Nina Flaminiano Parikh isn't the sort of name you'd expect for the associate manager of the Mississippi Film Office, but that's what the 30-year-old answers to (even after April 10 when she says will also be honored to be called Mrs. Jerel Levanway). That exotic name fits her to a T. Her looks—her dad is Indian, and her mom is Filipino—might convince you she belongs in front of the camera, though.
The experience Parikh has gained over the 12 years she has worked in the film industry, beginning while earning a radio, television and film degree from the University of Southern Mississippi, has served her native Mississippi well. Parikh, who joined the Film Office in 1998, says, "The talent that exists here is what motivated me to stay—it pushes me to be more." Here at home, she gets to work with college friends, others in the state's growing film industry, and big names like the Coen Brothers, whom she helped scout locations for "O Brother Where Art Thou."
"I'm not sure that I could have even a remotely similar experience, one that is so personal and satisfying, in another location. It's not just business here," Parikh says. "I am constantly astounded by the level of talent grown in this state: passionate, original and motivated folks. And I know I'm not just tooting our own horn—when people come to Mississippi (from L.A., New York, other countries), they recognize it, too."
Another way Parikh helps get Mississippi's name out in the film world is with the Crossroads Film Festival, which she co-founded. And, although I've known Parikh and her family for nine years or so, I got to know her best when she trained me to be the festival's second-year volunteer coordinator. Her dedicated guidance and patience made my job simple. She even managed to teach me how to use a cell phone, which at that time was no small task. And no matter how often I called, she had the time and answers for my questions.
For her job, Parikh attends other film festivals—AFI Film Fest in Los Angeles, South by Southwest in Austin, Cannes Film Festival in France. She brings back lessons for Crossroads. "I work very closely with the festival with the programming and logistics. It's a lot like putting a film production together—there are countless elements that have to be in perfect alignment for the show to run smoothly." All true, but she's understating her impact a bit.
When I asked what she'd like to tell Sundance about Crossroads, she replied, "Why let out the secret? They'll come knocking when they're ready." And Parikh will be one of the Mississippians opening the door.