1. Please tell us about your background and what inspired you to become a filmmaker?
Well, I believe one of the strangest jobs every created is filmmaking. I may be interested in various jobs like working as a waiter, selling fruits, breeding fish, etc. but working in the film industry is what I truly love most of all. As a child, I was fascinated by all the attractions of the film industry and to keep up with the Joneses, I was simply attracted to this magnet, but during my middle school years, I realized that I would certainly be working in the film industry when I grow up.
I had written and put up my favorite field of study on the wall and was desperate to get there.
I occasionally review my list of the favorite things in life and always come to the conclusion that I love the film industry the most, despite all the hardships and bitterness involved and I think it deserves the most stars.
2. Please tell us about the films you have made so far and specially “Delete”?
I have made eight films from 1999 so far. Due to my own personal perspective and the conditions of the film industry, my earliest works had certain weaknesses that are very empowering for me. When I look back, I realize that my latest works have had fewer mistakes than my earlier ones. “Akbar, For God’s Sake, Don’t Die Before Me!”, “Please Stay Away from the Red Line”, ”Minus” and “Delete” are my latest works which I assume are more commendable and more intense.
Fortunately, most of these films were well received by the audience in Iran and other countries – something which was very heartwarming for me.
For example, “Minus” won the award for the Best Experimental Film in national and international sections of Tehran International Short Film Festival. The following year, “Delete” won the award for the Best Experimental Film as well as the Audience Award for the Best Film, in Tehran International Short Film Festival.
I have also presented my films in many international film festivals, but unfortunately they do not get very far and stay within the borders of our own country because their themes are not indigenous or related to the Iranian culture. Experimenting in the realm of fantasy tends to make you compete with the international standards of filmmaking. To tell you the truth, at a global scale, my films are no match to the other films and can only be viewed as films with good ideas.
Obviously films that to a large extent depict the Iranian culture – like the documentaries on social issues – are more successful in international levels and therefore in the limelight. As the saying goes, the more a film is indigenous, the stronger it is received at the international level! If you plan to break these rules, then you should have a unique form and context in the film which will surprise everyone, just like the works of “Christopher Nolan” or “Mr. Burton”.
3. How did you come up with the idea of Delete?
I set a meeting with my former professor and great instructor, “Mr. Saeid Aghighi” and asked his help for writing the script of my new film. Considering that I believe limitations inspire creativity, I talked to him about my restrictions so as to approach my premise. For example, I wanted my new story to be told in one single place at a short time and without any dialog. I didn’t want the film to depend on a long list of crew and a very high budget. I wanted an abstract atmosphere, full of fantasy and imagination. I wanted my film to include numerous visual effects. I was also looking for a surprise ending that would startle the viewer and catch him off guard.
“Mr. Aghighi” raised the original premise for “Delete”. Accordingly, I wrote the script of the film with his help. It is about a young man who goes through the experience of deleting his life. Interestingly, he has all the restrictions that I mentioned above!
4. How challenging was the making of Delete?
I don’t think anybody would be interested in the difficulties of making a short film because these are common difficulties that every director experiences in one way or another. Still, they are an inseparable part of our profession as directors.
When I wanted to make “Delete”, I had difficulties providing the required budget. State institutions refused to support a film with an abstract theme. They wasted my time as usual and kept me waiting for a reply which eventually turned out to be a “No”.
I eventually obtained the cash I needed through loans. The money was enough to only support production costs, which meant no wages for the crew. That’s why I had no choice but to appeal to my friends and ask for their help. Finally, I was able to finish “Delete” with the very warm support of my friends in the very cold weather of that time.
5. How did you go about casting your film?
I was looking for an actor who would look crazy but would at the same time be able to work with Photoshop. In fact the story of the film required such a character with these capabilities. But most importantly, I wanted this crazy guy to have long hair who would then be able to cut his hair – or better said to “Delete” his hair – at the end of the film. None of the actors who had long hair were willing to cut their hair for a few shots of a short film. On the other hand, due to our limited budget, we could not use visual effects or make-up expertise to create the effect we had in mind.
The actor who was eventually picked had beautiful, long hair but to my bad luck, his hair was so sacred to him that he broke the news to us from the very start and said he’s certainly not willing to have a haircut. Eventually, I had absolutely no choice but to “Delete” this part from my script even though I loved it so much!
I should mention that “Mohammad Abbasi” – the actor of this film – is a very friendly and loving person. He patiently responded positively to all my requests during filming days. Although the weather was freezing cold, with the snowy wind outside, he was wearing an undershirt, shivering but still performing. By the way, thanks again, Mohammad!
6. Who are your favorite filmmakers?
I never wanted to have a favorite film director. You see, I was always afraid of admiring someone and then being attached to his/her viewpoint. I prefer to sit in front of the TV like a good boy and watch all the different perspectives carefully and objectively and in the end do my own thing.
Still, I have lots of favorite films. For example, I think “Pulp Fiction” is an extraordinary film. Films like “The Dark Knight”, “Amelie”, “Fight Club”, “Requiem for a Dream”, “Edward Scissorhands”, “Mary and Max”, “The Elephant Man”, “Amores Perros”, “Run Lola Run”, “Leon”, “Dancer in the Dark”, “American Beauty” and … have stunned me.
After watching these films, I usually stay silent for hours and gaze at a distant point. Some directors have really set my pulse racing. They include “Roman Polanski”, “Tim Burton”, “Stanley Kubrick” and “Woody Allen”. I believe their works are mind-blowing masterpieces.
7. What are your plans for your future as a filmmaker?
I want to continue my career as a filmmaker in the future. I want to read the books I have purchased as soon as I can. I want to walk in the streets and look carefully at the people around me because they make up the building blocks of my films. I want to focus more on words and script writing principles instead of watching too many films. I would like to experience other jobs like working as a blacksmith, a guard, a baker, a shepherd, a barber, a mechanic or a delivery man. I would like to learn a foreign language. I also would like to spend some time alone in a distant place and have a cattle of sheep and a few hens and roosters. I’d love to read plays under the mulberry tree.
I would like to work in a fast-food restaurant for a while, or a drug store or a lab where they make glasses. I want to make friends with the many customers who sometimes tend to ask senseless questions. I would like to attend more funerals or weddings. And when a friend gets sick and goes to hospital or a mental asylum, I want to go and see him in that situation immediately.
I want to travel a lot and know what is going on in the bald heads of the Buddhist monks. I want to work out in fitness clubs and listen to the type of language the youth use to talk to each other and the type of diet they recommend to one another. Yes, these are my plans for the future.
I am currently working on the plot of my first feature film and I don’t want to be hurried into making it. I’ll keep it to myself until I’m sure about its production. I would rather wait until the right time comes when I clearly know what I want. I don’t intend to simply make a film and then talk about it myself.
As “Victor Hugo” once said, “All the forces in the world are not so powerful as an idea whose time has come.”