From network television to independent films to new media, Sharat Raju is a versatile writer and director whose work has earned more than twenty international awards and continues to entertain and enlighten audiences throughout the world.
Sharat’s journey as a filmmaker began on the outskirts of Chicago, the first American-born son to Indian parents. A descendant of poets and artists, he was raised in a family and culture with a rich storytelling tradition. Sharat wrote at an early age which continued at the University of Michigan where he received two national awards for his work as a journalist at The Michigan Daily and graduated with a degree in English.
After a brief stint as a freelance Chicago sports reporter, Sharat moved to Los Angeles and worked for legendary casting director Mali Finn. With Mali, Sharat cut his teeth in the industry by learning performance and directing from top filmmakers up close on a dozen films, including The Matrix Reloaded, The Matrix Revolutions, and 8 Mile.
In 2001, Sharat was accepted into the American Film Institute’s renowned Directing program where he honed his skills as a visual storyteller and director. Sharat directed six short films in two years, earned an MFA and received the highest honors conferred upon its graduates –the Richard P Rogers Award and the Franklin J Schaffner Award – after creating an acclaimed Masters Thesis film, American Made.
American Made quickly became a phenomenon. The film earned seventeen awards as it tore through the international film festival circuit in 2004 and was acquired for national broadcast on PBS’s Emmy Award-winning program “Independent Lens” for four years. Nearly three million people have seen the short film worldwide. What started out as a thesis film production is now being studied at film schools for its artistic quality, at junior high and high schools for its subject matter, as well as police departments and corporations for employee sensitivity training and cultural outreach.
Sharat followed up his thesis short by directing and producing a grassroots independent film that has similarly made its mark around the world – Divided We Fall: Americans in the Aftermath. Featured on CNN, NPR, BBC and others, Divided We Fall is the first documentary feature to chronicle the rise in hate-crimes and race-related abuse in the immediate aftermath of Sept. 11, 2001. Demand for the film sparked national interest and sent Sharat on a packed screening and speaking tour. Colleges, universities and community groups continue to showcase Divided We Fall as a hopeful and uplifting exploration of America’s racial and religious diversity.
After being selected as a Film Independent Directing Fellow in 2007, Sharat earned a spot through 2008 in ABC Network’s Directing Fellowship. He spent time learning to direct episodic television by shadowing on the sets of “Desperate Housewives,” “Cavemen,” “October Road,” “Boston Legal,” “Greek,” and “Samantha Who.”
In 2010, Sharat helped create the Yale Visual Law Project – an initiative at Yale Law School that brings together documentary filmmaking and legal scholarship. As Filmmaker-in-Residence, Sharat helped train law students how to communicate a story through the visual medium and helped produce and edit the Project’s first two films – Alienation and Stigma, which premiered in 2011. In 2011-12, he co-lead the program with producing partner Valarie Kaur as a Visiting Fellow at Yale Law School’s Information Society Project where they completed the Visual Law Project’s most ambitious project, The Worst of the Worst – a documentary about Connecticut’s only supermax prison. In 2013, the film helped lead to prison reform in the state and is being shown to policy makers in other states, as well as at film festivals.
Sharat also wrote, directed, co-produced and edited an episode for the PBS-funded pioneering FutureStates web series entitled Worker Drone. The science fiction short film required Sharat to coordinate production and visual effects work between six cities in three countries and premiered in the second season of the series.
After being selected as an NBC Universal Directing Fellow, Sharat was hired to direct an episode of “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” in October 2014 entitled “Spousal Privilege” with guest stars Meagan Good and Chad Coleman. On the success of that first episode, Sharat was invited to direct a second in February 2015 – “Winter Solstice” featuring Marcia Cross, Robert Vaughn, Susie Essman, and Oscar-winner Mercedes Ruehl among others.
Along the way, Sharat has directed promotional work for social justice organizations as well as music videos and shorts. His scripts The Field on the Corner, Sacred Grounds, and The Infected are in development with producers.
He lives in the Los Angeles area and is represented by Peter Meyer at Meyer Management.