Passenger Seat

New York City, New York | Film Short

Drama, Family

Neha Gautam

1 Campaigns | New York, United States

Green Light

This campaign raised $17,751 for post-production. Follow the filmmaker to receive future updates on this project.

173 supporters | followers

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Passenger Seat shows the truth of being a cabbie in NYC: taking on predatory loans, struggling with deregulation, and competing with the rise of rideshare apps. But we wanted to humanize the complexities of financial struggle by centering tenderness in daughter-father Desi immigrant relationships.

About The Project

  • The Story
  • Wishlist
  • Updates
  • The Team
  • Community

Mission Statement

As working class South Asians, we were eager to see the representation of our father figures realized in a film. Passenger Seat celebrates the tenderness from our youth while embracing the hard decisions we are forced into making as first-generation Desi immigrants.

The Story

Hello! My name is Neha and I’m the director and co-writer of Passenger Seat, a short film about a young girl named Neela and her relationship with her father which changes as his taxi business starts to decline.

The story of Passenger Seat was inspired by the relationships I had with the South Asian men in my family including my father and grandfather. Having a background as an educator, a documentarian with years of experience working with immigrant youth and communities of color as an organizer, it was important for me to think about the underrepresentation of working class South Asian families while trying to bring this story to fruition.

The inspiration behind wanting to direct and share this short film comes from a number of things including my experiences of feeling like I internalized the stigma of being working class as well as the most recent medallion crisis that NY yellow taxi cab drivers were experiencing which resulted in the suicide of 9 cab drivers. 

I met with a friend, Angbeen, at a coffee shop in Carroll Gardens. We knew each other from a work setting but met up to talk about possible collaborations. We soon discovered this shared experience of having cab drivers as father figures in their lives. That fall, we had a test shoot and we started casting and planning for the final shoot in the spring of probably know where this is going.

For safety reasons, we had to stop shooting mid production and then had to restart pre-production from scratch in 2021. We finally got to shoot at the end of September 2021, a year and a half after we were first supposed to start shooting. The pandemic had lengthened and caused unforeseen constraints on the film just like many other areas of our lives. 

Never-the-less, we have been committed to seeing this through, stage at a time. Our cast and crew, having the time to wait conditions for shooting were safer, were able to develop a great dynamic and relationship having more time. We also were able to engage each other in different stages.

One of the things that also helped with this process was having a relationship with the Taxi Workers Union. NYTWA. The co-founder Javid was open to sharing the experiences of many taxi drivers and provided support and context to the script. I also attended and documented actions that NYTWA hosted while campaigning for debt relief from the city. This relationship with TWA really helped anchor the story.

Okay, let’s be real. 

Neha poured her heart, soul and bank account into this film. No, seriously, all of her savings went into this film. As a woman of color from a working class background, this was a big deal: a huge leap of faith and a belief in herself and her community. 

We’re calling on our community to support the completion of this film, an important and moving working class South Asian Muslim story created by and for people of color, through post-production. Your help will get Passenger Seat the color correction, sound, music, etc. it deserves. And, you'll be part of its post-production process! Check out where the $$ is heading:

If you'd like to support the work but are unable to do so with cash, sharing our campaign via social media, email, word of mouth, etc. is another extremely helpful option! We can't reach our crowdfunding goal without you! 

Here are some examples that you can copy & paste:

Help filmmaker Neha Gautam @resistandrise by supporting her heartfelt film PASSENGER SEAT, which centers a daughter-father Desi immigrant relationship facing the financial hardship of being part of the yellow cab driving industry in NYC. Join them on @seedandspark:


Super excited to see the short film PASSENGER SEAT, an original story directed by Neha Gautam with co-writer by Angbeen Saleem! Support them on @seedandspark:


Just learned about PASSENGER SEAT and how it engages with the NYC Yellow Taxi Medallion Crisis in a meaningful and humanizing way. Please support this film on @seedandspark:


Use the WishList to Pledge cash and Loan items - or - Make a pledge by selecting an Incentive directly.

Festival Fees

Costs $1,000

We want to submit Passenger Seat to film festivals to help it gain the traction it deserves.


Costs $1,250

To publicize the film we need to fund an artist to create the designs for a movie poster and swag.

Post-Production Reimbursements

Costs $2,000

We have accrued expenses towards post production including hard drives, vendors and management

Sound and Music

Costs $4,150

Sound Mix, Post Sound, Composer Jenstar Hacker IG: @hackersoundmusic

Cash Pledge

Costs $0


Costs $600

raja kandola IG: @raja.kandola

Color Grading

Costs $3,000

Cédric von Niederhäusern Colorist

About This Team

We’re so grateful to have a cast and crew of mostly BIPOC.

Neha Gautam (writer/director) is an educator, filmmaker, and community organizer. Neha was born in India and lived in both Ethiopia and Alaska before moving to New York City at the age of twelve. She earned a dual BA in History and International Studies at the City College of New York (CUNY).  She began pursuing photography and video in 2006 at the International Center of Photography (ICP).  Neha currently attends the Feirstein Graduate School of Cinema where she is an MFA candidate in a directing track. Her short films and documentaries have screened at over six film festivals including the Queens World Film festival, The New York Independent Film festival, New Faces New Voices festival and Katra Film Festival.  

Saleem Nasir Gondal (producer) is a filmmaker and creative nonfiction writer based in New York. His work explores the power of movement and sound to convey the interior lives of underrepresented communities onscreen. His film SUPER SONIC has screened in five different countries, including the Austin Film Festival, TIDE Film Festival and the 43rd Asian American International Film Festival. His pilot script DRUM AND VERSE was selected for the Muslim List, created by The Black List in collaboration with MPAC Hollywood Bureau and Pillars Fund. 

Rikki Porter (director of photography) is a Southern California native, who currently resides in Brooklyn, New York. She is an alumna of Feirstein Graduate School of Cinema, where she obtained her MFA in Cinematography. Rikki’s eclectic and outstanding work as a Director of Photography includes several short films, documentaries, and experimental films. In 2019, her work was on display in the short film, Good News. The film was honored at the 57th New York Film Festival and acknowledged at the Maryland Film Festival. 

Rafael Alvarado Martin (assistant director) is a Peruvian director, currently pursuing his MFA in Directing at Feirstein Graduate School of Cinema, Brooklyn College-CUNY. Within the MFA program at Feirstein, Rafael has directed and produced 3 short films. In 2020, his second year film First They Came For My Mother, got official selections at 8 festivals around the US and Europe: Tide Film Festival, Official Latino Films and Arts Festival, Montreal Independent Film Festival, Bucharest ShortCut Cinefest, L'Hospitalet de Llobregat International Film Festival, Indie Short Fest, New Faces New Voices, First-Time Filmmaker Sessions. He is currently in pre-production for his Thesis Short Film.

Angbeen Saleem (co-writer) is Pakistani Muslim artist, filmmaker, poet, and aspiring farmer from Philadelphia, PA. She does communications for North Star Fund, a community foundation that funds grassroots organizing in New York City and the Hudson Valley. Previously, she worked at MTV, the Southern Poverty Law Center, and the Aspen Institute. She loves the way storytelling can create space for learning, dialogue, and change. 

Khaula Malik (wardrobe & MUA) is Pakistan born and Virginia bred filmmaker based between Los Angeles and NYC. Her short film, How The Air Feels, won the National Board of Review Student Filmmaker Award and Special Jury Award at Sharjah Film Platform. She was also awarded the 2017 BAFTA NY John Grist Scholarship. In 2018, Khaula participated in the Hot Springs Emerging Filmmakers Lab for her feature documentary The Noble Half.

Current Team