When you start your career, everyone encourages you to a point that makes it look so easy to reach your goals overnight and sometimes that can be really disappointing. It’s a long hard path but if you understand the nature of it, you’re not going to be disappointed as you’ll realize this needs a lot of work and it’s gonna take years to get there but eventually when you reach it, it will all be worth it.
As a part of our series about “Filmmakers Making A Social Impact” I had the pleasure of interviewing Farbod Khoshtinat.
Director Farbod Khoshtinat is an LA based Iranian Director. Farbod has worked on variety of short films such A Persian Affair, Love, Fear and feature films that have screened at Sundance Film Festival and Cannes Film Festival. His award-winning short film about democracy in Iran has screened in venues such as United Nations, Director’s Guild of America and MPAA and was personally awarded by US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton.
Thank you so much for doing this interview with us! Before we dive in, our readers would love to get to know you a bit. Can you share your “backstory” that brought you to this career?
In my teenage days back in Iran, I happened to be a part of the group that pioneered the Iranian Underground art, from music to murals. I was that 90s kid with a handycam all the time, documenting the movement… Eventually some of my content got attention and film makers took notice of me. They reached out to me for collaborations and through that, I entered the world of filmmaking.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that occurred to you in the course of your filmmaking career?
Early in my career, I visited a movie set of a friend who was directing a movie played by Monica Belluci. He introduced me to her and told her how passionate I am about film making. She asked me to come closer, took my hand and pretended to read my palm like a fortune teller. She then looked at me in the eyes and told me that I will make a film in 10 years that will change the world, with a charming humor of course. We all smiled but I was low key really inspired by that. I told myself, I better make this future happen.
Who are some of the most interesting people you have interacted with? What was that like? Do you have any stories?
Throughout the course of my career I was lucky enough to meet with outstanding characters from politicians like Hillary Clinton to artists like Snoop Dogg and even comedians like Jon Stewart. Having a chance to meet these inspiring people and be around their energy makes you witness their genius, and understand that it didn’t really happen to them overnight. They worked hard at what they’re doing, they are truly passionate about it and they’ve sacrificed and dedicated their life to their causes. It really inspires you to remove any doubts about your dedication to your own cause.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
I love to explore different ideas in my work and for the next one I’ll be talking about the concept of faith in the modern era and whether it still has a place in our society. I will also explore agnosticism, which I believe needs to be talked more about but it is rarely discussed.
As for my day job I work as a design director on a lot of Hollywood marketing campaigns, these past couple of months I was blessed enough to be working on some of the upcoming Marvel universe projects which their title I can’t yet disclose.
Which people in history inspire you the most? Why?
I am mostly inspired by leaders and visionaries who dedicate their life to their cause. Not just an individual but more like a collection of lessons I learned from each of them, from Gandhi to Lincoln.
Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview, how are you using your success to bring goodness to the world? Can you share with us the meaningful or exciting social impact causes you are working on right now?
In my film I tried to make the case that homophobia is not something that you’re born with, but it is something that is taught to a child by the society, culture or family.
Children are so pure and full of love up until we teach them to hate. I wanted to explore this nature of adolescence and how easily a child’s character can be shaped by the ugliness of the adult’s world. When a child is about to find his/her own identity, that is a very fragile state and we have to be really mindful of our parenting. If we shame them for who they are, they will go on to forever shame themselves.
Many of us have ideas, dreams, and passions, but never manifest it. But you did. Was there an “Aha Moment” that made you decide that you were actually going to step up and take for this cause? What was that final trigger?
When I want to make a film I have to ask myself what is the reason for this film’s existence? Is it adding anything to the conversation? In my recent short film “Two Little Boys” I focused on the subject of homophobia. Growing up in Iran in a country that is famously homophobic I had a certain experience and a certain point of view that I believe has something new to add to the conversation. That made it a duty for me to share it.
Can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your cause?
Although I believe my main target audience for this project are the parents, most of the feedback I got were from people who connected to the film as victims of bad parenting, it somehow had a cathartic effect on them realizing how oppressed they were as children trying to conform to their parent’s homophobic views.
Are there three things that individuals, society or the government can do to support you in this effort?
I am an immigrant in US, and I consider myself a part of the society here. I consider it a duty to contribute as much as I can and I have a lot to offer. Coming from a land far away, I’ve traveled a lot and I have a lot of stories to tell, new perspective to bring and making films gives me the tool to be able to do that. So, I think the voice of an immigrant is really important but on the other hand, it is much harder for an immigrant to raise his/her voice, there are lots of barriers for us. It’s harder to get funding, to assemble a crew, to rent equipments when you have a “weird foreign accent” so I think It’s really important to understand and support the new comers with their cause and message as behind all the language and cultural barriers we are all human deep inside, yearning to connect with each other.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
-When you start your career, everyone encourages you to a point that makes it look so easy to reach your goals overnight and sometimes that can be really disappointing. It’s a long hard path but if you understand the nature of it, you’re not going to be disappointed as you’ll realize this needs a lot of work and it’s gonna take years to get there but eventually when you reach it, it will all be worth it.
-When you start the path of film making, no matter how much you read or educate yourself about it theoretically, you’ll never be really ready for the set. Most of the filmmaking is about experiences, about doing it and failing it and doing it again. There is really no way around it.
-You have to trust your instincts more than imitating others people’s work. Every time I tried to imitate a shot from for example a David Fincher’s film, it really turned out terrible. But all the decisions I spontaneously and unconsciously made turned out to be something unique that a lot of people can connect to.
-People are full of advices; they all have certain way of approaching filmmaking. Blindly following these advises will do nothing but to confuse you. Truth is that nobody really knows what they’re doing, they are just guessing. Don’t bet on their guess, bet on yours. Take every advice with a grain of salt.
-I wish someone would have told me how fun and awesome film making is so I would have started it way earlier in my life.
If you could tell other young people one thing about why they should consider making a positive impact on our environment or society, like you, what would you tell them?
First phase is to find your voice and what you are really passionate about. Second comes the phase where you express it and join the conversation. It is our natural duty to work at aiming to better our overall experience as human beings, whether it is human rights, our environment or many other causes. I believe true happiness comes from fulfilling this natural duty.
We are very blessed that many other Social Impact Heroes read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, whom you would like to collaborate with, and why? He or she might see this. 🙂
I would love to work with GLAAD or any LGBTQ institution that can support our message and our film. I think it is very important that as many people as possibly watch this film and hear its message. That’s why we need the support of these institutions to help us bring exposure to our cause.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
You are all you have in life. Throughout our path too many things will try to conform you to whom you really are not. From family to society and many other elements that would make you feel like you don’t belong if you have different point of views or way of life. Choose your own path, find your own truth and follow your dreams no matter what anyone might say. At the end of the day, you are all you have in life.
How can our readers follow you online?
This was great, thank you so much for sharing your story and doing this with us. We wish you continued success!