Laila Kiran: The tale of a brave storyteller

Written by Basmah Zora

August 14, 2020

Laila Kiran, the young CEO of Reality Beyond Dreams, is an incredibly glass-half-full kind of person with a sunny personality that compels you to admire her immediately. She has set out on a journey to document the most unusual of stories with her amazing team. Here’s what she had to say to Entreur about her journey and ventures.

To be a storyteller in the true sense, you need to have a vision to create a change through your stories

First off, I want to know what drove you to establish the company Reality beyond Dreams.
Before I had an idea to establish a company, I had a dream. At Asian University for Women, I got to take a lot of courses related to art. That was when I realized this is something I want to do, something I enjoy doing. My first documentary was on Selina, a woman from a village with two differently-abled daughters whom she refused to be treated as burdens. She sent them to normal schools and provided them with physiotherapy at home. Afterwards, she established an NGO which is working to change the dominating belief that having a differently-abled kid in your house is a curse. In our society, women are typically considered to be submissive and vulnerable.

So we thought, why not tell the stories of these brave women who have created an impact? When it was streaming at AUW, some among the audience had tears in their eyes. Few of the AUW support foundations reached out to us asking how they could help. This made me realize the power of storytelling.
I didn’t want to do a conventional job. I had no money, no camera, no team and two months of education in filmmaking. I went to all the NGOs and organizations in Gilgit with the proposal to tell stories of rural women who have created an impact. Gradually I got people on board, and that’s how we started. Soon after two or three months, we got our company registered.

Reality Beyond Dreams is a very unusual name. How did you come up with it?
So in my last year in university, I researched a lot about traumas, psychology, and dreams and what science has been discovered after Einstein’s E = mc2. I was amazed to know that a person can dream and manifest it. That’s when I started believing that if you believe in your dreams and work hard, you can achieve it. That’s why the stories we were documenting initially about women who dreamt a life beyond all the odds, and thus we call it Reality beyond Dreams.

Throughout your entire journey, who/what would you say was your biggest inspiration?
My first inspiration was my mother. As the first female teacher in the village, she was a change-maker who changed the society I live in today. My team is my biggest inspiration. But I have learned that if you are looking for inspiration, it’s everywhere.

Tell us about your upcoming ventures.
Currently, we are working on our debut project on child sexual abuse. It took us around six months to get permission for this project. It’s a series of documentary and research on convicted child sex offenders. The idea of the project was to understand their psychology. Usually, we label such people as monsters. But it’s very important to know their stories too, and we are trying to get those out so people can see what went on in their lives.

Did you receive any seed funding for your documentary, and are you willing to sell it to Netflix or platforms of that sort?
The funds we got were from Sahil, an NGO working on child sexual abuse in Pakistan. They gave us the initial fund for the pilot project. It’s the first big project for Reality beyond Dreams. We are making it with all the requirements for Netflix. If not Netflix, hopefully, it will make it to Amazon Prime or Hulu.

What would you consider to be your greatest achievement?
I would say this particular project because it’s very close to my heart. I experienced abuse in my childhood from very close people. So, I wanted to understand what goes on in their mind. The hardest part was getting the NOCs from the agencies. But I made something happen which people thought was impossible. Hopefully, when the research report is out, we will be able to put out some recommendations for policy change, prevention and rehabilitation of such people. I haven’t achieved it yet, but I am on the way to achieving my biggest achievement [laughs].

As a woman in the filmmaking industry, what barriers did you have to overcome, and how do you think we can make it better for women in the future willing to engage in this field?
The biggest challenges I faced were from the society and not the professionals because there is acceptance for women filmmakers when it comes to the larger image. But in their personal lives, women do have to face barriers. Because it’s male dominant and something very technical that is considered as something women can’t do. I guess for the future, and more women have to come to this field because the kind of stories that women tell are very different from the ones that men tell.

Is there any message that you would be willing to convey to aspiring filmmakers out there?
My message would be, don’t follow the mainstream media. If you see with an open mind, there are millions of stories around you. To be a storyteller in the true sense, you need to have the vision to create a change through your stories.

Do you think it’s crucial to start with expensive gears in the realm of filmmaking?
I started by using my phone. Then I used an overused camera borrowed from an organization in Gilgit to shoot a documentary which received an International award. So it doesn’t matter how you start. It’s the story that matters. But for bigger platforms, you do have to follow the requirements.

How would you describe yourself in a single sentence? Who is Laila Kiran?
I would say I’m a wild dreamer who wants to change the world through storytelling.


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