Nauzanin Knight is a Canadian woman of Caribbean and Middle Eastern descent. She gives us an inside look at starting her own film company, 1844 Studios, an international Film Production Company specializing in visual storytelling. She began her journey as a creative writer before directing her passion to film projects. After completing her research in Israel, she yearned for greater contribution to the discourses of society.
1844 Studios’ dedicate themselves to champion diversity behind and in front of the camera, sharing under-heard stories in the media, and creating visual storytelling through various mediums.
What inspires you to create these films? How do you determine which theme to go for?
What inspires me is to create the messages that highlight the oneness of humanity and inevitability of unity of mankind. Whether we’re creating documentaries, live actions, animations, live action, PSA, etc., we can always tackle that theme. That keeps me going because I feel like I’m contributing in a positive way despite all the ups and downs in the industry.
Out of all your projects, which one are you most proud about, or which one resonates with you the most?
I want to throw it back to my first film, My Lyric I Never Knew, because despite coming to the industry with less knowledge of how everything worked, the community came behind what the film was about and supported this project in a way that I didn’t expect. I felt such a loving atmosphere on set during that production and it inspired me to replicate that energy for every film going forward. It’s set the standard of how I wanted the environment on set to feel for all of our films.
And did you feel like that energy has been met so far? What do you do to bring that energy on set?
Yes, we’ve been able to bring the same energy to all the film sets. That doesn’t mean there haven’t been challenges every day, but the community spirit of fighting for a project that we all feel strongly about has been with every single one of our projects so far.
Creating that energy really is a great responsibility for the leaders and being able to inspire others. People can sense the energy on set from the top down.
Are there any lessons that you have learned that’s stuck with you now?
Don’t try to take too much on yourself. Take suggestions and opinions from your peers. Consultation is key to creating a great set and a better creative product overall.
There are so many capable and talented folks who are not just wanting to support you, but they bring such a unique perspective to the project and having different creative inputs always build a better product at the end of the day.
How do you choose the right team members? What kind of attitudes are you looking for?
I look for people who are willing to share, those who are generous in consultation, and those who are open to hearing different ideas and having their ideas meld with different creative inputs. I look for people who lift others up. We’re walking the same path together.
What are some words of wisdom that you have for someone trying to break into the film industry?
Don’t wait. Just do it yourself.
This is a question I’d like to address from the BIPOC perspective because I know there are unique hurdles and struggles for a BIPOC person to get their foot in the door in the industry. For me, I found a lot of new pathways by creating my own projects and not waiting to be hired by someone else. When I first started, I wasn’t hired often at all, but I found so much more joy in creating projects whereby I could bring diverse groups together and work on projects that we strongly believe in.
Let’s talk about Be Collective. What attracted you to this project?
This came about after our research project called “Building Inclusive Networks in the Film & Television Industry” with Telefilm Canada.
We were overwhelmed by the number of times that our participants talked about industry networking events as being exclusive, which is a barrier for an upward trajectory in film and television. We wanted to create a grassroot initiative to really address this into our community.
Be Collective came about a year ago. We created two components for this initiative:
- An onset component that feeds into networking because we put BIPOC mentors/mentees in the film industry and they had the opportunity to work on set for 4 days with several department heads.
- The second part is happening on March 25, and that will be the large networking event that the ESIO and other organizations will be a part of.
At the end, we’ll make a best practices document and a video documenting this whole experience so hopefully our learning will trigger other production companies to spearhead initiatives like this in the community which promote diversity, equity and inclusion in our industry.
If you want to pick a place to let loose and take a break, where would that be in Edmonton?
Terwilliger dog park. I have a dog and he’s a goofy gentle giant named Happy. I love to be surrounded by nature and spend time with my dog. That’s where I want to spend my time and get energized.