Videographer Sina al-Qamar, discusses his life as an artist and his exploration through "life, challenging assumptions and oppression by exploring & expressing primal erotica" throughout his films.
Q: Where were you born/currently live?
A: I was born in Tehran, Iran; briefly lived in Paris; was raised in Toronto; went to college in New York City. I graduated last May from NYU Tisch and was immediately diagnosed with cancer (I went straight from the graduation ceremony to the nearest medical facility!). I returned to Toronto (where my family is based) to go through six months of chemo. The cancer is in remission and I am feeling better than ever; so now I’m looking to move. I like living in different places. I do not feel attached to one specific space. I want to see and feel the universe.
Q: When did you fully emerge into the art world and get involved in filming?
A: I have always been an artist. My mother is one too and, surely, inspired me. My grandparents have always loved taking me to the movies. I started as an actor, thanks in part to a middle-school teacher who encouraged me to do so. I became completely involved with making films during college. I am a writer, a director, a cinematographer, an editor.
Q: Can you talk about your project WECANTBREATHE. ?
A: WECANTBREATHE. is a dystopian sci-fi fairy-tale set in a post-God world in which a divided family attempts to reconcile in the wake of their mother’s death. The piece explores race, gender and sexuality through its divine characters and their relationships (I see similarities in Ana Lily Amirpour’s latest film, The Bad Batch). It was a live theatre piece with original music written by the brilliant trio of @baddaughterkane (aka Kadeshia), @mwillmusic and saxophonist Alex Blade Silver. Someday it will be a film, though it will certainly look and feel very different. Creating this piece was intensely collaborative and months-long. During this process, myself and other incredible/inspiring creative beings forged mastermind alliances that endure and prosper to this day. It was also a great success: all our shows sold out in less than 48 hours.
Q: Is this your side hustle or do you make a career out of it?
A: This is my life.
Q: Do you ever struggle with having a lack of creative energy? If so, how do you go about gaining these feelings of creativity back?
A: Oh definitely…I have felt blocked and it can be truly painful: I get stuck in-my-head, my ego runs rampant & I am farther and farther from truth. The well of creative energy will empty and must be replenished. I recommend consistency in practice: don’t care for the final product, instead be constantly creating. Get in the habit of reflection: write three pages of stream of consciousness every morning to help you see and move through your thoughts/feelings. Take yourself out on a date once a week. Meditate. If you don't feel like doing anything, then don’t. Don’t be so hard on yourself; instead be patient. Be generous. Get yourself a copy of Julia Cameron’s book, The Artist’s Way. And don’t forget to breathe.
Q: What is your creative process when filming? Do you follow specific guidelines?
A: I like each process to feel specific to what it is that we are working on. Some works may involve months of planning/rehearsal/pre-production, whereas others will come alive through improvisation while shooting. All my work is intensely collaborative: I like to create an ongoing dialogue between myself and my peers so that a collective vision comes to life. I find it essential to cultivate a space in which brilliant creative minds can be fearless and honest. I will use music to create a mood while shooting if I feel it to be necessary. I will have actors play as different animals to discover movements and habits for their characters. I encourage the designers with whom I work to give me ideas better than my own. I will storyboard every shot if I feel it is necessary. I will use paintings as concept art if I feel it. I will always listen. My art should feel as collaborative and organic as my life.
Q: Do you have upcoming projects you are working on?
A: Always! I’ve been shooting a lot of portraits and environment on 16mm film with a Bolex camera during this past year. My mentor, Madi Piller, a brilliant Peruvian/Eastern European experimental filmmaker/animator, works exclusively with film and has deepened my knowledge about the pacing of my shots and the lighting in my work. I was just in D.C. shooting a creative film (on 16mm) during Pride Weekend; involving masks made by my eternal confidant, the singular @shaderenee. It will be a creative documentary, perhaps. I am going for a John Waters-type feel in this film: I recorded the antics of my queer friends and hope to create a story from them (we stayed on a boat all pride weekend). I have a couple other projects coming up, but don’t want to give too much away… I think you’ll be excited by one of the films in particular: it is a portrait piece and it might star somebody you know.
Q: How would you define the word success?
A: Success is freedom. I have felt anxious, alone and angry for a long time. I did not want to face myself. During this past year, I have done a lot of self-work and self-reflection, and have found moments of peace that have truly liberated me. ‘Freedom is a feeling! Freedom is no fear!’ This feeling is fleeting. This feeling is erotic. This feeling is peaceful. This feeling is empowering. This feeling reminds me that life can reach such heights, and so why settle for less? Success is a sense of peace within myself and a sense of freedom within the world, and I am working towards that everyday.
Q: How do you stand out from other videographers? Do you have a distinct way of filming/directing/designing?
A: I can only live within my truth. I am ambitious and one-of-a-kind. I put my entire being into all my work. I am fascinated by mysticism & mythology and am very good at world-building. My film work is incredibly visual because I understand that film is a visual medium and so images will be the most powerful means to convey story. I am very good at spotting talent, nurturing talent and finding humor. I am very good at finding the rhythm in a piece so as to build a mood. I am hands-on and detail-oriented: god is in the details. I am a student of film (Jodorowsky, Hitchcock, Kubrick, Miyazaki, Disney), but want to innovate through my work. Because I am experienced in all aspects of production, I am able to ensure that the vision is carried through by maintaining a sense of control throughout the entirety of the process. I am a great communicator and collaborator: it is important that making the work be as full an experience as watching it. I challenge assumptions and oppression by exploring & expressing primal erotica. I cannot help but be creative: when you see my work, you know that you’ve never seen shit like this before. I try to keep an open mind. An open mind is creative.
Q: Do you have anything else you want your viewers to know about you?
A: I am a poet. Also, read Audre Lorde’s essay, “The Uses of the Erotic: The Erotic as Power.”