A Way To Be Happy: A Miniflix Interview With Saad Qureshi
Miniflix Interviewer: Tell us a little about yourself and about how you got your newest film, “A Great Lamp”, to where it is today.Saad Qureshi: I’m Saad Qureshi and I was voted nicest boy in the fifth grade. In 2017, me and my friends were all just kind of miserable people. Me especially. I wanted a reason to hang out with people who I like — just to be happier. So I created this weird idea for a movie and I called all my favorite people to work on it. That way we could all just hang out for a couple of weeks as an excuse. The movie was just a way to be happy. We had no grand plans for this thing. We had no money…and we were just gonna put it on YouTube, you know? We didn’t have many goals with it. But it did make us happy and it did accomplish that goal. So we made the movie, and as a ‘why not’, I submitted to Slamdance. It’s the only place I submitted to. And we got in and premiered at Slamdance. Since then, we’ve been riding the ride.
Miniflix: Why was Slamdance the one festival you wanted to submit to?Saad: Two of the people on our film had experience with Slamdance, screening a short film there. It sounded to me like the people there actually like good stuff. They also have a whole mantra about screening films that are lower budget and lesser seen, so I knew we had a good chance to be taken seriously there… Slamdance also just sounded like a lot of fun, you know? They are really concerned with the filmmaker aspect and not just the movie. It really is like going up to a clubhouse with all these other filmmakers. Because no one is trying to necessarily achieve industry things or whatever. Everyone’s just having fun, making friends and being cool.
M: Before “A Great Lamp” you went to film school and made several shorts. During your time there, what do you feel film school did and didn’t do for you in terms of your development as a filmmaker?S: I have lots of opinions about film school. I had a pretty rough time, but that’s because in my mind, the essence of film school is giving you a place to fuck up alot and doing that without consequences. Like, no one is watching you… so that is the time to really fuck up and try all kinds of shit. So when I was in film school, most of it was just me trying to see if a film without any dialogue would work, or if this other film with blindfolded kids will work. That risk was cool to me. But for a film school, at a certain level, they have an image to retain. Maybe it’s changed, but when I was there, the image was definitely about making “films” to showcase the school. As opposed to making filmmakers. There’s a different mindset there. If your focus is to make films that are good, that changes how you treat the students. But if you’re focused on making good filmmakers, then the films don’t matter. Rather, it’s all about what they’re learning. So the best thing I did at film school, and I think that others who have done well since film school did the same, is finding the people who you will keep working with. For me, that was finding everyone who was in the same boat as me — on the outside, rattling cages.
M: When you were entering film school, did you think you were going to be a “career filmmaker” in that classic Hollywood sense?S: For me, film school was like a way to make movies, and that just seemed cool. But I didn’t really understand all the baggage that comes with that. So when I was in school, I was just making cool shit. I wasn’t really thinking about the future too much. I was just hanging out, having a good time. There was really no game plan. I thought the plan was to go to film school, graduate and get a big film job. But there was a few years after graduating where I had to readjust… A Great Lamp came out of that desperation…. If I hadn’t made this, then I’d probably still be waiting for my “big moment”. I learned a lot just from the doing of this film.
M: So where does A Great Lamp leave you now as a filmmaker? Now that you’ve gone to festivals and found some success. Where does this leave you in terms of your own expectations for yourself and your filmmaking career?
S: I’m definitely going to make more movies. But the problem so many times is that people make their first film, it does well and then they make their next film because it’s a next film. They just wanna get to the second movie. For me it’s more about waiting to make the next one when I really have something to say. Something I really want to get out…. I honestly don’t like to think of myself as a filmmaker, but more as just a dude that made a movie. So I can do it again, or not. But I would like to do it again because there’s a lot of cool stuff that I’d like to do. But no pressure.
I’m a very emotional and sensitive person and oftentimes in my actual life, being an emotional and sensitive person just results in butting heads with lots of people. But in movies, I put it all in there. Then when I show the films, I can talk about it and others can become receptive to that style of being and appreciate that part of myself. It’s very therapeutic. It also opens up other people to realize how good it feels just to be open. So the film is almost like a platform for me… I’ve learned to love that part of it. There’s the movie itself, which is good. But the movie isn’t just the content of the film. It’s the story of why it exists. The film is more than the thing itself. So when a festival invites A Great Lamp, they aren’t just inviting a movie; they’re inviting the whole thing: me, the story, my feelings — the whole package. And even if I’m making bigger films later, I hope to be doing that still.
You can watch A Great Lamp on Vimeo (for free!). Check it out now.