BABE #256: MUKTA MOHAN - New Show Development, Crooked Media
Mukta is a Producer of New Show Development at Crooked Media, a political media company determined to provide “no-bullshit” political conversations. Her daily responsibilities include working to create new shows from ideation to final product, while building on current podcasts (like Pod Save America). Her work ethic is made evident through her daily commitment to quality storytelling, dedicated community involvement and passion for social impact — and we’re excited to see what she accomplishes next.
Hometown: Fountain Valley, California
Current city: Los Angeles, California
Alma mater: Loyola Marymount University
Degree: Communication Studies
Very first job: Cashier and buyer at a vintage store
Hustle: New Show Development, Crooked Media
Babe you admire and why?
I just saw an exhibit of Hilma af Klint’s work at the Guggenheim and found it very inspiring. She was an artist from the early 1900s and was well ahead of famous abstract artists like Kandinsky and Mondrian. She was in a coven and her spirituality informed the work she made. At the time she realized people wouldn’t be ready for her paintings, since it was abstract, occult and coming from a woman. In fact, she demanded her work was not to be shown until 20 years after her death or until the culture was ready for it. I really admire that she continued to paint even though she wasn’t getting recognition in the moment and I like that she was passionate and followed her calling.
How do you spend your free time?
I love gardening, cooking and hosting dinner parties in my backyard. The garden allows for me to meditate by focusing on the tiny details of nature and it has taught me the importance of patience and nurture. I get to cook seasonally using vegetables from the garden, and then I invite people over to connect over food in the garden from which our meal came. It’s an ecosystem of activities that perfectly support each other and bring me so much joy. I also love to explore different neighborhoods in LA, try new food and go on weekend road trips all over California.
Favorite fictional female character?
Lauren from Octavia Butler’s “Parable of the Sower.” She has a disease called “hyperempathy” that causes her to literally feel all of the pain around her. Ultimately, she uses it as a power that connects and unites people through hope. I love that she thinks about power structures, the meaning of life and that she’s courageous. Even though this book was written in the 80s, it feels incredibly timely.
Go-to coffee order and/or adult beverage?
Dirty chai latte.
Current power anthem?
“You Could Be More As You Are,” by Saada Bonaire.
Tell us about your hustle.
As a producer on the Crooked Media development team, I work on creating new shows and building on our current slate of podcasts. My job is to work on projects from idea stage all the way until they’re made and exist in the world. That includes everything from brainstorming the intention of a show, to finding talent, to getting into a studio and shaping the final product. We assess pitches, come up with our own ideas, look for compelling potential hosts, shape the show and launch. I also work on producing content on our existing shows, like the occasional fieldpiece for “Pod Save America.”
What does your typical workday look like?
There’s a lot of variety to my workday depending on what stage of development we’re at. Some days are heavy on talent meetings and reviewing pitches, and other days we’re more focused on production plans and show outlines. Once we’re in active development, we’re able to get into the studio and do chemistry tests, record conversations and then assemble the show and give it the sound and feel we want. We often work on multiple projects at once and I get to work on some of our current shows, too, so it’s a good balance of production, planning and brainstorming fun ideas.
What drew you to pursue a career in the news and entertainment industry?
My earliest memory is being a little kid sprawled out on the couch eating berries and watching CNN with my parents. We always had the news on and I learned early that media and entertainment have a lot of power in sharing stories that can create social change. I’ve always wanted to be a part of that. When I was in college, I was really involved in our human rights coalition and worked at our political science research center, but I also had a radio show and was starting to fall in love with the audio format. I listen to a lot of podcasts and public radio and I love that there’s something for every mood I’m in. I’m drawn to how intimate and personal the medium can feel—sometimes it’s like you’re eavesdropping in on a conversation or being immersed into a narrative story about someone’s life. I also appreciate how easy it is to learn about a new topic—to catch up on the news, learn about a historical moment or even something super specific like the hidden world of mycelium. Being at Crooked feels like a natural fit for me. I get to blend activism, politics and podcasts together to create something fun that hopefully people want to listen to.
Was there one particular job or internship that helped you define your career goals?
When I was a junior in college, I interned for a radio show called “Off-Ramp” on our local NPR station, KPCC. It was a weekly show dedicated to all things Los Angeles and it had features on local history, spotlights on interesting community members and looks into odd corners of the city. The producer and the host of the show taught me how to put together radio pieces from beginning to end, and they were incredibly supportive and patient with me as I tried to navigate Pro Tools and interview strangers. They even gave me the opportunity to report a few stories that made it on the radio. I remember sitting in the car with my friends every Saturday afternoon to listen to the show air live and occasionally hear my own stories. It was the best feeling. They taught me how powerful radio and audio can be for community building and storytelling, and they gave me the opportunity to learn which is invaluable and something I really appreciate. That experience encouraged me to continue to pursue working in the audio format.
What’s been your biggest career milestone?
I have a lot of moments from the past few years I’m really proud of and I constantly pinch myself about the situations I’m in and the projects I get to work on. I’d say a few highlights are producing a fieldpiece at the Families Belong Together march for “Pod Save America” in the summer of 2018, interviewing one of my heroes, labor rights activist Dolores Huerta; helping to develop and launch our podcast “Hysteria”; and producing a multimedia feature for “Vote Save America” where we asked candidates to submit videos of themselves talking about why they’re running. All of these examples are projects I’m really proud of, and I’m extremely excited about all of the shows we have lined up for this year too.
How has being a woman affected your professional experience?
I’ve had the opportunity to work with a lot of incredible women in radio and in media who have been supportive of my growth and have helped me navigate career moves which has been immensely helpful. I’m personally not about climbing ladders. Instead, I find more value in collaborating with talented people who I’m a fan of, which helps all of us grow together. I think if we all do that, it eliminates the feeling of competition and uplifts all women involved in the long-term. On a practical level, “Werk It” is a feminist endeavor that aims to make podcasting a more equitable space for women. They recently launched a pay survey about how much people are making in the industry and they’re going to use this data as a tool for for pay transparency.
What’s the gender ratio like in your industry? Do you see it evolving?
There are a lot of women working on podcasts (mostly behind the scenes), but there’s a huge disparity in who hosts shows. Most podcast hosts are white men. One of the things we try to work on is changing the face of podcasts by bringing in new diverse voices to host. I think we’re going to see more diversity in who’s behind the mic across networks as the medium grows. I already am seeing it happen and it’s very exciting.
Are you involved with any other side projects or organizations?
I host a radio show on KXLU 88.9 FM on Sunday nights called “Sunset Hour,” where I interview people I find interesting who live in LA, and I play music I like. It’s usually conversations with artists, writers, activists, musicians, historians, botanists—pretty much anyone who is cool and passionate about something. I also DJ occasionally and throw benefit shows and fundraisers for local nonprofits with a feminist music and arts collective called Honey Power I started a few years ago with some friends. I try not to let a lack of inexperience stop me from trying out fun things in different areas. I just filmed a music video for my friend Paige Emery, which was super-fun and totally different for me. I’m always trying new things.
Who are some women in your field you look to for inspiration?
There are a lot of women who are using their roles in development or production to create social change through stories. I recently saw Victoria Alonso (a VP at Marvel who oversaw the making of “Black Panther”) speak on a panel and she was really inspiring. She talked about the impact the film made, what it’s like to be the only woman in the room at meetings and how she advocates for herself and for what she believes in. It was really inspiring to see a woman of color in such a powerful role. In the podcast space, there are some docuseries that I really like hosted by women. “In the Dark,” “The Uncertain Hour,” “Caliphate” (Rukmini is amazing). Some talk and interview shows I love are “Still Processing,” “On Being” and I recently started listening to “Love Me,” and it’s gorgeous. There are also a ton of amazing women producing the biggest shows behind the scenes. I’m also constantly inspired by activists and women who are involved in local politics. A few ladies I’m looking up to are Ai-jen Poo from the National Domestic Workers Alliance, Saru Jayaraman from Restaurants Opportunities Centers United, Dolores Huerta who’s still out there fighting for labor rights and all the young people who are fighting for what they believe in in their communities. Also, the teachers who went on strike in LA and all over the country.
Career and/or life advice for other babes?
The main thing I’ve learned over the past couple years is to not limit myself with ideas of a “dream job.” There are so many different kinds of jobs I’ve recently been exposed to that I had never known were options before. Industries change all the time, so there are a lot of opportunities to carve out specific roles that use our unique skills. Instead of working towards one specific job or title, I try to follow a core goal: Use my skills and passion for storytelling to create social change. I’m trying not to limit myself to a particular media format or industry. I’d like to make the most impact possible wherever that is and in whatever format is best, and as the world, technology and consumer habits change, I think it’s important to adapt and meet people where they are. So, my advice would be to come up with a core goal that is fulfilling and drives all of the work you do, and then don’t limit yourself to roles that already exist. Follow whatever makes you really, really excited.
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