Like many filmmakers in 2020, Mirzaab (a.k.a Mirza Farhan Abbas) hoped his film would premier in a cinema for a live audience. His film The Chase, was slated to premier in Dubai on March 26, 2020, but then the global pandemic changed everything. The NYFA digital filmmaking alum decided to pivot and release his film on YouTube instead.
Filmmaker Mirzaab was born and raised in Pakistan, but has been living in Dubai (UAE) since 2007. “I remember that from early on I always wanted to be a film director,” recalls Mirzaab. “There wasn’t a proper film school at an institute or university level known by me that catered to the passion of an emerging filmmaker. In other words, filmmaking was never considered as a full-time profession where I was growing up.”
Mirzaab recalls being raised surrounded by career choices that only seemed to be in industries such as: medicine, banking, law, teaching, engineering and others. He eventually found himself working in banking to help share the financial responsibility for his family’s household while completing his postgraduate education. “Working there [at the bank] not only brought in the support my family needed, but at the same time I was starting to feel independent in making my educational choices.”
With a never ending desire for filmmaking, Mirzaab recalls seeking out YouTube tutorials and learning everything from how to operate certain cameras to understanding lighting techniques as best he could. “But there was a major problem in all of it; the lack of process and guidance.”
He soon realized it was time to explore other options, so Mirzaab began reaching out to renowned pakistani film directors for guidance and eventually got hold of Mehreen Jabbar, who lives in New York, and encouraged Mirzaab to take a filmmaking course at NYFA.
Throughout his time as an independent filmmaker (Over 10 years), Mirzaab explains filmmaking is really about making a connection to life and reality.
“I realized that I didn’t need to learn the technical skills, but I did need to have the vision. The imagination should be as bright as the cinema screen and the director must be able to take his or her audience on a 90 minutes long journey where they also feel a part of it.”
Mirzaab says that it is the director who borrows a fraction of reality and translates that to an audience and “stirs emotions” among viewers. If that element is missing or is unclear, it may be a well made film but not a great film, which is how he thinks through each project and becoming a better director for the audience.
His past projects embody that sense of reality and emotion that he wants the audience to experience and relate to like Lasting Silence, which explores the relationship struggles between an able-bodied girl building a friendship with a special needs girl, without having any knowledge of sign language. Another film from the director, Thankful, portrays the relationship between a father and daughter and their different views on one single incident they experience together, while Extra explores ‘happiness’ and ‘contentment’ in life.
Mirzaab’s latest film, The Chase, explores more themes that people may grapple with regularly such as: mental health, emotional well-being, affection, rejection, social connection, paranormal intuitions, manifestation, friendships and above all, the uncertainty of life and death. “I am a big fan of exploring human relationship stories, real or fiction, it doesn’t matter to me,” he shares. “I always enjoy it and my filmmaking is primarily based on such stories and all my films reflect that commonality.”
Mirzaab reminds filmmakers, producers, and teachers of every caliber to remember: “The scale of production is a good measure to gauge the seriousness of a filmmaker, but many times we miss out those filmmakers whose passions go way beyond their lack of resources and apprenticeships.”
New York Film Academy congratulates Mirzaab on the release of his latest film and encourages everyone to check out The Chase, now available to watch on Mirzaab’s YouTube channel here.