5 minutes with: Charu Menon

Get to know our managing director and executive producer of Heckler Singapore as she

discusses her creative inspirations, how to foster a creative and collaborative environment,

and advice she would give to aspiring producers and filmmakers looking to make a

meaningful impact in the industry.


This article first appeared in LBB Online https://www.lbbonline.com/news/5-minutes-with-



Q1. Have you always been a creative person, even as a child?

I think we are all creative as children. I loved storytelling and writing even as a child. I

remember writing silly little stories for children’s magazines. Stories around spiders and

mosquitoes and worms. Oddly, quite a lot of them set in the insect kingdom, come to think of

it now. 


Q2. Your documentary exploring the hotels in Varanasi has garnered international

attention and awards. What inspired you to embark on this project, and what

challenges did you encounter during its production?


I’ve always been curious about death and the rituals and belief systems that surround it in

different cultures and religions. I found the concept of death-hotels in the ancient city of

Varanasi, India, fascinating. Some Hindus believe that if they die in these hotels, they can

escape the endless cycle of birth and rebirth and attain eternal liberation or moksha. 

I’d been exploring this subject for years when I found a perfect collaborator and director in

Dan Braga. The film was very much a labour of love. Making the shift from advertising to

documentary making for a few months was both deeply enriching and completely terrifying.

We approached the film with the discipline of shooting a TVC. it helped us to be efficient with

our time and frugal with our spend. But we were working with a guerrilla crew, everyone

wearing multiple hats and working insanely long hours in 45 degree heat. We had all kinds of

challenges from being hit up for bribes at certain locations (after securing permission), to

having my DOP in hospital on the fourth day of the shoot, to malfunctioning equipment. But

somehow we got through it all and the end result was magic. I’m super stoked with what we

created and all of the attention and awards it got.


Q3. You’ve worked with a diverse range of clients, from global brands like Nike and

Pepsi to producing documentaries exploring cultural phenomena. How do you

approach each project differently, considering the unique needs and objectives of

your clients?


As a producer, advertising is an excellent training ground. With high end commercials, you

are usually dealing with talent that are the best at what they do, often specialists of their

trade. You learn to bring a director’s vision to life while managing agency and client

expectations, working within the framework of the budget and the (usually insane) timeline.

The level of granularity in advertising where every frame is discussed and dissected is

excellent training for documentaries because it teaches you to be obsessed with craft. 

In the doco world, things are less prescriptive and a lot more broad, (especially if you are not

working on a commission based project with a pre-sale). For a producer, it’s definitely the

more creative avenue and opens up more possibilities. But it can feel unnerving because in

a way you are starting with a blank canvas. If you can approach it with the discipline of

advertising, in terms of process, but embrace the creative chaos and freedom of docos, it’s

the best of both worlds!


Q4. As the managing director and executive producer at Heckler Singapore, how do

you employ to foster a creative and collaborative environment within the team to

ensure the successful execution of projects?


To be completely honest, I don’t think I do much at all. I’ve only executed the old adage of

‘hire smart people and get out of the way’. We’ve been fortunate to attract some amazing

talent both local and international who are the most self-motivated, remarkable, sparkly

bunch of humans around. We have great relationships with our agency and client partners.

There is a lot of trust and a hunger to create memorable work. 

I guess the only policy we try to maintain is a no d***head policy.

We work in a high pressure industry and push our artists to produce great ideas and

beautiful pictures on demand. The least we can do is be nice to each other. Life’s too short

for bullies. We’re fiercely protective of our culture and don’t tolerate any disrespect. I’d like to

think we create a really safe environment for the team to be creatively inspired, have room

for play, experiment, explore and create great work. 


Q5. Being named a finalist in B&T’s Women in Media Awards and receiving the NSW

Premier’s Multicultural Media Awards are remarkable achievements. How do you use

your platform and influence to advocate for diversity and inclusion in the media



I think we need a lot more nuance in the conversations around diversity and inclusion. It

needs to go beyond tokenism. I try to use platforms I have access to, to advocate for

inclusive recruitment and diversity. We certainly need more women in the VFX industry. We

need training and employee resource groups and industry initiatives that focus on fostering

the right culture within our worlds. It’s going to take a village to make meaningful change. 


Q6. With your extensive experience spanning film, TV, advertising, and digital content

across different countries, what trends do you foresee shaping the future of content

creation, and how do you stay ahead of the curve?

There’s never been a more exciting time for storytelling in general. We’re only starting to

discover how transformative generative AI tools are going to be for our industry. The

convergence of gaming, tech, entertainment and commerce has led to some pathbreaking,

genre defying content. I try to keep up in all the usual ways – by reading and fervently

stalking all the experts and trailblazers on various platforms. 


Q7. You’ve been involved in judging prestigious awards like D&AD. What criteria do

you look for when evaluating submissions, particularly in the direction Category, and

what advice would you give to aspiring filmmakers and producers?

Sitting in jury rooms and absorbing all the discourse has been my absolute favourite. I’ve

had the privilege of judging with some incredible jury presidents like Kim Gehrig at Cannes

and Sara Dunlop at D&AD. From what I’ve learnt, I’d say particularly for the craft category

that the judges are looking for something that feels fresh and current, something that

genuinely moves you and where the specific craft that the work has been entered for shines

in the piece. 


Q8. Your experience spans across Australia, India, and Southeast Asia. How do you

adapt to different regions, cultural nuances and preferences while maintaining a

consistent level of creativity and quality in your work?


The culture is definitely different and we adapt to the market we are in. I think the pace of the

industry in South East Asia and India is pretty full on, so the volume of work you churn out is

huge compared to say Australia. But at the end of the day, good clients want to create great

work and high craft is a universal language. 


Q9. What advice would you give to aspiring producers and filmmakers looking to

make a meaningful impact in the industry, especially those interested in exploring

diverse storytelling and tackling social issues through their work?


It’s not for the faint hearted but its immensely rewarding. There’s not a lot of clearly laid out,

concrete pathways to success in this field – a lot of it is figuring it out as you go. You need a

pretty high pain tolerance and the ability to dig deep when things don’t go according to plan

(which is 70% of the time) but at the end of the day, if you get it right it’s gonna all feel pretty

worth it.