ISE 2024 Keynote: Kicking Open All the Doors

sharmeen obaid chinoy ise 2024

On Tuesday, Jan. 30, I attended the first keynote of ISE 2024. This was extremely exciting and one of the first household names (since my time) I’ve seen give a keynote address at this show.

Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy is a journalist turned documentary filmmaker turned big blockbuster director. I was so excited to hear about her thoughts on storytelling and how I could use her tips in my own work.

Here’s what I learned:

Obaid-Chinoy began reporting at the ripe age of 14 in her hometown in Pakistan. At age 17, she was already undercover reporting. With this line of work, she quickly realized how dangerous it could be, but she had the support of her family, something that was very rare, she said.

After a particularly dangerous encounter during a reporting job, her father said, “If you speak the truth, I will stand with you and so will the world.”

This is something that she took to heart in her work.

She went on to study at Smith College and quickly gained interest in documentary filmmaking. She not only wanted to tell stories, she wanted those stories to inspire change in the world.

During the process in which she was making her first film, she wrote to every American news organization and TV channel she could think of, asking for funding. Where did she get it? Oh, just a little paper you may have heard of called “The New York Times.”

“If a door hasn’t opened for you, then you haven’t kicked it hard enough,” she said.

Since her first foray into the film world, she’s won two Academy Awards. One for “Saving Face,” and the other for “A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness.”

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Her work has inspired change in legislation and laws, helping to protect women in multiple ways.

Her final comments included this piece of advice for everyone in the room: “The door was opened for me — it’s so important to leave that door open behind you.”