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Leila’s parents, both white-British had lived there before the revolution, and had a great love for the country. She was born after they left, but she had been on a trip with her mum once before – so she swore it was nice... So, I asked, should I ignore government advice which was basically to NEVER GO THERE? So from that moment I wanted to make a documentary there, I started researching the history and gradually began developing contacts in Iran. It was on my next trip to Tehran that I met Amir at Iran’s Fajr International Film Festival. Amir it turned out, lived down the road from me in London, so back in On top of it all, the British embassy had town we got to know each other and started working together on research been raided three weeks before – but for the documentary. Having built having already paid for the visas and up a good trust through all our work the tickets – we decided we shouldn’t be put off by a skirmish. Another thing, together, we became aware also, that we were in quite a unique position. A I’m six-foot-six, have blond hair and a ginger complexion – should blend in fi ne dual nationality partnership, with a foot in both camps, we weren’t aware of then, I thought. I remember coming in to land in Tehran anyone else connecting up the media and fi lm businesses in both countries for the fi rst time and being quietly but we could see both had much to glad that I’d put all my affairs in order offer each other. back home, said goodbye to my The creative talents within Iran have family, left the cat-fl ap open – as I was been famed for centuries. Once they convinced – I was going to spend the were exclusively employed creating next four years chained to a radiator... the fi nest silk carpets in the world. if I was lucky. Today they’re not just artisans, they’re Shuffl ing into the short “Foreigners” queue at immigration, I stepped forward directors, musicians, compositors, to the Iranian offi cial at the immigration 3d modellers, game designers. Its exchange rate is furiously competitive, desk, and handed over my passport. “Ah British?” he looked at the passport. and it may come as a surprise to learn, Iran has just shot its biggest budget He didn’t need to look at me – I knew movie to date, directed by Majid Majidi he was looking into my dark colonial soul. A bead of sweat trickled down my – a fi lm of the Prophet Mohammed’s forehead. Flick, fl ick, fl ick, fl ick – pause life weighing in at $150m. Besides – fl ick, fl ick. Stamp. Stamp. He grinned. this it makes around 70 nationally funded features each year. Iranians “Welcome in Iran.” He smiled and waved me on. I think I somewhat reeled believe in fi lm. over the red line into Iran. Just a cheery In the fi rst few months of this year, we have already had constructive welcome - was that it? meetings with many senior fi gures in In fact my abiding memory of that the main government organisations trip was of incredibly warm welcome. that cover the creative industries, People were thoroughly apologetic who have been vocally supportive about the embassy, paying for of our work, including the Deputy our bus and taxi fares, inviting us of Cinema in Iran, the Deputy of into their homes. Farabi Foundation (BFI equivalent), I became instantly fascinated by International Director of Soreh, a country that seemed to be so International Deputy of IRIB, and the dramatically different to my prior picture Head of Visual Media Arts. of it. As someone producing fi lm and In tandem we have good relationships TV you are always trying to get under with numerous indies, game the skin, fi nd the reasons behind producers, animation studios, post things, grab characters and stories, houses, manufacturers, 35mm rc things that have been lingering in the helicopter companies (Arri 235 in dark and bring them out into the light. an rc chopper anyone?). We also have strong relationships with many independent (and famous) Iranian fi lm directors and producers. Things are on the move in Iran. We’re supporting a number of UK based companies on their productions in Iran, including documentaries and travelogs. We’ve had constructive discussions with producers even at the BBC, at major international news outlets based in the UK, and with UK government departments that cover creative media and import- exports, they know us and we work transparently with them. If you want to make a fi lm in Iran, or out-source – we can help. To Amir as someone who has grown up there, and me as an outsider, Iran is a treasure trove of talent, places and stories. It’s had a lid on for years, so we’ve made it our business to bring them out. TV-BAY MAGAZINE: ISSUE 88 APRIL 2014 | 59