We had the good fortune of connecting with S. Lakmé Iyengar and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi S. Lakmé, can you tell us more about your background and the role it’s played in shaping who you are today?
I grew up in the suburbs of Sydney, Australia. My parents immigrated to Australia from India in the early 90s, so I was raised with an infusion of both Indian and Australian culture, which is a big part of my identity today. I was interested in creative pursuits like photography, art, and music, but also enjoyed the logic of science and mathematics. So cinematography feels like the perfect combination of both my interests; I can be creative but also use technical and numerical skills. I completed my undergrad degree in Sydney in Communication and Media Production, which only further reaffirmed that cinematography was my passion. I spent a number of years afterwards doing a mixture of shooting and camera assisting on shorts, documentaries, television and music videos. I eventually considered further education and felt that I might have better opportunities abroad. So I applied for the Master’s program at the American Film Institute, and to my surprise, I was accepted into the cinematography stream. So I made the move to LA.

Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I think a bit of luck goes a long way in this industry. Many of the opportunities I’ve had professionally have been because I met the right person at the right time, and this resulted in work that helped me further develop my career. It’s definitely not been easy. I found Australia to be a challenging place to navigate the film industry; it’s small comparatively and there are a lot of talented people in that pool. It took me a number of years to ‘open the door’ over there so to speak and right when that happened, I got the opportunity to come to LA. It’s strange how the timing works out, and understanding that you can’t plan for those things perfectly has been a valuable lesson. Something else I’ve had to learn over the years is to be very resilient. I’ve ‘failed’ or not succeeded more times than I can count, and that is something that most people in creative industries have to contend with. I find it’s vital for myself to not pay too much attention to the things that don’t work out and instead focus on what’s ahead.

When I look at my own work, I’m definitely someone who appreciates simplicity. I like using less setups in a scene (when appropriate) and seeing just how much can be covered and conveyed in each shot. I very loosely follow the Dogme 95 manifesto which was about imposing rules to escape the conventional traps of filmmaking. I’m a believer that restrictions enhance creativity, so I like to have a set of guidelines or rules for any project I work on. It helps me develop and maintain a visual style in a project, and make every choice a conscious one. I spend a lot of time thinking about the script and asking my director as many questions as possible. I want to gain a very deep understanding of the characters, the story and the themes and emotions that are at play. Then I can start to see how to translate these ideas into the visual language of the film.

Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
The hike up to Griffith Observatory is a great place to start. You get the incredible view of downtown and you can really see how far Los Angeles stretches. And I love the science and history of astronomy you can see outside the observatory. It’s also essential to visit the stretch of Hollywood Boulevard around the TCL Chinese Theatre. It is a tourist trap, but you have to go there at least once to see all the interesting people and the movie history. LA also has so many interesting neighbourhoods and my favourite way to explore is to pick a place to drive to, then walk around to really get a sense of that place. Some areas I really like exploring are Pasadena, Melrose, Malibu, West Hollywood, and Marina Del Ray. There are also so many great places to eat at. I’m vegetarian and love the variety of plant based options here, so I would definitely take friends to experience that as well. Some of my favourite eating spots are Salaya Plant Based Kitchen, Doomie’s Next Mex, Gokoku Ramen Shop and Sage Bistro.
And finally, the sunsets in LA are incredible, especially being right next to the Pacific Ocean. The Korean Friendship Bell is a great place to watch the sunset. Another one of my favourites is driving along the coastline in Palos Verdes at sunset.

Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
Without a doubt it would be my family. I’m definitely the black sheep of my family in that I chose not to follow a traditional career path. It took time for my parents to understand and be on board, but they’ve been very supportive and have encouraged me to pursue my dreams, so for that I will always be grateful and fortunate. My husband is another person I have to give a shoutout to. He keeps me sane and is with me through all the successes and failures that inevitably happen in a creative career, and that support is invaluable.

Website: www.lakmeiyengar.com

Instagram: @sliyengar

Linkedin: linkedin.com/in/s-lakme-iyengar

Image Credits
Oli Cohen, Jor-El Vaasborg, Jared Hawkley

Nominate Someone: ShoutoutLA is built on recommendations and shoutouts from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you or someone you know deserves recognition please let us know here.