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An Interview with Iranian Cinematographer and first-year MFA student Soheil Goharipour

Soheil Goharipour is an Iranian Director and Cinematographer and as of 2021 a first-year MFA student. He summarized his first year in the MFA program and also talked about the great opportunity to have one of his films participating in the 49th Athens International Film and Video Festival.
 

A image of Soheil Goharipour behind a camera, from his profile.
Soheil Goharipour behind the lens.

How is your first year as an MFA student at the School of Film going?

During the Bootcamp year you learn as much as you would normally learn in several years. This is exciting since it gives me the opportunity to only focus on filmmaking during this period of my life. It’s all about watching films, making films, and reading and talking about films.

First, we started working with the Arri 16mm camera which was a great experience, that not a lot of filmmakers nowadays can have. Now, during the spring semester we are making one short film every weekend, which is incredible. Of course, it can be intense at times, but it’s all worth it, because almost each week I get a valuable opportunity to experience a new role of filmmaking. Prior to coming to school here I had a lot of experience in cinematography, but now, after only a few months, I gained knowledge about editing, screenwriting, acting, and sound recording as well. One of my favorite parts about this year are the screenwriting workshops, where we bring our ideas and develop them with the help of our professor and classmates. I can feel how much my knowledge grew and developed during this past year. Additionally, I enjoy those small exercises that teach me how to work with actors and other creatives, like in our directing class I got to recreate a short scene of Gone Girl with two acting students from the School of Theater.

 

A still from Solar Eclipse, 3 people looking offscreen right.
A still from Solar Eclipse.

Currently I am working on editing my second short film of this year together for the end of the year review. Additionally, I am finishing up a documentary of the Central Classroom Building. This documentary might be different from many of my classmates, but by capturing the presence of the building visually now, it can serve as a helpful and interesting archive of Central Classroom. As a passionate cinematographer, I often look for something that gives me opportunities to work on the visual aspect of the subject, and Central Classroom offered great possibilities with its different kinds of purpose for the university and its old structure.

While Soheil learned a lot during his first year as an MFA student, he also came in with a lot of experience and projects as a cinematographer. One of those projects, Solar Eclipse, directed by Raha Amirfazli and Alireza Ghasemi, is participating in the 49th Athens International Film and Video Festival, which takes place from April 1st to the 7th.

How was it to work on Solar Eclipse as a Director of Photography?

Shooting Solar Eclipse was one of my best and most fantastic experiences as a Director of Photography. The first draft of the script was written a year before we started shooting and I was engaged with the film from the very first draft. A couple of months before production, we started the pre-production process. We spent about a month on location scouting by visiting many parks in Tehran and taking photos and videos of them to compare their possibilities of the best fit for the script. Additionally, we decided to shoot on a 1.1:66 aspect ratio. I started to watch films with this aspect ratio, and we collected many films with a square composition as resources for some of the film's shots. Moreover, we had a lot of discussions about the style of the camera, and we watched quite a few films that featured a handheld style. One of our most inspiring films for the camera style was Son of Saul by László Nemes. We chose this aspect ratio because the height was more important than the width for us. The film is about the solar eclipse which happens in the sky, so we need to see the sky in several shots. In addition, there are a couple of establishing shots that we shot in a wide shot. Lastly, we did some test shots before shooting and talked to the colorist to see how and when we need to shoot the solar eclipse shots to reach the best result.  For motivating the story, we defined three different lighting sets, the film begins in sunlight, continues in shade, and ends in darkness.

 

An image from Solar Eclipse, a crowd of people raising up their phones towards the sky.
A still from Solar Eclipse.

What does it mean to you that this film is shown here in Athens, Ohio?

This is the sixth participation of the film in an Oscar-qualifying festival, after Aspen Shorts Fest (Colorado, USA), Foyle Film Festival (Ireland), Show Me Shorts (New Zealand), Rhode Island (USA), and LA Shorts (USA). Also, it has been selected in 15 other festivals around the world. I am so excited that after about 2 ½ years, I can watch it on the big screen for the first time, and it is my honor that it happens at the Athens International Film and Video Festival, one of the oldest and most well-known festivals in the world. I was at the 48th Athens’s Festival last year as a visitor, and that was a fantastic experience. I was fascinated by the wonderful films and the great selection. As a volunteer, I have worked in the most renowned student short film festival in Iran named "Nahal" for many years. I understand how hard it is to run and manage this kind of festival with many films and participants. I found the Athens Film Festival's team very friendly and committed. It also has a pleasant space where filmmakers can talk about their works and experience. I am so excited that Solar Eclipse will be watched by many filmmakers and great artists at this festival. I cannot wait to talk to them and hear their comments and feedback about the film.

 

An image from Solar Eclipse, 3 people laying on top of each other in the sand.
A still from Solar Eclipse.

Solar Eclipse is part of the short film block Metamorphosis, which screens on Saturday, April 2nd at 5:00 pm. For more information, visit Athens International Film and Video Festival.