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Nothing About Us Without Us Spotlight: Tulica Singh


Newfangled Studios and Tulica explore the social importance of representation and why "variety is the spice of life"

Nothing About Us Without Us Spotlight: Tulica Singh

Nothing About Us Without Us is an ongoing Newfangled Studios project aimed to shift the way brands and advertisers think about engaging with folks within marginalised communities.

As part of this series, we interviewed various creators with different backgrounds to explore their perspectives on the importance of having the stories of a community being told by members of that community. 

This month, we sat down with Tulica Singh, a writer, director and editor, who works on both branded content and her upcoming feature film.

Q> How would you describe what you do? 

Tulica> My passion is telling comedic stories with heart. I am a writer, director and editor, so I’ve worked in a variety of aspects of storytelling - whether that's editing and directing branded content, marketing on socials or docu-series. I even get to do a little bit of animation in some of my work. But currently, I am so excited to be working on my first feature film, ‘Curses!’.

I love that you’re doing this Nothing About Us Without Us series. Beyond the social importance of representation, it’s boring to have the same perspective constantly. Variety is the spice of life so lets get a bunch of voices out there.

Q> On the subject of the importance of a lot of voices, can you tell when something has been created by someone who has no background in the particular experience? Where it seems like tokenizing or pandering? 

Tulica> I think of that Pepsi protest campaign a few years back. You look at a company like that, it isn’t focused on social justice, or protesting injustices. But it seems like they were trying to jump on that bandwagon without any authenticity. If they actually cared, I think a better approach would have been funding branded content made by a BIPOC led agency. At the end of the day, I think brands need to look at the product - what speaks to people about that product? How much do you know about your consumers, and how do you interact with them? I think that’s the place where brands can truly focus - on the baby steps of understanding who their consumer is - especially if they are trying to expand in new markets. That’s so much more authentic than trying to just cater to an idea that you don’t understand. 

Q> Is there a campaign that you've worked on that you feel really proud of?

Tulica> I did this T-shirt commercial I really liked for this company called Cotton Bureau. And they were making T-shirts that actually took into account women's bodies. We told the story of how they were manufacturing T-shirts and the women in the company were like, “none of our T-shirts fit us when this is the one thing we do.” So they did more research and really adapted their products to better fit women’s bodies. So that’s an example of outreach to a specific demographic, solving a problem that people actually had, and learning and growing along the way. They listened to people, actually did their research, examined a problem and found a solution. And I think that’s a great way to bring in more diverse customers. Is your marketing related to how your product or service is helping people’s lives? That’s one of the best ways to create real outreach into new demographics.  

Q> You were recently featured in My First Popsicle, An Anthology of Food and Feelings by Zosia Mamet. Why was it important to share that story? 

Tulica> Well food is such a connector. My parents are both immigrants but I grew up in Michigan, my mum is French and my dad is Indian. Ras Malai was my favourite dessert, and it was my dad's favourite dessert as well. So in this anthology, I interweaved a story about how, jokingly, I'm my dad’s favourite daughter (maybe it's true). The essay is about that push and pull of growing up being a daughter of an Indian father living in the States, and how things get lost in translation, how you can grow apart, but come together, and that binding agent is the food you both love. I think there are a lot of activities that are hard to share, but food you can share at every meal, right? It’s beautiful. 

Q> You’re someone who is holding a lot of different identities. Are there things you wish creatives, advertisers and brands knew when trying to appeal to different audiences?

Tulica> I think when you only do campaigns for a specific community one month a year, it’s damaging in a lot of different ways. If you’re only going out to creatives of different diverse backgrounds during “their” month, then those creatives are missing so many opportunities throughout the year to tell diverse stories. While others become mascots and get pigeonholed. 

I think there is a big fear from brands of “saying the wrong thing”, but I think you can face that fear by always having diverse voices in the mix - you don’t need to wait until a certain month or time of year to bring in Asian, Black, Latino, or Indigenous writers and filmmakers. 

Q> Can you tell us more about 'Curses!', your first feature film? 

Tulica> Yeah! ‘Curses!’ is a film about an outcast witch who falls in love with a Puritan it-girl amidst the backdrop of the settlement’s first witch trial. It’s a comedic period piece that includes elements of fantasy so we aren’t really worrying about historical accuracy. And that’s exciting because we get to do casting. Our two leads are South Asian and black respectively. I think we are seeing more and more period pieces where other races are allowed to play every type of role. Often what you would see during those period movies is that if you see a person of colour, it is within the context of some sort of servant-like character. So we are saying screw it. Anybody of any race can be playing these characters regardless of what history dictates because it’s fictionalised anyways. We have a talking crow and a zombie mushroom, who cares why a Puritan is Asian. 

I think it’s important to have diverse people behind the camera, telling all sorts of stories. I wouldn’t have been able to get into the Sundance lab if I didn’t have the support of the Asian outreach program. But they also gave me the freedom to tell a story that perhaps wasn’t specifically about my own experience as an Asian American. This is a great next step and often something BIPOC creators don’t get to have. If Darren Aronofsky gets to make a movie about ballerinas, then why can’t an Indian person make a movie that’s not about their immigrant story? That's an important representation as well - telling new stories from creators we haven’t heard from before.

We want to thank Tulica Singh for sharing her perspective in this Nothing About Us Without Us Spotlight. Expect more interviews from creators and community members throughout the advertising and marketing industry in the months to come.

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Newfangled Studios, Thu, 01 Jun 2023 09:25:00 GMT