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One To Watch: Syra Mansoor Sheikh

Syra Mansoor Sheikh’s debut short film, Golden Ticket, has recently been selected for the Cefalu Film Festival to be held in Palermo, Italy. The young and talented social media whiz-turned-filmmaker talks to DESTINATIONS about her journey and her inspirations.

1. Syra, the entire fashion fraternity knows you as a very talented graphic designer and a social media wiz, but you have kept a low profile about your filmmaking. Tell us about your journey so far, your formative years, your education, career and creative life leading up to filmmaking.

I graduated in Fine Arts (Graphic/Communication Design) from the College of Art & Design, Punjab University, Pakistan. I worked for Lotus PR as a digital media publicist for over 3 years. Currently I am working as a mix media artist/graphic designer/filmmaker/digital media publicist as well as a freelance member of Open Window Creative Solutions.

In terms of exposure and creativity, I was selected two years ago as a costume designer/editor/director/production manager for the International Italy Film Festival (CinemaDaMare) in 2016 and 2017. I have also been selected for the World Festival of Youth and Students (www.russia2017.com/en/) in Russia in 2017.

My postcards have been selected and exhibited in Fort Art Gallery, Canada and at the World Fair Exhibition, Canton Museum of Art, Ohio, USA. The first ever film that I wrote and directed, Golden Ticket, was selected for the Cefalu Film Festival, Palermo, Italy.

2. Was there a particular event or time that you recognized that filmmaking was not just a hobby, but that it would be your life?

My selection at CinemaDaMare is what really brought it home. I find the process of filmmaking a truly magical one – the way shots fit together to create the illusion of things happening that never did.

3. Everyone who knows you knows you are a collaborator. How have you discovered members of your team and how do you keep the relationship with them strong?

Yes, when I work as a team I lock all my emotional/feelings inside, I just work as a team member and where I feel I need to take leadership I do, where I feel I need to step back for a moment I do. When you work as a team, you need to understand that not everything is in your control and that, when needed, you need to switch to the Plan B.

4. Your short film was made in Italy. Is there any particular reason behind that choice?

Cinemadamare is a travelling campus where you travel to the northern and eastern regions of Italy.

As I was part of the festival, I availed the opportunity and shot the film in Borgia, Italy.

5. How does where you live influence how and what you make, and how do you think Pakistan currently effects your work and process?

It is a good time for creating art, but a “difficult” time for society. We are a talented and confused people; most of us aren’t clear about our direction, about what we really want to do in life. I am working in this industry as a graphic designer, digital media publicist and social media expert. But as a filmmaker I don’t have strong roots in Pakistan yet.

6. What films have been the most inspiring or influential to you and why?

I have so many favourites – in different genres and often by totally different directors. Some remarkable films that come to mind are The Grand Budapest Hotel, Beauty and the Beast, The Lord of the Rings, Don’t Breathe, 3 Idiots and Padmavat.

7. We get noticed because of our successes – but we create them on the back of our failures. What failures (of your own if any) have you been able to learn from?

I have been rejected from art school two years in a row and it was only at my third try that I finally got admission in PUCAD in 2010. That was a tough time because my family were not supporting me. But I persevered for my dreams and finally, I got what I wanted.

8. Tell us about your inner circle, who are your people who inspire and guide you, both emotionally and professionally?

Hassan Shehrayar Yasin (HSY) has been my inspiration since my student life. I love how he maintains his position in this industry. Ubaid Ur Rehman, my best friend who is my light in the dark. My partner in crime Seyham Vahidy. Selina Rashid Khan who helped me a lot in my growth and my journey from graphic designer to publicist. My sister Asma and my uncle Arshad Mehmood who are my support system.

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