Paul Beahan and Kapil Mahendra of Calabasas Films & Media: 5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me When I First Became A Filmmaker
No one will take better care of you than yourself — When I was younger I had the mentality that a much more successful person would come and try to lift me out of misery and bring me to their level. The fact is only hard work and focus will do that for anybody working in pretty much any business. Get lots of sleep, eat healthy, don’t drink alcohol or do drugs, and try to meditate at least twice a day. It’s the only way to keep our perception 100% clear.
As a part of our series called “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me When I First Became A Filmmaker”, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Paul Beahan and Kapil Mahendra of Calabasas Films & Media.
Calabasas native, Kapil Mahendra is a seasoned TV producer, entrepreneur and philanthropist in his own right. As a youth, he was a super-star athlete attaining some of the top awards for his sportsmanship as well as recognition for his passion for philanthropy which ultimately led him to befriend tennis legend, actor and fellow philanthropist Vijay Amritraj, leading to Mahendra heading Vijay’s foundation which focuses on women’s and children’s causes in India. The foundation with Mahendra at the helm, has hosted televised events with Jerry Seinfeld, The Beach Boys, Alanis Morissette, Matthew Perry and tennis legends Andre Agassi, Steffi Graf and of course Vijay himself. Mahendra started Calabasas Films in 2010 and helped create CNN’s Dimensions with Vijay and a heavy roster of celebrated guests ranging from a Hugh Hefner, Pierce Brosnan, Martin Luther King III, Michael Douglas and others.
Paul Beahan has a rich history as a film, TV and music producer for the last 15 years. As a youth, Beahan grew up between San Diego and Los Angeles honing skills in the art, fashion and independent music world with the founding of Manimal Group (pka Manimal Vinyl Records) in 2006 after several years working as a freelance fashion editor. With Manimal, Beahan released debut albums from indie darlings Warpaint and Bat for Lashes and eventually collaborating on exclusive projects involving David Bowie, Yoko Ono, The estate of John Lennon, Duran Duran, The Cure, Moby, Carla Bruni and too many more to name. Eventually pivoting from a record label, Manimal began building a music library that expanded to film and television distribution with a focus on the world of streaming content.
Calabasas Films began as the brainchild of Calabasas, California resident and film/TV producer Kapil Mahendra in 2008. After producing several programs for CNN, The Tennis Channel, Sony Pictures and more, Mahendra joined forces with Manimal Group CEO and founder Paul Beahan to create a larger pallet of culturally diverse entertainment with focus on streaming content for the 21st century. As of 2020, the pair have produced a slew of food and travel series, international documentary series and beyond.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you tell us a bit of the ‘backstory’ of how you grew up?
Paul Beahan: I am Paul Beahan, thank you for having me and I appreciate this opportunity. I grew up humbly in a family where I was number five of seven children in San Diego, CA. I was a daydreamer in school and frequently wrote comic strips with my own characters that circulated around school. I had my own imaginary film company and record label that was limited to a vintage 1960s typewriter and pencil sketches. As a teen I was involved in the music scene there, primarily the hardcore punk scene in the 90s. I played drums and bass guitar in some bands that featured future members of classic San Diego noise punk bands. I moved to Los Angeles in late 1998 to pursue art and music and quickly got involved in the fashion business. I worked as a freelance fashion editor for major publications and brand advertising and simultaneously started a record label called Manimal in 2006. We released debut records from Bat for Lashes, Warpaint as well as exclusive singles, remix albums and tribute cover albums with Duran Duran, Yoko Ono, David Bowie, Moby, Carla Bruni, Asia Argento, and many more. I also executively produced almost 100 music videos under that imprint over a period of 16 years.
Kapil Mahendra: I grew up in Calabasas, CA with my parents, grandmother and brother. Dad came to the US in 1971 from India as a student attending Texas A&M. He went on to get a Masters Degree in Electrical Engineering and spent his career working in space and communications. Mom was an accountant in those days, both are retired now. Both Mom and Dad worked long hours, yet never missed attending our activities. My mom and dad raised us to work hard and encouraged a strong philanthropic culture, always volunteering for multiple causes. My brother and I ran track and field from a young age and were instilled with discipline and endurance.
Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?
PB: My partner and wife Nathalia Pizarro had an idea to make a short art-based thriller called ‘A Death Story Called Girl’ which was filmed on a budget of $1200 and starred musician Livvy Bennett and our elderly neighbors who fell victim to Livvy’s film character’s psychotic ways and taste for blood. This film went on to win Nightmares Film Festival in 2018 and L’Etrange in Paris that same year. This made me realize with limited resources the impact film has on the public. From there we decided to start this avenue and have not looked back since.
KM: I got to start spending time on a film set from the age of four, and always loved the culture and enthusiastic energy on set. On a film set, every single person there is happily willing to do anything necessary at any moment. And this sense of joyfully getting things done no matter what struck a chord with me from that day. It took 20 years of working for other people and learning for me to finally be able to go out on my own and produce my own shows and films.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that occurred to you in the course of your filmmaking career?
PB: There are too many to name.
KM: I was filming an episode of my CNN show “Dimensions” with Vijay Amritraj, a one hour sit down on location. So we arrived at a photoshoot in Malibu that Cindy Crawford was doing for a British magazine cover. My four camera people and I walk in to set up for our in-depth interview and right in front of us is Cindy Crawford, topless!! The entire crew froze and could not move. Just completely awestruck. It’s Cindy Crawford topless!! I had to eventually have the crew get back to setting up the cameras and lights and a few hours later Ms. Crawford, fully dressed at this point, comes and sits down for our interview. And again the entire crew is frozen like a deer in the headlights. So I asked the director what the hold up was and he says “Sir, everyone is too nervous to put the microphone on Ms. Crawford’s lapel.” I went to the sound person, took the lav mic from his hand and mic’d Cindy myself. It’s something we laugh about to this day.
Who are some of the most interesting people you have interacted with? What was that like? Do you have any stories?
PB: In the early days when I was a fashion editor, I had the chance to work closely with Robert Downey Jr. just before his Iron Man comeback, Gerard Butler for his 300 press tour and formed a close bond with Rain Phoenix on the record label. She and her family really helped me to clear out a lot of dead brush and focus on what’s important in life when the label started to take a pivot in a new direction. On the film side, we are currently partnered with Pauline Ducruet, the daughter of Princess Stephanie of Monaco and granddaughter of Grace Kelly. We are producing a documentary project on her sustainable fashion line called Alter. She is a working royal and has really shown us the true meaning of staying humble in a world where it is easy to lose yourself.
KM: Oh man, so many. Alanis Morissette, Sidney Poitier, and Princess Pauline Ducruet of Monaco. Princess Pauline is Grace Kelly’s granddaughter and the model of a working Royal. In this time of influencers trying to be like royalty, Pauline is actually royalty who is influential. She is a fashion designer with a gender fluid line promoting transgender rights while producing her garments with sustainable products, and even vegan leather. Filming this docuseries has been the most fun I’ve ever had, but you’ll have to wait for the series to release to get the stories.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
PB: I am forever grateful to my first business partner and fellow film producer, Dennis Mykytyn, who came into my life at a time where no one else was really there for me. His old-school New York City wisdom and patience really cleared a path for me as a young business owner and producer. My wife Nathalia Pizarro who is an endless ball of creative energy and keeps me cutting out all of the daily ego bullshit that pops up in this industry. My Calabasas Films partner Kapil Mahendra is exactly the opposite of everything that I am and that makes for a great partnership and we continuously teach each other a new meaning of patience and understanding in a forever changing world. Our partner on the Pauline Ducruet project, Golden Globe winning film producer Sandy Climan at Entertainment Media Ventures, has been an olympian in teaching us strategy on developing our projects to the point of being greenlit for production. He and his team are an endless resource of experience and advice in guiding the way for Calabasas Films. Lastly, John Taylor, the Rock Hall of Fame inducted co-founder of Duran Duran, has been a big brother to me for the last decade plus. His love and care has shown me the true meaning of a clear minded friendship and career longevity.
KM: Paul Beahan, hands down. I was sitting at the Calabasas Country Club several years ago, just having come out of the hospital from complications of diabetes. I was visibly weak and frail and Paul walked over to me and said “Hey man are you ok? You look like you could use a friend.” That day blossomed into a beautiful friendship and grew into a dream of a business partner. Paul and I always did pretty well in our careers, but after joining forces he and I reached new heights that were barely imaginable.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
PB: “One day at a time” — this phrase never rings untrue to me. We all get so wrapped up in worrying about what hasn’t happened yet that we lose track of today. If we focus on today and this moment and stay focused on the solution, we have a far less chance of failure.
KM: “If you don’t play, you can’t win.” My success in life comes from showing up and taking an active part in whatever is going on. A wise man once told me “You could be destined to win the lottery, but you have to buy a ticket to be able to win.” With this mentality, I would volunteer and simply show up and work for free, just to gain knowledge and experience. Once an old boss asked me not to come to work anymore. It was a polite way of laying me off. But I showed up the next day as if nothing happened and he never brought it up again, haha.
I am very interested in diversity in the entertainment industry. Can you share three reasons with our readers about why you think it’s important to have diversity represented in film and television? How can that potentially affect our culture?
PB: Opening the doors for people who have been underrepresented in the 100+ years of filmmaking is the only way to keep this art form moving ahead. I am interested in hearing more stories from Native Americans, Indigenous Peoples, and Latin women across the globe. I think that it is also important to pay attention to people with real stories who are coming from places the majority of us cannot begin to relate to, especially from creative people in developing nations across the globe. I want to see heroes rise from these places.
KM: Inclusiveness is the only way. Film and television influence peoples’ minds the most. We in entertainment have a responsibility to be diverse and to add as many perspectives to a story as possible. The joy of working with a diverse crew is something Paul and I enjoy and would not want to miss. We learn so much from each other in a diverse setting. Different points of views, cultures, upbringings…
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
PB: Right now, working with the King family, particularly Martin Luther King III, is very exciting and very interesting since he was out of the spotlight for so long and it recently became his calling to step out and represent his father’s legacy. He is such a loving and kind-hearted man, it’s amazing to see who he has become. We are developing a documentary on his father’s journey to India in 1959 titled “Pilgrim.” It’s a story that should have been in our school history books, yet very few know about this trip that Dr. King did to learn about Gandhi.
KM: Being a lifelong philanthropist, it is a true pleasure to be working with Martin Luther King III, Dr. King and Coretta’s son. We are bringing, through multiple television and film projects, Dr. King’s Legacy back to the forefront. We need serious progress in ending gun violence and Martin and I firmly believe in going back to the basics of Gandhi and Dr. King’s ways.
Which aspect of your work makes you most proud? Can you explain or give a story?
PB: Conceptualizing new ideas always excites me, I have a vivid imagination and can see a project in full before we even put ink to paper and develop. Of course seeing the final product released is a big moment for all of us especially when it has taken years to create.
KM: Working tirelessly with a team until we get the job done and basking in the glory of accomplishment…until we start the next episode. Haha
Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
You must be patient — I am the least patient person on earth, and have learned recently, and especially with C-19, that things take a looooooong time to produce, and that has been a journey unto itself.
It’s not about the money — I used to scoff at content creators when they would say “it’s not about the money”. But now, years later, I have realized that the projects that I did “just for the money” turned out to be the worst projects I have ever been attached to. The passion projects are always the most fruitful.
Never talk down to the creative teams — They are everything and we live in such a corporate world, that it has started to edge out a lot of the greatest talents in the last few decades because their content is not “commercial”. Those talents are one-of-a-kind, and if we don’t appreciate them and pay them, they will disappear.
Enemies come dressed as friends — So many people I have encountered in this business will pretend to have your best interests at heart, but truly do not give a damn if you live or die.
Which brings me to number 5: No one will take better care of you than yourself — When I was younger I had the mentality that a much more successful person would come and try to lift me out of misery and bring me to their level. The fact is only hard work and focus will do that for anybody working in pretty much any business. Get lots of sleep, eat healthy, don’t drink alcohol or do drugs, and try to meditate at least twice a day. It’s the only way to keep our perception 100% clear.
Focus on your strengths — I was producing a high-profile live charity event in 2006 along with the worldwide broadcast of that event at the same time. And being a charity event, the production budget was very low. I was the line producer, PA, and executive producer all at once. I was completely overwhelmed and working 20 hours a day and a member of the board of that foundation pulled me aside to see how I was doing. It was then that he advised me to focus on my strengths and get done what I was good at, rather than spending countless hours struggling with tasks that I simply was not good at. Fortunately, my strengths aligned with the most important parts of the production, haha.
Work for yourself. Be your own boss — I struggled for years to become my own boss. And I was sick of working so hard for someone else’s gain. Taking the plunge to start my own company and to be responsible for my employees’ payroll was one of the most challenging accomplishments I have overcome. And I’m so happy I did.
Be Happy — One of my mentors taught me 20 years ago that if you are not having fun, it’s not worth doing. With the high intensity and long hours of production, what’s the point of being miserable the entire time? Be happy 😊
Always light a shot properly — This one I’m almost embarrassed to share. I was traveling throughout India to remote villages and slums to perform unannounced audits to several charities we support. While I was there I was filming/documenting the great work being done. I had a boss who was struggling with jet lag, time difference (12.5 hours ahead of PST), poverty, and the heat. He would rush us through the filming process and would not give us time to set up lights to light the shot. After 5 weeks in villages and slums in a third world country of grueling travel I came home with 125 hours of dark footage. Completely useless. I managed to edit all the footage that was shot outdoors in the daylight and add a voice over and text to share the story of these charities. At least the charitable effort was successful.
Take your time and do it right and well — And this brings me to taking the time to do it right. I used to get caught up in rushing to meet deadlines and the work wouldn’t be done right and I would end up having to do many parts of the project over again taking up more days than if I had just done it right the first time.
When you create a film, which stakeholders have the greatest impact on the artistic and cinematic choices you make? Is it the viewers, the critics, the financiers, or your own personal artistic vision? Can you share a story with us or give an example about what you mean?
PB: The viewers. It’s all about the audience. I like to think that I have a sense of good timing, maybe it’s because I was a drummer for so long. I can sense what the people want and need, something new and creative that hasn’t been overdone. Sometimes, you do it too early and it’s misunderstood, sometimes you’re right on time and the rewards are plentiful.
KM: I focus on the artistic vision with a creative team led by a director of my choice. I’m making a film right now with Oscar Nominated Sami Khan. It’s a tennis doc. But I let Sami lead and I am there to support what he needs to thrive and accomplish what he wants from the film.
12.You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
PB: A movement to get more creative and make mainstream artists out of the true influencers of the 20th century. Make Goddard essential viewing for teenagers, make Jean Cocteau films available for young aspiring filmmakers…the world would be a different place.
KM: I’m really focused on our movement of ending gun violence along with MLK3. I think nothing is scarier today than mass shootings. Many people talk about change, but MLK3 is taking action. Martin is meeting with folks on all sides of the issue from activists to police officers and even lawmakers to refine a solution and make sure it is implemented well. And of course Paul Beahan and I are documenting the entire movement.
13.We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this. 🙂
PB: That’s easy — Quentin Tarantino. He and I have the same exact taste in cinema, music, art and lead talent. He’s one of the few well known directors and producers that I see completely eye-to-eye on. Seth McFarland is a close second…
KM: I would love to have a meal with President Obama for a couple of hours and discuss many things to improve the world for generations to come. And this would be with an emphasis on making change and progress through non-government organizations, which has been a major factor of progress with the charity work we have done in India over the last 16 years.
How can our readers further follow you online?
KM: I am on Instagram @kapilmahendra
You can find Calabasas Films & Media on Instagram as well at @calabasasfilms.
This was very meaningful, thank you so much! We wish you continued success!
Paul Beahan and Kapil Mahendra of Calabasas Films & Media: 5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me When I… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.