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A Conversation With Sayna Fardaraghi

Based in London & Brighton, Sayna Fardaraghi is an award-winning British-Persian artist & filmmaker creating experimental short films, music videos, and fashion films.

Introduce yourself!

Hey hey! I’m a 22-year-old award-winning art director and filmmaker based in London & Brighton. I work mostly on experimental short films, fashion pieces, and music videos! I’m very inspired by themes of ephemera and everyday realism.

How and why did you become an art director and filmmaker? 

I was always in love with fine art and the different ways I can explore mediums to make something fresh, something new. Eventually, as time progressed, I began to look into video and film as a medium and absolutely fell in love with it. Ever since then, I’ve been consistently tying the two different ways of working together, and well, here I am!

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How do you come up with your concepts for your films? Walk us through your thought process.

Normally I have a concept down that I really love and want to explore. I also keep this whole sort of scrapbook of photographs I find really inspiring and begin to visualise and piece together a narrative or storyboard of sorts—then slowly begin to lace in more elements, whether that’s audio, dialogue, etc.

Where do you draw your inspiration from? Any creatives in general that you look up to? 

A lot of photographers and fashion filmmakers, Tyler Mitchell, Nadia Lee Cohen, and Adinah Dancyger, are big ones for me. It’s film outside of conventional narratives that really resonate with me and make the fine art side of my head *buzz* with those stunning, meaningful visuals.

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What has been your favorite project to create and why?

Probably “Waiting” so far, it was such a fun project that really pushed me and my team in terms of being resourceful and creative with the way we created the world for the film. Trying to make plants grow in an animated manner with no budget was tough, but the amount of testing and planning is what made it so fun.

I saw your short film, “Waiting” and I loved it very much. How did you come up with this concept, and what do the growing plants at the end of the short symbolize to you? 

I wanted to explore the theme of time for quite a while and decided to jump right into it when I had the opportunity!

The growing plants, to me, signify the amount of goodness and growth that comes with waiting. The day you plant the seed is not the day you eat the fruit. Trust the process!

What does a day on set look like for you? How is it like making art in such a collaborative way? 

For me, it’s a good mix of being hyper-organized but also having room for play and experimentation. I’m a very precise planner, so I have everything that I want to achieve and capture down to a T, but when that’s over, I allow enough room and time for me and my team to get creative and try things out! I often find that the things that come out of spontaneity on set are the things I end up keeping in my final project.

I can see that you focus a lot on the “little things” in life in your shorts. Is there a reason you want to highlight this theme? 

I think quite often we get lost in our own little worlds, to the point in which we feel like complete strangers and even almost alienated from each other—

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we seem to forget that we all share so much in common, whether that is in our little quirks or experiences growing up, and building that sort of grounding connection is so important to me. It’s very comforting.

The music on your short films feels very deliberate and purposeful. Do you decide on the soundtrack of your films, and if so, what does that process of choosing music look like for you? Do you have a favorite film score?

Absolutely, when I first started out, I’d always begin with a musical piece because it truly encapsulates the entire feel of what I’m trying to achieve. So nowadays, that same process is extremely vital. My favourite film score definitely has to be either 20th Century Women or Moonlight.

What is a movie that you always seem to go back to? What do you think makes a film memorable and worth rewatching? 

I think right now it’s 20th Century Women, but it’s always ever so changing depending on what I’m going through / what phase I am in my life.

To me, what makes a film memorable and truly worth it is the way it carries its message in order to really resonate with its audience. It’s what stays in your mind and is worth the countless rewatches. 

As a British Persian, how does your identity coincide with your work as a filmmaker? Such as choosing certain themes, picking a certain issue to highlight, etc.

I suppose, in a way, being from a different cultural background allows me to have a new perspective on things and inevitably have a fresh take on my surroundings/environments.

I’ll notice things that are culturally different on a bigger scale which is definitely interesting when it comes to creating art. In my early work, I used to explore themes surrounding my culture a little more.

I remember when I first started out, I did an animated video narrated by my mother, talking about life in Iran at the brink of the revolution. It was interesting and felt very personal; It would be nice to explore that again one day in my own work as I further develop. I haven’t seen a lot of content by Persian directors, and it’s good to be bigger than reach! 

What has been the biggest hurdle that you had to overcome in this creative industry? How has this tough year impacted the way you consume and make art? 

Honestly, the biggest hurdle was believing in myself and my worth as a creative. This year made me do a lot of reflecting, and graduating into a world full of uncertainty isn’t easy! But eventually, with the help of a great support system, I just decided to continue with the leap of faith and really believe in the worth of my work—after all, there’s a reason why I’m here right now, talking to you guys!

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There will always be someone out there that will enjoy your work, so believe in it, and it will shine through in the way others in the industry see you. You have nothing to worry about.

Do you have any advice for any future filmmakers that are trying to make it in this competitive industry?

I think it’s very important to stay true to yourself and be as authentic as possible. It’s what makes you stand out and draws people towards you.

Use whatever that you know outside of film that makes you different as your sort of “edge.” It provides such an interesting and fresh new take of things which is so needed in such a big industry!

Anything we can look forward to from you in the future? 

I’m currently working on a coming-of-age short told through a psychological horror lensIt’s a film that explores teenage anxieties, that feeling of not knowing what you want to do when you grow up and wanting to still be cushioned in the softness of childhood reality. It’s going to be shot on traditional film too! So expect something unnerving and equally beautiful. 

You can help us make it and watch the process here: https://greenlit.com/project/kindred


Based in London & Brighton, Sayna Fardaraghi is an award-winning British-Persian artist & filmmaker creating experimental short films, music videos, and fashion films. Though her work is quite diverse, she focuses mainly on the themes of nostalgia, ephemera, and trinkets of everyday lives that are often not looked upon.

Her recent work “Waiting” has won the Intel/Movidiam award for Best Director and best experimental student film at TIFF (Tatsuno), whilst grabbing the attention of renowned filmmakers such as Barry Jenkins and Nova Dando. She has additionally been interviewed by the BFI (British Film Institute) SCENE program, giving tips to young people looking to get into the world of film.

Previously having interned as a video editing assistant for Dazed Media, she is always searching for new ways to express her creativity and imagination in out-of-the-box manners. Alongside her professional works, she maintains an online presence where many of her works have gone viral, having her generate 15 million+views across platforms. 

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