Who said accountants aren't passionate? Shreedhar Kothari, a partner with the Santa Monica, CA accounting firm of Gumbiner Savett, Inc. found a way to indulge his love of Indian films and at the same time provide guidance to a local not-for-profit organization. Kothari has been a participant at the Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles (IFFLA) since its inception nine years ago. Last year, when the IFFLA board of directors was looking for a new member, someone with financial expertise and, preferably, an entertainment background – which for Kothari, included working with actors and screenwriters, film and television studios, foreign entertainment companies, and independent record labels – he was a natural choice.
For the second year in a row Kothari has enjoyed serving on the board, finding the right sponsors, securing funding, and otherwise helping steer the organization through its challenges. Speaking of challenges… the timing of this year's festival presents an additional challenge for Kothari, because it coincides with the end of tax season. The festival begins on April 12th and runs through the 17th at the ArcLight Hollywood theatre.
How does Kothari cope with the dueling commitments? He told AccountingWEB that this year was a little bit inconvenient, but overall, most of the planning and organization required for the festival was accomplished long before tax season began because IFFLA is blessed with a wonderful group of people committed to its success. But mostly, he said, this festival is his passion, and even CPAs entrenched in tax season make room for what they love.
Gumbiner Savett is supportive
Fortunately for Kothari, his partners at the accounting firm are generally supportive of the festival. Several of them have worked closely with the entertainment industry and understand the demands. Like him, they believe in community service and recognize the value of the time he spends helping to steer IFFLA. And as a bonus, it's clear that Kothari's work on the festival board is good for business in many ways. His presence there establishes him as a community leader and sets an example for the staff at Gumbiner Savett of what it means to get involved. The board membership also presents opportunities to network. "I make many acquaintances that I wouldn't otherwise make. I form relationships with new people and that brings positive attention to the firm", Kothari said. Plus, as an active part of the festival, he is frequently asked for interviews in which he is able to talk about the firm, increasing the visibility of Gumbiner Savett.
Another benefit for Gumbiner Savett… recently, the firm put together a walk-through tour as part of a recruitment effort for accounting students. The students came to the tour to get to know the firm, but, Kothari said he was surprised to learn that many of the students were already aware of his work with the IFFLA. "Sometimes", he said",you can enhance the firm without realizing it. I believe in community involvement, so this is a win-win situation."
This year, Kothari is helping the board manage the surprising growth of the festival. In 2010, there were about 8,000 attendees, and for 2011, they expect many more. The festival also received a great many more film entries than in the past, ranging from documentaries to feature length films. Kothari admits it is hard to choose which films will be presented. But, he said, the audience seems to love the event and it's important to choose well so they get the content they came to see.
After Hollywood, the Indian film industry (also called Bollywood) is one of the biggest film industries in the world. "Hundreds of millions of people around the world follow it", said Kothari. The festival doesn't tend to introduce the mainstream Hollywood films, but it provides an opportunity for lesser known writers, producers, and directors to showcase their films. "That's why people love it. They may not be stars when they get to the festival. But after starting there, many become well known", said Kothari. "It helps those people very much."
With the festival getting underway on April 12th, Kothari wants to invite everyone to participate and enjoy an unforgettable experience at the Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles.