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LAFF 2015 Women Directors: Meet Negin Farsad – ‘3rd Street Blackout’

LAFF 2015 Women Directors: Meet Negin Farsad - '3rd Street Blackout'

Negin Farsad is an Iranian-American comedienne and
filmmaker. In addition to being selected as a TEDFellow, Farsad was named
one of the 50 Funniest Women by the Huffington Post and one of Good Magazine’s
GOOD 100 for her work in social-justice comedy. She has written for PBS’ “1001 nights,” MTV’s “Detox” and IFCNews. She directed and wrote for
Comedy Central’s “Watch List” and has appeared on Comedy Central’s “The Nightly
Show with Larry Wilmore.” She has written and developed shows for LogoTV and Nickelodeon and
written and appeared on various shows for WNYC, BBC and MSNBC. 

Farsad is
also the director and producer of “Nerdcore Rising,” starring
Weird Al Yankovic and MC Frontalot. She is the director and producer of
“The Muslims Are Coming!” starring Jon Stewart, Lewis Black, Janeane Garofalo,
David Cross and herself. Her first book is scheduled for release in the
2015/2016 season through Grand Central Publishing, a division of Hachette. Like most comedians, she started her career off as a Cornell- and Columbia-educated policy adviser for the City of New York. (Press materials) 

Farsad co-wrote and co-directed “3rd Street Blackout” with Jeremy Redleaf. The film will premiere at the 2015 Los Angeles Film Festival on June 13.

W&H: Please
give us your description of the film playing.

NF: “3rd Street Blackout” is a comedy about an
internet-savvy couple set during the blackout after Hurricane Sandy in NYC. Without
power, they are forced to deal with the absence of technology, a flailing
relationship and the trappings of an analogue world. And we ask the big
question: How far would you go to deliver a note during a blackout?

W&H: What
drew you to this story?

NF: I lived through this hurricane and had a romantic
“episode” once the blackout hit. I also live on 3rd Street and play a
character who is a TEDFellow, and I actually am a TEDFellow, so we stole from real life. What I loved about the blackout was that I suddenly met
my neighbors and had to make eye contact with my boyfriend for
an extended period of time. I couldn’t just ignore people and look at
my phone. 

Blacked out, half of Manhattan seemed to come alive — it was as if
we were all seeing each other for the first time. We wanted to capture that
feeling because, to be honest, it was a lot better than regular life.

W&H: What
was the biggest challenge in making the film?

NF: The boring but true answer is money — you never have
enough, so everything gets bootstrapped to death! But everyone on the team and I learned not only how to be better filmmakers because of it but better
janitors, better drivers and better negotiators with cops who wanted to shut us
down. You have to get creative.

W&H: What
do you want people to think about when they are leaving the theatre?

NF: I want them to think about their relations — how much do
you actually talk to people versus text or email them? Do you know your
neighbors? Do you care for them? Are you a real part of your community? 

I also want them to think, “Holy
shit, I just saw an Iranian-American Muslim woman as the lead in a rom-com and
everyone’s still okay!” We wanted to portray NYC and its spectrum of race,
class and creed the way it really is, and I hope this movie does a good job of
doing that.

W&H: What
advice do you have for other female directors?

NF: That voice in your head that says, “I’m not ready to
take this on, maybe next year?” — tell that voice to shut the fuck up!
Tell that voice to swallow a bunch of poop! That voice is an idiot. That voice
doesn’t know its tits from its elbows! In fact, that voice has no tits or
elbows because it’s an imaginary, completely made up voice in your head, and it
must go. You’re ready, so just go for it. 

W&H: What’s
the biggest misconception about you and your work?

NF: My first film, “Nerdcore Rising,” was all about nerds who
rap, so everyone thought I was all about nerd content. My last movie, “The Muslims Are Coming!,” was a
comedic look at Islamophobia, so everyone thought
all I do is “Muslim stuff.” That label has been harder to shake.

I think it’s really easy to pigeonhole directors, especially
female ones, because people are trying to make sense of them like they’re one-hit wonders: “Yeah, she can make a Muslim thing, but can she do anything
else?” I think proving that I can handle mainstream rom-coms just as well as
anything “Muslim” has been the toughest misconception to deal with.

W&H: How
did you get your film funded? Share some insights into how you got the film made.

NF: We basically raised money through investors who are
friends and friends of friends. We found a really devoted and talented core group
and together we raised the money. For my last film, I raised a portion of the
budget, about $50,000, on Kickstarter, so that was a valuable tool. But it was
the right kind of movie that had a clear call to action. I don’t think
crowdsourcing is right for every film.

W&H: Name
your favorite woman-directed film and why.

NF: “Me and You and Everyone We Know” by Miranda
July. It had such a specific voice, and she was unafraid of making it
unmistakably hers. Plus, there was a healthy dose of poop jokes in it, so you can’t
beat that! Now I’ve mentioned poop twice in one interview.

I think that movie
really made me want to make independent narratives. Her next film, “Future,” did
the same. And Miranda, if you’re reading this, I want to be your best
friend — not in a stalkery way, well, maybe in a slightly stalkery way. 

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