Kiana Kalantar-Hormozi is a recent graduate of the MA Film course at Screen Academy Scotland Edinburgh Napier. We caught up with her at her internship at media co-op in Edinburgh where she is shooting a short video about The Care Tax, a situation where vulnerable people living with disability are struggling to pay the rising costs of care charges being levied by many of Scotland’s Councils.
Tell us about your education and background
I went to St Thomas’ Primary and Smithycroft Secondary, after which I decided to spread my wings a little and go to the University of Stirling. I studied a BA (Hons) Film and Media/Psychology. From third year onwards I got really involved with the film and media side of things and so I decided to pursue a career in media. I decided to go to the Screen Academy – I’d never worked in film before, so I really wanted to learn and develop my skills.
Could you tell us a bit about your internship at Media co-op? How did it come about, what does it entail?
When I was studying my MA at Screen Academy, I was mentored by Louise Scott – this was arranged though the professional development department at the Screen Academy. During the sessions, I spoke to Louise about some of the ideas I had for films, some of these stemmed from my personal difficulties disability wise. Care tax was one of the issues I was really passionate about and media co-op is all about equalities and campaigning. So Louise set up the internship for me, and media co-op are supporting me to make my film.
You graduated last year from Screen Academy Scotland with an MA in Film – how did you find the course? Have you always been interested in film? Did it help you get your apprenticeship with media co-op?
I’ve always had a fascination for film – even more so than television or documentaries, because I’ve been brought up with Disney films. It’s very conventional and mainstream, but I’ve had other film influences as well especially since going to university. Working on media for television at undergrad always made me wonder – ‘well, what is the film business like and how do I make films for the big screen?’ So I decided to push myself beyond my comfort zone and learn how to make films.The course really taught me how the film industry works, and it’s a very different industry to television, especially documentary.
What would you say to anyone currently considering a Masters in Film at Edinburgh Napier/Screen Academy Scotland?
I would tell them to make the most of the opportunity they have – once you leave university you realise how difficult it is to make films with no budget, even more than when you’re a student. When you’re a student, making films is why the entire class is there and so you have an entire team of people all together to make great films.
I would also tell them to really think about what stories they want to tell and then think of how to convey those stories in a visual way. Also, use the knowledge and experience of your tutors, learn everything you can and then decide how to apply what you’ve learned – whether it’s doing something the same way because it’s proven to work, or break the rules and bring something new and exciting to the industry. When I say breaking rules, I mean creative ones, not health and safety!
You’re working on a film about the Care Tax – where does your passion for this campaign stem from?
My passion for the campaign really stems from my own personal experience – but also from my fundamental principles for human rights. To tax people, or charge people for their right to move, breath and live is inhumane. If you took any person of the streets and tied them up, there would be outrage; but when it comes to disability, it turns into a matter of policy and politics. There is a double standard of what is considered acceptable in terms of human rights, dependant disability.
I first came across the campaign when I was studying a media content development module in my last year in Stirling. I saw Jeff’s campaign and learned about Scotland Against The Care Tax – and there was some solace in finding out that I’m not the only person who is outraged by this. It’s always good to know I’m not going insane!
Could you give us a brief premise of what the film will include? Is it shot in one particular place etc?
The film will be a short video for online platforms like facebook, twitter and other social media. The premise is to use hip-hop to inform people about the care tax and encourage call to action.
Are you working with anyone on the film?
I’m collaborating with beatboxer and hip-hop artist Bigg Taj. I directed a short film about Taj and his community hip-hop group, the Young People Army, the summer after I graduated. He’s a really cool guy and really professional and talented. He is so passionate about giving young people a voice with his community work.
What do you hope to achieve with the film?
I hope that people will watch this and be enraged. I don’t want to evoke pity, or have people think, ‘oh look at that girl in the wheelchair rapping, good on her for trying’. I want people to realise that people will disabilities have the same rights as everyone else and those rights are being violated, every day, repeatedly. I want them to start being vocal about the injustice of the Care Tax, to write to their politicians and to actually make meaningful change through action and discussion.
What does the future hold for Kiana? What’s your ultimate dream/goal?
I want to progress in film and television – to tell interesting stories and also develop my creativity and craft. I don’t want to be labelled as a disabled filmmaker, or disabled artist – that’s never been a thing for me.
I’d love to have my own production company some day, hopefully not too far into the future.
But there’s also a lot more I want to do – like travelling and seeing the world, performing and developing my music skills, and maybe someday when I’m rich and have a lot more life experience, I want to build a school that gives kids proper education in an inclusive environment. Like Hogwarts, but with real life magic.