How two local film-makers are shaping Houston film scene


~Big things often have small beginnings~

That’s how Lake Camp Productions was born. In 1998. In a garage of a home in Houston. The dream of two individuals – passionate about the field of film and performing arts.

San Banarje and Trisha Ray started this garage operation by making short films, videos, and commercials. This was just the beginning. Because both of them had big dreams – to bring “stories to life” and to make a mark in the film industry, in the city they call home. Their big dreams might have seemed in-achievable at the time, but that didn’t stop them from doing what brought them happiness, in whatever way they could.

Making dreams happen takes courage and persistence and both San and Trisha are true examples of that. They didn’t stop with making short films in their garage. Five years later they opened Next Actor Studio because they wanted to share their knowledge of acting, film making, screenwriting and editing in the Houston community. They knew Houston has talent and they wanted to nurture this talent. They wanted to shape the acting and filmmaking skills and bring out the best in local artists by giving them a platform to learn, share and grow.

They continue their passion of making films and in the past 15 years they have created beautiful works of art such as Bodhisattva, The Nowhere Son, Money and Inside out. Many of these movies have won awards and each win brings more visibility to Houston’s film industry.

Along the way they continue building their tribe of equally passionate artists, actors, directors, producers – people who believe in doing what they love and sharing their craft. The talent these artists showcase affirms that Houston is not just an oil and gas city, it is a creative hub that has everything to make it a leader in the film industry.

During the opening night of NIFF Houston 2017, I had the pleasure of watching their latest production  A Curry on an American Plate. I had an opportunity to talk to a few artists who were a part of the movie. The laughter, stories and experiences they shared during media Q&A showed how much bonding the entire team shared and how much they enjoyed the process of making the movie. The making of this movie was like a family vacation.

Meera Nandlal, the lead actress in the movie recently won the best actress award at NIFF Houston 2017 for her role in A Curry on an American Plate. Not only is she passionate about acting, she is also the spokesperson and an advocate fighting everyday to stop animal cruelty. She runs her own show Animal Life where she educates and raises awareness about animal welfare.

Trisha Ray, the brain behind the movie also runs a nonprofit called The Next Samaritan to promote cancer awareness using various tools and resources. The nonprofit also donates shoes to kids who walk barefoot in Calcutta and helps in saving abandoned dogs.

Bud Patel is the lead actor and producer of the movie is in the medical profession and acting is what he loves.

For all of them, acting is their passion and they want to share their gifts with the world. Not only that, they all use the medium of their own voice to bring a positive change and make this world a better place.

For San Banarje, acting, teaching and making films is only a step towards his big vision – to make Houston a city known not only for its diversity and culture, but also for being the landmark in the field of film and performing arts.

Over the years, San has observed that even though Houston is the 4th largest city, it still misses out on many independent movies if they are not distributed in the main stream cinema. He understands the challenge and also knows that if Houston has to grow into a city that attracts film industries from all over the world, it needs to not only have a thriving creative scene in this industry, it also needs to become a hub of independent movies, artists and directors.

That’s how Next International Film Festival (NIFF) Houston was born in 2015. At this 4 day event, movies from all over the world are showcased right here in Houston. His vision is clearly taking form. In only three years NIFF has grown and attracted filmmakers from all over the world.

Houston might not be on the film industry radar as much as Los Angeles or Austin, it’s only a matter of time. As long we have the patience, hard work and passion of local Houstonians such as San, Trisha, Meera and many more, Houston will continue to grow as the film-making hub.

Mahatma Gandhi once said “be the change you wish to see in the world.” And the team of Lake Camp Productions, Next Actor Studio and NIFF is bringing this change to the world of film industry.


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