UZMA HASAN, FILMONOMICS PLUS PRODUCER
Why do you think you are a producer?
Because I love stories. I love hearing them, seeing them, bringing them to life, telling them to other people. I’ve been creating, collecting and curating stories for as long as I can remember. And being a producer means you’re surrounded by them at all times – there is the story that’s told in the film, but just as important is the story of the film and I guess it’s my job to make sure those two things work harmoniously with each other.
What’s your elevator pitch to describe the kind of films you make?
Subversive stories for a global audience.
Can you elaborate on why you are drawn to such material/style/genre?
You can pack in so many observations about the world we live in or about the state of the human condition into an entertaining film. And get people to listen! It’s what the great sci-fi, thriller and horror films of the 1970s did – films like Logan’s Run, Taxi Driver, Rosemary’s Baby. In fact ’70s cinema is a real masterclass in the usage of political messaging in art. To me cinema is the grown up version of telling stories over the campfire: you have to keep your audience with you, on the edge of their seats, but you also have to give them more than just instant gratification. They have to leave with knowledge that lingers.
If forced to give one tip to new people coming through what would it be?
Become a polymath; the future belongs to the multi-hyphenates!
And what pitfall would you say to a newcomer into your realm is essential to avoid?
Producing a film is hard. It’s emotional work so do make sure you are always surrounded by people that get you, that you enjoy spending time with and where there is a mutual respect. Always be building a film family.
Tell us about where you come from and how it filters into your work?
I’m a Londoner born and bred. My parents were born in pre-partition India before moving to Pakistan as children, and then the UK after med school. The biggest influence that has had on me is a serious, immigrant-level work ethic! I have massive respect for where I come from; my grandparents were all radicals in their own way. One of my grandmothers, Sikander Begum – named after a ruling Mughal empress – ran a household with nine children on a tiny budget, and she used to kill snakes with her slipper! The other grandmother left her husband in India and relocated to Pakistan with three young children. My grandfather Shams Barelvi Shams was the poet laureate of Pakistan and ensured that even on his small salary all his daughters went to university. So I feel a responsibility to honour that lineage of knowledge seekers, storytellers and radicals.
Tell us about the latest film / exhibition / book / public figure / article to have inspired you?
I am currently working with the amazing contemporary dancer Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, and I’ve been blown away by his incredible and varied body of work. The way he communicates story through bodies is just endlessly fascinating to me. I was always such a puritan when it came to the power of words, so it is always humbling to meet people who are better at communicating in other ways: music, bodies, images.
What frustrates you about what you do?
Having to deal with myopic thinking
How do you overcome this?
Try to work with people who are not myopic thinkers
Do you believe in the ‘female gaze’ and what does that mean to you?
Laura Mulvey is a goddess. I’ve read everything she’s ever published and her writings have permeated the way an entire generation (de)constructed cinema. I think it’s fascinating that, for whatever reason, we became so mesmerised by this concept of the ‘male gaze’ that we didn’t think to address or understand the inverse for many decades. So Jill Soloway’s talk was a refreshing evolution of an idea that had only very timidly been touched upon in academia. And I think partly that’s because of the way feminism is evolving itself. It’s asking more questions, being more inclusive, it’s more full of agency and less full of rage and that’s why we’re at a point that we are considering the female gaze and wanting to understand what it could be. So I imagine the immensity of possibilities that come from that, from creating a new cinematic grammar and having that exist in the world. It’s very exciting.
Give from that which you love the most.
Uzma Hasan, Producer
Uzma Hasan is co-founder and producer at venture capitalist-backed Little House Productions. Her latest feature FIRSTBORN premiered at Edinburgh International Film Festival 2016 ahead of a worldwide sale to Netflix. Her first feature THE INFIDEL (2010) was released internationally to commerical and critical acclaim, was remade by Viacom India as DHARAM SANKAT MEIN (2015) and as a musical that ran at Theatre Royal Stratford.
She was Executive Producer on Nitin Sawhney’s multi award winning documentary FLYING PAPER (2014) and SILENCING SABEEN (2016), a short documentary on Pakistani activist Sabeen Mahmud. She is currently developing projects with a diverse range of talent including Guardian film critic Peter Bradshaw, David Baddiel and Nikesh Shukla, as well as with the BFI and Eastman Dance Company.