Journalist and Filmmaker Saleem Reshamwala Shares Who and What He’s Following Now
Durham, North Carolina–based journalist and filmmaker Saleem Reshamwala has been particularly productive of late: In addition to shooting his first fictional film, a contribution to the Becoming America anthology, he’s host of the TED podcast Pindrop and a mentor to emerging Asian and Asian-American filmmakers through a new fellowship program called The Sauce.
We recently spoke with Reshamwala about his media diet. “The things that I find myself feeling happiest after tend to be slow things,” he says. “I’m a huge fan of print, and I really love Lapham’s Quarterly. I like getting things where, once I have it in my hands, it’s all I’m doing—it can’t turn into a game or turn into Twitter.” Here, he shares who and what he’s following, reading, and watching to get through 2020.
How do you start your mornings?
I wake up and try to write down three things I’m grateful for, and three things I’m looking forward to about the day. I picked it up from one of those Five-Minute Journals, and I found that, during the pandemic, it helps me separate the days from each other. I rise early and have some time to myself, and usually read some nonfiction. If I read fiction in the morning, I get too drawn into the story and just want to keep doing that instead of working. I’ll also listen to a podcast while I make my tea.
What are some of your favorite podcasts?
That’s changed quite a bit since I started hosting a podcast, because it’s gotten much more exploratory. One thing I listen to really consistently is Planet Money and its [short, daily] show, The Indicator. They’re both about economics and business and money, which are things that I wouldn’t have seen myself putting that kind of time into learning more about, but they’re just so well done. Mogul is a hip-hop podcast that uses sound to tell a story, and the people they get on the show are unbelievable. And then there’s a nerdy philosophy podcast called The Philosopher’s Zone out of Australia—that’s a nice thing in the morning, because it feels so outside of the news cycle. One recent [episode] I really liked was an interview with philosopher Catarina Dutilh Novaes, who explains when it’s valuable to argue, and when it’s not, in a deep, interesting way.
What are your daily reads?
I like Kottke.org. The top post on it right now is an interface for exploring Ed Ruscha’s photos of Sunset Boulevard, and the second one is about the New York Public Library’s essential reads on feminism. That’s something that I’m really looking for now: media that will go deep on one news story. I’m more into the long reads lately. I wish I checked Twitter less than I do. This year, it’s been hard to feel like I’ve been gaining cumulative knowledge. It’s been challenging at times to feel like things are adding up to anything—there’s so much doom-scrolling. So I find myself looking for that [other] stuff. MasterClass is freaking amazing. Mira Nair, the Indian filmmaker, teaches Independent filmmaking; Jodie Foster has a great class on directing.
What newsletters do you recommend?
I’m always intrigued by Robin Sloan, who has been doing the newsletter thing for a long time and seems to be successful. I’m very, very intrigued by people who can figure out how to operate outside of massive corporate-owned social media. That’s something I would love to solve for myself.
What are you watching or reading for fun?
I just read Circe [by Madeline Miller], an amazing novel and a real page-turner. I’ll pick up an Elmore Leonard book here and there. And I just watched The Umbrella Academy with my wife—that felt like a guilty pleasure.
What do podcasts need to do to stand out these days?
I want to live in a world where podcasts are all very weird and distinct from each other. I really enjoy listening to the Chinese Mythology Podcast occasionally. It’s deeply itself. I know nothing about Chinese mythology, but it’s incredibly charming—it’s just this Chinese woman [Yang Li] explaining certain Chinese myths to her husband [Eric Parfitt], and it’s clearly a very small project. But I’m really intrigued by ways that people can do a super deep-dive into something. George Saunders said something like, “Art is a black box, and what matters is that when you come out of the box, you should be different than when you went into it.” I’m really into things that make me feel different for a little while when I’m in them—especially during quarantine, when so many things feel distant.