When it comes to the representation of Sri Lankans on the global entertainment stage, the tools and opportunities of the present day have cleaved a road many still don’t travel.
Here, however, it would be hard to miss the likes of Pradeepa Jeeva – Hollywood producer, former Head of Production for YouTube’s YOMYOMF channel, and now, feature film actress and Head of Content Strategy for Snake Nation – an organisation geared for social innovation projects in Africa.
Starring in Suba Sivakumaran’s promising tale, House of My Fathers – a film set to air at the Hamburg International Film Festival in a mere two weeks – the multi-talented actress recently shared her insights and experiences as a truly global professional with The Sunday Morning.
Speaking, first, of her involvement in the movie, Pradeepa shared her experience venturing into the film industry with this project.
In the House of My Fathers, viewers are treated to a fantasy-fuelled exploration of the nuances of Sri Lanka’s 30-year conflict, in the perspective of two villages – one Sinhalese and the other Tamil – both pitted against each other. With the guarantee of swift death for anyone who dares cross village boundaries, what must be done when women from both villages are afflicted with an inability to bear children?
Cross over into the world of the living dead, of course.
Having been an ardent fan of Suba’s work, Pradeepa spoke of the time she hovered by her table at a Director’s Dinner one night in New York and struck an immediate friendship with her fellow Sri Lankan. Over the next year, Suba would prove to be a pivotal part of Pradeepa’s portrayal of Ahalya, the protagonist of the film.
Composed much like the fables of Greek mythology, Pradeepa notes that the film’s heavy fantasy element is a refreshing way to talk about the issues surrounding the war.
Acting, however, is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to this highly skilled professional.
Having dabbled extensively in producing, Pradeepa also had a stint as Head of Production of YouTube’s very own YOMYOMF channel – You Offend Me You Offend My Family. Dedicated to discovering Asian Pacific American artists in the Western media, she was responsible for curating the channel’s original content, which even featured well-known names like Ryan Higa.
Mentored under the likes of Justin Lin, the director of hits like Fast and the Furious and Star Trek Beyond, Pradeepa notes that this opportunity is what really launched her career. A speaker for IdeaHell – Sri Lanka’s premier YouTube content creation space – the curator not just maintains ties with the platform to this day but also gushed about working for YouTube at an exciting time when it was really venturing into original content.
Again, this is just one of many industries Pradeepa excels in.
Honing her background as a content strategist, she now works for Snake Nation, a disruptive media company operating in the lush confines of South Africa. On the subject of her whereabouts and activities these days, Pradeepa outlined her project for Planned Parenthood Global in Burkina Faso.
Training youth to use their ideas and voices to give effect to sexual reproductive health in the country, she’s currently in the process of selecting 100 ‘rebels, cool kids, and trendsetters’ and mobilising them to be a force of change in the African nation.
As impressive as this is, it isn’t the first time Pradeepa has immersed herself in worthy social enterprises. During a stint in India, she was also part of the Acumen Global Fellowship and collaborated with Under The Mango Tree – a social enterprise firm based in Mumbai – to create a marketing and digital department that would help increase the sale of their honey.
A skillful Jack of many trades, Pradeepa represents a new generation of Sri Lankans – those who defy all odds and carve their own paths on the international stage. For her, speaking your truth, as she gracefully puts it, is the only way young Sri Lankans with big dreams can breathe life to their aspirations.
By being sincere and consistent with your messaging, she states that people find it easier to engage and interact with you. Here, staying on top of the expectations and experiences of your target audience and leveraging digital tools, mobilising young people for forces greater than themselves, is a tried-and-tested method.
Listed among Variety’s 40 under 40 while she was the Head of Development at Machinima, a few years ago, Pradeepa is no stereotypical South Asian in Hollywood. Beyond her star status as a producer and budding actress (the latter which she vehemently denies!), Pradeepa also brings light to the side of Sri Lanka we take for granted – heartfelt compassion.
Stay tuned to her journeys through her social media handles!
By Archana Heenpella