Krushan Naik ‘22, an SFTV graduate student majoring in editing, came to LMU in 2019 from India to pursue his lifelong goal of becoming a filmmaker. Now, as an international student getting ready to graduate in December, he’s found success through global education by learning both the art of filmmaking and American culture. Naik’s latest film, “Resurgence,” has premiered at multiple film festivals, including the Oscar®/Academy Award® qualifying St. Louis International Film Festival.
Naik describes his experience at LMU as outstanding and credits that success to the support from the Office of International Students and Scholars (OISS) and the professors and administrative staff in SFTV. “All of these people were crucial to my success here, both as a filmmaker and an international student, and they always supported me in all the things I wanted to do,” said Naik. “When things got challenging, and I wasn’t sure if I could keep going, their support got me through it and helped me get to where I am today.”
As an international student, Naik spent his first seven months on the bluff trying to adapt to life at an American university where everything was different, from using the restroom to crossing the street. Seven months in, as he was still figuring everything out, the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and two of his family members, his mom, and brother, fell ill and ended up in the hospital back in India. With few to no flights home and little money, Naik was looking for options to stay in America without dropping out of LMU. As possibilities were running out, he turned to some friends, who were like family, for help. “My friends were gracious enough to say, pack all your stuff and drive to Utah. You can stay with us for as long as you want. We’ll figure out something for you,” said Naik. “That was really kind of them, so I drove to Utah with all my stuff and lived there for a year, which also helped me save a lot of money.”
Naik’s move to Utah did not come without its challenges, though. He had never experienced living in climates other than L.A. and India. “Utah is very cold, and the older home I was living in did not have heat,” said Naik. “It was so cold that I would wear an overcoat and gloves while cooking in the kitchen. Sometimes the snow felt endless, and because I didn’t have a car, I was stuck in my home, which was so quiet that I could hear my own heartbeat. I remember looking out of my kitchen window, and everything from the homes to the trees to the sky would be one color: white. At times, for weeks, I would not see people or animals on the streets outside my home or even birds flying, and it made me feel like I was the only person in what felt like this post-apocalyptic world. And spending that much time, that’s when I fell into a personal crisis, and that was one of the first times I started questioning my existence. But my friends were the reason I survived in Utah.”
As spring ended in Utah, fall also gave way to new opportunities for Naik. LMU was going back to in-person classes, and he returned to work on a student film now known as “Resurgence.” And it was that film that helped his blossom. It started in May 2022 when Naik’s film nominated by the SFTV faculty as one of the three submissions to the 2022 Student Academy Awards® competition. Then in July 2022, the film received its first Oscar®/Academy Award®, BAFTA, and Canadian Screen Awards qualifying film festival recognition when “Resurgence” became a semi-finalist at the Flickers’ Rhode Island International Film Festival under the “Documentary Short” category. Later in the summer, the film also received the “Outstanding Excellence Award” at the Documentaries Without Borders Film Festival and had its world premiere at the 13th South Asian Chicago Film Festival. And this was only the beginning, more was yet to come.
In November, “Resurgence” was selected as the documentary winner of the 2022 International Student Film Competition at the 37th Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival. And the icing on the cake was when the film became an “Official Selection” at the Oscar®/Academy Award® qualifying St. Louis International Film Festival under the “Documentary Short” category. “For a student film to receive something like this feels so prestigious, and for me to have received it after everything I experienced during the pandemic, it feels like it validates my suffering,” said Naik. “I even came up with the quote “There’s no story, without suffering,” and a friend of mine printed that and gifted it to me in a frame as a reminder of how I came up with that at one of my lowest points, so it’s something I always need to remember. And is part of the universal truths (in my perspective) that this film revolves around—isolation, helplessness, pain, desperation, anxiety, and more—and to rise back from your ashes.”
On Nov. 5, Naik got to travel to the 2022 Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival, a 37-year-old festival, where “Resurgence” won the documentary category for the international student film competition. And on Nov. 7, 2022, Naik went to St. Louis, Mo., for the premiere of his film during the St. Louis International Film Festival, Oscar®/Academy Award® qualifying film festival. “The reason I am here is because of my suffering and the choices I made, but it has all started making sense,” said Naik. “It can never always be night and darkness, the sun has to rise, and I can see it rising. That said, I still experience imposter syndrome like when I received the news on the Oscar®/Academy Award® qualifying selection, I had to keep refreshing my email to make sure I was reading it correctly.”
Naik has reached a stage in his journey where he wants to give back and help students who may be going through similar things. “I want to be a resource for other students and to be able to share my knowledge, because if I can put a non-thesis student film in an Oscar® qualifying category at an academy-sanctioned qualifying festival, there’s no reason you can’t do it,” said Naik. “Just believe in yourself. I just want to be able to give it back and help any and everyone that I can live their dreams.”
Naik found ways to enhance his editing skills through two internship opportunities and got to know the filmmaking community in America. In the first internship, he got to work as an editor for Carin Greenberg, Peabody finalist and winner of three Daytime Emmys, which became a perfect connection for him and something he felt really proud of. And the second was working as an assistant editor for the Writers Guild of America Awards in 2021.
“When I joined SFTV in 2019, I was the only Indian student, but I wished we had more South Asian students to bounce ideas off of because sometimes it’s difficult to explain every nuance of a culture,” said Naik. “And now, in 2022, we now have a handful of South Asian students, and that’s made me happy to see that change in just a few years. The international student community is important to LMU because it helps expand the perspective of not only students as individuals, but the LMU community as a whole.”
Naik joined the Graduate Students of Loyola Marymount University (GSLMU), LMU’s student government organization, as LMU SFTV’s senator in 2020 and 2021, where he served to network, foster relationships, and enrich graduate student life on campus. He was awarded the 2019-20 Graduate Summit Award under the category “Encouragement of Learning,” which honors a graduate student who demonstrates academic excellence and the ability to collaborate with other students to achieve open and honest discussions. In April 2022, Naik also received the “Becoming a Global Citizen” Student EXP Award for valuing the diversity of the human experience and the practice of interculturalism to make meaningful contributions to the global community, presented by OISS and GSLMU.
In 2020, Naik joined LMU’s strategic planning and steering committee, specifically looking at student success and resilience. On that committee, he helped research and analyze how to enhance LMU’s ability to pursue its threefold mission of the encouragement of learning, education of the whole person, and the service of faith and the promotion of justice in the Jesuit traditions. He also serves on the academic honesty review committee, where he helps administer LMU’s academic honesty policy. Naik also helped SFTV review portfolios of prospective students for the undergraduate program.
As Naik looks to graduate soon, he wants to find opportunities to work and keep living in America. “I ultimately want to get into directing and editing, those are my two areas of interest,” said Naik. “When I first came to LMU, I wanted to be a director, but then I got a taste of reality and realized editing makes more sense with what I need to do in terms of skills to serve until I can become recognized as a director. Editing offers more opportunities right now and will be something where Naik would be able to get the required visa to stay in America as a filmmaker.
“I can sum up my experience at LMU around what it means to become a global citizen because it aligns with my nature around now trying to help as many students as possible,” said Naik. “But it’s also been about living a life of purpose after the journey I have been on and experiencing graduate school during a global pandemic. I can look back now and see that overcoming the things I experienced that were like an existential crisis for me also helped me find my purpose in my life by telling stories and making films.”