Advertisements

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.
Screen Shot 2014-12-01 at 4.36.36 PM

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.

lavshf

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.

Screen Shot 2014-12-01 at 5.00.08 PM

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.

Screen Shot 2014-12-01 at 5.00.55 PM

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.

A #Persian Thanksgiving

Persian Thanksgiving: (noun), a glorified mehmooni, under the guise of an American holiday.

When you arrive, there are two social groups: 

1) Everyone under 35

2) Everyone important.

source: makeagif
source: makeagif

There’s a feeling of dread because there’s always a few people you’d rather not see..ever. 

source: giphy
source: giphy

In the beginning,on an empty stomach, small talk is hard. 

uneasybigboy

But after some ghormeh sabzi, everyone is BFFs. 

source: giphy
source: giphy

Party starts at 2, a.k.a 3:30, a.k.a 5. 

winstonlol
source: giphy

So basically you’re fasting.

source: reactiongifs
source: reactiongifs

There’s always some older Persian woman in the food line making small talk with you, while you’re just like..

source: tumblr
source: tumblr

Even the stretchiest pants in the world can’t prepare you for this feast.

Screen Shot 2014-11-27 at 1.05.03 PM
source: instagram, saaghi_joon

Even when you tell yourself to stop, you realize you can steal some extra Tadig and it’s extra crispy today.

emalol
source: giphy

No one actually cares about the Turkey, and that’s kind of sad. 

source: giphy
source: giphy

You lose count of how many drinks you’ve had. Persian Tea drinks, that is.  

persian tea

Leaving is the hardest part. As in, it’s physically hard to get up and leave and smile and say “Khodahafez” to everyone. 

source: giphy
source: giphy

Just make sure your pants are zipped. 

source: giphy
source: giphy

& finally, Happy Thanksgiving.

Manly Nose Monday

For this edition of #ManlyNoseMonday we have some nose-y Iranian and non-Iranian actors.

But have you ever seen a manlier nose than this? Guess who it belongs to.

source: celebstoner

source: celebstoner

(Revealed at the end.)

Amir Arison

tall, dark and schnozzy. Loving it.

source: zimbio

source: zimbio

Bahram Radan

Jesus never looked so good.

source: flixster

source: flixster

 

Haaz Sleiman

Screen Shot 2014-07-07 at 4.48.41 PM

 

Liam Neeson

liam nee

Arian Moayed

source: NBC

source: NBC

And finally, if you didn’t guess before, that nose belongs to..

OWEN WILSON

owen wilson

What other actors would you add?

An Excerpt: The Street of Good Fortune

An excerpt from Author Maryam Manteghi’s memoir, The Street of Good Fortune

sarajevo

Though hair does grow back, ovaries do not. I didn’t cry when the surgeon told me I had cancer. Mostly because I was in shock but also perhaps deep down I somehow sensed not so much that I was sick, more that I was about to face a test unlike any I had before.

I didn’t cry when my boyfriend of five years, the younger Man-Boy I planned to marry, broke up with me over the phone the night before I started chemo.

I didn’t even cry when I realized that I was not going back to my Sarajevo, the only place in the world I’d ever felt truly at home, not for a very long time. I did cry, though, when Dr. Verma explained that the chemo I would receive might leave me unable to have children.

I fell into his arms and sobbed uncontrollably till I couldn’t breathe.

and Dr. Verma’s white coat had my bodily fluids all over it. He didn’t move until I stopped crying. My reaction, I think, surprised me more than anyone else. Suddenly, all the things that I had taken for granted would simply happen were being snatched away from me.

I suddenly felt like I was being punished for not having the foresight to plan a normal life.

An ordinary life that in a split second had become extraordinary. The same kind of life that I escaped when I left in 2002 on a one-way flight to Sarajevo. The same life that I was so relieved not to be living when I saw my friends tied to houses, children, nannies, minivans, and the mundane everydayness of suburban life.

Until now.

Punished for having made different choices than my peers. Punished for living a life where I never thought about mortgages and families and job security. Sitting there sobbing on Dr. Verma’s white lab coat, I wondered why I had never thought about those things.

How had I missed entire chunks of life that had occupied my friends during the last five years?

What was I doing when they were all getting engaged, buying houses and planning babies?

How was it that I had never, until this day, sitting in a Sunnybrook Hospital examination room in Toronto, seriously concerned myself with the business of family and children?

It wasn’t that I didn’t want children or a family, it was just that I always thought that marriage and children simply happened to people and that they would simply just happen to me too at some faraway point. And even though this thought was at the back of my mind. The front of my mind had always been occupied with more current events. Like today, or tomorrow or, at most, next week.

My immediate reaction was to blame my parents.

Why didn’t they tell me? Why didn’t they, like normal immigrant families, become alarmed when their only daughter wasn’t married at 30? Why didn’t they nag me about being grandparents or put out a public call to our substantial network of friends, family and acquaintances to drum up some suitable men? Where was the team of middle-aged women in my community whose job it was to make matches?

I mean I was an IRANIAN. Hello?

Matchmakers, setups, Yenta characters straight out of Fiddler on the Roof. How had I fallen through the cracks?

Check out Maryam’s book by clicking here!

Riding Unicorns

I recently happened to watch the romantic comedy, Guess Who for the first time when the following scene ensued.

“Would you open your mind, Percy Jones? Dante is a metrosexual.”

“A what?”

“He’s a straight man with taste.”

“No such thing. You might as well tell me he rode over here on a unicorn.”

I suppose most people watching the film took the scene lightly. Yet it got me thinking:

how many times do we insult or comment on personality traits of other people using sexuality and gender references?

At some point, we have all partook or grown accustomed to some comment to a man exclaiming, “don’t be a little bitch” or “you’re a pussy.”

Worse still, I have heard women in conversation complain that their potential dates had been “too gay.” Nobody knows just exactly what that means, but most guesses usually include quite a delusional perception of how men and women should “naturally” act.

And so it is really important to consider the real meaning behind these comments. First of all, no decent woman should accept that her anatomy becomes a tool of insult.

Being a woman is NOT an insult. [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

[Read more…]

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

[Read more…]

That’s My Heritage, Bitch

Hey joonies,

I’m going to do things a little differently tonight.  On S&F, we talk a lot about sex… and fessenjoon– because who doesn’t love both of them?  Especially together…

But it’s time for things to get a little serious.  Especially now that Shahs of Sunset is airing for the world to see…. no comment.

Yes, you definitely represent the Iranian American community…

Not to get all deep on you, but I think we’ve all dealt with some type of hate at some point in our lives.  Especially at such a pivotal time where war is one of the main issues discussed everyday. Or even think back to a decade ago when 9/11 happened.  All Middle Easterners were grouped into one category: Terrorists.

Nice, thank you.    

I grew up in a small town that was predominately White.  And they just didn’t know any better because they’d never been exposed to anything foreign.  So I was used to being the token Persian girl and I dealt with haters as they came.  But not always well… responding to people like this is never effective or smart:

“You’re right, my family flies planes… so watch your fucking mouth.”  

This just promotes the stigma that we’re violent and that’s not okay.

I moved away to the Persian capital of America for college: Hello Los Angeles.

[Read more…]

%d bloggers like this: