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Directors to Watch - Q&A with Dornaz Hajiha

Wednesday 15 February 2017, by Abla Kandalaft

Dornaz is a filmmaker who graduated from the London Film School last year and was mentored by Iranian director Asghar Farhadi. She won a scholarship to LFS thanks to a scheme run by Magic of Persia. She’s currently working on her first feature film...

Can you tell me a bit more about your background as a filmmaker?

I started a film course taught by the famous Iranian filmmaker Bahram Beyzayi, actually. The class was theoretical and we focused mostly on the philosophical elements of cinema. After that, I began taking classes with Asghar Farhadi (Iranian filmmaker, director of A Separation). This was more practical, since we had to actually make films. I was lucky that he was busy with A Separation. It gave me more time to work on more films and then have him critique them. I made my first short in that class and it won a prize in The Image of The Year film festival.

How and why did you decide to study at LFS?

I got a phone call from Negar Skandarfar who is the manager of an Iranian institute that supports students wishing to study in film schools abroad. She told me that a company called Magic of Persia was organising a competition for filmmakers to win a scholarship for LFS and she wanted to send me to compete. It took almost one year to apply for the competition, but finally I was the lucky enough to win the Magic of Persia scholarship. That’s how I got to study at LFS, which was very good opportunity. I’ve directed 4 films, edited 3 and DOPed 2 at LFS, as well as generally helping out as part of other film crews.

Where you keen on learning about or developing specific skills as a filmmaker or did you start out wanting to try everything out?

Since the beginning, I knew I wanted to be a writer/director. But I wanted to train in a school that would allow me to try everything out, because I knew that if I want to be a good filmmaker, I should know exactly what other jobs in film are like. This way I can communicate better with my crew on my own set.

Are you interested in writing your own stories? Or directing someone
else’s script?

Definitely, I prefer to direct my own stories. This way I can live with my characters. Sometimes I even write some notes for my pre-production or main production while I’m writing the script.

What films and filmmakers have inspired you?

It’s always hard to answer this question because I don’t want to categorise my taste in films since it could limit me, but I could say I’m a fan of Michael Haneke, Billy Wilder, Asghar Farhadi, Lars von Trier and many other filmmakers. Force Majeure and Wild Tales were the films that have inspired me and that I still recommend to everyone.

What were your next steps after graduation?

I can say making my feature is my next goal. I’ve been working on my feature script for almost a year. It took me a long time to be sure of the story I wanted to tell but I’m finally working on it.

What tips would you have for people considering training as film directors?

I would say properly see things around you everywhere instead of just looking. I guess this way you are practicing film-making every second.

You can watch Dornas’s short at LFS here and find out more about her filmography on her IMDB page.

Any message or comments?


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