Today we’d like to introduce you to Dazzy Shah.
Dazzy, we appreciate you taking the time to share your story with us today. Where does your story begin?
If someone would’ve told me that I would be working in the arts when I was a kid, I would have laughed at them. I was born and brought up in India, and due to the fact that for most of my academic career Art had really just been a box to tick off, my rendezvous with It really began when my parents made the challenging decision to immigrate to Canada from India. Canada is where I finished my junior and senior year of high school, and this is when I started specializing in graphic design. From here stemmed a curiosity for all things visual arts! It wasn’t until my junior year of Architecture School at the University of Toronto that I discovered my love for Production Design. With my other major at the time being Visual Studies, I often got the opportunity to combine art and design in the form of installations, which is what made me fall in love with the phenomenological aspect of the field. I was very much into creating entire narratives and atmospheres rather than lone buildings.
Further research with regards to where I could apply my interests and skillset brought me to the realm of Production Design. I was able to work as the Props and Sec Dec Assistant at one of U of T’s theatres, under the supervision and mentorship of Dr. Sharon Reid. The knowledge and confidence that I gained there is what led me to look into Masters Programs for Production Design, specifically geared towards training individuals for a career in film and TV. Due to the specificity, my options were few and the competition high. After graduating from U of T in 2018, I took a year off to work on my portfolio and gain some hands-on set experience in film and TV. I was very fortunate to have been accepted into the MFA in Production Design program at Chapman University in 2019, and that’s where I am right now! I continue to work on short graphic design and film projects on the side while in the final semester of my two year MFA degree!
I’m sure you wouldn’t say it’s been obstacle free, but so far would you say the journey have been a fairly smooth road?
My journey so far has definitely not been the smoothest, but what would be the fun in that? One of the first things that newcomers in film are told is that this is a difficult work to get into and that you must absolutely love the work that you do or the crazy hours would burn you out sooner than later. It is no secret that while unionized work in Film and TV Production has the reputation of assuring one a good income, it takes quite a bit of hustling to get to that stage. So as a 20-something year old, fresh out of school and with no ties to the Industry whatsoever, it was difficult going to my family and saying something around the lines of, “Hey, I think I have found my true calling. I will not be making a tonne for a while, but I really don’t think I will be happy doing anything else. Can I borrow some money for school? Thanks.” Yeah, that had not been the easiest. But while I did meet with some well-meaning resistance at first, my family was eventually able to see that I am very serious about my dream, and I am extremely lucky to have them have my back ever since I began this journey.
Another challenge that I continue to face is the self-doubt that pokes its head out at the most inconvenient times. Being an international student pursuing a career in a freelance industry in the City of Dreams comes with the added stress of a time crunch that I am sure many students and young professionals can relate to, and that may sometimes manifest itself in the question, “Am I going to be good enough?” The film industry in LA is a home to so many talented people, after all, and setting yourself apart from others in a place like this is no easy feat. I have learned that in times like these, it does well to reflect upon everything that I have achieved so far, and knowing that this is exactly where I wanted to be in my life, at this point in my life, is gratifying and grounding.
Thanks for sharing that. So, maybe next you can tell us a bit more about your work?
I am a Freelance Production Designer and am also currently in the final semester of my MFA in Production Design degree at Chapman University! However, I believe that I still have the capacity to soak in so much more knowledge about the various departments that fall under the umbrella of Production Design, and therefore am not afraid to take on any role in the art department. Apart from my Production Design credits, some other roles that I have taken up on my past projects include graphic designer, set designer, set decorator, art director, props master, model maker, and more! I have also had so many opportunities to help my fellows on their projects with set dressing, set construction, prop pickups, etc.
Due to that reason, I wouldn’t say that I am “known for” anything specific at this early stage in my career, but currently work as a “Jack of All Trades” kind of persona! Perhaps that is one of my more sought-after qualities, that I am very willing to learn new things while being extremely receptive to ideas and research! A few projects that I am most proud of include being a Set Dresser and Props Maker for a reality TV show called “Crazy Beautiful Weddings”. I had been able to work on this as part of my event design internship at a fabulous event design studio called “Love by Lynzie” in Toronto. It was my first experience on a TV show set and was therefore very exciting as I got to learn so much! Another project that I am very excited about is a Chapman TV Pilot that I am working on right now, to be shot in January. I am designing and constructing a one inch scale model that would be used to shoot the exterior of our main location. It’s something new that I am doing and am so psyched for it!
Alright, so to wrap up, is there anything else you’d like to share with us?
I am excited to move from Orange County to the heart of Film Production in LA after my Spring 2021 Graduation while being slightly nervous about working through the legalities of visas. The fact that productions have been picked up for a while now after the Industry had to shut down for a few months feels so much like a blessing, especially from the perspective of a youngster just beginning her career. All in all, I am so excited (and slightly antsy) to start working in the industry! The Ideal would be to have the opportunity to learn from industry professionals on bigger features and network shows while still being able to continue working as an entire art department team and meeting talented emerging filmmakers on the rapidly reviving indie scene in the city. My mantra these past few months has been, “I can’t wait,” and I am so excited to see what’s in store for our future!