It’s safe to say Armita Keyani is having an impressive post-grad career. Just months after graduating from film school, the Norway native’s graduate film “Welcome Home” screened at the Tribeca Film Festival. Shortly after, she nabbed a Best of the Year award at last year’s VFAs. (NBD.) Her work, at its best in the delightful short, often teeters on the line between drama and comedy, and exposes the absurd nature of being human.
We had a chance to catch up with Armita to find out more about what inspired her standout film, hear how she pushed past fear to make better work, and learn how she uses Vimeo to power her creative work.
How did you get into film?
I took a short film course at 19, and I felt like I discovered my passion for the first time. The people that were leading the course were telling me, “We believe in you.” I never experienced that with anything else. So that’s when I knew that this was what I wanted to do.
Tell us about “Welcome Home.” What inspired it?
It’s about a couple from Iran that just arrived in Norway. They want to get to know the culture more and practice the language, and then Jehovah’s Witnesses knock on their door. They think of that as an opportunity to practice. But really it’s about assumptions and challenging those, and the meeting of different cultures as well.
It’s actually based on a true story about my parents when they first came to Norway in the late eighties. When they told me the story, I was like, “This is insane. This has to be a film.” I really love comedy a lot because I feel like you get this different sort of trust from the audience. If you can get the audience to laugh, you can get them to listen.
What themes do you return to in your work?
As a society, we have a tendency to reduce people just being one identity. Then we put all these different labels on a person just based on that. I think it’s fun to try to challenge that through film and through humor. That’s one of the things I wanted to do with “Welcome Home.” Films about refugees and immigrants are often very tragic. With comedy, if we’re laughing with them, then they’re us, in a way.
Do you have any advice for aspiring filmmakers?
What I learned from this was to be fearless. There were times on set when I had an idea, but I would doubt myself. Once I started throwing myself out there and actually doing it, that’s when I really saw the things that I wanted to see. That’s when it really got interesting. Push past that fear in all the phases of filmmaking, not just on set.
Why did you join Vimeo?
It’s a really great platform for filmmakers. I love that there’s a platform without ads where people can just post their creative work. It’s a very special community. I really love the Staff Picks, and whenever I’m kind of lacking inspiration, whether it’s like during the writing or editing process, I just go and find a Staff Pick and watch that.
Film festivals are amazing, they’re great, but not everyone is going to go to film festivals. Once your film is on Vimeo, it’s like anyone can share it with anyone, and anyone can see it. Even people that don’t usually watch short films.
What Vimeo tools do you use in your work?
I use unlisted links for submitting to festivals. It’s just a really great way to send films. Plus, if you’re working on a project and you want feedback from someone else, you can also use the unlisted links. It’s a great way to share something, instead of sending huge files. It allows me to kind of keep the film hidden, but at the same time, letting the right people see the film.