LAHORE-Stylist and now producer, Sana Shahnawaz is a powerful house of experiences and believes in trying almost everything at once. She recently set up her own production house Next Level Entertainment in collaboration with Samina Humayun Saeed. She is currently working on several TV serials, which include Khuda Mera Bhi Hai and Bay Khudi. Both are being aired on ARY Digital. In an exclusive interview with The Nation she talks about her career and success. Following are the excerpts of the interview:

What inspired you to become a

producer?

I belong to a family of very talented individuals. When growing up, I got a chance to see Samina and Humayun work tirelessly on various projects and manage several different things at the same time. That was very inspiring for me. Usually when as an audience we see a movie or TV serial, we appreciate the cast members or the director at most but I knew that the job of a producer is equally important. Since I have always been so involved in the entertainment industry, I felt the time is right to now explore fresh ideas and stories. With the encouragement of my friends and the faith my family put in me, I decided to produce Mann Mayal.

Tell us about your drama serial Mann Mayal? What inspired you to produce it?

I personally helped develop the story of Mann Mayal with Samina Fazal, who is one of the most respected writers of the country. I wanted it to be a complete package. It had an amazing cast of extremely talented actors, an engaging story, grand locations, glamorous styling – everything the audiences would love. I put in my heart and soul in the project and I am grateful for the love audience gave to the show.

What is the hardest part of being a producer?

I think the hardest part is definitely overseeing everything. You have to be involved in each aspect, which is quite a challenge. People like assuming I have 20 people bustling around me. That’s not true. I do everything on my own and actually work extremely hard to prove myself.

How did you shift from styling to production arena?

I am basically a textile graduate. After completing my studies, I worked as a wardrobe stylist and eventually style director for over 40 serials during my studies. I have always been more on the creative side, but working on these projects taught me how to manage things single handedly, work against deadlines and manage last minute crisis smoothly. My transition towards production has been a gradual one. Once I decided to become a producer, I didn’t get my first project overnight. I worked on it for months to ensure it was perfect. Only then  Mann Mayal happened.

After the massive success of producing Sadqay Tumharey and Mann Mayal, you are working on a new drama serial Khuda Mera Bhe Hai. Tell us about the storyline. What should the audience expect in term of entertainment?

I have had this question in my mind since I was a young girl; about who transgenders are, where they come from and what kind of lives they may be living. Luckily I found the perfect platform where I can highlight this issue and have people ask questions and together, I hope we can find solutions to these questions, start a dialogue amongst people, be able to improve society as a whole and hopefully change lives and be able to give equal rights that every human deserves.

What does success mean to you?

I think success is not just limited professionally. It is just one aspect of your life and can only bring happiness to a certain level. Being surrounded by people who love and accept you wholeheartedly is what true success is. 

Is there any ideal cast and crew combo that you would like to work with?

There are so many! Humayun Saeed, Talat Hussain, Noman Aijaz, Aisha Khan, Iman Ali, Sajjal Aly and Sohai Ali Abro, Saba Hameed are some of my favourite actors. Nadeem Baig, Shahid Shafat, Mehreen Jabbar, Haissam Hussain and Yasir nawaz are some of the finest directors we have at the moment.

How do you manage the budget of the cast in the drama serials?

First and foremost, I believe in content. The right emotions and great dialogue make all the difference in the world. I’m not that indulgent.

However, I am a textile graduate and that makes me high on aesthetics. When sorting the budgets out, the writing team would be my first priority but I would definitely also like beautiful sets to bring the story to life. It’s all about working cost effectively. That’s what makes a producer good at their job.

What’s next for you?

There is a lot cooking at the moment. My next project, Bekhudi, would soon go on air on ARY. It is based on a very gripping true story.