Day 8: Sometimes I Dream in Farsi

May 2, 2018

I had another emotional day. It started with being interviewed for David Gardner's podcast. I really didn't expect to be emotional. David was asking about the past films, and it was all hunky-dory. We talked about how I blend realities sometimes, so that it becomes easier to distinguish what's real in every day life sort of like a Zen koan or Sufi poetry.

"In Sufism, there's this idea that if you can get underneath the seven layers of meaning in a poem, the student can wear the rust from their minds," I said. "I suppose the films' hope to do the same."

 

Then we got into how I came over to America and what it was like. David asked about my father and how his approach was so unique.

 

"Yeah," I said. "He was big on me gaining my independence. He'd let me get lost in stores and watch me from afar. He'd see me cry a bit, and then figure things out."

 

"That's amazing," David said.

 

Then he got into the barbershop incident and how he was helping his kids learn to communicate with one another and how to deal with things on the field when he's coaching their sports teams. That's when I lost it, because I thought about talking to these kids about how to deal with racism, and, I don't know, it just really got me. I was imagining me talking to them and how it'd be really healing -- and I saw myself as that nine year old in my head -- and I lost it for a bit.

 

"Pirooz, are you there?" David asked.

 

"I'm sorry, David," I said and let out a sob. "I'm just getting emotional."

 

That's when we started in on male aggressive behavior and how men are never expected to be vulnerable or sensitive by our father's generation and how that was completely normal.

 

"We've got to bottle all that up," I said, "And then you end up with what we have now, where I've kept all these feelings inside for so long, until the waterworks start at the drop of a hat. I'm like Robert Deniro in Analyze This. I could watch an insurance commercial and start crying."

 

David agreed. He mentioned how virtual platforms keep us from having a sense of intimacy, and that got me on the problems with chasing fame and success, because it's antithetical to being in touch with the creativity you need to cultivate. That it was inconsequential to art's process itself.

I'm not sure where we went after that. I remember talking about creativity and Picasso, and how my films were more like paintings, where mistakes were included and their process, so you could see it come into being from the outside-in and that would be similar to Picasso in Le Mystere de Picasso when he shows how hard it is to find a painting sometimes. That it can be like that.

 

Once I was done with the interview, Aaron and I thought about interviewing my mother for the film, but she didn't seem to want to do it. She was worried about getting her new phone and doing grocery shopping, so I suggested doing it tomorrow. 

 

"You could come to the salon with us," I said.

 

"Why would I go to a salon?" she asked.

I didn't push it. I headed to class. McManus Woodend, my friend from EGS, was going to chat with the Scriptwriting students for the first half of class. Then, Aaron Lee Dowell, was going to talk to them during the second half.

At first, we couldn't get the laptop to connect to the projector, so I had to call a technical assistant in the class. He saw that the wire was loose and we were off to the races. 

McManus talked about how he got the gig as a Caveman in the Geico commercials, working with David Lynch, and then his own process with making Rocksteppy.

 

Classes these days are interesting. You'll have half the class engaged. Then you'll have a quarter who are busy trying to finish their assignments, and then another 10% who are just checked out, or couldn't be impressed to save their lives. It wasn't until McManus talked about being on the set for Scorsese's Irishman that some of the stragglers perked up.

 

That kills me. This interest in things that are "famous" or "established". 

 

Aaron was quick to dismiss it though.

 

"Well," he said. "If it gets them engaged."

 

I suppose that's what makes Aaron such an engaging teacher to me. He talked to the students about what was working in their scripts and pushed several to go beyond their comfort zones and really think about the wants and desires of the characters within a scene, rather than the big pictures, and how to connect these elements together.

"You've got three acts in television," he told Kafani who stayed after class to chat with him. "That first act you got to have them moving toward something. Then, when you cut to a commercial, the audience will want to know how that all plays out."

 

I knew that both McManus and Aaron were geniuses in their own right and that we were so lucky to have them there with us. I try to give everything to classes -- to make it be a real experience. I wonder if any of them notice. 

 

Aaron talked about how reality wasn't settled for some of the younger students yet. That they couldn't write it, because they didn't know it yet.

 

"That's why the writing will be sentimental sometimes," he explained. 

 

We waited outside for Panauh to pick us up from the parking lot. Then we went to a bar to talk over the next day's shoot. We were thinking about getting some famous folks to interview, but Aaron didn't want that. 

 

"I like how this is staying with every day people," he said. "I also like that it's just Iranians."

 

That was when he mentioned a friend of his from film school who had two kids in San Francisco. He suggested she was relatively my age and would be a good person to chat with to get her experience. 

 

That's when it hit me: 'I could get her to play my mother in dramatic reenactments, and then each of her children could play me at those ages.'

 

I could see the younger boy being spun around in a room, like I was when I was in Iran at three years old by my grandfather. Then we could start hearing these dreams in Farsi. It might be my dad reciting a Rumi poem, or Dan Hirsch reading his letter to me, or me reading from an old journal, or even Meina talking about her experiences. Then, we transition in and out with these children playing in slow motion that cuts to the American landscape, birds, flowers, the road, music, and back to the next element of the documentary. 

 

"I like it," Aaron said, when he got back from the bathroom.

 

He sent me her contact. I hope she's willing to do it. 

 

 

 

 

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© 2019 by Pirooz Kalayeh