REEL WOMEN: Filmmaker, Rujanee Mahakanjana

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Editor’s Note: They are leaders. They are inspirational. They are mentors. They are visionaries. They are, quite frankly, badasses. They are our 2020 Reel Women During Women’s History Month, you will be able to meet these incredible personalities in Advertising, Entertainment, Media and Production. Get ready.

Rujanee is an award-winning filmmaker and an educator based in Chicago. Her work is often outside-the-box and thought-provoking with some degree of subtle humor. Her directorial debut was a long-form architecture documentary, Man and His Erections, which was premiered at the Gene Siskel Film Center in January 2009 as part of “Stranger Than Fiction” documentary series.

Since then, she has written and directed a number of short and feature films, some of which were screened at festivals like Festival de Cannes and American Documentary Film Competition. In 2018, after the death of her beloved cat of 18 years, she decided to dedicate the rest of her life to using art and film to promote self awareness and enlightenment while also synergizing the community as a whole. Rujanee is a Northern Illinois University alumni, with a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Fine Art emphasis on Interior Architecture, Sculpture, Installation, and Performance Art.

She is also the founder of a film studio social enterprise Nebula Creatives L3C, Shortcut 100 International Film Festival , the executive producer of Chicago Film News , as well as a licensed real estate broker and a fan of meditation, Elon Musk, Carl Sagan, seafood, and space whales.

What did you originally want to be when you grow up?
I wanted to be a construction worker because I liked building forts and things. LEGO was my religion. Still is. 

How did you get into the film industry?
I like to be able to relate to people so while I was working on my MFA in Sculpture, Installation, and Performance Art, I wanted to document the audience interactions with my work and my performances with the installations I created. That’s when I realized that the videos themselves could also be part of the whole experience as well. So, I began to shift my focus to work on films and videos then started writing screenplays afterwards. It has been my medium since. 

Who were your mentors?
My NIU professor Harry Wirth, My sister, David Lynch and Doraemon. 

What is your greatest achievement?
Whenever I know that my work has a positive impact in someone’s life. 

What is your biggest disappointment?
Unauthentic “Thai” restaurants 

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What are your biggest pet peeves? 
A group of self-absorbed pretentious people and cottage cheese. 

What are your predictions for the film industry over the next decade?
It will be determined by how we are planning to transform our own selves. 

Name a job you had that would surprise people.
I used to work in a library at the Circulations Desk. I think that surprises people. 

Who plays you in your life story?
Great question. I think we’re still looking for that person. 

What do you wish you had more time to do?
Running, swimming, traveling, and drawing 

Do you talk to yourself?
ALL THE TIME 

What inspires you to be creative?
Space and Love. 

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