Age is relative; talent has little or nothing to do with age. A prime example of this is Indian American filmmaker Karam Gill, who proves that talent coupled with dedication and hard work can lead to greater success, no matter what your age.
The now-25-year-old made a splash in the music world in 2017 with his debut documentary, “G Funk.” The much-talked about feature documentary not only traces the rise of hip-hop stars Snoop Dogg, Nate Dogg, and Warren G, but also celebrates hip-hop’s most iconic subgenre and the commercialization of rap music during the early ‘90s.
“G Funk,” produced by Warren G, received much critical acclaim when it made its world premiere at the South by Southwest Film Festival that year, making Gill the youngest filmmaker to showcase a film at the prestigious festival. The documentary, which was acquired by YouTube Originals in 2018, also garnered solid reactions at other festival screenings.
In an interview with India-West, Gill revealed that he wrote the screenplay when he was 20 and “G Funk” went into production when he was still in college, which was Chapman University.
“‘G Funk’ was a 3-4-year process,” Gill told India-West. “I met Warren G when I was 20 years old. He introduced me to Snoop Dog and everyone else. I became close to all of them and became friends with Warren, specifically. I used to tour the country with him when I was in college. So, I pitched this idea of doing a documentary to him, saying, ‘You have this incredible story that nobody knows. You are responsible for so much of hip-hop today and no one has ever told your story.’”
And that conversation was the beginning of Gill’s association with the legendary figures and “G Funk.” With never-before-seen footage, the 87-minute documentary contains interviews from Warren G, Snoop Dogg and other stellar artists like Ice Cube, Ice-T, Too $hort and Wiz Khalifa, who detail the rise of G Funk and its impact on both hip-hop and pop culture.
“Making ‘G Funk’ was a great process. I grew up in L.A. and these guys were my idols growing up and it was awesome to tell their story. And what the story is really about is the evolution of African American music in the U.S. G Funk is a derivative of Parliament-Funkadelic, and funk music and generations of black music, soul music and Motown. I enjoyed the process a lot. Sitting down with these guys and talking was fantastic,” the Los Angeles, Calif.-based filmmaker told India-West, adding that he is following it up with another film that is expected to be out in 2020.
But Gill, who was named one of Variety’s “Top 10 Documentary Filmmakers to Watch” in 2017, is a man of many talents.
Gill and Daniel Malikyar have co-founded a creative agency called MGX Creatives through which both serve as creative directors for Marshmello, the masked uber-popular EDM artist/DJ/producer responsible for hits like “Happier” and “Here With Me.”
“He is a digital phenomenon with 36 million YouTube subscribers and is the fourth biggest artist in the world,” Gill stated. “We oversee all the creative video content, direction that happens with his brand. We are making sure that the creative video direction is good. For example, we did the ‘Biba’ music video which was really big in India and Shah Rukh Khan was in that video, so I flew to Mumbai with Daniel earlier this year and we worked with Shah Rukh’s team and made that happen.”
Gill and Malikyar also worked on the new Marshmello documentary, “Marshmello - More Than Music,” which released July 2 on YouTube Music.
“Part of that music documentary takes place in India,” he said.
Gill has also demonstrated his creative ambition by teaming up with Fujifilm as an executive producer/creative director on digital films and by directing documentaries for Spotify.
Professing his love for the art of storytelling, Gill said that he knew his calling at a very early age – as long as he could remember, he has always loved the artform. He also credited his father for instilling in him the love for music and culture and for fueling his curiosity for the world.
“When I was 10 or 11, my dad bought a Mac and I used to type on that like short stories, always take photos. I was always fascinated by the idea of images and making films, so I’ve wanted to do this as early as I can remember,” Gill recalled to India-West.
Gill noted that he feels being so young works in his favor.
“Right now, everybody wants to work with younger people to get a younger perspective and newer talents. Often times, the way I do and approach things is fresh and new,” he remarked.
As a documentary filmmaker, Gill told India-West that he strives to tell tales that can develop an emotional bond.
“I love the idea of bringing these massive iconic figures in the world and helping humanize their stories and make them relatable and find themes that talk about the society at large,” he told India-West. “Like, taking these massive projects or genres of music and using them to explore who we are as a society and explore the humanity that’s in all these icons.”
While discussing the rise and importance of South Asian representation in entertainment and media, Gill said he is hopeful that it will continue on an upward trend.
“There’s always work to be done but I think there has been an increase in people wanting to hear and tell stories that are from people of color and of people of color,” he told India-West. “I think those stories have started to come to the forefront now and I think it’ll continue.”