Editor’s Note: They are leaders. They are inspirational. They are mentors. They are visionaries. They are, quite frankly, badasses. They are our 2022 REEL WOMEN. During Women’s History Month, you will be able to meet these incredible personalities in Advertising, Entertainment, Media and Production. Women like Neha Datt Schultz are making “Herstory.”
Neha Datt Schultz joined Picture North in 2014 as Executive Producer after a successful career at Harpo Studios and CAA. Her role involves overseeing operations, cultivating, and developing the director roster, and generating new business across all platforms. With a penchant for travel, culture, language and food, she and Picture North’s owner, Martin Rodahl, often race to see who can log more airline miles.
What’s your origin story?
I am a first-generation Indian girl who grew up in the suburbs of Chicago with a love for storytelling, theater and performance. I was an overachiever and my parents and Indian community hoped I would stick to a traditional career and become a doctor. I hated being typecast in my life and rejected doing anything that felt like a stereotype. Fortunately, I had two very trusting parents that supported my decision to go to film school at Northwestern and follow a more creative career path.
How did you get into production and development?
I was a theater and speech kid in high school and always loved expressing myself through the arts. When considering a college major, I felt like film, tv and commerical production could combine my creative interests with a career. My experience as a film development intern at Radar Pictures in Los Angeles during college cemented that path for me. I went on to work on a motion picture talent desk at CAA, in production at Harpo Studios and now in my current role at Picture North.
Who were your mentors?
My mom, my high school speech and theater coach, Jan Heiteen, former Oprah producer and EP of The View, Candi Carter, and EP of Sequoia Content, Suzanne Allen.
While there will be others, what do you consider your biggest achievement to date?
Being an essential part of building Picture North over the last 8 years. We now have a dozen directors on our roster spanning multiple categories across the globe, and we are bidding against companies that we would have considered out of our league back in 2014. We built a full post-production division being led by talented female editors, and our commitment to our clients is reflected in the experience and culture we are fostering on and off set.
What drives you to create?
I love to travel and explore different cultures, languages, and places. Being able to tell stories that take people on a journey of discovery and cultivate emotional responses is a lot of fun.
What shows are doing the best job of portraying strong women on TV?
I love shows that feature real, raw, exceptional women in leading roles that are also imperfect beings. Series like Mare of Easttown or Queen’s Gambit feature women that are experts at one thing but also struggle in other aspects of their lives. Women that are multidimensional and complex excite me.
Coffee, Lunch or Happy Hour. Name a famous woman you would like to attend each function with.
Coffee – Bela Bajaria, Netflix’s global head of TV, so I can pitch some ideas and hear where she sees international production heading, especially after the success of Squid Game in the US market.
Lunch – Mindy Kaling, to discuss how she develops young female Indian characters that feel so authentic but also break stereotypes…and to gossip about pop culture.
Happy Hour – Ketanji Brown Jackson because after her Senate confirmation hearings, she could use a couple of cocktails…and so could I.
What is the biggest challenge to women in your industry?
Confidence from creatives to direct in categories that are typically male dominated.
If being a woman is your superpower, what is your kryptonite?
Women, especially working mothers, are master jugglers and multitaskers. I am super proud of what I can fit into a single day in terms of work and family. Also, Oprah always says, “Love is in the details”, and I feel like I bring that motto with me in aspect of my life, especially my relationships with our clients.
When you’re not creating, what do you do in your off time?
Explore the great outdoors with my boys.
Predict your future! Where are you in 5 years?
Picture North has made the AdAge A-list, our roster continues to expand and diversify, we’ve created a campaign that has earned notable awards, and I have pitched and sold a narrative concept.