Former Miss Teen Sarnia carving out a career in film

Actor and filmmaker Shreya Patel poses in front a poster for Vivid by director Jeremy Benning, a film in which the Northern Collegiate grad plays the leading character. Submitted Photo

Troy Shantz

In her young career actor and filmmaker Shreya Patel has already explored some sensitive topics.

The Northern Collegiate grad is currently touching up her documentary ‘Girl Up’ about human trafficking, and the short film ‘Vivid’ about mental illness in which she stars is making the rounds on the festival circuit.

“I kind of wanted to give a voice to the voiceless,” said Patel, who added her inspiration for visual storytelling began while volunteering in Mumbai at a teen.

She was active with the non-profit Make A Wish Foundation, first in Ontario and then in India, where she also spent several years working as a model.

In Ontario, she said, the Foundation helps send kids to Disney or arranges celebrity meet-and-greets.

But in India, “Their dreams are like, ‘I want crayons,’ or ‘I want a bike,’” she said.

While visiting government hospitals in Mumbai where families could wait days to see a doctor Patel reached a sobering conclusion.

“It made me realize how there was no voice for them. Something just happened, and I wanted to tell everybody there’s this other world that nobody sees because everybody’s so busy in their own lives.”

Back in Canada, Patel pursued a Masters degree in documentary and film at Seneca College.

Her first doc, ‘Girl Up,’ is a play on the phrase Man Up. It tells the story of a woman who enters the world of prostitution after being deceived by a boyfriend and her struggle to gain her life back.

“When I was in school I had wanted to make a documentary about something that would be an investigative piece, or something that would change notions and stigmas that we have towards certain topics,” Patel said.

When the film premiered on April 15 in Toronto it caught the eye of an experienced producer who plans to help her extend it to feature length.

In ‘Vivid,’ a short film sponsored by Canon Canada, Patel plays the lead role in a story about a young businesswoman battling mental illness.

“You see her going back and forth with what’s happening in her mind. It’s a decline in her mental state,” she said.

The trailer can be viewed at www.canonc700vivid.com.

Patel, now in her 20s, returns to Sarnia from Toronto every couple of months to visit friends and family.

The former Miss Teen Sarnia said she is encouraged by the growth of the local arts community. Growing up, just a handful of people were making films and she’s happy to see that’s changing, she said, citing SWIFF, CineSarnia and the thriving Imperial Theatre scene.

“Since I’ve come back I’ve noticed so many things are happening,” she said. “It’s really cool to see that.”