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October 2015

Hattiesburg resident David McRaney is a blogger, speaker, cat owner and author of international bestseller You are Not So Smart. He has also written and appeared in a commercial for Reebok, and released a second title last year, You Are Now Less Dumb.

you are not so smart

GF: Has your reputation as a Mississippi writer/author helped or hindered you outside Mississippi? And inside?

DM: I don’t think I have a reputation as a Mississippi author, or even a Hattiesburg author, which is pretty amazing when you think about it.

Today, everything is handled through email, over the phone, and over the internet. My professional life – agent, publisher, publicist, etc. – is almost entirely handled from New York and Los Angeles, and I interact with all those wonderful people and institutions from Hattiesburg without any need for travel. As far as my writing career is concerned, where I’m from just isn’t a factor.

GF: Have you ever broken any stereotypes on purpose or by accident?

DM: Just this last week I gave a lecture at Harvard. I stayed at a hotel very close to campus, and when I was checking in the person at the front desk asked me what I was doing in town. We chatted a bit, traded some small talk. Eventually he asked me for my driver’s license so he could enter everything into the computer and make sure I wasn’t a crazy person. The second it was in his hands he said, “Mississippi!?”

A Q&A with Nina Parikh
Deputy Director
Mississippi Film Office
Jackson, Miss.

Jackson native Nina Parikh has played a major role in the state’s entertainment industry, both on and off the clock. If you’ve never met her, you’ve probably enjoyed the results of her hard work in film and television throughout the state. Parikh holds the title of Deputy Director for the Mississippi Film Office (one of the oldest film offices in the world), yet still makes time to work on creative projects including the acclaimed Crossroads Film Festival in Jackson and #HappyMS, a YouTube video set to Pharrell’s “Happy” that showcases a very diverse Mississippi and is sure to make you smile.

JL: What are you responsible for? What might a normal day consist of for you?

NP: We’re the economic developers for the film and media industry in the state. Every day is different – a producer, filmmaker, or location manager will contact us seeking locations for a film or television project. We’ll read the script, determine which parts of the state are a good fit, and hopefully convince them to do a physical scout. If they decide they want to be in Mississippi, I’ll help them find their crew and other resources. We have a directory of experienced crew and vendors on our website. We also use our social media to promote their casting calls or when they’re searching for specific items, for example, if they need items from the 1930’s. We serve as an extension of their producing team. On the flip side, we also advise communities on how to support a production, what to expect, and how to best protect their locations and community when the trucks roll into town. We also work with the local film festivals around the state and continually find other ways to grow our local base of filmmakers, crew, and talent.

JL: Is this your dream job?

NP: When I came to the Film Office in 1998, I thought I would be here for three to five years.

I came from the film industry. I was accustomed to being on set as a camera assistant, mostly, and wasn’t terribly interested in a desk job, but I thought it’d be interesting to learn from a different side of the industry. And so here I am, seventeen years later – ha! Working in the film industry is a dream for lots of people, and I’m very fortunate to have the opportunity. I love that everyone in the film world has a creative spark, that I’m always meeting new people and discovering new subjects and stories. I spend my days at the Film Office, some of my evenings and weekends volunteering for the Crossroads Film Festival, and even teach filmmaking in the summer through the Canton Young Filmmakers Workshops and sometimes at the college level as an adjunct. It’s in my blood now. I’d love to make another feature film one day, finish my incomplete documentaries, but I also have a handful of other dream jobs I might consider once I retire from this one.