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Interview with Farzad Sangari the director of Mudbloods

Transforming Harry Potter’s fictional competition into a physically demanding, real-life sport, quidditch has secured its place as one of the fastest growing collegiate club sports today. MUDBLOODS follows the resilient underdogs of the UCLA Quidditch team as they make their way to the Fifth Annual Quidditch World Cup in New York City. Through nail biting victories and losses, the dreamers, creators and athletes who make up this exceptional community come together to make this magical sport into something you could’ve never imagined–until now.

How are you today? 

I'm doing well, thanks for asking.

Where are you from? 

I was born in Iran, and I grew up in San Diego, CA. 

Who introduced you to film? 

I've always liked movies, but I didn't really think about them in I think the way you are referring until my last semester of university.  I needed an elective to take, so I took a film class.  I thought it'd be easy, but it was exciting in a way I didn't anticipate.  I think that's when I was really introduced to film. 

Was there a film that inspired you to peruse film making as a career?

Not really.  I didn't think about making films as a career until later in my life.  It was more of a gradual process.  

Do you have a preference between documentary and narrative features? 

No, I prefer both.    

Can you tell me a little about the history of quidditch and the International Quidditch Association (IQA)?

Quidditch started in the fall of 2005 at Middlebury College in Vermont.  The initial idea to adapt Harry Potter’s quidditch into a real life activity came from Xander Manshel.  A friend of Xander’s, Alex Benepe, took the idea that they started for fun and turned it into an intercollegiate sport that has grown every year since 2005.  For a more detailed timeline you can go to the IQA site:

In regards to quidditch at UCLA, it started with Tom Marks.  One of Tom’s friends went to Middlebury and brought the game back to Tom’s hometown the summer before he came to UCLA.  When Tom arrived at UCLA, he tried to find and join the Quidditch team, but he discovered that one did not exist.  So he decided to change that, and started the UCLA Quidditch team.     

How did the filmmaking team come together and when did you realize this was something that needed to be documented? 

I knew the team was something that needed to be documented the first time I saw it.  I was walking by a field and I saw a group of people playing quidditch.  Strangely, I immediately knew what it was even though I had never seen it before.  But, the more important thing for me was that I noticed there were a lot of people watching them as well. So, I knew right away that there was something special going on. 

Initially, I started filming on my own.  For bigger events, such as the tournament, bigger games/practices, or other events, I shot with Jason Knutzen—as well as a few other shooters and friends like Justin Perkinson, Leigh Underwood, Doug Turner and Sun Kim. 

I shot and edited the film for about a year before Eric Martin came on as a producer.  Shortly after, Jeremy White also came on as a producer.  We then brought in a composer, Kevin Matley, and a graphic artist, Jennifer Sapanski, as I continued to edit and we continued to refine the story. This whole process took about another year.  The final members to join the team were Rebecca Olson and Jeffrey Fletcher—who came on to complete the animation.

Do you have a personal involvement with quidditch? 

After I came on board, I played a match with some of the Lost Boys (an LA based team). Alex Benepe, who was one of the guys who helped create the sport at Middlebury College, was actually there too. I got completely creamed. I was no good at all. But it was a lot of fun to play.

 What’s the connection with UCLA and how did you choose to follow their story over the other 300 college teams? 

A lot of people on the filmmaker team, including me, went to UCLA.  The first time I saw UCLA’s quidditch team was when I was at the school. 

That connection assisted in creating an immediate bond and helped us get to know each other initially; however, it’s not why I choose to follow them.   I choose to follow their story because I found the individual members of the team to be smart, charming, funny, very creative and extremely self-aware.  They’re also great athletes.   Ultimately, they are all wonderful characters in the midst of an exciting journey that I was just lucky enough to stumble upon.

What sort of role does the Harry Potter brand play in quidditch today?

The connection to Harry Potter, and specifically the brand, is complicated.  Officially, there is no direct connection between the brand and the sport; however, the sport would not exist without the brand or the books. So, there are undoubtedly connections—even if they are not explicit.

What are the most surprising things you learned about the sport, and filmmaking, during production?

The most surprising thing I leaned about filmmaking is that editing a documentary, especially one shot in this way, takes a long time – a lot longer than you think it will take. 

Can you talk about the role that animation plays in the film?

The animation was really important because it’s a graphical representation of what quidditch players are essentially doing by adapting a fictional sport into reality, and it is one of the things that initially drew me into making this film.  As a filmmaker, I’m interested in the line between fiction and reality.  I’m drawn to these types of films and to filmmakers who explore these boundaries.  So, for the animation, it was important for us to try to capture one of the ideas inherent in quidditch that I found so exciting; namely, taking a two-dimensional idea that lives on the page and turning it into a three-dimensional, real sport. We wanted to capture this idea through the way the animated sequences and transitions interacted with the live images, but in a way that reflected the distinctiveness of the characters and the sport. 

More importantly, the animation and animated transitions are like quidditch itself – fun and unique – thanks in large part to the talented and creative artists, illustrators and animators with whom we were fortunate to partner on the project. 

How long did you shoot and what role did Kickstarter play in producing the film?

Kickstarter was very big for us.  Like a lot of documentaries, we started the process of filming not necessarily knowing where it would take us.  The Kickstarter campaign came in toward the tail end of the post-production process.  We had already shot most of the movie and had been editing for several months.  So the Kickstarter campaign occurred at a time when we really needed the help and the resources to get the movie over the finish line and out to as many people who might be interested in seeing it.

We shot consecutively for about 8 months.   However, we also shot pickups and follow up interviews over the course of the next 2 years.  In total, we had about 107 hours of footage. 

We are able to meet so many interesting characters in Mudbloods. Were there any stories that especially touched you?

One person’s story (that didn’t make it into the film) came from a young woman who had joined her school’s quidditch club because the organization she thought she wanted to join was not the right fit for her.  This particular person came to university intent on joining a specific faith-based club because her faith was extremely important to her.  The club had defined who she was, and it was the field she wanted to pursue as a career after graduating.  Yet, for a variety of reasons, that group was not the most inviting environment for her and the people in it did not reflect her views.   

But then she found her school’s quidditch club.  There she found a diverse group of smart, creative and imaginative individuals who shared her views of fairness and inclusivity.  So, rather than being dejected or isolated because the group she thought she would be a part of was not a great fit for her, she found an exciting new group of people with whom she connected and who helped her define who she was as a person. 

Where are characters such as Tom, Katie and Alex now?

Tom graduated from UCLA and got a job working for a company that makes games.
Alex continues to grow the sport of quidditch and the IQA. 
Katie works as graphic and web designer and is still a big fan. 

What would you like audiences to take away from the film?

I’d like audiences to take away from this film the same feelings I experienced while getting to know the variety of diverse characters who are connected to this new and unique sport.  For me, it was exhilarating to be able to spend time with, and document, such a distinct mix of individuals who are filled with so much creativity and passion.   Not all of them came to quidditch for the same reasons, but they all share characteristics that are rare and inspiring. 

Mudbloods will be available on iTunes and through the film's website here on October 14th.  Farzad Sangari will be hosting a screening of the film in Tucson on Saturday October 18th and you can purchase tickets for the event here