Meet Sarah Zaman

Sarah Zaman

DI Class: 2007

Thesis Film: Bismillah: in the name of Allah

Sarah Zaman is a Second year DI student who has completed her thesis film, Bismillah: in the name of Allah, with her co-director Jolene Pinder.

Q: What was your undergrad degree ?

Communication studies with a concentration in Electronic Media Production.

Q: Why did you choose this program over others?

The program seemed very well rounded in terms of dealing with various aspects of documentary filmmaking such as content development, technical know-how, ethical issues and business. Also, being provided with funds to make your film was a very important deciding factor.

Q: What were your production aspirations before coming to the program?

I worked as a news producer for a while before I joined the program, and I enjoyed managing content and presentation, so I wanted to continue as a producer.

Q: Have these aspirations changed?

No, I still want to be a producer, hopefully for some current affairs or social issues programming, not really news.

Q: How difficult was the pairing process?

For me it was really easy to pair with my partner. I was looking for someone with a good work ethic, creativity, and a positive attitude towards people and issues. Also,working with someone who had similar taste in story ideas and story-telling as myself was very important for me.

Q: In establishing a strength in the program – e.g writing, research, sound or lighting what is yours?

It would be hard for me to pinpoint one, but I can tell you that I enjoyed videography and editing the most and so I feel that is where I would like to concentrate and try to improve my skills.

Q: What are your career aspirations after the Institute?

My ultimate goal is to work in media in Pakistan as a producer of current affairs/social issues programming. To materialize this, I would like to work in the US for at least a year or more with the likes of CNN or ITVS/National Geographic etc. and gain some valuable knowledge and experience before heading home.

Q: What inspired your thesis film choice?

My thesis film is about a Muslim Girl Scout troop leader running for public office in Minneapolis. The film deals with a muslim woman ‘s struggle against the power structure in America and the impact her efforts have on a future generation of muslim women.

I always wanted to tell a story of muslims who are peacefully working within the norms of their societies to change their image that is currently plagued with violence. I wanted to show that they are a productive part of the societies they live in and that being American and muslim are not mutually exclusive.

Q: What has been the most challenging aspect of the thesis process?

It’s been challenging logistically to pursue a project in Minnesota, while living in Florida. We took turns flying to Minneapolis to film on a limited budget. A few times I skipped the labs I teach at UF so I could go to MN. Jolene put her life on hold in Florida and lived in Minneapolis for almost a month to film the events leading up to the November 7 election. We drove twice from Gainesville to Minneapolis, which I must admit was a daunting but fun task.

In terms of content, determining which girls among the troop would represent Muslim Girl Scouts and the future generation of Muslims was the most challenging aspect. Identifying introspective and eloquent 12-year-olds who are not too camera-shy can be quite challenging.

Q: What has been the most rewarding aspect of the thesis process?

For me it’s the relationships we have built with our lead character Farheen Hakeem and the girls in her troop are the most rewarding aspect of the process. Farheen has been exceptionally gracious since the beginning of this project as she opened up her house, her workplace and her life to the constant scrutiny of our cameras. She lets us live in her house and eat her mom’s delicious food every time we go there to work. The girls in her troop opened up to us very quickly too. They hug us when we meet, and get upset about our absence from the scene. It has just been amazing to love and be loved by people who up until a few months ago were total strangers.