On The Table Read, the “Best Entertainment Celebrity Magazine in the UK“, filmmaker Nadia Zaidi discusses her career, what inspires her, and her new film, Eight: The Gift Of Life.
Written by JJ Barnes
I interviewed filmmaker Nadia Zaidi about her life and career, the creative process that went into her latest film, Eight, and her goals for the future.
Tell me a bit about yourself.
I am a freelance multimedia journalist, documentary filmmaker and TV and indie film producer. My career began in a national newsroom and shortly thereafter, as a reporter for various digital publications, covering everything from politics to global affairs, the environment and lifestyle.
I always knew I wanted to tell stories across screen, which led me to pitch, produce, and co-host a show for my local television station. This experience taught me the fundamentals of filmmaking and led to my pursuits in documentary film.
When did you first realise you wanted to make films?
Storytelling has always been my way of expression and communicating with the world. I was the annoying kid with a camera in everyone’s face, asking questions at the wrong time and getting into all sorts of creative mischief.
As I got older, I loved to watch investigative news programs and naturally developed an interest in journalism. I didn’t necessarily envision myself as a filmmaker; however, when I was producing a show for my local network, I was approached to help adapt part of a book into film. I hit the ground running and never looked back.
What is your favourite thing about films?
It’s ability to transcend language, borders, and culture, grounding us in our collective humanity. By showcasing stories that reflect our personal pains and pleasures, film is a global medium. It is also a vehicle for change through which we can inform, engage, and advocate; thereby, make a difference in how we view the human condition.
What classes or research did you take to support you in your filmmaking career?
None. I have a bachelor’s degree in Journalism from Toronto Metropolitan University (formally known as, Ryerson University). That’s the closest to formal education I have in filmmaking. Essentially, journalism school teaches you how to find good stories and tell them well – the backbone of being a good filmmaker.
Other than that, I’m a film buff. I love all kinds of films and have developed my own style of filmmaking based on personal sensibility and creative inclination.
What was your first film industry job?
I founded a production company called “Reel Voice Productions” that specializes in documentary-films for public outreach and advocacy. I am also a partner in Sun Blizzard Productions, a Toronto-Los Angeles joint production house that develops indie films, with one film in post-production and several others in active development.
What was your most recent film industry job?
I am a partner and producer in Sun Blizzard Productions (SBP) and the currently direct and produce films under my company “Reel Voice Productions.”
Tell me a favourite experience in your career. Something that stands out in your memories and makes you want to find more experiences like it.
My film, “When Destiny Calls” was first screened at a community arts theatre. I will always cherish the moment of seeing the poster of my film on display outside of the auditorium. I remember feeling overwhelmed by a full-house crowd and humbled by the positive feedback and support. The experience came full circle when I was invited to deliver a talk on this film at my former university.
What was your toughest experience in your filmmaking career?
The covid-19 pandemic hit when I was about to release my second documentary -film, which hampered distribution prospects. I wanted the film to showcase around the country to incite a call-to-action on the organ donation crisis – the subject of my film. Given the novelty of the epidemic and subsequent lockdowns, I released it directly on YouTube. It was important that I got the message out there and am currently working on refining post-distribution.
What is the title of your current project?
Eight: the gift of life.
What inspired you to make Eight: The Gift Of Life?
I was contacted by the main subject featured in this film. He is currently in need of an organ donor and asked if I was interested in showcasing a part of his journey. I was honoured by his trust and knew that I had to do whatever I could to spotlight his experience and investigate how Canada handles organ donations.
What is the main conflict of Eight: The Gift Of Life?
This film examines the barriers to organ donation rates in Canada.
How long did you spend in production?
The film took several months to film, as I was following the subject’s journey through the healthcare system.
How long did you spend in post production?
It was delayed by several months following the COVID-19 pandemic.
Did you work with a writer, or write Eight: The Gift Of Life yourself? Would you do the same again?
I write the scripts for all my films because it is most authentic to how I narrate information.
How did you find your cast and what made you choose them?
For my documentary-film, I reached out to the biggest agencies that deal with the organ donation process in Canada. I also contacted leading medical experts in transplantation. I was put in touch with other families who were affected by the gift of life in the process of working with these agencies.
How big was your crew? Would you choose the same size again?
I predominantly film independently; however, for shoot locations I had a small crew of five people. I am not confined to a certain number of crew members, but rather, whatever it takes to get the best possible shoot.
How did you find your locations?
They are simply based on where the subject and interviews are.
Tell me some career goals. What would you like to achieve?
Wider reach so that I can advocate to the best of my ability. The idea is to lead to awareness at a grassroots level and eventually at a more systemic level if given the opportunity and distribution.
Tell me something you were surprised by, something you had never realised about being a filmmaker.
The business behind the art. The industry is an overly saturated market, given the rise of streaming platforms and social media. You must be able to curate your film at its inception. This means promotion, marketing, and networking. As a creator you are so dedicated to the artistry of film that you forget it is also a business.
What are words of advice you have for other aspiring filmmakers?
Do it if you love it because filmmaking – like any form of art – is a labour of love with little to no payoff. If you are hoping to make it big, or because you feel it’s glamourous, you are doing it for the wrong reasons. Make films because you are in love with storytelling in all its forms. Do it because your love for it supersedes the barriers that will follow: the sleepless nights, fleeting budgets, and endless rejection. This shouldn’t dissuade you from perusing your passion. If it does, you’re not in the right profession.
Give me your social links so people can come and find you!
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