Thinking Beyond the Box: Rajal Pitroda
Major film studios spend $30 million or even more to market a movie, but Rajal Pitroda‘s firm, Beyond the Box Productions, works to get audiences to notice films with marketing budgets that are often less than $1 million. The company markets and helps distribute independent films, creating individualized marketing strategies and providing alternative distribution deals. It is especially committed to films involving economic, social, and political issues, particularly those that pertain to women and adolescents. As a partner at Beyond the Box, Rajal, 29, scouts for innovative films, designs marketing plans for clients, and oversees the online and wireless portions of the company’s work. It all builds off her previous career in Bollywood, where she worked with the Confederation of Indian Industry and was involved with setting up the India Pavilion at the Cannes Film Festival. To learn more about Rajal and her movie marketing, check out this week’s Young & Professional Profile.
Beyond the Box Productions
Partner, Beyond the Box Productions
Downers Grove, Illinois
Los Angeles, California
University of Michigan
Beyond the Box Productions
Confederation of Indian Industry
Director Entertainment Department
Director, Business Development
About your career
In a marketplace fueled by entertainment and technology, Beyond the Box believes in creating original and inspiring content, reaching audiences through new platforms in distribution. Beyond the Box is an independent film marketing and distribution company. We work with producers to create and execute individualized marketing strategies for a film, providing an alternative to the more traditional distribution deal.
Since its inception, Beyond the Box has been committed to content that deals with social, economic, and political issues, especially as they relate to women and teens. As Beyond the Box continues to grow, its commitment to these issues only strengthens.
Prior to Beyond the Box, I worked in the entertainment business based in Bombay, with the Confederation of Indian Industry. I was in charge of working with both the Indian government and the mainstream Indian film industry to cultivate greater opportunities for producers and directors both in Indian and internationally. We set up the India Pavilion at the Cannes Film Festival, and were responsible for planting the seed for the International Film Festival of India that happens every year in Goa.
I’m currently also finishing a novel based on my experiences working with the film business in Bombay. It was both an amazing and chaotic ride!
What are your day-to-day responsibilities?
My day-to-day responsibilities include all elements of business development for Beyond the Box. I am constantly looking for innovative films for us to work on, as well as new projects that combine entertainment marketing and technology. Additionally, I focus on more traditional elements of our business, such as creating and designing marketing plans for our clients, and overseeing the online and wireless components of our work.
Most notable milestones
A milestone for us is every time we see a film we’ve worked on at the movie theater on opening weekend.
What’s the niche?
We really work to provide an alternative for independent producers that either can’t find a traditional distribution deal that works for them, or want the flexibility and attention of taking their film out on their own. We always try and stay on top of the most innovative trends in marketing and technology to get the word out about our releases.
What’s the biggest challenge?
Our biggest challenge is getting audiences to notice a film when we’re working with marketing budgets of under $1 million. We’re competing with the major studios, who spend $30 million or more to open a film.
What’s in store for the future?
I’m really interested in looking at how new technologies are changing the entertainment business. It’s getting easier and easier to produce content, and new distribution platforms need to keep up with this change. I’m really curious to see how both the internet and mobile technology is going to play a part in the marketing and distribution of content.
Best way to keep a competitive edge
I think the best way to keep a competitive edge is to always be willing to accept change. The marketplace is constantly evolving, especially in the entertainment business right now. It’s important to move with those changes, instead of resisting them.
Guiding principle in life
My guiding principle in life is to enjoy the process. I think that’s the most important part of doing what any of us do – to really be in the moment and enjoy what you’re doing and contributing to.
Yardstick of success
In the same way, I don’t know if I believe in measures of success. I think it’s more about living one day at a time and doing the work you’ve set out to do. If you’re spending your time measuring or thinking about success, you’re missing the boat.
Goal yet to be achieved
Produce my own movie and finish my novel!
Best practical advice
Do the work, whatever it is for you. That’s it. Just show up.
Supportive words from a family member or friend on your venture
I once came home from spending the day writing, a day that didn’t go very well in terms of what I had down on the page. My dad looked at me and said, “It’s alright, really. Writing, work, any of it – it’s like hair days. Sometimes you have good hair days, and sometimes you don’t.” It just reinforces to me how important it is to just do what you’re doing. Sometimes it might not seem like it’s working out right, but by just doing it, you’re well on your way. And it’s great that my dad gave me advice using hair as an analogy.
JJ Abrams. I saw him speak at a film festival recently, and he is an amazing combination of a creative and business mind. And he’s all about passion and process in doing the work. Not to mention that he is one of the funniest and most engaging people I’ve ever heard speak.
Paula Silver. Paula’s one of my partners at Beyond the Box, and the marketing mind behind “My Big Fat Greek Wedding.” She’s always ahead of her time in ideas and thinking, always ready to push the limits of what’s next.
My dad. He’s been a great role model both as a parent as well as in reinforcing how important it is to do your own thing in life, and to not let what other people say affect you.
What motivated you to get started?
My love for independent cinema! And my belief that film is a really powerful tool to showcase what’s happening in our world.
Like best about what you do?
I get to see so many amazing films and meet incredible and talented producers, directors and writers everyday.
Like least about what you do?
Unfortunately so many of the films I see will never get released, and so although I’ve gotten to watch them, so many other people never will.
At age 10, what did you want to be when you grew up?
What was your first job?
I worked in business development at a mobile commerce company. It was great. I got to learn about technology and see how to start and run a company from the ground up.
Biggest pastime outside of work
Watching films, writing my book, and exploring all that Los Angeles has to offer.
Person most interested in meeting?
Nelson Mandela. I just think he’s such an inspirational figure in terms of fighting for what you believe in. I saw him once when I was in South Africa a few years ago at an event he was speaking at. He’s a tiny, peaceful man that just holds so much strength and power. I was so awestruck that I couldn’t move.
Leader in business most interested in meeting?
Steve Jobs. Now that’s someone who’s always on the cutting edge – of technology, media and design.
Three interesting facts about yourself
- I spent time traveling in Iceland, which is one of the most amazing countries I have ever seen. We ended up spending a night on a sheep farm in a town called Stieg, in the middle of nowhere. I continually refer to Stieg as my sanctuary.
- I love percussion, and spent some time learning to play the tabla.
- I worked at Rolling Stone magazine for a while, an amazing experience that made me realize I didn’t want to write about the entertainment business, but instead be a part of it.
Three characteristics that describe you
Three greatest passions
“The Hours” by Michael Cunningham
I love organizations that use media to create social change. Witness, created by Peter Gabriel, is an amazing example.
I also really love programs like Teach for America, and would love to see what could happen if organizations like that expanded internationally – where there is a real crisis of education and access to teachers.
Who would you like to be contacted by?
Anyone! I love to hear from filmmakers, in particular, always!
Interview by Sheena Singh
Introduction by Preeti Aroon
Edited by Valerie Enriquez