Arts and Humanities People and Community

Alumna awards television’s finest at the 2024 Emmys

Geethika Kataru, a recent graduate who made quite the appearance at this year’s Emmy Awards, is officially making a name for herself in the entertainment industry.
Geethika Kataru
Geethika Kataru, second from left, with Kelly Bennett, center, and other trophy presenters at the Emmy Awards. Photo courtesy Geethika Kataru

As a young woman growing up in an Indian family, Geethika Kataru acknowledged the initial pressure she had as the daughter of immigrants to pursue a traditional career in STEM. But, she recalls her experience as a biology major on the pre-med track, revealing the internal struggle she faced with her creative passions. 

“I stuck with it for three semesters and tried really hard to do it,” said Kataru, a St. Augustine, Florida, native. “But looking around me and seeing how driven the people who were also on this track were, whereas I just couldn't care less at the time, I realized that I was doing all of this without a real end goal.” 

Instead, her childhood memories of Bollywood movie nights with her family sparked an early fascination with film and entertainment that stuck with her for years. Kataru's love for storytelling and her natural inclination to analyze films became apparent even as a child, earning her the playful nickname of a “yapper” from her parents as she pointed out twists and turns in the movies they watched in the family room. 

Despite the pressure to pursue a conventional career path, Kataru found herself drawn to her film and political science electives. The decision to join Delta Kappa Alpha (DKA), a co-ed professional cinema fraternity, played a crucial role in shaping her journey. There, Kataru discovered a community of filmmakers, fostering a sense of belonging and encouragement to explore her creative side. 

“When I joined DKA my sophomore year, I think that’s what really helped me see that I could really do something with these skills that I had professionally,” Kataru explained. 

“It was as simple as making short films and taking production classes and having a product at the end of it. I think that's what really helped my parents see that this is something that you can actually pursue—that I’m not just majoring in film and sitting around in a classroom and talking about films, but that I'm going out there and doing the work that it takes to show something for it.” 

The shift toward film and political science marked an official turning point. Now, Kataru holds a bachelor's degree in political science and motion pictures production, along with a diverse array of minors in history, chemistry, and art. 

Kataru’s journey took a significant turn within weeks of graduating from the University when she secured an internship with the Television Academy Foundation's summer program. The internship, focused on production management, led her to the heart of television, working with Starz/Lionsgate when the studios were still partnered together. 

Only two weeks after moving back home when her internship ended, she made the life-changing decision to return to Los Angeles with two other film alumni for the long haul. 

“I pretty much thought if I don't do it now, I'm going to check out, especially riding off of the coattails of such an internship that I never thought I would get,” said Kataru. “And I knew the benefit of these connections I had made in the moment and the people I know in LA now. So, if not now, then when, right?” 

During her internship, Kataru had also applied for the Bob Bennett Future Leaders program, named after the trailblazing TV executive. She was one of the fortunate recipients out of a cohort of roughly 50 interns, and the financial support proved pivotal. 

Kataru received a $3,000 scholarship, providing essential assistance for housing, food, and transportation in the costly city of Los Angeles. The scholarship also offered an intimate dinner with Kelly Bennett, Bob Bennett's daughter, fostering connections and a sense of community among recipients like the recent graduate. 

"It was incredible. I really thought that I would have to get a second job,” said Kataru. “The TV Academy Foundation does pay their interns, but California minimum wage versus California cost of living is just not connected. It was really nice to get that monetary support." 

Kataru’s journey reached a pinnacle when she received an unexpected email from the Television Academy, inviting her to be a trophy presenter at the Emmy Awards, held in January. Selected from the cohort of Bob Bennett Future Leaders recipients, Kataru found herself on the prestigious Emmy stage at the Peacock Theater, directing celebrities and presenting awards. 

The opportunity not only showcased her capability, but also provided valuable exposure to the inner workings of an event as grand as the Emmys, a role previously held by children of celebrities or other industry professionals. 

“We met our stage manager, we met all of the people that kind of work backstage, all the cameramen, some of the producers, our wardrobe lady who was lovely. Throughout the weekend, a lot of the celebrity presenters would come to rehearsal to learn their marks and just kind of walk through what that night would look like for them,” Kataru explained. 

“The most fun part ever was getting to put on the dress and getting my hair and makeup done, literally having a whole glam squad. And once it starts, it goes so much faster than you would think. I blinked and three hours had passed, and it was over. But it was really, really cool,” she said. 

After her Emmy experience, Kataru didn't rest. Currently working as an administrative assistant at Women in Animation, a nonprofit supporting women and gender minorities in animation, gaming, and visual effects, she demonstrates a commitment to uplifting underrepresented voices in the industry. 

In terms of her future, Kataru plans on furthering her producing and writing portfolio, whether through involvement in student films or professional sets. 

“I’m trying to keep my skills sharp with the goal of eventually becoming a production assistant on real sets and rising the ranks that way,” said Kataru. “I think the opportunity I had at the Emmys definitely gave me motivation in a sense. Hopefully, if I stay on this path, if I really work hard, then hopefully that could be me one day. Or hopefully I'll get to be in that room again.”