Farah Merani

Actress, Filmmaker, Advocate

Farah Merani is a graduate of the Drama Centre London and the University College Drama Program at the University of Toronto, as well as receiving a diploma in Business Management for Media Professionals, co-sponsored by Humber College and WIFT. She has performed in Canada an the US, throughout Europe and in Russia. TV and film credits include: Shadowhunters, Nikita, Lost Girl, Covert Affairs, Private Eyes and The Listener. Farah also starred in the World Premiere of Little Pretty and the Exceptional at Factory Theatre in Toronto and earned an Honourable Mention for Best Performance for her work in the 2016 Summerworks hit, Trompe le Mort.

In addition to being an actor, she has produced dozens of films with her company, Lifeguard Productions, was an associate producer on the webseries, SUDDEN MASTER, for OMNI TV, and both starred in and served as an associate producer in the feature film, GREAT GREAT GREAT, which just completed a theatrical release across North America. Her film work has screened on the international festival circuit, including Reelworld Film Festival, TIFF, the Austin Film Festival, the Atlantic Film Festival, WIFT Toronto, the Women's International Film Festival, Garden State International Film Festival, Women's Voices Now, Artemis Film Festival, and the Cleveland International Film Festival. Currently, she has several TV series at various stages of development, is writing a collection of short stories, and creating a podcast called The Curious Coven.

Farah is also one of the co-founders of Women on Screen, a for-purpose organization set to promote a more dynamic representation of women in the entertainment industry. Since 2014, the core program for Women On Screen has been a six-week development incubator program for short form webseries, namely pilot scripts, crafted by female-identifying screenwriters and featuring female-driven content. From 2014-2018, she was the co-chair of the Diversity Committee at ACTRA Toronto and continues to be a member of the ACTRA Diversity committee. Farah has contributed and participated regularly on a variety of professional panels and conferences, speaking specifically to diversity and gender issues in the film industry.

READ OUR EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH FARAH BELOW:

 

What drives you?

The desire to see change. A kind of systematic change I can be a part of. To see more diversity on all sides of the camera. To hear more diverse stories about the people I represent and also those I do not but am an ally for. To support the dreams of others. It's so fulfilling and humbling to see someone else's dream be actualized and know that we did it together, that I got to have a small part in someone else's success.

How do you stay motivated in this industry?

I try to keep a big picture perspective, knowing that every step of success, no matter how big or small, is a step forward to be acknowledged and celebrated. Every hiccup or detour has a purpose and serves as re-calibration of that big picture.

Keeping people around me who reflect the positive over the negative, who remind me I'm always loved and cared for, who believe in me as much as I believe in myself, is such an important part of staying on track and truly one of life's biggest blessings.

Meditating daily and having a strong faith connection are things I used to balk at when I was younger and now I realize that they have been vital in providing me with the grounding, comfort, and energizing I need on a regular basis. There are so many upswings and downturns in this business so it's really important to have something to come back to that helps me stay clear and calm.

Advice to someone just starting out?

I'm stealing this from the indelible John Hurt who said this to me years ago in London and I have added to it to make it my own. So, to paraphrase:

"Let go of the word PERSEVERANCE. It carries struggle and strife. You don't need that as an artist, the world will give you enough of it. Think of it, rather, as an act of pressing on ... the constant forward momentum that comes with the focused and consistent practice of your art."

The other thing I'll add is: Trust when they say, "What's meant for you will come to you," because it's true. You will always get what's yours. And also, "Don't wait for anyone else to give you permission to tell your own story or be who you want to be." 

Who impacted your career the most?

Two figures: my father and Shakespeare. My father has always guided and supported me in the best way he knows how and always with love. Even if we're at odds, I can always count on him to ask me that tough question I don't want to answer and in that friction, a spark alights and something will inevitably become clearer to me. I don't think he quite realizes how much he has directly impacted my career as an artist. In fact, if it weren't for my dad, I'd never have been motivated to go to drama school in London, which leads me to #2! Shakespeare. Grade 10. Mr. Penton's class, we watched Looking for Richard, about Richard III. Watching Al Pacino investigate Shakespeare's Richard in contrast to the real Richard got me so fired up on how beautiful, relevant, and accessible the Bard is. All I ever wanted as a kid was to live in England. So, finally moving to England and working at the Globe was a huge turning point for me both professionally and personally.

How did you build the team around you?

I really owe a lot to my dear friend Huse Madhavji. He introduced me to his agent, Gerry Lomberg, when I first moved back to Toronto and she signed me right away. Through her care and guidance, we were able to expand our team in a way that evolved naturally with our shared vision for my career. When she decided to retire a few years ago, she made sure I was well taken care of as I moved onward and upward. We still keep in touch and she's always been a huge support.

Was it luck or strategy that helped you find success?

Well, considering I don't really believe in luck, I guess strategy has a lot more to do with it. More to the question, however, is what does success even mean?! We all have different interpretations of it and what society outwardly values hardly reflects what really matters inwardly. It's funny because how often do we say stuff like that and then a huge car repair bill comes in and you're like, "Gaaaah!!!" Seriously, though, I've come to understand success from a much more holistic angle, one where it's the confluence of so many factors that evolve and expand as I get older.

Did you ever give up hope that you’d not make it?

It’s been known to happen that a wave of despair and frustration washes over me. I take comfort in the fact that it’s almost always fleeting and that I’m hardly the first person to experience it! I actually think it’s healthy to have moments of self-reflection like that, it helps give perspective.

What was your worst experience in this business?

Having to turn down a job opportunity because it didn’t align with my values is never fun. Nor is it easy. Sadly, it’s happened more than once. However, I believe in always making choices that feel right, even if they’re hard. Those are often the most important ones to make.

What was your best experience in this business?

The fact that a list started building in my head as soon as I started thinking about this question will tell you that I’ve had the incredible fortune of doing, and being a part of, some pretty magical experiences. One recent experience that was so deeply impactful is the short film I was a producer on, Super Zee. We had an all-female POC creative team and successfully hired an all-POC crew! The energy on-set was so electric and everyone was so jazzed to be there, it was like no other set I’ve ever been on.

Was Reelworld instrumental in your career in anyway? How?

Fact: Reelworld was the first film festival I attended in Toronto upon moving to the city in 2012! That there was a festival celebrating and supporting diverse storytellers made such an immediate impression on me, it truly was the spark that inspired me to get involved with ACTRA, which ultimately led to me becoming co-chair of the Diversity Committee with the amazing Sedina Fiati!

Is there a theme in the work you pick?

I’m really conscious of how people are being presented on-screen and this awareness certainly informs the work I take and create. Someone recently asked me if there was a throughline in the work I’ve done thus far and it got me thinking about what that might be. There’s definitely a strong theme of positive and informed representation, as I have no desire to be a part of anything that supports an ignorant stereotype or idea. All I really want is to create work that makes people think and feel something, and ultimately, brings more joy into the world.

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