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From Lucknow to Los Angeles, how Shivangi Singh found her calling in art direction:

In this feature of 100 Emerging Women Leaders, we feature art director Shivangi Singh, who found her calling with the critically acclaimed film ‘Margarita with a Straw’ and later in the likes of Bajrangi Bhaijaan.

For someone who was not much into films or TV, entering an unchartered territory like art direction and seeing success in both Indian cinema and Hollywood has been a dream come true for Shivangi Singh, who has worked in films like Bajrangi Bhaijaan and Margarita with a Straw. However, the Lucknow girl says she liked one thing from the beginning -- fine arts. “I had moved to Delhi after my Class 12, and I realised I had other options,” says Shivangi in a conversation with HerStory. She joined the Jamia Milia Islamia University to pursue her degree in Fine Arts. Recollecting her college days, Shivangi says it was here that she was exposed to different forms of art, and during an international film festival, she was intrigued about art direction.

“By then, I had worked at art exhibitions as a researcher and project manager with some of the country’s finest contemporary artists and curators, including Raqs Media Collective,” says Shivangi.

But initially, Shivangi had no idea of the world of films and how it works.

“As someone from the outside, you believe it to be a closed industry. And it is often associated with the prominent people. But you realise there is so much more to films and film making.”

Coming from a middle-class Indian family, Shivangi had to veer off several acquaintances’ suggestions to not work in the film industry. Her family, however, has been a constant pillar of support.

She explains, an art director’s job is to design the visual look of a film, the sets, the look and colour palette, sourcing props, etc., while coordinating with the film director, production designer, and cinematographer.

“I put in myself and my work out there. I wanted a break, and simply wouldn’t take a no for an answer, and I reached out to people across the film industry in India and globally. It was then that I got my first break as a storyboard artist for 'Margarita with a Straw' in 2012,” says Shivangi.

She then moved to Los Angeles in 2016 to pursue higher studies at the Art Centre College of Design in California, and began a career in Hollywood. She worked in several commercials, short films, including films like ‘Children of War’.

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