustive, detailed story notes; (b) Reading and summarizing books and screenplays, while providing analytical and critical commentary comes readily; and (c) Conducting interviews is a skill that transfers very readily, especially in journalism.
(4) Identity. Overall, this past year has consolidated my understanding of myself as a “Creative Scholar,” a type of academic practitioner, someone who can immerse himself in diverse creative (tricky word) and organizational processes but also be productively critical about industry hegemony.
What sort of research did you do when you were at Annenberg?
Primarily ethnographic research on the media industries, but I also taught classes on television and popular culture as well as public speaking. I consider myself trained in the ethnographic method as well as analytic philosophy.
Favorite thing about USC Annenberg: One year later, I appreciate all the more the sense of community in the PhD program. Getting to know a bunch of smart and generous individuals pursuing important, even urgent, projects has been a privilege. Mostly though, I got to complete a project about a topic I am deeply passionate about, with excellent mentors and support, one that will continue to influence my career.