Filmmaker Spotlight: Tannaz Hazemi


Tannaz Hazemi was born in Tehran during the Iranian Revolution — and via Sweden, Chicago, Milan and Paris, she made it to Brooklyn in one piece. At 19, she published a book on contemporary music with MTV Italy, then worked as a freelance journalist, and later as on-camera talent for Tele+ and VH1. For 5 years in France she wrote fiction while closely observing the cultural patterns of diehard Europeans during a financial crisis. Today she writes screenplays and directs shorts.

Last year, Hazemi visited the 2015 Heartland Film Festival with her Festival Award-winning short film
Before the Bomb. In addition to the Heartland Film Festival, Before the Bomb has been featured in a number of other film festivals including the Emerging Filmmaker Showcase at Cannes Film Festival and the TIFF Kids International Film Festival. A talented writer, Tannaz’s scripts have won several screenplay contests, including The World Series of Screenwriting and The American Film Award in 2016.

Recently, Tannaz has been selected as one of 8 filmmakers to the AFI Directing Workshop for Women. The prestigious program educates and mentors female directors with the goal of increasing the amount of women working in the world of professional filmmaking. Throughout the duration of the workshop, the participants will complete a short, narrative project with the intent to submit the film to independent film festivals.

We spoke with Tannaz Hazemi about her filmmaking career, her latest project and the AFI Directing Workshop for Women:

HF: Your short film, Before the Bomb, was a Festival Award Winner at the 2015 Heartland Film Festival.
What is your film about, and how did the project come to be?

TH: Before the Bomb is about 10-year-old Elsa, a smart and precocious girl, who takes matters into her own hands when Child Services plans a visit that could separate her from her younger brother Morris. The movie opens with their happy life together, despite the awful situation they are in with two absent parents in a filthy home, followed quickly by the ringing phone: Child Services are coming in 2 days. Elsa decides to clean up, to find nice clothes, and put their life in order herself, so they won’t be taken away. At the end of the story Child Services officers knock on their door, and the first thing they want to know is, “Where is your Mom?”

The story was inspired by my best friend when I was 15. She had been taken away from her parents when she was younger and the story that she told me stayed with me into my 30s. And one day it became something that I needed to tell.

HF: What was your role in the production?

TH: I’m the writer/director.

HF: What was your experience like at the 2015 Heartland Film Festival? Had you been to the Festival before?

TH: Heartland was one of my favorite festival experiences. The organization and the generosity of everyone aside, which was incredible, the quality of the films was very high. It was a great honor to be a part of such a group of filmmakers.

HF: What has inspired you to become a filmmaker?

TH: I always wanted to write, and I did my whole life; starting with a small book on contemporary music called “99” that I published with MTV Italy, to freelance pop culture articles, to publishing a short story, and writing a novel. When my novel wasn’t published I decided to try writing a screenplay and realized I had a much better grasp of the format than anything else I had written. This happened at a continuing ed course on filmmaking at NYU, where I had initially signed up to learn about screenwriting in the context of filmmaking, but after that first short film that we made in the class, I was hooked. I’ve now made 6 shorts.

HF: What is something that you know about filmmaking now, but you weren’t told when you started your career?

TH: About a million things. Filmmaking is very very hard.

HF: What are some of your favorite movies? What’s your favorite worst movie (you know it’s bad, but still love it)?

TH: My favorite movies change every year. At the moment I’m very inspired by Holy Motors, Dog Tooth, and Tangerine. Tarantino and Lynch have been my favorite filmmakers. Favorite worst movie: Clueless. Maybe Tropic Thunder.

HF: Can you tell us more about the AFI Directing Workshop for Women and what excites you most about the opportunity?

TH: The AFI DWW is an annual program that nurtures 8 female filmmakers in the making of a short film, as a step toward pushing their careers as directors. I have only been involved in the program for a month now and I already feel I’ve improved immensely as a filmmaker. The support from knowledgeable producers, directors and teachers of film is just incredible. I couldn’t be more excited to make this film with them.

HF: Can you tell us more about the film you are making in conjunction with the AFI Directing Workshop for Women? 

TH: The short that I am making at the AFI DWW is called Hail Mary Country, and the story was inspired by the Banksy graffiti of Samuel L. Jackson and John Travolta in Pulp Fiction, where instead of shooting guns they are holding bananas.

It’s about a suburban house robbery on the day of the Football Championships that goes awry when the victims are diehard football fans. It’s a tense and scary story that’s also hilarious, making a statement on gender stereotypes. It’s the women in the Dandy family who drink beer and watch football, and the men in the kitchen who cook and take care of the kids. The robber is a female villain, flanked by four insanely good-looking male cronies, who after a long machismo face-off with the head of the Dandy household, ends up being the victim and not the villain.

Support Tannez’s latest project: Hail Mary Country

As part of the AFI Directing Workshop for Women, Tannaz is currently raising the funds to support the production of her latest short film titled Hail Mary Country. Shooting is scheduled to begin in July. If you’d like to contribute to Tannaz’s Indiegogo crowdfunding page, click the button below.


Support Tannez’s film



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