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David Mahmoudieh: “People don’t fail, they quit”

Take your time, it’s a marathon not a sprint. I used to put immense pressure on myself to have achieved certain things or hit certain milestones by arbitrary deadlines I had plucked out of thin air, or based on other people’s timelines. I’ve since learnt that everyone’s path is different and if you focus too much […]

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Take your time, it’s a marathon not a sprint. 
I used to put immense pressure on myself to have achieved certain things or hit certain milestones by arbitrary deadlines I had plucked out of thin air, or based on other people’s timelines. I’ve since learnt that everyone’s path is different and if you focus too much on “when” you’ll overlook the most important factor: “how”. In our industry, it’s always better to do something right than do it fast.


I had the pleasure to interview David Mahmoudieh is an award-winning writer/director, born and raised in the UK but of Iranian origin. He has directed commercials for brands including Google, Lego, and Kia, as well as films starring Harvey Keitel, Neve Campbell and Corey Feldman. His short-to-feature film “Snake Dick” is currently playing at numerous Oscar-qualifying festivals worldwide.


Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit. Can you share your “backstory” that brought you to this career?

I’ve been a film fanatic since I was 5 years old, growing up on an eclectic mix of world cinema as well as the mainstream. I started out as Trainee AD (Assistant Director) learning the craft up-close and personal from some of the best directors in the business, so I was very fortunate in that regard. I then began writing treatments for music videos and commercials, which eventually led to me directing them. A few years ago I made the move into “narrative” (Film/TV) which is where I’ve always wanted to be, but still direct commercials in-between projects to stay busy.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that occurred to you in the course of your filmmaking career?

I had the pleasure of directing Harvey Keitel in a feature-film a few years back and we really hit it off. To this day he will call me from time to time and leave “prank” calls on my voicemail, then deny it was him when we eventually speak. But to me that just makes him even more of a legend.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?

In addition to developing “Snake Dick” into a feature, I’m attached to direct a super gritty Western called “Boone”, the true story of America’s first cannibal serial killer. I’m also the writer/director on the feature adaptation of an incredible graphic novel, “Worth”, for Roddenberry Entertainment (creators of Star Trek) which we’re currently casting and hope to shoot next year.

Who are some of the most interesting people you have interacted with? What was that like? Do you have any stories?

I’ve been really lucky to meet and work with so many amazing people, it’s difficult to say. I guess I would have to say actress Neve Campbell because she agreed to do my first short film when I was just starting out, purely because she liked my script. I was so humbled by that and it taught me to always judge a project on its merits, not where it came from. I actually owe her so much because I also met my wife through her, and we’ve since developed the same short-film we did together (“Rain”, the story of a young girl with an allergy to water) into a mini-series. Neve is seriously one of the most genuine and pure-hearted people alive. In terms of fun or geeky stories, I tried to cast actor James Hong in a project that ultimately didn’t work out due to scheduling conflicts, however he found out I was a huge fan of John Carpenter’s “Big Trouble In Little China”, where he played seminal villain David Lo Pan. So he spent our entire conversation nonchalantly slipping in numerous quotes from the movie… I felt like I was in heaven.

Which people in history inspire you the most? Why?

Wow, that’s a tough one… Joan of Arc, because she was just pure badass. Also Bruce Lee; he was fearless and had a vision that few but he were able to grasp until many years later. Martin Luther King is another, namely for his ability to inspire change so peacefully in the face of violence and hatred. I tend to have a special respect for anyone who was “ahead of their time” because predicting the future is one thing but cultivating its creation is a very special gift indeed.

We are very interested in diversity in the entertainment industry. Can you share three reasons with our readers about why you think it’s important to have diversity represented in film and television? How can that potentially affect our culture?

  1. The entertainment industry is predicated on great storytelling, and some of the best stories are from cultures and perspectives we might otherwise never explore.
  2. Stereotypes don’t type themselves; fresh voices different from our own ensure we’re not all being brainwashed into one way of thinking or the subjectivity of the few.
  3. Life is art and art is life. If we want to build a better, more inclusive world off-screen, we need to do so on-screen too.

Diversity is crucial to a harmonious society where differences are not seen as threatening, but rather a way to understand the world is greater than the sum of its parts — including ourselves.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Hmmm. Outside the obvious of curing world hunger, I would get all money out of politics. That way people’s interests would actually be represented instead of being used as bargaining chips to the highest-bidding lobbyists. It may sound simple but the effects would be life-changing for so many.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

  1. Take your time, it’s a marathon not a sprint. 
    I used to put immense pressure on myself to have achieved certain things or hit certain milestones by arbitrary deadlines I had plucked out of thin air, or based on other people’s timelines. I’ve since learnt that everyone’s path is different and if you focus too much on “when” you’ll overlook the most important factor: “how”. In our industry, it’s always better to do something right than do it fast.
  2. Until you’ve failed, you can’t truly succeed.
    I used to live in constant fear of “failing”, as if it would be a death sentence for my career. Then when I finally did “fail” on a project it made me a much better filmmaker, because it not only brought me back down to earth but it made me realize that you can’t grow if the only way is down. You might think you’re an expert at something but until you’ve been humbled, you’ll never accept that you have more to learn, and always will.
  3. Every idea has been done before. Get over it.
    When I was first starting out I would practically hold my breath in the movie theater during the trailers, terrified I would see anything even remotely similar to whatever script or idea I was working on at that time. I wasted so much energy worrying about not being “original” or having my ideas “stolen”, not understanding that everything — in some form — has been done before. What makes ideas unique are our new interpretations of them, therefore every story can be told an endless amount of times if the voice behind it is sincere.
  4. Find your opportunities, because they’ll rarely find you.
    I used to hate the whole social media thing, or going to industry events, “playing the game” so to speak. Then I started seeing many of my friends getting great opportunities because they were “in the right place at the right time”. Only “the right time” had nothing to do with it — simply, they were putting themselves out there and allowing their work to be seen, whereas I was too anxious to do so, choosing to re-write and re-edit and even re-shoot until everything was perfect. But I’ve learned that perfectionism is a curse more than it is a gift. Nothing will ever be perfect; we live in a world designed around the laws of imperfection, where expediency is vital to opportunity. So by all means take your time and ensure you’re putting your best foot forward, but don’t expect anyone to find what you’re unwilling to put in front of them.
  5. Pizza is bad. Because it tastes so damn good, how else was I supposed to know?!

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this. 🙂

The showrunners of Cobra Kai. The original Karate Kid movie is sacred ground to me and I need to geek out with those guys (and preferably direct an episode or two).

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“People don’t fail, they quit.” I’ve always lived by this ever since I first heard it. That, and “Be excellent to each other.” Because Bill & Ted bloody well said so, okay?

How can our readers follow you online?

I try to be active on Instagram (@darvood) or via my website (www.alphawolves.tv).

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