Parikh. Image: Joe Ellis

Written by Laney Lenox

Nina Parikh, Director of the Mississippi Film Office, believes in the TV and film industry’s potential to contribute to the economy and provide diverse opportunities in the local workforce.

“Our industry is powerful,” says Parikh. “It creates jobs, builds careers and spends money across a community – from hotels and restaurants to antique shops, hardware stores, garden centers and gas stations. Film crews fully live and work in a community. A college degree is not a requirement to be hired by a production, so it creates opportunities for a wide range of individuals, and the good public relations value it offers the state is undeniable.”

Parikh says countless actors and crew members leave Mississippi sharing a much more enlightened perspective about who we are and what Mississippi has to offer. Many come back to visit and some have even moved here.

Although she was born in Illinois and spent portions of her childhood in Indiana and New York, Parikh primarily grew up in Mississippi and considers it home.

This is a sentiment shared by her entire family, who moved here when Parikh was ten. Her parents, originally from India and the Philippines, live in the house across the street from Parikh in LeFleur East; her sister lives in the house next door. This sense of community and love of Mississippi informs her work at the Film Office and creates an ethos of seeing opportunities instead of obstacles.

“Our industry makes dreams come true, as silly as that may sound. We all know someone that has dreamed of being an actor or a writer or a director. It can really happen, and I’m committed to making that happen. I’m all in when it comes to nurturing our storytellers.”

Parikh holds a degree in Radio, Television, and Film from the University of Southern Mississippi and spent time studying 16mm film production at New York University. However, she learned most of her practical filmmaking skills on sets around Mississippi. Her past work includes working as a producer on the feature film “Ballast,” which was made in Yazoo County and won acclaim at Sundance Film Festival, and the short #happyMS — an infectiously joyful four-minute music video journey through the state.

The Mississippi Film Office (originally Mississippi Film Commission) was created in 1973—making it the world’s second film commission. In the early days of the Film Office, most of the productions it attracted were set in the American South. However, a rebate program launched in 2004 attracted productions set further afield—such as The Duel (set in the historic American West), The Hollars (set in middle America), and Get Up (set in historic Harlem and Paris, France). Since this incentive ended in July 2017 for non-residents, production in the local industry has shifted back towards projects created by Mississippi-based crews. Parikh sees this as an opportunity to both provide opportunities for the local community and tell its stories.

“Our very complex Mississippi story, in all its variations, needs to be shared with the world – by Mississippi storytellers,” says Parikh.