By Katie Chambers
Let’s welcome Sheherzad Raza Preisler to NYWIFT! She is a native New Yorker who attended undergrad at Columbia University, where she majored in Middle Eastern, South Asian, and African studies and followed the pre-medical track. After an identity crisis, Sheherzad fell in love with all things filmmaking and is now an MFA candidate at Brooklyn College’s Feirstein Graduate School of Cinema. Much of Sheherzad’s work deals with growing up Muslim in post-9/11 America.
Sheherzad’s debut short, Zero, won an Award of Merit at Best Shorts Competition, and has been accepted into Flickfair and MicroMania (founded by NYWIFT member Lukia Costello) as well. She is currently in post-production for her next short, Saint Marks, which she co-wrote and co-directed. Her team will be submitting it to film festivals in the coming months.
She spoke to us about her unusual path from pre-med to science writing to filmmaking, how storytelling is innate to her culture, and her post-graduation plans.
You had a circuitous path to filmmaking – tell us about it!
I have long taken an interest in film, TV, and media in general; however, I have always also loved science and history. This is why, when I started college in 2011, I decided to pursue the pre-medical track and major in Middle Eastern, South Asian, and African studies.
However, as my MCAT eventually loomed in the not-so-distant future, I had an identity crisis. My mentor at the time, Dr. Siddhartha Mukherjee, told me that I should try my hand at science journalism. I gave it a go, and worked in the industry for a time, until I eventually landed a job at Ark Media, where I helped conduct research for their docuseries called The Gene: An Intimate History. My job at Ark helped me understand and cultivate my deep passion for all things filmmaking, and I soon found myself enrolled in Brooklyn College’s MFA program at Feirstein Graduate School of Cinema.
What are some topics that get you particularly excited? We know you love science journalism, and contributed to Vice among other publications…
I love history – especially oral history. Coming from a Pakistani background, my mother has entrenched me in our culture’s oral tradition of memorizing and reciting poetry in Urdu, Farsi, and Hindi from a very young age. The exchange of poetry in my greater community is something I’m deeply passionate about.
I also have a deep love and appreciation for science, and nature/animals in particular. I could never get sick of talking about different types of animals! I am also very interested in the ways in which my hometown of NYC has changed since the early aughts, as well as notions of “fitting in” and being part of a counterculture; these are topics that my work also attempts to grapple with.
Your work now primarily deals with predominantly deals with growing up Muslim in post-9/11 America. What do you hope audiences take away from your work?
My hope is to spread tolerance and love for all, largely through humor and satire.
Like so many people in our industry, you have worn many hats, from writer to director to researcher to museum associate and more. What is your dream job? Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
My dream job is to be co-running a production company with my best friends/collaborators, where we play various roles on each other’s projects. I hope to see myself deeply enmeshed in the TV/film industry via our forthcoming production company in 10 years!
How do you feel all of your past roles influence the work you do today?
I feel that the many different hats I’ve worn over the years have been an inextricable part of making me into not only the person but also the filmmaker that I am today, because my varying life experiences grant me a unique perspective on all sorts of subjects and issues.
What is the best advice you’ve ever received?
The best advice I’ve received is to know my own worth and fight to be acknowledged accordingly!
What inspired you to join NYWIFT? How do you hope to participate in the organization?
I wanted to join NYWIFT to meet other like-minded folks working in the industry. I hope to find mentors and collaborators alike through the organization!
And what is next for you?
I’m currently in post-production for my next short, Saint Marks, which I co-wrote and co-directed with my dear friend, Katrina Montgomery. I am also in pre-production for my second music video, which I’ll be co-directing and co-DPing, as well as two of my peers’ thesis films on which I will be playing various roles!
And after I receive my MFA from Brooklyn College in Spring 2023, I am planning to start the aforementioned production company with two of my closest friends/peers from my MFA program!
We are thrilled to welcome new NYWIFT member Isi Laborde! Isi is a Brooklyn-based actor (AEA, SAG/AFTRA). Her film roles include Return to Montauk, directed by Academy Award-winner Volker Schlöndorff, and Jay-Z’s music video “Smile,” directed by Grammy-winner Miles Jay. She has had TV appearances in Facebook TV's Strangers and Paramount's Younger. Theater credits include The Bacchae at La Mama Experimental Theatre Club and Skip to My Lou at Theater for the New City. Isi spoke to us about her craft, how she kept up her creativity during COVID, and her dream role!READ MORE
Let’s welcome new NYWIFT member Ekaterina Korshunova! Ekaterina (or Kate for short) attended Moscow’s RUDN University where she graduated with a degree in journalism. Kate currently works as a freelance social media coordinator and producer. She has filmed and produced promotional videos for many local businesses as well as major brands. She spoke to us about her move to the US, her teaching philosophy, and her dreams for the future.READ MORE
Welcome, new NYWIFT member Ching Juhl! Ching is a Chinese American filmmaker, video journalist, and music educator who has directed, filmed, edited, and produced three feature films, promotional videos, and hundreds of shorts. Her feature documentary My Yang Gang Diary, which she shot entirely on an iPhone 11, won Best Feature Film Award at Toronto Documentary Film Festival in 2021. Ching spoke to us about the benefits of shooting on iPhone, the intersection of music and filmmaking, and the friends who brought her to NYWIFT.READ MORE
Let’s give a warm NYWIFT welcome to new member Elizabeth Ramjit! Elizabeth is an accomplished film/video editor with 10 years of experience in film and tv production and advertising. Elizabeth loves bringing awareness to current events and pressing world issues, to inspire important conversations among her audience. She’s always interested in new opportunities to explore new avenues of content, and enjoys brining her unique perspective to her collaborators’ projects. Elizabeth spoke to us about what stories inspire her, her dreams for the future, and why she could be #YourFavoriteFemaleEditor.READ MORE