EIL: Everything I've Learned

Naz Riahi on Pursuing Your Dream During a Pandemic

January 26, 2021 Mark Armstrong Season 1 Episode 1
Naz Riahi on Pursuing Your Dream During a Pandemic
EIL: Everything I've Learned
More Info
EIL: Everything I've Learned
Naz Riahi on Pursuing Your Dream During a Pandemic
Jan 26, 2021 Season 1 Episode 1
Mark Armstrong

I first discovered Naz Riahi’s work through her essays at Longreads, about growing up in Iran and moving to the United States. In 2020, with her consulting work on hold due to COVID-19, she decided to pursue her dream by writing and directing a short film. “Sincerely, Erik” is a beautiful love letter to New York City, about a bookseller seeking connection with his customers while his store was closed. The film was chosen as a Staff Pick at Vimeo and was a winner at its Best of the Year Awards. Riahi has followed up with another short film, “Andros in the City,” and she’s currently fundraising to make her third film. (If you want to support her work, she asks that you share her films with your friends. You can also find her on Venmo: @nazriahi.)

Get updates from EIL: https://markarms.com/newsletter/
EIL on Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/EIL

Music by Mark Armstrong and timmoor/pixabay

Support the Show.

Show Notes Transcript

I first discovered Naz Riahi’s work through her essays at Longreads, about growing up in Iran and moving to the United States. In 2020, with her consulting work on hold due to COVID-19, she decided to pursue her dream by writing and directing a short film. “Sincerely, Erik” is a beautiful love letter to New York City, about a bookseller seeking connection with his customers while his store was closed. The film was chosen as a Staff Pick at Vimeo and was a winner at its Best of the Year Awards. Riahi has followed up with another short film, “Andros in the City,” and she’s currently fundraising to make her third film. (If you want to support her work, she asks that you share her films with your friends. You can also find her on Venmo: @nazriahi.)

Get updates from EIL: https://markarms.com/newsletter/
EIL on Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/EIL

Music by Mark Armstrong and timmoor/pixabay

Support the Show.

Everything I’ve Learned: Episode 1, Naz Riahi  

Naz Riahi: I thought why not just try the thing that I actually have always wanted to do? What do I have to lose at this point?  

Mark Armstrong: Hi, everyone. This is Everything I've Learned, a new podcast. I'm Mark Armstrong, founder of Longreads. I've been busy working on a new project, and along the way, I've been having a lot of great conversations with interesting and creative people. So I figured why not just record a few of those and share them with you?

So that's what I'm going to do. What I wanted to focus on with this podcast is turning points in people's lives. Lessons, mistakes, and other moments that made people who they are or inspired them to take a creative or professional risk.

If you like what you hear, you can support the show by going to patreon.com/EIL.

I also think it would be a lot of fun to have a co-host for this. So if you know anyone who'd be great, get in touch. But for now let's get started.  

My first conversation is with Naz Riahi, she's a writer whose work I first discovered through her essays at Longreads about growing up in Iran and eventually moving with her family to the United States. 

During the pandemic, she decided to take a big leap and start making her own short films. So the spring she recruited some friends and made a film called Sincerely, Erik.The film was a love letter to New York city at a moment when the city was getting the hardest hit by the pandemic. 

It's a beautiful story about a bookseller writing letters to his customers, just as the store was shut down

(Film clip)

Mark: Naz, it's great to have you here. 

Naz: Thank you so much for having me. 

Mark: When did you first decide you wanted to make films?

Naz: There were different moments in that journey of wanting to make films. I grew up watching a lot of films with my family. And I come from a family of artists.

My aunt is a writer and a painter. My grandfather was one of Iran's most famous poets, contemporary poets, and, film was always something that was watched and discussed in our family. Even when I was growing up in Iran and it was really difficult to get films from the West, we had to get films on the black market because they were illegal. And so when I would watch films, I always thought that's what I want to do as a child. And for me at the time, that meant that I had to be in a film. I thought that was the only way a film was made. I had no context or understanding. It was, I was very young of really how a film was made.

And then when I was around 12 years old at that point, my mom and I had moved to the States, my cousin, who had come when she was much younger and was my guide in America, helping me with understanding the culture, but also with the language. I remember both of my cousins, their sisters would drill me for hours.

To help me pronounce the T-H sound correctly. I had this cousin Clara who was very cool and I really looked up to her. She was a few years older than me, and she was the first person to tell me what a director did. I thought, Oh my god, that's such a fantastic, amazing thing.

I remember exactly where I was. I was in the house and about to get into my mom's car and go to Loehmann's, which was my mom's favorite store to go to. It was like a retail discount designer shop in a suburb of Seattle where we had immigrated to. So anyway, I got in the car and I thought, Oh my god, that's such an amazing thing.

I want to be a director. But then, from that moment on, becoming a director felt absolutely impossible.  

I would dream up all of these films in my mind, and I would grab the video recorder that we had and try to make them, but I had no idea how to actually do it. And there was nobody around me who had ever done it.

There was nobody that I saw who was famous, who was like me, who was Iranian, who was even really a woman. I thought, filmmakers were all men. And so that dream, and also the fact that I grew up in an immigrant family and I wasn't immigrant paired with the reality that I had to support myself, sort of made me be very pragmatic when it came to my art. I knew that I wanted to write, but I went to journalism school because being a creative writer seemed ridiculous. So what was the job a writer could have? It was being a journalist and the film thing disappeared for a really long time.

Eventually I moved to New York and I went to grad school. I got an MFA in creative writing, which was a very risky thing for me to do at that point. And really up until a few years ago, my mom kept still asking me to just go to school and become a lawyer because that seemed like appropriate lucrative career for someone like me.

So I went to grad school and I got an MFA in creative writing. And decided that I would pursue writing as much as I could. And, I wrote a lot of short fiction. I submitted a lot of short fiction and along the way in all of those years, every once in a while I would think, Oh, I really want to be a filmmaker.

I really want to be at, make a film. But it really didn't still, it didn't seem possible. I just didn't know how someone like me could make a film. And fast forward to this year when the pandemic happened and I had been talking about this and talking about this and talking about this. And finally, I had a conversation with a friend of mine, I think in April. So we were still in lockdown and she and I were talking and she, and my friend said, this is something you've always wanted to do. Why don't you just do it? And I thought, you know what, she's right. I'm just going to do it.

Mark: What about the pandemic pushed that dream forward for you?

Naz: At the moment when the pandemic happened… I've had a lot of failure in my life. I am someone who tries everything and fails at most of it. And. There are a lot of different reasons for that. Some of it is that it's inevitable and it just happens. And some of it is the circumstances of the world in which I'm a creative person. 

So for example, I wrote a memoir a few years ago that I was really proud of and pieces of it have been published including in Longreads. Everyone who had read pieces of it had thought, Oh, this book is going to sell and it's going to sell really well.

And I sent the book out. I had a big agent, she sent the book out to 28 editors. And almost all of them said, this book is either too Iranian or not Iranian enough. And that was devastating for me because it's the thing that I had always wanted to do. I'd spent years working on this book. I knew that it was good.

I know that I'm a good writer. I knew that I had a story to tell, but as an Iranian woman, I was limited by the people who had the power to give me that opportunity. By their prejudice. I was limited by their prejudice and to sustain myself over the last few years, I've had numerous careers, mostly in marketing and advertising.

I left a creative agency about six years ago and became a full-time consultant and launched a startup. And all of it was to facilitate some kind of a life so that I could pursue the creative things that I really was passionate about.

But really none of it was working for me. I didn't like advertising. I didn't like pitching clients. It was really hard for me to to thrive in that environment, even though I I'm quite good at the work. And so when the pandemic happened, it just so happened that I lost all of my clients.

And at first I freaked out and I was really devastated because I had some really cool fashion clients and beauty clients. And I was doing really interesting work for them, even though it wasn't the thing that ultimately I wanted to do with my life. And when I lost those clients, I spent probably a couple of weeks thinking, how am I going to get new clients?

What are the sort of sectors I should go after? How should I position myself? And then after I had that conversation with my friend Monica in which she said, you should just do this thing you've always wanted to do. I realized that I've been doing the things that I don't really want to do for so long.

And it's just never quite worked. I've gotten really close. Bitten, my startup, was written up in a lot of great publications. Because of it, I was invited to the White House. Because of that, I wrote an essay that President Obama responded to. So I had all of these almosts in my life. But nothing was clicking exactly the way that it should.

And in reflecting back on it, I think it might've been because if it had clicked, if I had become a really, really, successful -- and by that, I mean, financially successful -- consultant, I would never have tried making a film because the money would have just held, held me back. I would have been tied to the money that I was bringing in, but because everything else wasn't working, I thought why not just try the thing that I actually have always wanted to do?

What do I have to lose at this point? 

Mark: Yeah. I feel like I've heard many of these similar stories where this moment has really clarified for a lot of people, the things that they want to be doing going forward, and because things are so up in the air, it's created a little window of opportunity to.

Naz: Yeah. And I think, it does also, I do reflect often on who has the permission to do what. There are plenty of people who are able to do creative work, to dream and to pursue it because they have the means to do it. And that's the frustrating injustice of all of this.

It's not because talent is concentrated within a certain group of people necessarily. It's just that those people have a chance to try. They have a chance to try, they have a chance to fail. They have the means by which, they can. And so they do often earlier, also.

Mark: We talked earlier about those gatekeepers and about not wanting to continue to serve those gatekeepers. How did you navigate that with the film? 

Naz: I shot the first short film, Sincerely, Erik, at the end of May 2020. So about four to six weeks later.

And one of the things I decided was that I was just going to release the film on Vimeo. So a lot of the way that short films are are done and released all films feature and short films is that filmmakers try to get them into the festival circuit for a year before they're released.

to me, I just saw gatekeepers everywhere again. And I thought I don't need to follow those rules. There is not a lot that I can gain from being in the festival circuit with the short film, except that there's a system in place that makes money off of people submitting their films to those festivals that has told filmmakers that this is what you need to do, because this is where the important people come and where the important people are.

And I have a very heightened sensitivity to that now. Is that true? Or do we just think it's true because this is what we've been told and certain people have given themselves, that kind of esteem. And so I didn't even really think twice about it. I put the film on Vimeo and I just started to promote it and it started to take off in a way that I really hadn't expected.

I thought maybe. Maybe like 200, 300 people would view the film at most. And at this point between Vimeo and IG TV, because I also put it on Instagram, the full film, which most people don't do, it's had about 24,000 views or more. And it was Vimeo Staff Pick, which is incredible.

It's very hard to get those. And it was nominated for a Vimeo Best of the Year Award and really the feedback from the audience who has seen it has been extraordinary. So just as a test, I decided to also submit to some festivals that allowed you to screen online and in conjunction with submitting to them, which a lot of film festivals don't do, which is also another really silly thing for a short film in particular.

And the film has been rejected from every festival I've sent it to. 

Mark: Well, tell me a little bit, tell me about Sincerely, Erik, tell me about the film. 

Naz: Sure. So Sincerely, Erik is a narrative short film that was written and directed by me. And it's about a lonely bookseller navigating pandemic isolation in the early days of social distancing and stay at home in New York City.

And the reason I made that film was because there, there was the practical side of me which this is not like the dream or sexy side, which is that I knew that I had very limited resources. The film was made with just me and a DP, my friend, Alec Cohen on-set, and Alec has not even a professional DP, he's a director and an editor, but he had equipment and he said, Sure, I'll help you out. And the only actor in the film is my friend, Erik DuRon, who is the owner of Left Bank Books in New York City with an appearance by my friend, Monica. And I wrote the film again with those resources in mind.

So I knew that I had the opportunity to use Eric's store, which is a really stunning store in the West Village because it was closed due to the pandemic. Otherwise I would have had to rent it out for a day and I didn't have. I had zero budget for this film. Same with his apartment. His apartment is so incredible.

It's designed as a set decorator designed that apartment to be that character's apartment. And so I wrote the character based on Erik's real-life personality, because he's not a professional actor inspired by a series of conversations that he and I were having about our isolation and loneliness as single people who were living alone at a time when everybody was being told to stay away from each other.

 That's how the film came to be. We shot it in two days at the end of May and the beginning of June in New York City and I'm really proud of the way it captured the city, because there were so many exaggerated accounts of what was happening in New York.

And a lot of the films that were coming out about New York at that time were very cliche -- just shuttered-up stores and boarded-up buildings and empty amusement parks and so on and so forth. And I really wanted to stay away from that. 

Mark: It really is such a, a wonderful love letter to New York. It made me miss New York so much. But also the making of the film and the way you have worked with some friends and collaborators. And I feel like that's also a very New York thing, which is the ability to tap into a creative community of friends and collaborate with each other.  What did they say when you, talked to them about this. 

Naz: It really felt like making a zine in a way. I don't know if that makes any sense, but I, I grew up in sort of the music and literary world and zines were the things that I loved when I was in high school, and you live in Seattle and, I grew up in that area going to the Bauhaus on Capitol Hill and smoking cigarettes and writing poetry. And so this felt like an extension of my youth in that way. And also working with friends the way that it was done, very DIY and lo-fi intentionally, I mean, the look of it, it's very intentional. So working with my friends was amazing. None of us were, Monica and I were very close, but she really was on set for only a few hours.

But Erik, Alec, and I were not super close friends. We were mostly acquaintances at that point. And our friendship deepened in a way that was just so beautiful and extraordinary. And we became a complete unit and a family for the two days that we were shooting. And they were very, film days are long.

One was a 12-hour day, and one was a 16-hour day. And they really both feel like brothers to me. And that was one of the most wonderful things to come out of that experience. 

Mark: Now Erik is not actually a trained actor -- did it take some sort of some negotiating or talking into in terms of him being the central character?

Naz: A little bit, Erik has taken a few acting classes and I just knew he would be good in front of the camera. And again, I wrote to my resources, so I wrote that character to be as much like Erik, even though the character is a lot like me as well, but I wrote it to be as much like the real Erik as possible.

And I did the same thing with the second film. Erik is in the second film and the star of the second film is my friend, Andros Zins-Browne, who's a dancer and choreographer. And I wrote that character to be as much Andros as possible and both Andros and Erik in the respect of films had moments when they came to me.

And they said I wouldn't do this. And that was when I had to say, Oh yeah, yeah. But your character is doing this. You're not doing that. And what's amazing to me is that I know a lot of people have been messaging Erik saying, Oh, I love the letters you write. And I think that's. I think that's so funny.

There's I feel like I've done my job well, and that people really think he's a bookseller who writes those letters. And then there's a part of me. That's what are you talking about? I wrote those letters. You love the letters I wrote.

Mark: So how did that differ? How does the writing of these films differ from the previous writing you've done. 

Naz: I think in a way it's a continuation of the previous writing that I've done. So my writing style is very sparse and curt, it's re it's also rhythmic, but it's hard to describe your own work.

You probably know better because you've read my work, but I have, I have a rhythm I'm I try to use as few words as possible. I I again, as I want it to be as sparse as possible and the same sort of tone and aesthetic carried over to the writing of the films. In fact, when I was going back and editing Andros and the City, the second film, I kept thinking, Oh, I wish I could take out some of the words.

Mark: Is there a collaborative aspect to it too? When in terms of writing and then having others present it versus something that is coming straight from you onto the page, and then maybe through an editor but being published. 

Naz: So there is a little bit of a collaborative aspect. Mostly in that again, I was working with non-actors and so I wanted them to be completely comfortable in the dialogue.

So when I wrote the film, I both the films, I sent it out to both of them. And I said, I want you to go through all the dialogue and rewrite any words that don't feel [00:19:00] natural. To what would feel natural for you to say, to still convey, that point. And so that made it a little bit, and there wasn't a lot of instances when they did that, but they both did take me up on it and do it a little bit.

And so that really I think helped them be able to carry out these characters. 

Mark: That's great. And so you mentioned Andros in the City, which is another lovely film.  Tell me a little bit about that film and how that came together. 

Naz: Sure. So after I initially had, not planned a second or third film when I made Sincerely, Erik, but. Once I made it, and when I saw the reaction  of basically everyone who saw it and got in touch with me, I realized that there was an opportunity to make a pandemic trilogy. And I don't want to actually, I have to come up with a better title for it because I don't want to call it the pandemic trilogy, but there were specific feelings that  everyone was experiencing at this moment. And they felt, I think a lot of people felt that they were experiencing those feelings in isolation. And I wanted to show that wasn't happening in isolation. And so I knew once Sincerely, Erik was out, I knew I wanted to make a second and a third film.

And so Andros in the City. I'm someone who goes to a lot of live performance. I have a lot of friends who write and direct and perform in theater and dance. And I knew that the world had collapsed in a way that they never anticipated. And so I kind of wanted to convey I wanted to use that story to convey.

Convey a little bit of hope, but also show the difficulty of that moment. And that's how the story formed for Andros in the City. And then once I wrote it, I realized that what I'm trying to do with these films, especially because they both have a male protagonists and really only men in them is except for briefly, Monica is that I really want to show gentleness in men and between men.

And that's what I try to do with Andros in the City. More consciously than I had with Sincerely, Erik.

Mark: Yeah, it's wonderful. And Andros in the City is now also on Vimeo. And so people can pull that up as well. And so you said there is a third film that you're working on already. 

Naz: Yes. So the third film is about the feeling of so the first film was about isolation.

The second film was about performance and hope. And the third film is about madness and I'm working on the script and hoping to fundraise for that. Both of these films, the first film was done with really the tiniest. Most non-existent budget possible. Everybody volunteered their time and helped me out, including my editor, Kelly Lyon, who is a really successful editor.

And she's a good friend of mine. And she edited the first film for free for me, which is incredible. The second film,I raised a little bit of money through a little crowdfunding thing that I did. Through friends and family and raised raised enough to pay everyone who was involved with it, but did not raise enough to run the film through a sound mix, sound edit, or color, which I'm fine with color because the, again, the look of it is really really intentional.

And I wanted a haziness of it. The film is really dreamy and I think the look conveys that dream. And so with the third film, while I'm going to stick to the style and aesthetic because it's very much, it's very much me and an intentional, I would like to have some more resources and hopefully raise more money so that I can have a sound person and a makeup artist on set.

As well as a few other key people like a grip and and run it through proper post-production because I really want each film to show both an evolution and also challenge myself with each one. 

Mark: And if people watch the film and want to support fundraising for the next one, how can they support your work?

Naz: Oh, thanks for asking. So I basically am asking I'm selling an essay of mine that is unpublished, but I designed a PDF of it. That is a chapter from my unpublished book for $25 or more, and people can Venmo me @nazriahi and just mark the Venmo private and include their email address and I will send them a thank you and include them in any future screenings of any of the films, including the next one. 

Mark: That's great. To go back to the beginning of a seed of an idea -- what is your writing process like? 

Naz: I realized that I write mostly in my head, so I'll spend weeks thinking about something on and off. And then when I finally sit down to write it it's very quick. Short films, I can write within a day.

I just wrote a TV pilot, and that was written in about three days, the first draft of it. Because I had been thinking about it for so long, that essay that I published in Longreads, Eating to America, I sat down and wrote in two hours and it didn't really, it, it didn't really change much from the original first draft that I had.

Mark: Your essays in Longreads were wonderful. One thing when you published one in March of this year, and that really it talked quite a bit about, the artists within your family, particularly your grandfather as well. How much does that family background of artists impact your willingness to take risks.

Naz: So I grew up in a house in which art was a very respectable thing to do. It was a very sort of, honorable and respectable thing to do. However that is juxtaposed against the fact that I immigrated to the U S with my mom and surviving and making money became the most important things for me to do, because that was what was very difficult for her.

And like I said, art was always a part of my life. A part of the discussion. My grandfather would have salons at his house were filmmakers and painters and actors and musicians would all come and listen to him, read poetry and discuss politics and arts. And I would sit in the corner and I would. When I was at their house in Tehran, I other apartment, I would listen to these conversations.

Sometimes they would ask me, I was probably around seven and eight at the time to recite one of his poems. I reciting poetry in Farsi is an art form. And I loved doing it when I was a child and I loved the attention. And so I knew that that's what I wanted my life to look like. It was just, how do I get there without any resources?

Kind of, of you know, working within an unjust and unfair system. 

Mark: And what advice would you give to those out there who are trying to, or struggling with a similar question in their own work and their own lives right now? What would be, what are some of the things you'd recommend for them? 

Naz: Everyone's circumstance is so unique. And I don't know that I have a broad piece of advice, but I know that for myself, I'm a very resilient person. And part of the reason I'm so resilient is because so many people have said no to me and I haven't given up and I've gotten, my, the first essay published in Longreads was the first essay I had published anywhere.

And that acceptance from Sari, the editor, came after many years of rejections of short stories of essays of poems and that. Knowing that despite the fact that no one was accepting the work that I still wanted to do this, that this was my passion and my love and what I wanted my life to be really helps me.

It's helped me with everything I've done. It's helped me be able to reach out to people without hesitating. It's helped me actually make a film when I had no idea how to do it. And it was really scary when I showed up on set that first day of shooting Sincerely, Erik, I was terrified. I thought, okay, they're all going to know all of them, Alec and Erik are going to know, I have no idea what I'm doing, and this could be horrible.

And that was a risk. It could be horrible but I did it. I, you have to give yourself a chance to see if you're, if you're any good at the thing that you want to do. And then I guess, I guess there are two pieces of advice, which are one of them is pretty common advice.

And that is that you have to keep working at the things that you want to be good at. I Worked for years at being a writer. I had this inherent talent and I know that I had that. And I know that it sounds weird to say that about yourself but it's true, there was this thing inside of me.

And it was almost outside of my control but it existed. But I still had to work. I had to write a lot of bad things. I had to learn how to write better things. I had to take advice from editors in order to be better. Then the final piece of advice is a piece of advice that, I recently received from an amazing an amazing director.

Her name is Nisha Ganatra. And she has directed tons of incredible TV shows and films, including her first film, right out of film school, which she made in the nineties called Chutney Popcorn, which is amazing. She told me that this was a piece of advice that she received from Nora Ephron, which was to ask for favors and not hold back your, the favors that you need, not hold back on, asking for them.

She said that that's something that particularly women do is that they think they can only ask for one favor. And so they save it for a very important favor, whereas men typically will ask for favors freely. And that makes all the difference. 

Mark: Yeah. That's great advice. How, along the way, there's going to be positive feedback and negative feedback. How do you prepare yourself or steel yourself against those who might not be giving you the right feedback at the right time for your progress?  

Naz: I don't know that I'm at a point right now in my life where I ask for much feedback, I'm especially not broadly asking for feedback.

My writing I don't ask for feedback on my writing, unless I'm really stuck on something. In which case there's really one person that I go to.  And she is someone I went to grad school with and I really trust her opinion, but I don't. I don't broadly ask for feedback. I don't need the reassurance and I don't need the help.

And obviously editors offer feedback and their feedback is really important, but that's, once your piece has been accepted, then in terms of the film the film is really a very collaborative process even in post-production. So yeah. I like, but again, I didn't want everyone's feedback because everyone is going to have a different piece of opinion and that is, not going to necessarily serve me well, with this film, as I was going through the editing process and getting the different cuts of the film from my editor, I would send those to Alec, my DP. Who's also a director and an editor. His feedback was really incredibly important to me, but I knew that that was a very specific person that I was asking a very specific thing of.

Mark: I think there's a second piece that I'm curious about, which is I know in my own life I'm, and I'm still learning this every day, which is the people that, you know, you can share your wildest ideas and dreams with and get the right sort of  positive encouragement and enforcement of versus those, you know, might sink it just be, even though they, it might be your best friend or that they might love you and care for you, but understanding who the people are, who are the right people to be sharing your ideas and dreams with. At the right times. How do you think about that? And you navigate that?

Naz: Anomaly. I know what you mean, but I am like, I don't care. No, absolutely. Like I really just found out. Two years ago that people have this thing called imposter syndrome. I was like, what are you talking about? Like, And so, so I, I, I really don't, I just accept that 99% of people are naysayers. 99% of people don't have the capacity to imagine anything other than what's already been done. And uh, so when I decide to do something  I don't need validation from anyone else on whether I'm making the right decision.

However, I do have friends like Monica, who I trust. And when I have a story idea, I talked to her about it because the conversation that she and I have around the characters around the plot really helped me better understand what I want to do and where I want to go. Because I respect her so much, or my friend from grad school who I send a pieces that I'm, I'm stuck with two, to that I've written 

Mark: That is such great advice. And I feel like I just need to put your recording on loop and I'll just  run it through my headphones every day. 

Naz: Yeah. If you ever need a little boost of you don't need to give a fuck about what anybody else thinks. Just call me. But, you know, the other, the other end of that, that is that I I'm a very empathetic person or I, I know that that's a very important thing, but when it comes to giving feedback, when someone asks, for my opinion, I don't hold back.

And that has been a mistake on my part because most people aren't like me and one thing that I've learned is that I am just not the person to give any new writer feedback on their writing because I don't want to crush their spirit. 

For the sake of this conversation, this is something that I think is, is really, really important. Having said that I'm not the best person to get feedback on creative writing specifically from I, I do not believe there is a limited amount of success in the world and opportunities in the world. And I think that particularly within the writing community people are, can be very jealous of each other's success and think that, Oh, if this person publishes something, that means that I'm not going to publish something.

And I really wish that writers in particular would. Get out of that because that's not served, it's not served our community well. So that said, I really do believe in helping each other out, introducing people to editors. When you know, someone is doing good work helping them elevate because it doesn't matter if at this moment they're more successful than me or in five days, if I'm more successful than them, that is something that keeps going up and down and changing constantly.

And there isn't a limited amount of that to go around. 

Mark: Yeah. It often feels like it can also be spending too much time on social media for my part, but it can all feel like a zero sum game when you're thinking about creative projects or what's out there. 

Naz: Yeah, absolutely.

Mark: I would love to hear more about after these films what your goals are and where you want to go.

Naz: Yeah. So my goal really is to be a working, working director. And I, so I've written a TV show pilot that hopefully we'll be going out for sale soon, I'm working on another TV show and a feature film, and I'm hoping for opportunities. To get into sort of the roster of directors who get hired to direct TV shows.

And there are lots of different ways of approaching this and I'm going at it from every possible angle. Hoping that one of them. Pays off sooner than later. I'm also looking for opportunities to be a staff writer on a TV show, I think any, and all of those things are going to ultimately lead me to that final place in which I direct, TV shows.

And I I make my own my own films and direct indie films and, better funded feature films. That's the goal. And then. In the near future, I have an essay coming out in the print issue of food and wine, and there may issues. I think that will be out in April on newsstands.

And I'm pretty excited about that. It's my first print essay, not my first print piece, but my first print essay. 

Mark: That's great. What is the process like for shopping a a TV pilot? 

Naz: I think it really I don't know that there's one way of doing it and I'm so new to the industry. In my case, I.

Lived briefly in a very funny apartment complex in LA. That was very much, you know, like one of those 1940s buildings with a courtyard in the middle. And yeah. The, the people who lived across hall from me um, this woman, Jessica and her husband, she was an improv person and really. Lovely and wonderful.

And they had a couple of little kids and she ended up becoming a pretty successful screenwriter. And that's what she does now. The people who lived a couple of doors down were the writer and director of Broad City. They ended up at the time they weren't, but like within a year a year they were, they ended up working with Abbi and Ilana on that show.

And then the man who lived right next door to me this guy, John was the one that I was closest to and he was a producer and then stepped away from it for a number of years and then came back and started relaunched his career last year as a producer. And. He, and I hadn't been in touch for a really long time, but then I made Sincerely, Erik and I sent it to him and we started talking and he loved the film so much.

And he asked me what else I was working on. And I told him that I'd written this pilot and he said, he'd like to read it. And so he loved it. It's a dramedy called Bad At Life. And it's. It's based on my own life. And he asked if he and his producing partner could help develop it with me.

And so right now it's he and I have gone through that process and the revision process based on the notes that the two of them gave me. And now it's out with agents. And once I signed with an agent, it needs to go through finding Talent. So basically it's very hard from what I understand to sell a TV show right now, without either a notable show runner or notable talent or director attached to it.

So you need one of those three things and the best way to get one of those three things is to work with an agent who has access and can get your show into those people's hands and get one of them excited. And so once you have a package of at least a showrunner. A director or a talent. And my show is based on any Iranian women woman.

And there aren't any actors who are famous enough for your audience that they would say show. Yeah. Hopefully there will be soon. Yeah. So I think for, in my case, I need a notable show runner or director to move it forward. 

Mark: That's interesting. Well, Best of luck. And I'm really excited to see that come together. 

This is, this has been such a wonderful conversation and I really appreciate you sharing that story because I think it is so important just about in terms of so many people turned away by gatekeepers or waiting for someone to tell them their work is valid or worthwhile.

And finding ways around that and your story and your, and how you've gone ahead and done that and doing what you want to do to follow your dream, I think is really important for people to hear that story. 

Naz: Thank you. I think so too. I mean, I want everyone to feel empowered to at least try.

Mark: Thanks again to Naz for taking part in this first conversation. And thank you for listening to this very first episode. If you like the podcast, give it a five-star review on Apple Podcasts. You can also support the production directly by going to patreon.com/EIL Thanks. And I'll see you soon.