The Mustache post production supervisor tells Addison Capper about working in theatre, advertising, reality TV, scripted series, documentaries, live news programmes and feature films before winding up where she is today
Roshni Sabolcik-Gosalia has, in her words, had countless job titles.
Her first job after graduating with a film degree from Penn State University was as a quality control operator. The 2008 recession and a lack of opportunities commanded a career shift to newspaper production before she eventually found her way back into TV and film. Since then she has worked in theatre, advertising, reality TV, scripted series, documentaries, live news programmes and feature films. “Each experience gives you new insights,” she says. “I can’t imagine doing the work I do now, and doing it successfully, without all of these experiences in my back pocket.”
Those experiences have led Roshni, an Indian American NYC native, to her current role of post production supervisor at New York creative production studio Mustache. Her 12-year career has involved stints at the likes of Vice Media and the delivery of more than 100 different television series and films, and over 500 hours of content to broadcast networks.
Her first job working with moving images, however, was somewhat of a baptism of fire. “I worked on a documentary feature where I spent countless hours transcribing raw footage of interviews with people who had very difficult accents to decipher,” she tells me (and as a journalist doing regular interviews, I offer a very sympathetic ear). “I also spent a lot of time digitising betacam, hi8 and dv tapes,” she adds. “It was the kind of mind-numbing work that I was very glad to see get replaced by advances in technology.” These days, perhaps as a by-product of her early career days, Roshni carves out time at least once a week to research new technologies helping to evolve the post production industry and often heads to events to see new products showcased. “I want to have the best workflows in place,” she says. “So I try and test out just about every new worthwhile program I come across.” What’s more, she’s involved in numerous underground post production groups with like-minded folks in the industry. Lately they’ve been discussing the challenges of working under lockdown, such as how to go about editing remotely, building faster computers, and efficient file transfer systems.
Despite the number of job roles to choose from, Roshni doesn’t hesitate to nominate one that had the most profound impact on her career. “I spent a good amount of time working in a similar capacity to my current position, but for a live nightly news show,” she says. “It was a very high stress, high accountability environment – the kind of job where you either sink or swim very quickly. That experience felt like 10 crammed into one and I can’t imagine I’d be at the point I am now in my career without it.”
On top of hard work, experience and expertise, Roshni is a believer in the power of networking to unlock opportunities in the first place. “A professional network takes years to build and patience and thoughtfulness to maintain,” she says. However, Roshni adds that networking is second nature within immigrant communities like the one she grew up in so “it came fairly natural” to her.
She grew up in a “strict and traditional Indian household”, and her mother is still closely involved in the Jain religious community. “I’m sure most young people growing up in similar contexts tend to rebel,” she says. “And I was no different. The career path I chose, the music I listened to, who I married, even my hairstyle, were all, to put it mildly, far outside of the norms for my family. I think in general I’m much more open to other ways of thinking and living than I might otherwise have been, and I wouldn’t want to have grown up any other way.”
Growing up, Mira Nair and Deepa Mehta were the only Indian women directors that she saw manage to break into Hollywood. “I not only admired them for that but for the beautiful and controversial work they created, especially for the time,” she says. Talk of diversity is something that’s also particularly prevalent in Roshni’s industry today. It’s a debate that she finds a little difficult to have due to the fact that they’ve happened many times over the years and lead to painfully slow progress. “My observation has been that these conversations have tended to be reactionary and short term, especially when it comes to workplace policies which often play lip service to diversity goals without ever instituting real systematic changes towards those ends,” she says. “I get frustrated that I don’t see more women, and specifically more minority women in elevated positions in the world of post production. I think the industry needs to elevate minority voices and not pat themselves on the back for small victories and instead focus on real changes.”
That said, she remains excited and upbeat for the future that her industry holds. “The opportunities are so vast and different since I started out and are still growing, and that gets me really excited about the future of entertainment,” she says. “New platforms and new services are constantly being launched and technology is always evolving our work – it’s a great time to be working in this industry.” She’s also particularly enthusiastic for the team that she gets to work with. “There’s not much to say about them other than they may be the best post production department one could ask for.”
What’s more, she’s embracing a lockdown experience that, like so many of us, she found weird to start. Once she got over the lack of time spent on the New York City subway system, she’s been cooking so much that she's considering publishing her own recipe book. Her and her husband decompress together by watching films and series. Right now she’s into Jenji Kohan, Jordan Peele, Ryan Murphy, Sam Esmail, David Lynch, Joss Whedon, and Mike Flanagan, but it’s a list that’s changing all the time and potentially already out of date. They’re also both ardent craft beer lovers and enjoy spending time at breweries, as well as tweaking their own homebrewing set-up.
Looking forward to her own personal future, Roshni is driven by a competitive nature that drives her to want to be the best at what she does and to shape the organisations that she is a part of, but also by her own immediate family.
“I would love to eventually run a post department and take on a director of post production role,” she says. “But for the immediate future my aspiration is to be the best mom I can possibly be.”