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INTERVIEW: Sayna Fardaraghi – Indie Filmmaker on the Rise

With several short films under her belt, over 37K followers on Twitter and praise from Barry Jenkins himself, Sayna Fardaraghi is quickly proving herself to be one of the coolest indie filmmakers to watch. Her last experimental short film ‘Waiting’ is our short pick of the month: made at the beginning of this year, it evokes the feeling of anticipation and boredom we’ve all come to know too well during endless days spent in lockdown. With another short film in the works, we asked Sayna a few questions about her work and process.

Still from ‘Waiting’.

RC: I’ve been following your work for a while now and I’m a huge fan! What made you want to get into filmmaking?

SF: Thank you so much!  I got into filmmaking through my work in fine art, I wanted to try out different mediums and once I got into video I absolutely fell in love with the process. The main influence however that entirely turned on the “film” switch was the movie ‘The secret life of Walter Mitty’, it opened my eyes to exciting films and the medium itself. (A little while later La La Land was the one that made me want to pursue it further).

RC: You seem to have figured out your signature style very early on in your career, how did this develop and what are you inspired by?

SF: When I first started out I was extremely inspired by Wes Anderson, so I would try to mimic the soft pastel colours and graphic framing – I found that his work was very visually directed and it inspired me not to be afraid to put in my fine art influences through my work. From then onwards I would create lots of different videos, and whatever visual element I found effective and fun, I would apply and strengthen in my next — sort of curating a style in the process as I go. At the moment however I would say a major influence for is fashion magazines. 

RC: You come from an art background, how do you think this has influenced your work?

SF: I think its majorly influenced my work as its made me have a much more visual route to my process, I focus a lot on the art direction side of things and how something can visually create an effect on the audience. For example how can a simple glimpse of something make someones heart drop — rather than a sound or a word being said. 

Still from Waiting.

RC: Your last film Waiting, although released before the pandemic, seems more apt than ever. How did the film come about?

SF: I wanted to make something entirely editorial based and experimental for my university project, and so came up with the idea of exploring time and the experience of it. I find a major interest in the little things in our lives and how everything brings balance and meaning to our world, despite us commonly forgetting about it. And for that moment, time was the perfect thing to explore, which ended up becoming a message that was very needed since we immediately went into lockdown after filming. I’d like to think that I predicted its timing, but I guess everything fell into place just at the right time!

RC: How do you think the pandemic has affected your filmmaking?

SF:  I think its made me turn into more of a producer with the amount of pre-planning I do now, making sure everything works out and falls into place despite the crazy changes and restrictions. Another thing is that its made me more resourceful, If somethings not working find another route to do it yourself! 

RC:  Your films have an experimental element to them, how do you go about constructing the film? Do you have a script/storyboard or do you plan it differently?

SF: I do my planning in a very unconventional route, as previously stated I’m a very visual person  and so my work always begins with a series of photographs / scenes I have in my head. I then write down exactly what it is that I want to convey through these scenes and start to put together a script full of details on directions, body movements and all sorts to create a strong meaning. I don’t think I’ve ever made anything where there was a script before the visuals – its a bit odd but I love the spontaneity of it. 

RC: You’ve worked on so many different projects such as music videos, short films and an online series, and you’ve worked in various roles. How do you approach each work differently?

SF: The way I approach my work no matter what the context, is pretty much the same way as described in the past question, I would say that with music videos there’s simply the element of lyrics that offers a glimpse and idea of what a visual may look like – kind of like a ready made script that you don’t necessarily have to follow but can choose to if you want. The most different approach for me however was working for the online series Visions of a Vivid Life – where I had the role of the cinematographer (first time too). I would essentially be doing what I usually do, planning exciting imagery according to my given scripts but also making sure that whatever I come up with backs up the vision of the directors – so that its a perfect mix of two brains to create something beautiful. There is sometimes the tendency to try something out the box during filming but you need to make sure that it still follows the main idea as a whole, and isn’t completely outlandish. 

RC: In the future, is there anyone (director/actor/artist) you would love to work with? 

SF: Definitely Nadia Lee Cohen.

RC: And lastly, what is a film that you think everyone should watch, and why?

SF: The Last Black Man In San Francisco, its just simply perfect. 

We can’t wait to see what Sayna will do next. In the mean time, check out her other short films here (and watch The Last Black Man in San Francisco of course, because we agree: it’s perfect).

You can check out our other interviews here.

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