Yorkshire film and TV worker from Pontefract on the long road to her dream job
Charanprite Dhami has been behind the scenes on some of the North of England’s top screen hits of the last few years: Last Tango in Halifax, Ackley Bridge and Paddy Considine’s Journeyman to name a few.
But her success did not come easily - or conventionally.
After studying criminology as a young woman - “chasing a dream that wasn’t mine,” as she puts it - she made a firm decision to pursue a desperately hoped-for career in film and television.
She only found success after running away to film school in Europe, until she finally got her break in the industry aged 37.
Miss Dhami, now 41, from Purston in Pontefract, said: “It was like a different life. I learned so much about art, stories and cinematography.
“I just loved this world and I felt I was part of it.”
Born into a Sikh family in 1978 to parents from Punjab, Miss Dhami grew up in a culture in which she felt it was “family first, duty first” and not one from which she could realistically pursue a film industry career.
At 19 she went to Middlesbrough and spent five years studying law at university, followed by a masters in criminology and criminal justice in Edinburgh.
She returned to Yorkshire and worked in HR for the Crown Prosecution Service, but could not stop thinking about making stories. “When I came home I was really depressed. I spent so much time chasing a dream that wasn’t my dream,” she said.
Miss Dhami resolved to secretly save up for film school - by qualifying as a teacher and educating in Leeds Prison to earn her cash.
Meanwhile her sister was studying in the Czech Republic, so Miss Dhami set her sights on joining her by applying to Prague Film School. She told her parents a week before leaving to start her new life in 2008, in her late 20s.
“I met so many great people who inspired me and I learned so much from,” she said.
“I felt really excited. I felt this is the right thing, this is really what I want to do.”
While learning her craft, she also had the chance to travel to new countries, and never regretted her choice.
Miss Dhami came home after graduating, but it did not last - she fled to work on a film in Croatia.
She said: “I really did change myself. It’s like a movie. I knew I couldn’t go back to the person I was.”
Her break came when she was picked to be a production trainee on the Bradford-based 2017 Francis Lee film God’s Own Country.
She has since worked mainly as a floor runner on various projects, including upcoming feature film Everybody’s Talking About Jamie.
Like so many in the industry, the coronavirus pandemic initially left her without work and she had to claim Universal Credit.
But she has since been employed as an assistant script editor at Sky Studios - and is one step closer to achieving her goal of writing and directing.
She has also been accepted by her parents, she said.
Miss Dhami believes it is never too late to pack it all in and chase what you want.
“When we’re on our death bed and we’re looking back...you only have one life.”
Better training to deal with racial discrimination should be provided in the screen industry, believes Charanprite Dhami.
She told The Yorkshire Post that other Asian people in the industry have shared stories of racism, and on one occasion Miss Dhami herself felt she may have been overlooked for a job because of such bias.
Miss Dhami, who has a background in HR, thinks there needs to be stronger policies in place, along with more training for crews.
She said that it is difficult to raise issues of race because she would not want a “sympathy job”, and it could be “something against your name” when working with the same people in the future.