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Kaveh Taherian: Regular Dude, Extraordinary Stories

Meet Kaveh Taherian, Iranian-American filmmaker and the director behind 25 Prospect Street, “a documentary about empowering adults with disabilities through love of the cinematic experience”.  He has his very own page on IMDb and his resume includes some character design for The Simpsons and Producer of 20 Years of Madness – which just got announced as part of the 2015 lineup for the Slamdance Film Festival. But at the root of it, he’s just a regular dude who tells some extraordinary stories. 

Read the interview below, and donate to the 25 Prospect Street campaign here.
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Tell me a little about your background.

I’m full Iranian, my mom is from Tehran and Dad is from Gamsar. They came here in 1975, to Michigan. They came with the intention of returning, but then became these ‘reluctant Americans’, as I like to call it.

I was born in the Bay Area in Redwood City, then lived in Connecticut and France before coming back to the Bay Area.

I always drew, since I was a kid. I went to Laguna College of Art + Design, to study illustration, so my background is really rooted in illustration and art. I decided to come down to LA about six years ago and applied to grad school. I went to USC for a Master’s in film.

Why did you switch from illustration to film?

When I got out of college, I wanted to do character design, but it’s a very technical job. I chased it for a bit, and then realized I wanted to write the story behind the characters.

What have you been up to since film school?

Assistant Director (for films) work is my bread and butter. Having ADD and OCD is ideal for that position, you have to be gregarious when you’re making all the logistical decisions for a crew to follow.

I think the average life span for an AD is in their 50’s, because it’s so stressful.

I keep myself creatively occupied with a project that originally started as my Master’s thesis.

It’s the story of my uncle who was a pilot in the Navy of Iran, he joined during Shah’s time and stayed on after the Revolution. He gave less mind to the ideology because he believed ‘my job is to protect the people of Iran’. He stayed and fought in the Iran-Iraq war, but soon the ideology became too much for him and he decided to leave.

How he escaped: he and his co-pilot stole one of helicopters from the Iranian Navy, and eventually made their way to America.

What’s the story called?

I titled it ‘I’ll Fly Away’ after a Southern church song, because I thought it framed it perfectly. It’s rooted in Western themes, relatable to Americans, and it’s about redemption and escape. My uncle’s approach was always very sincere and matter of fact about his experience.

It doesn’t marginalize Middle Easterners, he’s just a regular dude put in these extraordinary circumstances.

Media should be about people. “I’ll Fly Away” is an American story, an immigrant story.

Where do you draw inspiration for your work?

Routine is extremely important to me, and if I don’t follow my routine I go crazy. I have a structured time that I just write, read random crap on the internet, and let my mind wander.

I think every story is rooted in something about yourself that you don’t understand, and you want to figure out further. I used to write essays for fun, and the one rule for myself was that it had to be horridly embarrassing for me to write about.

You’ve worked on documentaries, including the current one on 25 Prospect Street – why documentaries?

I never thought I’d be doing documentaries. I fell into it by accident, and then realized that I really loved it. It’s not necessarily a long term career goal. There’s something accessible and low maintenance about it.

It’s a lot more forgivable as a medium too, and its a lot more content than polish.

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For my Lavashak documentary: I had just gotten the camera so I decided to go film my grandmother as she made some Lavashak.

Tell me about 25 Prospect Street?

Ridgefield, Connecticut is a town I went to elementary school in. I heard from a friend’s dad about the Prospector Theatre. It’s a first-run theatre and also a nonprofit, that employs adults with disabilities – giving them different jobs and job coaches. And disabilities is a broad term, and that’s the rabbit hole that I’ve been going down… The revenue of the theatre funds their job coaches and all the operating costs, including staff.

What they’re learning to do is to become socialized. Somebody is in their 30’s and 40’s, and they’ve never had that opportunity to engage with people. Now they have a job and an opportunity.

The documentary part for me is not about the technical side, its more about how amazing it is to see people progress and see them get better at their jobs and personal life.

Rachel is a young woman in her mid 20’s on the spectrum and until recently she had been living at home without any real promise of being able to live independently. Since becoming a member of the Prospector team, she now lives completely on her own in a one-bedroom apartment. From what I understand, that was something her mother assumed was an impossibility, so it’s actually quite a big deal that she’s able to hold down a job and provide for herself on a very basic level.

It’s a story that people should see.

Why Ridgefield?

Valerie Jensen, (the founder of Prospector Theatre) lives in Ridgefield, and is a staunch advocate for disability rights. This is something she wanted to do and did it right in her own backyard.

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And it’s very startup-like. When we think about it, how many men run start ups? And to see a woman who is so smart and running this theatre… it’s something special.

What’s the status on 25 Prospect Street?

It opened unofficially back in August, since the theatre itself had to be built. Val decided to purchase the property and it’s been reappropriated, and made into something bigger and better than before.

It’s a huge experiment, we need to have a fair amount of time before we open the doors and let the masses in.

We started filming in June, then we made another trip in September, and another trip up until just a few days ago. We’ll be making another trip in January.

It’s a full on tracking documentary (one month, three month, six month, and one year after) to see if this idea is even sustainable.

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Why this story?

If I hadn’t lived in Ridgefield, I don’t think I would’ve had the propensity to it. I lived there, 1985-1995, and I didn’t necessarily have the best time there. I had this negative association, so I wondered how is this little town doing something progressive?

My original interest was being oh I’ve gotten the shit beaten out of me there for my name being weird, and then to come see this project that’s so progressive and the passion behind it – something surprising. Los Angeles is a lot of ego, and there’s not a lot of people who are doing stuff like this.

The reason I knew i could do this, is because people with disabilities are marginalized, just like Middle easterners.

You want to create a third archetype and show people there’s more to it than their stereotypes.

Three things you value most in life?

Punctuality, Sincerity, and I guess…creativity, let’s just be generic with this one.

Where was your first job?

Jamba Juice.

I love my Persian mom becauseoy. She is supportive to a fault.

How do you like your Fessenjoon?

It’s not my favorite one, my jam is Gheymeh. Over rice …standing over the sink.

I know I’ve made it ifI’ve paid off my master’s (seed) debt. I’m debt-free.

DONATE TO THE INDIEGOGO CAMPAIGN FOR 25 PROSPECT STREET HERE.

Interview with the Creators of Forty Days of Dating

Meet Jessica. Your not-so-average graphic design bad-ass who has a knack for falling for guys too quickly. Really, her issues with relationships are something we can all relate to. Imagining a future with someone only to find yourself without them down the road

Meet Timothy. Another graphic design extraordinaire living in the streets of New York – but unlike Jessica, Timothy’s relationship problems result in a steady stream of women. Depending on how you look at it, not really a problem – until you realize you want something more. 

jessicaandtimothy

[Read more…]

FAMOUS FARRAH: Love, Family, and the Internet

When ‘Famous Farrah’ started popping up around the web, I knew I had to learn more. Some girl with my name is FAMOUS? Who is this? Imagine my surprise when this totally bad ass Iranian American, Kathreen Khavari, came up on YouTube starring in a hilarious web-series. I started watching and immediately, I found myself clicking to the next episode. The worst part about this show is having to wait for the next one. Seriously, I couldn’t get enough.   

Famous Farrah has a unique take on a story that many of us are familiar with – pursuing your dreams despite what obstacles stand in your way. Kathreen and the rest of the cast have truly nailed it on the head with this one and we’re so excited to share this interview with you. Introducing Kathreen, talented, smart, and the lead on the show! Make sure you check out the episodes below too – SO EFFING FUNNY.

xo, Farrah 

– Where did you grow up? 

I was born and raised in Oakland, California. I went to college in that area for undergrad and went to London for graduate school. I left again when I moved to New York.

– What was living in London like? 

It was absolutely amazing. It’s one of my favorite cities in the world. It’s just really cosmopolitan and there are so many great, interesting people that are living there. It’s expensive and I was on a budget the whole time, but it was totally worth it.

kat

[Read more…]

Ari Melo: Make the Girls Say Hello

I interviewed Ari Melo about a year after I had started listening to him, and the first thing I wanted to tell him was “Thanks for helping me stay on the treadmill longer with your song “Breakaway” . Its just one of those tracks that you want to keep listening to, because every few seconds it takes you for a different ride. And all his tracks (see below) are available for a free download because he’s just that generous with the eargasms.

Ari Melo, also known as Arian, is a pretty mellow (random as he calls himself) guy. He loves his sister,  can speak computer code — and counts dancing as one of his favorite things to do. 

Overall, he’s one of those guys you meet and know that even when he makes it big, he’ll still shimmy at the Persian mehmoonis.

xx, Saaghi
ari melo wall

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Amir, of Bia2.com: Music, Rules, and Culture Shocks

I had the wonderful opportunity of interviewing Amir, the founder of Bia2.com, who is also a personal role model of mine because of his creativity, pioneership, and (as I’ve come to observe) great manners.  I remember being 13 and discovering Bia2.com, and frantically downloading all the Mp3s I could get my hands on because I was afraid it would shut down, and I’d lose the access to my Iranian-ness that it had granted me. But not only has Bia2 not shut down, its grown in popularity and thanks to Amir and his team, it is now a source for quality Iranian media and entertainment.

I know many people of all ages turn to Bia2.com for not only music, but a little piece of heritage, culture, and home — as was the case with me. A lone Iranian teenager growing up in the suburbs of New Jersey, dancing to Black Cats in front of the mirror.

And while Amir is extremely modest, I think this interview is an ode to his journey: of something that grew from a hobby to a career, and a website that does more than post music.

xx,

Saaghi

bia2

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Afsoon: You Are The Tomato to My Kabob

We wanted to do something special for Norooz this year and when we saw Golreezan’s designs, we knew we had to give the designer some eshgh. The talented and creative Afsoon Talai – if you haven’t sent your custom-made Norooz/Tavalod cards yet, then you are clearly missing out. She’s a graphic designer extraordinaire – truly talented and we’re especially digging this Norooz card she made personally for SexandFessenjoon

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We are excited to see what’s in store for Golreezan and Afsoon.  We hope you enjoy her interview and beautiful designs! Happy Norooz! 

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Mitra Sumara: What does it mean to be Iranian?

Joonies,

I love every single interview we get to do. But with each one, I’ve walked in with some sort of background on ‘who’ and listened to the story of ‘how.’ With Yvette Perez, the founding member of Mitra Sumara, I didn’t know ‘who’ ‘how’ or ‘why’, and by the end of the interview, I felt like I had taken so much away from the experience that I forgot why I had even asked questions in the first place. Her answers brought to mind so many more questions about culture, identity and the idea of “being.”  What does it mean to be Iranian? And how do you decide who gets to “claim it”?

There’s so much to take in with Yvette’s story, and her relationship to Music and Iran. 

She is a bit of everything, but I’d love for her to claim her Iranian culture– because she is doing greater things with it than you can even imagine!

xx,

Saaghi

MITRA SUMARA in action

MITRA SUMARA in action

– So I have to say, when I saw your name -Yvette Perez- I was a bit confused. Tell me about yourself:

I’m half-Iranian, my other half is a mix of North European, American Indian. I was adopted by American parents, who divorced when I was 2. My mother remarried a Mexican, so she gave me his name– and so I grew up with the Spanish surname.

– And where’d you grow up?

I grew up in Carson, a suburb of LA. It was kinda odd growing up there… large Chicano, Black, and Filipino population. My neighborhood was predominantly first-generation, so ethnicity was important. And I really felt like an outsider… My hair was frizzy and I didn’t look like anybody else at school.

– Many of us with cultural conflicts experience some sort of ‘identity crisis.’  How do you think yours was similar/different?

Well it was peculiar being in school when the Revolution happened, kids would taunt me, and my mother at home would tell me “don’t tell anyone you’re Iranian.” And I’d think– but that’s what I am?

So, while I knew I was Iranian, I didn’t really know what that meant.

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My mother did not explore the culture much. I had discovered these old Persian records from the library, and I remember the one time I brought them home, she danced around the house, making fun of it. It was mortifying!

I found my birth mother when I was in college, and she gave me my father’s name (who is from Tehran). I found him a few years ago and we’ve built a strong relationship since then. I have found that my father and I are alike in spirit and some personality characteristics despite that fact that I didn’t grow up with him. Whenever we are together and notice these synchronicities –  it’s amazing. A true testament to the strength of one’s roots and genetic background.

In terms of my ethnic background; I feel that I’m in disguise. If I didn’t grow up with the culture, how can I claim it as mine? [Read more…]

Ipaneema Goes For 10 Hours

Hi.

This is Ipaneema.

If his name sounds familiar, its because we interviewed him awhile back…when he liked bitches who didn’t text back. Now he likes bitches who use emojis.

He makes music he loves.

Like this track, a remix of The Fray’s You Found Me. What do you get when you add Reggae + Dubstep + Electronic, and dashes of Justin Timberlake?

Eargasms. (Download, for multiple eargasms)

One time when Ipaneema was DJing in Santa Barbara…

Can you find the Persian?

Can you find the Persian?

After 10 hours straight, he fell asleep on the turntables…

#dedication

#dedication

Last time, I raved about his rack city mix, this time his new sounds are RETRO– 1980’s Disco song “FunkyTown” will never be the same.

This is a song they’d play at a modern day Studio 54.  I mean, hot disco pants have already made a comeback, right?

Ipaneema, Take us to Funkytown.

hit download

Wanna keep up with the Neemz? Like him on Facebook

Wanna hear more?  Sounds here on Soundcloud

Wanna date him? Write him @IpaneemaMusic

XX,

THE S&F TEAM

Jimmy Vestvood, Love Doctor

Joons –

We are still coming off from our Thanksgiving high and trying to work off all that additional weight we gained stuffing our faces with turkey and fessenjoon. We’re hoping you’re in better shape than we are. As a result, we’re trying to shake off that fessenjoon-goodness by letting someone else take the spotlight tonight.

We’ve had the opportunity to interview some amazing people – from bad asses Ashley Momtaheni and Nima Pourahmadi to rockstar IPANEEMA. So imagine our delight, when Comedian Maz Jobrani agreed to not just an interview — but to giving us some love advice. It sounds crazy — why would S&F need love advice? But you would be surprised…

To be honest, we were a little hesitant at first… What can Maz tell us that we don’t already know? Follow your heart? Bla bla bla. So we decided to investigate and we knew we found the right person for the job when we saw this:

INTRODUCING: JIMMY VESTVOOD.

Maz Jobrani 2.0 — a combination of Maz Jobrani’s comedic swagger, our Persian dads, and all around love guru.

Plus Jimmy’s an Amerikan hero — can you get any sexier than that?

Enjoy!

– Dear Jimmy,

My entire dating history consists of dating Iranian guys. It’s what my parents approve of – it’s the only “race” they will ever allow me to marry into. But lately, I’ve really been into guys outside of my culture. White guys, black guys … the forbidden fruit. I’ve just met this great black guy that I really want to date, but I’m too afraid my parents will never approve of him! What do I do? How do I get my parents to see things from my perspective?

Dees eez a question dat come up all de time in dees day and age. Az you know ve leev in a very melting pot, but I say…

Vhy only try tadeegh from de pot vhen you can have chow mein, black beans, red bens or even deep fried vhite fish. [Read more…]

Tehran: I Have Pride Coming Out The Ass

When my little brother found out I was going to be interviewing Tehran SoParvaz for S&F, he immediately freaked out on the phone and texted me a picture of Tehran to have him sign it (because you can autograph picture texts?).  He said, “Omg Farrah, Tehran is SO COOL and his Farsi is even better than yours.”  

And for once, my brother was right, not only is Tehran intelligent, witty, and straight-up hilarious, he was personable.  I’m pretty much jealous of his amazing Farsi skills.  Talking to him felt like I was catching up with an old friend.  That’s just how you have to be when you’re a personality like Tehran- you have to get people to like you right off the bat and I’m certain that Tehran has no problem doing that. I’ll be honest, it’s hard to be an Iranian these days, and Tehran’s pride for his Iranian and his black heritage is so clearly evident in the way he carries himself and in what he does for a living – it’s inspiring.  We could all learn a thing or two — like Tehran says, we should all have pride coming out of our ass.

So a big thank you to Tehran for being a total bad-ass and for taking the time to talk to us.  And because I was too shy to say anything in Farsi on the phone, “Tehran jooooon, kheyli bahali – key miay khastegari?” 

xo,

Farrah

S&F LOVES TEHRAN SOPARVAZ.

Tehran SoParvaz

– Tell me about yourself…

I was born and raised in D.C.  I love D.C.- it’s my home city.  I went to college and graduate school in D.C.  I still call D.C. my home even though I’m on the road more than I am in D.C. – but that’s why you’ll always catch me with a D.C. hat- D.C. REPRESENT.

My dad is Persian and my mom is black.  My D.C. heritage goes all the way back – my parents are D.C. native.  My mom is a lawyer over at HUD who fights against gentrification in the district.  I did my undergrad and graduate school at George Mason University and I went to Georgetown Law for law school.  I didn’t take the BAR after law school – I have a Master’s in Economics and did a double major in my undergrad in International Politics and Communications.

– What do you do?  How did you get started? 

I host shows – I have a show on BET, I hosted Lil Wayne’s tour that finished about six months ago.  I also hosted a tour for Rick Ross.  I host shows, comedians and I’m just a entertainer in general – a personality – that’s what I prefer.

I used to throw a lot of events- parties and concerts.  It was just a natural onset of being in that environment.

– What was a pivotal moment for you when you were hosting? 

My favorite moment: You know those big Persian concerts that happen in Vegas every Christmas? I hosted the Vegas concert.  The first year I ever did it was four years ago – they put me on stage and I hosted the entire two days.  It was a stellar job, an amazing concert – the energy, the vibe – I’d never been to the Vegas concert before and it was amazing.  I don’t really have a natural fear of speaking in front of people.  Everyone thought I had prepared what I was going to say while I was hosting, but when I went on stage, I just spoke whatever came to my mind.

It felt like a movie.

[Read more…]

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