There are scores of independently owned businesses throughout Centretown, and for documentary filmmaker Satheesh Gopalan they are all tiny empires – each one only a slight push away from expansion into new territory.
“There are many brilliant ideas, but unless you can act on them, there is no value,” he says.
The 42-year-old is sitting at his workstation in his Barrhaven home and is talking about his new documentary, Innovation: Where Creativity and Technology Meet, which premiered at Carleton University earlier this month.
The hour-long film tackles how high-profile entrepreneurs around the world have meshed creativity and emerging technologies to grow their businesses. He travelled around the world to interview more than 20 successful entrepreneurs, psychologists and academics.
“I wanted to make a film that stands at the intersection of psychology, technology and business,” he says. “The success stories of these great minds will take the viewers of this film to the next level of excellence and possibility. That’s because really great people can make us feel that we too can become great.”
He says the film’s message applies to all business owners and entrepreneurs.
“The film addresses the word ‘change’ as a synonym for ‘growth,’ not as a scary word,” he says. “Remember, man was born to grow. If the growth ceases, he becomes unhappy.”
And Gopalan isn’t just selling that message; he’s living it.
He immigrated to Canada from India in 1996 to work as an IT consultant. He has two master’s degrees and up until three years ago he says he was making a six-figure salary. But he felt like something was missing.
“I was searching for meaning in life,” he says.
He says he dreamed of being a filmmaker and making this film was the missing puzzle piece in his life. He quit his job, hired a support staff, and spent more than $100,000 of his own money and three years of his life to make this documentary.
Gopalan says when he came to Canada he had about $2,000 to his name.
“I don’t even have that now,” he says. “I’m not worried about that. I am now back to where I started in Canada. You set a goal, leave the ship behind, and don’t look back. This is the path I’ve chosen.”
As he sits at his desk, he begins playing the trailer of the film. His wife, Priya, who is a stay-at-home mom with their two young children, is standing behind him.
The clip begins to play. Anand, their 13-year-old son, is also in the room. They both are watching Gopalan’s computer screen intently. She says they’ve seen this hundreds of times.
During the trailer, their faces are masks, blank and emotionless. When it ends, the masks dissolve, and both Priya and her son stare at Gopalan adoringly. He is beaming.
Priya says she isn’t concerned about the financial burden of her husband’s decision to quit his job and pursue his dream.
“We are very proud of him,” she says. It took almost three years but the final product is so good.”
Her son pipes up. “Everyone has been blown away by it.”
More than 350 people attended the premiere at Carleton.
Tony Bailetti, a professor at Carleton’s Sprott School of Business, was at the premier and says he was impressed by the amount of resilience Gopalan showed in making the film.
“He stuck with the project, which was very ambitious, and I’m sure many people told him it was impossible to do, but he did it,” Bailetti says. “It’s a good example, itself, of innovation and entrepreneurship.”
The film will be available to entrepreneurs and business owners through Amazon later this month. Gopalan says he also plans on selling the film to universities as a teaching tool.
He knows it’s an all-or-nothing gambit, but he says he has absolute faith in his plan. He says if he didn’t, he would be a living contradiction of his film’s central message.