Interview with director Roy Sherfan

  • Was there a particular event or time that you recognized that filmmaking is your way of telling stories?

I would fall asleep as a kid listening to music and my mind would end up creating elaborate music videos that would refine themselves as the music repeated over and over, day after day, week after week. It was therapeutic and fulfilling. However, I did not realize that this translated into filmmaking until I picked up a DSLR camera in 2012. This opened my eyes to the world of filmmaking and subsequently came full circle with making music videos in earnest. It was, as you could say in my case, a dream come true.

  • Do you think it is essential to go to a film institute in order to become a successful filmmaker?

I think it is essential to be invested in the creative process and to trust your instincts and to understand that there is a cinematographic language that you can speak when you point and shoot that lens. I picked up more information on cinematography in bars along Riverside Drive in Burbank California than anywhere else.

  • Is it harder to get started or to keep going? What was the particular thing that you had to conquer to do either?

I had a passion to create and it wasn’t even a question of stopping. It was a hunger to create and to shoot. It felt good and it felt expressive. I had to manage my time and my expectations as what I was envisioning was far from what I was creating, especially at the start. However I started to slowly close the gap as I gained experience. I think as long as you aren’t expecting gold to gush out of your editing software on the first outing and you value feedback and the creative process, you will enjoy the ride as you get better.

  • What was the most important lesson you had to learn that has had a positive effect on your film? How did that lesson happen?

I made a music video on a shoestring and threw every creative and poetic gesture I had to make it come alive. It did and it is a work that I’m proud of to this day. Years later I teamed up with the same artist and we had a bigger budget. I wanted to push the technical envelope. Lots of VFX, fancy shots, costumes, etc. All in all it was a technical tour de force, however, it didn’t have the soul of the initial work and over time I realized that making something look beautiful and amazing means nothing if it doesn’t have a heart, a soul, substance and meaning. You don’t put your entire budget on a big whiz-bang camera and forget the lighting setup or the costumes or the script. It all has to come together as a whole.

  • What were the production realities from casting through editing that you had to accommodate? How did you navigate those compromises or surprises and still end up with a cohesive film?

We had a tight budget, filming location. We were also under Covid restrictions. Lots of reshoots and re edits. In fact a lot of the post production fixes were at the behest of our lead musical artist who pulled a lot of strings to get things done and what an amazing result. There were tense moments of disagreement which, in all fairness, comes part and parcel with such projects. We had to roll with it and make it work, from the set design, on set special effects with projectors, the edit sequence and post production VFX work.

  • What was the hardest artistic choice you made in the making of a film, at any stage in production?

Right at the start, basing the entire genre on the Ridley Scott classic Bladerunner for the ambience, atmosphere and feel was definitely a bold move. After bouncing ideas off Nico our artist, he came back with a storyboard of visuals and we kept the theme going all the way through. It was going to be hard and difficult to pull off, but if we did, it was going to be amazing, so we went for it.

  • You are a collaborator. How have you discovered members of your team and how do you keep the relationship with them strong?

I do projects with people. We do memorable work that we are proud of. If the time is right and the situation is right and the opportunity to work again exists, we go at it again. I enjoy working with people who have a passion for what they do. Then, I know that they will give their 110% effort, even when the going gets tough. If you are going for the tenth take, everyone is exhausted and you catch a glimpse around the set and you see a glint of magic in the monitor and you can all feel it is just within reach, then when you finally get that shot, the smiles, the relief, the satisfaction of getting that shot is felt by the whole team and you know that this was only possible because of their dedication to their craft and everyone’s tenacity and focus and spirit. It is within those moments I discover people in “my” team. Moreso, I say “my” team with a caveat as it is more like we are simply on the same team. I discover that they are filmmakers at heart just like me and that we share a goal.

  • What do audiences want? And is it the filmmaker’s role to worry about that?

I think that worrying about what an audience wants is something you think about in general terms most of the time and it may steer you in a general direction, towards a genre or some type of film. To try and articulate that even further into the creative process, for me, becomes too tedious and less spontaneous. I am a filmmaker because I see a film that I want to make that nobody has made, so I go out and make it. It is exhilarating and exhausting. It may not be what every audience member wants, but isn’t that part of the thrill of watching something different? To be pleasantly surprised? To see something you didn’t expect to want to watch, yet you were drawn to it anyway and even possibly enjoyed it?

  • What role have film festivals played in your life so far? Why are they necessary? How do you get the most out of them?

I think film festivals provide an important element of validation, aspiration and a platform to present a body of work to the public. By validation, I mean the simple recognition that it exists and is a cinematic work to be watched, enjoyed and thought about. This then leads to the aspirational point – where these works resonate with people and inspire them to create their stories and their cinematic works. I think the key is in the name “festival”. To be celebrated and enjoyed and displayed.

  • Do you believe that a filmmaker should be original and fresh or he/she should stick to classic but safe cinema style?

I think that it is up to the filmmaker. Whether you are conservative or avantgarde, it is your choice. Also the type of material or project you are working on can influence your choice. I don’t think you need to stick to one side or the other.