In this episode of The Impact Podcast by Innov8social, we are back with Nyna Pais Caputi to pick up from our conversation nearly a year ago. Since that time, her impact film “Petals in the Dust” has had its world premiere and has screened at theaters across the country. Here, Nyna opens up about the process and perseverance it takes to submit to film festivals and get the word out about the film. She also discusses her entrepreneurial endeavors with The Expat Woman and her advice to impact entrepreneur filmmakers.


Listen to the Podcast Episode 



Back with Nyna Pais Caputi


Nyna is a filmmaker, a startup founder, blogger and speaker on gender violence, startups, cross-cultural skills, diversity and expat life.

She recently completed her first feature-length documentary ‘Petals In The Dust: The Endangered Indian Girls’​ which premiered at the San Francisco Documentary Festival. Her work on this film included doing extensive research on gender discrimination and violence in Indian and globally.

Nyna also founded the Global Walk for India’s Missing Girls in 2010, an international awareness campaign on gender discrimination and violence in India, which has taken place in over 25 cities and five countries.

She is also the founder of The Expat Woman and Pitch2Sharks, a monthly pitch for startup founders in San Francisco.

Show Notes

Here are a few interviews and articles mentioned in this episode.

More About Nyna Pais Caputi


More About “Petals in the Dust”

  • Website:
  • Brief summary: Petals in the Dust: The Endangered Indian Girls examines the condition of an endangered class of people living in one of the most populous, culturally and economic vibrant countries: modern India.”
  • Video trailer
  • List of screenings

More About The Expat Woman

  • Website:
  • Value proposition: “Designed for women from all over the globe who have moved to the US recently, lived here for a while or are planning to move here, with the goal of helping international women connect with each other, share stories on how to navigate the USA and achieve their dreams.”
  • Event listings, for The Expat Woman on Meetup


Earlier this month we had a chance to interview Nyna Pais Caputi, a director of the upcoming social SF_Docfest_Petals_official_movie_posterimpact documentary Petals in the Dust: Endangered Indian Girls which is set to have its world premier on June 6, 2015 in San Francisco.Petals in the Dust examines themes of gender discrimination and violence against women—through the lens and stories of incredible individual women from India and across the diaspora. The project has been one of passion and commitment by Nyna, taking over 7 years to make into reality.

Meet Nyna

Nyna Pais Caputi has the incredible knack of taking Gandhi’s quote “be the change you wish to see in the world” to heart. When her own journey led to her to explore adopting children from India, she was confronted with stark gender inequality norms and difficult realities such as infanticide. Instead of standing by, she began the epic project of writing, directing, producing, and releasing a documentary that explores the layers of gender inequality in India—and also tells the stories of women who have found ways to overcome difficult realities.

As she researched her film and learned about atrocities such as killing of women and girls in India and globally, she took a bold step to galvanize attention and community by founding the Global Walk for India’s Missing Girls. Now in its fifth year, it has become an inNyna_cameraternational awareness campaign on the violence and genocide of Indian women that has taken place in over 25 cities and five countries.

And again, when she moved to San Francisco and couldn’t find a group for international women interested in pursuing entrepreneurial endeavors, she took it upon herself to launch “The Expat Woman” as a group where women can hear from other women, can showcase their own ventures and products, and (soon) can pitch their startups in a “Shark Tank”-like pitch event.
I had the chance to speak on one of Nyna’s Expat Women panels focused on the experience of entrepreneurship in the SF Bay Area.
Nyna has been recognized for her leadership and tenacity with honors including selection as a “2015 Woman of Distinction” by Soroptimist International of Diablo and was selected for a “Women of the Year” award by the California State Assembly in 2015.

Listen to the Interview with Nyna

See the Trailer for “Petals in the Dust : The Endangered Indian Girls”

Some months ago I watched “Living on One Dollar” through the recommendation of friends on various social networks. It was eye-opening and compelling, and was fully conceptualized and realized by a group of college students. The premise: What is it like to live on less than $1 per day, as more than1 billion people worldwide do?

Their First Social Impact Film, Living on One Dollar

Chris Temple and Zach Ingrasci along with fellow college friends, Sean Leonard, and Ryan Christofferson took this question head-on when they spent 56 days in rural Guatemala living on a dollar per day or less. Understanding that the dollar per day is an average, they picked a number from a hat each day signifying how much money they could spend that day. They share memorable experiences in understanding the most nutritious and cost-effective foods to eat, learning how to earn money, and building friendships in the village. The film has received acclaim and recognition, winning an audience award at the 2013 Sonoma International Film Festival.

Their Latest Documentary, Salam Neighbor

Now, Zach and Chris have teamed up on another social impact film experience—this time halfway around the globe. According to their research, over 9 million people have been impacted by the civil war in Syrian, with over 6 millions Syrians displaced within their own country. Over 2 million Syrians have sought safety in numerous refugee camps in neighboring Lebanon, Jordan Turkey, Egypt, and Iraq. To give voice to refugees—in the Syrian crisis and across the globe—Zach and Chris have arranged to register as refugees and live at the Za’atari refugee camp in Jordan for 30 days. They are just over a week into the experience, which will be the basis of their next documentary “Salam Neighbor” and have been blogging regularly. It was incredible to speak to them live from Jordan for the audio interview (below). They welcome feedback and comments, as they help to inform and impact their experience as refugees.

Meet Zach and Chris

Zach and Chris met during their freshman year of college at Claremont McKenna College (CMC) in Southern California. They found that they shared an interest in social advocacy, microfinance, and creative storytelling and began to explore ways to challenge each other to think bigger.

image adapted from

Chris, who was raised in Connecticut, majored in International Relations at CMC, with a focus on Economic Development. His experience in the social innovation sector includes an internships at the Grameen America in New York City and Whole Planet Foundation and his current work as Founder and Executive Director of MFI Connect, a large-scale student microfinance network.
Zach, from Bainbridge Island in Washington, also majored in International Relations at CMC. His interest in the impact sector driven him to take leadership roles at MFI Connect and as Executive Director and Co-Founder of Living on One Media.

Listen to the Interview

I caught up with Zach and Chris just after their first week as ‘registered’ refugees (i.e. they compensated the relief organization for rations, equipment, etc.)


Watch the Trailer for “Salam Neighbor”

To learn more about their new documentary film project, “Salam Neighbor”, take a look at their launch video below.


Anthony shares video examples of transformative hip hop in his guest post, here

For many of us, music plays a huge role in our lives. It is the soundtrack to what do and think about. It is helps inform our memories. It can shift our mood and give perspective. It can make us want to dance. And, according to Anthony Pineda, it can be a powerful force for transformative social change.

Meet Anthony Pineda, Founder of Creatrix Institute

Anthony holds a Masters degree in Consciousness and Transformative Studies from John F. Kennedy University and is the Anthony Pinedafounder of Creatrix Institute. He is currently finishing a documentary on transformational hip hop—the culmination of over seven years of research and work.

Anthony has been a student of the effects of music and human consciousness since 1999, when he reflected on the role music played in his own life. Hip hop, specifically a genre dubbed ‘Conscious Hip Hop‘, transformed his outlook and personal and professional goals. It was a catalyst to his personal evolution and launched him on a path to deepening his understanding of the music and sharing its potential with others, especially kids.

In fact, Anthony has demoed a class called “Hip Hop & Poetry” in local middle schools and high schools in Silicon Valley. He designed a class specifically for emotionally disturbed students and used conscious hip hop as a way to connect, related, and help students move forward.

Starting with the music, he analyzes elements that make it conscious-raising and transformative, as well as creating ways to discuss themes of overcoming hardship and challenge through examining lyrics and message.

Conscious Hip-Hop: A Tool for Social Innovation?

Anthony firmly believes in the power of hip hop to be conscious-raising and in a word, transformative.

What struck me most about meeting Anthony over a year ago during the course of our New Leaders Council Fellowship in 2012, was his determination to create the life he envision for himself and share his knowledge and passion. From becoming a father at an early age to finding his voice and purpose in hip hop, he has worked against numerous challenges to pursue his education, develop his art, and set a meaningful example for his family. It is humbling to meet such a determined, committed proponent for social change.

I had a chance to sit down with him and discuss in depth his evolving view of music, hip hop, conscious hip hop, and the 2.0 version he calls transformative hip hop.


Q | When did the transformative/conscious hip hop movement begin?

Anthony Pineda, Founder of Creatrix: The movement of transformative hip-hop was in the beginning, in my opinion. Hip-hop began in America as a way to transcend socioeconomic and environmental situations. It was to expose the ills of society and a critique of what was happening on the streets of impoverished areas of America.

Some may argue that the golden age of hip-hop through the mid 90’s with Tupac began a new stage in conscious hip-hop. I believe it was created with this premise of being transformative, so the basic foundation of hip-hop culture is a conscious movement. I feel that transformative hip-hop is a new phrase I feel I am contributing to the academic discourse of hip-hop studies. People often use ‘conscious hip-hop’ or even ‘spiritual/positive hip-hop’ to define sub-genres of hip-hop music, yet transformative hip-hop denotes a process by which the music offers a new perspective to become self-aware and change one’s path.


Q | How can someone get involved in the movement?

Anthony: First, I think its important to note that hip-hop is a global youth culture and most of our youth are in fact involved with the movement. The way to get most involved in the movement is to become a practitioner of the craft or culture. To be involved means to act, and action can occur in many ways. For me, becoming not only an emcee, but to actively engage my community and help facilitate dialogue regarding hip-hop as a way to educate youth is part of my path within the movement.


Q | Tell us about the film project and what you hope to accomplish with its release?

Anthony: So the film represents the story/narratives of Hiphop music and culture. The power of Hiphop to save the minds and lives of people who use it to evoke their consciousness. We are looking at the impact of the music to be transformative and educational.

The main themes are education, spirituality, and story. The therapeutic implications of Hiphop are innate, so perspectives will solidify the current and ongoing research of Hiphop within institutions and systems. We are interested in personal stories with the youth and desires to expand Hiphop culture as a main aspect towards educational aspirations and what would it mean to include Hiphop in schools with structure and curricula. I have been documenting hip-hop in my life for 7 years and this film is the culmination of my transformation and research.

I hope that people begin to question the stereotypes of hip-hop and what we can accomplish with hip-hop in schools and around the globe. I also hope people acknowledge the power of lyrics in hip-hop to advance human consciousness. I want this to be the first installment of future projects on hip-hop research in visual form and to continue to document what it means to be hip-hop and what our responsibilities are to youth and their development. Hip-hop is more then entertainment and culture, it is a way of life and a spiritual practice by which people transform.


In 2007 a YouTube video created and narrated by social activist Annie Leonard was released, and quickly proceeded to go viral. The documentary–“The Story of Stuff”— walked viewers through the life cycle of production, use, and disposal of goods and the impact on planet, people, and profits. It has been viewed over 10 million times.

As a special post today, we have an interview with the Director of Online Strategy of the Story of Stuff Project, Christina M. Samala. She is part of the team that has gone on to release a total of 7 movies. The most recent documentary addresses an issue on the minds of many these days, U.S. spending, jobs, and investment. The film, “The Story of Broke”, released on November 8, 2011.

Watch “The Story of Broke”
Q & A with Christina M. Samala, Director of Online Strategy & Media at The Story of Stuff Project
Q | Innov8Social: Thanks Christina for joining us and answering a few questions about the film and project. It’s an eye-opening watch & timely considering Occupy Wall Street has been going on for over two months, with protests in over 60 cities worldwide. Did the Occupy movement inspire your team to make “the Story of Broke” or was it already in the works?
A | Christina: The idea to make The Story of Broke got brought to the table almost a year and a half ago. The role that subsidies play in society in the US was on the forefront of all of our minds, but in Annie’s, in particular. Whenever ideas of innovation or problem solving spurred, she frequently heard, “that’s a nice idea, but there’s no money for that” as a response. She heard it so much that she started mentioning it in her talks and found that people really sympathized with that.

So, while this movie has been in the works for a while, I think the sentiments and situations fueling the Occupy Movement are the very same ones that inspired us make The Story of Broke. If anyone’s interested, Annie wrote a great blog about The Story of Broke, Occupy and how while some have gotten bailed out, we the people keep getting sold out.


Q | Innov8Social: What were the primary sources of research used in making the film? Can you provide any links so we can continue our research?

A | Christina: We partnered with a lot great and knowledgeable organizations, an effort spearheaded by Allison Cook, one of my five amazing colleagues at the Project. A lot of these NGOs already have extensive and thorough research on subsidies in the US. For some, like the National Priorities Project, delivering data is core function of their mission.


The best way to dig deeper and learn more:

Q | Innov8Social: What was the most challenging thing about making the film? The most surprising?

A | Christina: Perhaps not the most challenging thing, but definitely one of the first things to come to mind: picking the title. A year and a half ago, when we first started talking about making this movie, we referred to it internally as “The Story of Subsidies”. That stayed the working title for the movie until about June of this year, when we decided that “The Story of Subsidies” didn’t make for a particularly awe inspiring title. I’m pretty sure we were right!

The biggest, and much welcomed, surprise is that our online community is more powerful than Stephen Colbert! At least according to Google Analytics it is. On launch day, November 8, 2011, we registered 71,814 visits to Annie’s appearance on the Colbert Report on March 10, 2010 brought 64,504 visits to We feel pretty darn lucky to have such a diverse and engaged network and are so grateful to every individual and organization sharing our stuff!

Q | Innov8Social: How long does it take to make a film like “The Story of Broke” or “The Story of Stuff”? Do you have any suggestions or tips for budding social entrepreneur filmmakers out there?
A | Christina: The Story of Broke took over a year, from concept to launch. The Story of Stuff took decades if you include all the research and organizing Annie did in the field before bringing the movie to Free Range to start production. As far as suggestions go, if you’re heart’s in it, if your passion can sustain you through all types of hurdles, you just have to go for it. More practically, surround yourself with awesome, insanely intelligent and trusted colleagues!

Q | Innov8Social: If there was one single takeaway you would want viewers to carry with them after watching “The Story of Broke”, what would it be?

A | Christina: We’re not broke and there’s no time like the present to drop the consumer hat and put on the citizen one! Civic participation in these times is a must.

Q | Innov8Social: While the film overviews the current spending issues, much of it focuses on what we can do, on our ability to re-frame the story and make our money work for us, our environment, our economy, and our communities….so, what can we do? :)

A | Christina: We’re encouraging folks to sign up for our Community of Action so we can all flex our citizen muscles together. That’s one way to engage with the issues we raise in The Story of Broke. Another thing that we can each do all day, every day, is just talk about these things. Make a point to have a conversation about it; start re-framing the story. Dialog with family, friends and colleagues about the parts of our spending priorities that you feel strongly about, the parts that affect your life and the lives of your loved ones. When it comes to getting involved, it doesn’t really matter how you start. What matters is that you do start.

One of the things that’s been so uplifting about the response to the movie so far and the Occupy movement is that now, more than ever, I’m witnessing people being vocal about political and social concerns in public forums. Folks, en masse, are finally participating in the conversation of which systems just aren’t working. Along with all that good talking though, we all need to remind one another, and our government, of the power of an engaged, active and united citizenry.

A very special thank you to Christina! You can find out what everyone’s talking about. Watch “The Story of Broke” above!
Social change film festivalOn a rainy Saturday afternoon in early November 2011, an eclectic group of individuals and institutions committed to supporting and exploring social entrepreneur filmmaking and global water issues gathered on a sprawling estate tucked away in the hills of Los Altos.I didn’t know what to expect from the Global Water Crisis Symposium but was intrigued by its call to social innovation action. As I learned through the course of the engaging afternoon and evening, the symposium was a precursor to and fundraiser for the Social Change Film Festival & Institute, planned to take place in April 2012 in New Orleans, Louisiana.11 Key Takeaways from the Global Water Crisis Symposium

Global water symposium1. Think beyond your idea of a social innovator. The conference helped show a new face of social innovation. That of social-minded artists looking to find new avenues, audiences, and forms for their art and observations of world issues. Global Symposium panelist Charles Hambleton of the Academy-award winning documentary “The Cove”, was representative of the deep impact that social filmmakers can make as social innovators.

2. Social entrepreneurs know that risk means opportunity. If a product-based business is risky, there is equal (if not greater) risk in committing time and resources into creating an issue-based film. But as I am quickly noticing, social entrepreneurs see every risk as an opportunity for learning and growth—whether the venture is embraced in success or sinks to the ocean floor, risk is the truest catalyst for humble, deliberate learning. Stories of filmmakers and social innovators—such as Michael Nash (creator/director of “Climate Refugees” and “Fuel)– on panels at the Symposium carried this theme to new heights, and depths.

3. When in doubt, there is probably a consultant who can help. A number of speakers and panelists at the Global Water symposium mentioned their roles as consultants. Consulting firms such as Cause & Affect have worked with clients to reframe issues and find unique ways of achieving success. Sometimes when we hit a wall with our social innovation ideas, we may feel like we can’t afford to invest in outside consulting; and I am noticing that if we are truly serious about our work, these situations might be exactly the time to seek outside assistance. Answers only matter when they respond to questions we actually have.

4. There are groups dedicated to helping social filmmakers. While I have heard of accelerator & incubator programs for social innovators and fellowships for social entrepreneurs, at the Global Water Symposium I learned about groups like the Fledging Fund that are dedicated to assisting budding social filmmakers make their films, and their mark.

5. Social entrepreneurs are only beginning to tap the potential of online video. It is an unprecedented time for film. Overhead costs can be kept low while distribution can be maximized using free online platforms like YouTube. Instead of reaching limited audiences, films can reach millions. And hearing about the revolutionary work of Social Change Films, the organizer of the Global Water Symposium, exemplified the efforts to continue to explore the potential and reach of film through online video.

Global water symposium panel6. Social film is effective when it tells a compelling story. The importance of story-telling was emphasized at the Social Media for Nonprofits SF conference and was reiterated here. One of the creators of the television series “Heroes”, Tim Kring was on-hand at the Global Water Symposium was to relay how effective storytelling was a central premise for his multimedia endeavor “Conspiracy for Good” involving gamification, film, and a compelling good v. evil narrative.

7. Global water issues tend to disproportionately affect women and girls. The film “Carbon for Water” was screened at the Symposium. The film relayed how lack of clean water impacts livelihoods in rural Kenya, and through its interviews and images it showed how women and girls are particularly affected by the clean water crisis. Since fetching water falls under the traditional duties of women, the burden of travelling long distances to find resources to locate and distill water often falls on women and girls.

8. The externalities of not having clean water include deforestation, lack of education and health issues. In Kenya, as “Carbon for Water” portrayed, many Kenyan women walk far distances to forests, collect wood, and then use the wood to burn fires to boil the water. The process accelerates the rate of deforestation, leaves women potentially vulnerable in secluded wooded areas, and precludes many girls from attending school, simply because fetching wood often takes the much of the day.

9. Seek creative ways to tell a story. Compelling stories can be told in words, images, sounds, film, architecture. They can be told chronologically or through flashbacks, using third person narrative voice or through interviews. Though storytelling is a key tip to relaying a social need and social innovation, the way a story is told may be as telling as the story itself.

10. Scalability is a huge factor in determining economic viability of a water crisis solution. A panelist from BluePlanetNetwork spoke about the need for thinking of ways to bring ideas to scale in light of the organization’s goal of enabling safe drinking water for 200,000,000 people in the next 20 years. While local efforts may alleviate localized water problems—making a broader impact requires scaling solutions to meet diverse communities and to serve multiple needs.

11. Youth can do anything. While we attended the Symposium, a parallel youth track with few high school students took interviews throughout the day and then worked with established filmmakers to edit the footage to create a brief documentary. It was an impressive effort, and a reminder that youth—with their ability to embrace new technology and their genuine curiosity—  are often the ultimate change agents.