Film & Media Arts Department Welcomes Emelie Mahdavian, Producer-In-Residence

November 04 2019

The Film and Media Arts Department is excited to welcome experimental and documentary filmmaker Emelie Mahdavian, Post Doctoral Fellow and producer-in-residence. Mahdavian’s most recent film, “Midnight Traveler,” has received critical acclaim including a 2019 Gotham Award Nomination for Best Documentary and Special Jury Prize at Sundance Film Festival. While at the University of Utah, she is in production on a new documentary feature “Bitterbrush.” 

Mahdavian studied filmmaking at London Film School, music and philosophy at Mills College and New England Conservatory of Music, and has a Ph.D. in Performance Studies with an emphasis in Film Practice as Research from the University of California, Davis.

The reciprocal relationship of research and creative decision making is one she continues to examine closely with University of Utah students in her special topics seminar course this semester, Approaching the Subject of Documentary. “I’m interested in theory informing practice and practice informing theory,” Mahdavian explained.

If students want to become experts at software (Premiere, for example), they can get training online.  What their undergraduate study perhaps offers is a deeper inquiry into what drives their creative choices, from filming to post-production. Particularly in documentary filmmaking, ethics and relationship building are integral to practice and product. Mahdavian is particularly interested in preparing students in these areas.

There is also quite a bit to explore in terms of practical knowledge of film distribution, which is a constantly evolving environment. “You can go away to work on a film for a few months and when you return, the market can be completely different.” Mahdavian said. From live screening to streaming platforms, Mahdavian is helping prepare students for the business of film alongside developing strong artistic practice.

When asked what makes her unique as an editor, the continual influence from multidisciplinary interests is one characteristic she can pinpoint. “ I am a musician and dancer -- that perspective is tied to everything I do,” she said.

Pursuing an ongoing interest in Central Asian dance, Mahdavian was a former principal dancer and Assistant Director for Ballet Afsaneh. Her film “After the Curtain,”  documented the cultural experiences of dancers in Tajikistan. In "Intangible Body,” she used motion capture to explore censorship of Iranian women's dance performance. This experience across artistic mediums makes Mahdavian an invaluable resource not only for the Film and Media Arts Department but also for students studying Screendance.

Mahdavian will continue teaches courses throughout the spring semester.  Join us in welcoming her to campus!