Exploring Credit Card Debt and the Iranian-American Immigrant Experience

bailoutcreditswipeI’ve admired the work of Ajam Media Collective for a few years, so it’s a great honor to have a guest post on their site this week! “Exploring Credit Card Debt The Iranian-American Immigrant Experience” is a personal essay reflecting on some of my experiences that led to the creation of Bailout.

“Many years ago I was bemoaning my credit card debt to a friend and her brilliant response was: “Having credit card debt doesn’t make you a failure, it just makes you American.” Later that day, I wrote that statement down. I sensed its importance, though I wasn’t sure why. Little did I know at the time that the statement would become the anchor for my new web series, Bailout.”

Read the full article.

Finish your film, no matter how bad you think it is.

Does your movie suck? It’s okay, finish it. It’s gonna take a year? Who cares, finish it. You’ll get much more respect – and career capital – by completing something than by abandoning a project and trying to mount another one. They’re all your babies, some of them are just a little bit less … pretty. It doesn’t matter – by committing to what you start, you’re telling everyone (including yourself) that you’re serious, you’re putting in the time and effort to make it the best you can.

-Paul Schattel, in Ten Tactics For MicroBudget Success

My new web series is online!

I’m excited to announce the release of a new web series called Bailout that I hope you’ll take a moment to check out and if you like it, to also donate to.

What’s it about?

Bailout is set in 2009 and follows the story of Shahlah or “Shay”, an Iranian American woman whose credit card debt presents a series of emotional and logistical challenges with her immigrant family. The first episode was released a few days ago. The second one will be released once we reach the $15k half-way fundraising mark on our Kickstarter Campaign.

How can I help?!

If you like what you see, here’s a few things you can do to help this series succeed:

Why tell this story?

I’m interested in exploring how credit cards create a blurry understanding of what it means to be “middle class” in the United States.

I’m interested in offering a wider spectrum of representation for Iranian Americans and other people often marginalized from mainstream media.

And several other good reasons you can read about here.

I hope you’ll help this project continue by donating $10, $15 or $20 today.

All about Westerns: A to watch list of Western genre films from around the world

Once-Upon-a-Time-in-the-West
I’ve been researching Westerns for an upcoming project Niknaz and I want to do that will be a Western-new wave Iranian cinema mashup. A Khorest Western. ( And yes, we’re still working on Bailout. But sometimes you need some space from characters in your head to visit others in other worlds).

As part of that research, I’ve been asking folks I know for lists of Westerns (and Western genre inspired films) to watch. Here’s what I’ve compiled so far–anything else I should add to the list?

  • BLOOD MONEY aka THE STRANGER AND THE GUNFIGHTER
  • BILLY JACK
  • BLAZING SADDLES
  • BUCK AND THE PREACHER
  • DEAD MAN
  • DJANGO
  • DON’T TURN THE OTHER CHEEK
  • JOSHUA
  • THE MAN WHO SHOT LIBERTY VALANCE
  • MCCABE & MRS. MILLER
  • THE MISFITS
  • ONE EYED JACKS
  • RED SUN
  • RIDE IN THE WHIRLWIND
  • RIDE THE HIGH COUNTRY
  • RIO BRAVO
  • THE RUTHLESS FOUR
  • SANJURO
  • THE SEARCHERS
  • SEVEN MEN FROM NOW
  • SERGIO LEONE FILMS
  • SERGIO CORBUCCI FILMS
  • THE SHOOTING
  • STAGECOACH
  • STRAIGHT TO HELL
  • TEARS OF THE BLACK TIGER
  • THE THREE BURIALS OF MELQUIADES ESTRADA
  • THE TRINITY TRILOGY – THEY CALL ME TRINITY, TRINITY IS STILL MY NAME, and BOOT HILL
  • UNFORGIVEN
  • WANTED: DEAD OR ALIVE (Hindi Version)
  • WALKER
  • THE WILD BUNCH
  • YOJIMBO

Shooting indie films in Philadelphia: a tip on sound

apple boxes and slateIn September 2014 I directed the first two episodes of a web series I wrote called Bailout. It was a terrifying–but exciting–choice to do this shoot. I did it because I realized the only way I was going to get any good at directing was by practicing.

I spent all of my time in the MFA program I did years ago hiding behind my skills as a producer rather than challenging myself to experience new things as a director.

I played it safe.

I was scared of making mistakes.

In recent years, several things inspired me to face my fear of making public mistakes–my mom’s death and resulting reflections on my mortality, my daily meditation practice, and about a million inspirational quotes from artists on the creative process like this one from Neil Gaiman.

I plan to write a series of short blog posts over the next few months reflecting on some of the experiences of the shoot, the highs and lows, the practical and the theoretical. Enjoy!

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Thinking about sound when you don’t have the budget to shut down a road

After working enough small-to-no-budget shoots, you start to build a list of potential sound obstructions to look out for in a location that could slow down your shoot. Is the location on an airplane flight path coming into the Philadelphia airport? Is there a church near by that rings bells regularly? Is there a guy on the corner in the summer time who has blasted music while sitting in his fold up chair every hot evening for the last 10 years who can’t be moved?

It would be funny–and actually kind of useful–to start a public shared google document that is a location scouting check list of Philadelphia specific sound obstructions for indie makers.

For this shoot, I discovered a new one to add to this list: SEPTA. How I’ve gone so many years in this city and not encountered that challenge, I’m not sure.

But yeah. No. Don’t pick a location on a one way street that is on a bus route. Not only do you get the distinct voice of “WELCOME TO. ROUTE XX. SERVICE TO. YY” what feels like every 10 minutes (though they never seem to run that frequently when you’re actually waiting for the bus), but you also get the start and stop of traffic on the street as the bus inches its way from block to block. It forces you to rush takes in small chunks when there is an ebb in standing traffic and no bus, and also requires dedicating a crew member to staking out down the road with a walkie-talky to notify you when a bus is approaching.

Sound tip: check the SEPTA bus route map before picking your shooting location.