Animating the Outsider Experience: Maryam Farahzadi

This week, we caught up with Maryam Farahzadi, an Iranian-born, L.A.-based animation director who is currently working at CreatorUp Studio. Her two animated shorts The Role of Each Fret and Blue have received much attention thanks to their interesting subject matter and highly original visual style. Here is what she had to tell us about her art and recent projects:

Tell us about the inspiration for your latest short?

Blue is about the societal struggle to accept differences as a quality, rather than a nuisance. The idea of this film was inspired by my own experience as an immigrant who came to the U.S. to pursue my dream in filmmaking. Although Blue is very much influenced by my own experience, I still believe the core message is relatable for others who shared the same challenges. Blue can be the story of immigrants, women, people of color, minorities, and all the people out there who are being excluded or rejected from the society.

When did you start working on it, and which animation tools did you use to produce it?

Blue is my second short animation which was produced as an MFA project for my “Animation Workshop” class at Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT). I started this project in August of 2017 and I had a full semester (four months) to finish this project to fulfill the requirement for this class. I wrote the story, created the storyboards, digitized and rigged the characters, and created the final output. I used Autodesk Maya and Adobe After Effects for animating and creating the scenes.

What was your ballpark budget?

Most of the work was done by me, however the music, sound effects, some visual effects and some character rigs were all done in kind, by my friends. Student films are usually produce with no budget or with a very low budget. Obviously this makes production of a high quality student film even more cumbersome.

What were some of your major challenges?

As I mentioned, budgeting and resources are always the biggest challenges for young filmmakers. Time management is another major challenge for making such movies, while having to fulfill other coursework, with limited resources. Making a four-minute animation from scratch in only four months was quite stressful and difficult.

What do you hope audiences will take away from your short?

Blue is about embracing inclusion: I wanted to engage with the audience and offer a different perspective in regards inclusion, the use of colors is a dominant metaphor throughout the film. My hope is to induce positive impact on the mindset and invite all to make this world a friendly place.

Who are some of your animation heroes?

Walt Disney, Tim Burton, Michael Duduk, Glen Keane, and Wes Anderson.

How does the Iranian government support animation?

In short, they don’t. Unfortunately, the media in Iran is totally controlled by the state government. There are many restrictions and barriers put in place by the government to control what people of Iran can or cannot consume. This has made animation stagnant and predictable, against what it is and what it stands for, which is imagination run wild. Usually high budget films or animations are the ones that are in line with what the government wants to portray, which I would brand as propaganda.

What are your plans for the future?

I am currently working on another animated short project that is about having the right to dream and think big, which is set to be completed in early 2019. I feel these days we are being told that there is no place for dreamers in this world, and my answer to that is: what is a human being without their dreams?

What do you love about working in the short form animation medium?

We live in a fast-paced society and a lot of people feel left behind, and I strongly believe that short films or short animations are great vessels to create awareness about all the challenges we face as a nation. I personally prefer animation because of its versatility and ability to convey messages or create settings that are usually very difficult to be portrayed in a live action movie.

You can watch Farahzadi’s shorts here.

Maryam Farahzadi
Maryam Farahzadi
The Role of Each Fret
The Role of Each Fret
The Role of Each Fret
The Role of Each Fret


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