Shattering the celluloid ceiling: Iram Parveen Bilal inspires students to dream big

By Lisa Nault
Staff Writer

Sometimes small things make a big impact. The film “Josh (Against the Grain)”, started as one woman’s small dream that has become a reality. It came out in 2013 and was directed by Iram Parveen Bilal, a Pakistani woman. She faced many obstacles when she became a film director but she persevered and thrived.

On Monday Nov. 4, people came to Simmons College to hear Bilal speak about how she made it in a field that is not only difficult for a person who is in Pakistan to prosper in but also for a woman.

She began the session by speaking about her family’s own struggle to accomplish their dreams. Her grandfather ran away from home when he was a teen to become an actor, but his dreams were not supported, so he became a mechanic. Bilal’s father was a very talented sketch artist, but he was expected to pursue other professions in his life and thus cast his artistic abilities aside.

However, Bilal was stubborn when she realized she had the “artist gene” within her, and chased after her ideal job. She let the audience know that you do not need to look for permission from anyone, because if you have a dream then you should not let fear of denial hold you back.

Fear was a key component of Bilal’s discussion. It is natural to want to be in your comfort zone where you feel safe and secure she said. It is much easier than venturing outside of it. However, staying in your comfort zone will get you nowhere because you need to be able to take chances and risks to get where you want to be in your career.

Bilal ran into some obstacles in reaching her dream. She had to take non-director jobs such as editing for a show, strayed away from a career in science, dealt with promoting and distributing her film, and even had issues with filming on location. What makes you afraid can also bring you the most joy because you conquered that fear, according to Bilal.

At the end of the panel, Bilal asked the audience what their goals were for their careers. Even if they seemed impossible or out of reach, she wanted to know what they were. Some related to filming with BBC, others PR marketing with makeup companies, and more mentioned but all of these people were given the same advice: go for it. There are means for which you can accomplish these goals because other people have so there must be a way. Network, study hard, expand your skill sets, and put your effort into leaving your comfort zone by doing that which makes you nervous.

I am so glad that Simmons had Bilal come here as part of Simmons’ Presidential Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Council (PDIAC) grant for “Diversity in Film Genres: Empowering Young Women of Color Through Film.” She is a wonderful role model and a real treat to listen to. Her discussion was well stated and relatable for many of the people who attended. Judith Richland, a Communications professor at Simmons, said that she “thought [Bilal’s] talk was pretty inspiring and was touching because it was so personal.” I loved listening to Bilal’s advice and insight and look forward to seeing more of her films in the future.

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