“Art directing on a major studio motion picture is the best film school anyone can have,” assessed Kasra Farahani whose work in the art department has had him collaborating with the likes of David Fincher (Farahani served as conceptual illustrator on The Curious Case of Benjamin Button), Steven Spielberg (assistant art director on The Terminal), Tim Burton (assistant art director on Alice in Wonderland), Sam Raimi (concept artist on Spider-Man 3), Michael Mann (conceptual illustrator on the feature Miami Vice), Barry Sonnenfeld (art director on Men In Black 3) and JJ Abrams. For the latter, Farahani was an art director on Star Trek Into Darkness, part of a team which earned an Art Directors Guild (ADG) Excellence In Production Design Award nomination two years ago in the Fantasy Film category.
“Interpreting the written word and translating it into the world in which the story takes place, solving all sorts of creative problems, the practical aspects of picking locations and doing ambitious stage builds, makes for a great filmmaking education,” continued Farahani who’s used these learning experiences in the art department as a path to the director’s chair, most recently culminating in his feature helming debut The Waiting, which made its world premiere earlier this month at the South by Southwest (SXSW) Festival. The Waiting is a thriller about two high school filmmakers, portrayed by Keir Gilchrist and Logan Miller, who try to convince an unsuspecting neighbor (James Caan) into thinking his home is haunted.
Farahani said he was drawn to the script for The Waiting, penned by Mark Bianculli and Jeff Richard. “This is not a tawdry or exploitative story. It has something to say that’s worth hearing—something I can add to the conversation about the modern world,” related Farahani. “We’re in a time when adolescence and technology have converged. Teenagers are staggeringly intelligent and adept technologically. They can do so much at such a young age. They can shoot and edit a film in middle school. But all this doesn’t mean they have fully developed brains. They haven’t cultivated empathy. There are habits and behavior that are stifling the cultivation of empathy more than ever before.”
The Waiting is just part of what’s been a fruitful month of March for Farahani who has also seen his short film Concerning the Bodyguard honored at MOMA’s 45th annual New Directors/New Films event in New York. Concerning the Bodyguarddebuted at last year’s Toronto Film Festival where it was seen by a MoMA curator, leading to its selection for the MoMA showcase which was about to wrap at press time. Based on a short story by Donald Barthelme and narrated by noted author Salman Rushdie, Concerning the Bodyguard explores dictatorship and overthrow through the thoughts and loyalties of a bodyguard entrusted with the protection of a dubious world leader.
A prior Farahani short film, Noon, marked his debut as a writer/director. The 2013 sci-fi short, upon its premiere online, was optioned within 24 hours by Chernin Entertainment and Twentieth Century Fox where it is currently in feature development.
The success of Noon and Concerning the Bodyguard also demonstrates Farahani’s penchant for and expertise in short-form storytelling, which he hopes to parlay into a career as a commercials and branded content director through Chromista, the production house launched in 2013 by director Darren Aronofsky (a Best Director Oscar and DGA Award nominee for Black Swan), and exec producers Sandy Haddad, Ted Robbins and Scott Franklin (who is Aronofsky’s long-time feature producer). Citing Haddad and Robbins’ extensive experience in commercials, Farahani noted, “Sandy and Ted are very smart about the advertising business and to be at a company with Darren Aronofsky is amazing. Darren is also an alumnus of the MoMA New Directors/New Films program and it’s that sense of filmmaking that has shaped Chromista. I love the shorter formats—commercials and the emergence of branded content give great narrative value to the short form. Sometimes there are emotional spaces you want to be in only for a shorter amount of time—branded entertainment allows for that.”