30 November 2016

In Conversation with Arti Shah: The School of Arts welcomes the star to Brookes

On Friday 21 October the School of Arts had the pleasure of being in conversation with none other than Arti Shah – who is well known for her work in: Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2014) as Maz Kanata Motion Capture Double, Gonk, Gwellis Bagnoro and Creature Puppeteer. She is also known for being the on-set Rocket Racoon Performer and Stand-in for Guardians of the Galaxy (2014).

When she walked into the room, she glowed with an obvious confidence and with absolute pleasure at being there. Dr. Lindsay Steenberg, Senior Lecturer in Film Studies and Subject Coordinator in MA Film Studies, greeted her then they settled down into the chairs placed centre stage to begin the Q&A session about all things film – prosthetics, casting and of course, her time acting in some of the best-known franchises in the film industry.

One of the first questions Arti was asked was how she became involved with the film industry in the first place. She responded that her reason for going into the industry was her ‘passion for trying to make a difference in this world and to break down the barriers’. Out of the many franchises she has starred in, her first role was in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part2 (2011) – which she worked on in 2009. At the time, she was with an agency called ‘Willow’, which represented actors of short stature. To start with the company asked her to play roles that fitted in with her height, such as an elf or a dwarf. But Arti knew this wasn’t right for her, and chose to play a goblin in Harry Potter, as she recognised how great an opportunity it was to work on such a big franchise, and the fact that she would get to wear prosthetics for the first time. Her role in this film and the stunts she had to perform as a goblin – being dropped 30 ft. whilst attached to a wire – opened up more stunting opportunities for her such as being in some of the cars that were hit in the beginning of World War Z.

The session concluded with some questions from the audience, with Arti giving some professional advice to students looking to find their own way in the industry. She was also a brilliant advocate for encouraging students to believe in themselves and teaching them to be resilient in the industry. The actress, who is only 4ft in height, said that she has had to be resilient in her time, and states that to overcome this she has learnt not to take things personally and realised that in the film industry, things are written differently for different castings, with certain people in mind. Arti appeared to firmly believe that it was important to ‘keep on at it’ if you want to get into the industry, which included doing work off of your own back. It was an extremely entertaining and positive afternoon with Arti Shah, and we thank her for taking the time to come in.

Thank you, Arti!