My grandad was a romantic. He once saw a picture of my granny and realised that she was the love of his life. One day he decided to go meet her.
Hey Maryam, it's great to talk with you, how have things going?
It's going great thanks! like a dream really!
Congratulations on Grandad Was A Romantic being shortlisted for the BAFTA British Animation 2020 award, what was it like to hear this news?
IT was fantastic, surreal and very much unexpected; I was just staring at the screen and reading the news. Then reading it again. There were tears!
Grandad Was A Romantic has had an amazing festival run, what has it man to you to get such a great response to your animation?
It's brilliant! Specially when I can attend my screenings; I love the experience of watching my film together with the audience. I get so much out of the interaction. I just sit there and observe every reaction. Love a good Q&A session too.
Have you been able to enjoy the attention/process of festivals, awards and nominations or have you tried to keep it out your mind?
I'm really enjoying it! Still feels like a dream sometimes. I calm down for a bit and get on with my daily life and work, then suddenly it hits me and I just smile.
Can you tell me a little bit about Grandad Was A Romantic, what was the inspiration behind your film?
I usually base my films on real people that I've known and then let them grow and transform. Most of the times I mix two or three real characters into one. I was thinking about relationships and how the love stories of my grandparents’ generation in Iran are always so romantic, unexpected and dramatic. They sound a lot like fairytales that depending on who the narrator is, could change form quite dramatically.
"I spent about two months experimenting with different mediums before I came up with 'the look' I wanted for Grandad was a romantic."
Have you always had a passion for animation?
I think I have; I remember myself as a kid staring at people walking, talking, eating (not very polite as I was reminded many times) etc; I have always been fascinated by people's movements and gestures. Animals too. I've always been passionate about storytelling as well; before animation and back in Iran I did my first BA in painting but I was told that there was 'too much of a narrative' in my paintings.
As well as writing and directing Grandad Was A Romantic you also edited and produced your short, how do you manage all these roles on a project like this?
During the months that I'm working on a film, I don't really live a normal life. I spend most of the day in my tiny office (i.e attic). Days could easily go by and I haven't spoken to one human being except for my daughter and my husband. I have a very small yet perfect team; I've been working with my amazing composer Tanera Dawkins for many years now and we really understand each other. Fonic has done the sound for my last two films and again we communicate perfectly. Having a good, professional and understanding team helps a lot.
How has your style and approach to your films as a writer/director changed since your debut?
I now spend even more time on each stage from the beginning. I don't stop writing until I'm hundred percent happy with the story. The same goes for the design, the voice acting, animation, etc.
"Work with something that you feel connected with and be honest."
What have been the biggest challenges you faced with Grandad Was A Romantic?
The first big challenge is always the story; to come up with a good story and to make it work perfectly could take months. When that happens then as an animator you need to create this whole universe out of nothing. There are no limitations whatsoever, which is really great but also a bit challenging.
What has been the best advice you have been given?
To experiment; not to be scared and to try different things. Specially when it comes to the visual side of my work. I spent about two months experimenting with different mediums before I came up with 'the look' I wanted for Grandad was a romantic.
As a filmmaker what advice would you offer fellow writer/director?
Don't try too hard to come up with the perfect story. Work with something that you feel connected with and be honest.
And finally, what do you hope people will take away from Grandad Was A Romantic?
I hope they have a good laugh! Also in my films I'd like to show different people from different backgrounds simply as human beings; in every corner of the world, we all fall in love, we all may do crazy things for love and we all laugh at a good joke. At the time when there's so much talk about 'building walls' and 'sending people back where they came from', I think it's nice to see how similar we all are no matter where we come from.