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Interview with Producers Without Borders (PWB) Founder Kayvan Mashayekh at 75th Annual Cannes Film Festival

AnInterview with Producers Without Borders (PWB) Founder Kayvan Mashayekh at 75th Annual Cannes Film Festival

Attorney turned filmmaker, Kayvan Mashayekh, began his career by writing, producing and directing an epic, independent feature film called, "The Keeper: The Legend of Omar Khayyam," which Premiered at the Moscow Film Festival in 2005 and had a successful theatrical run in the US for 53 weeks in 14 separate cities.

Mashayekh was the winner of the Relativity Media Special Prize of $25,000 at the 2007 Middle East International Film Festival in Abu Dhabi for his script "Batting for Palestine" where one of the judges, legendary two time Oscar Winning Producer of "Gladiator" and "Schindler's List," Branko Lustig, noticed him and subsequently took him in under his wing as an apprentice producer developing his slate of international, studio grade projects.

Being the beneficiary of a treasure chest of knowledge and experience, Mr. Lustig treated Kayvan like a son and taught him the soft skills an effective producer needs in handling complicated tasks in high pressure situations by learning to manage talented individuals in delicate environments. As a result of the knowledge he acquired, Mashayekh became a consultant to independent filmmakers.

Mashayekh became a member of the PGA in 2008 and was chosen as its Middle East Representative in the International Committee, working closely to develop an outreach program with the PGA's first ever Middle East Affiliate, The Royal Film Commission of Jordan. By creating workshops, seminars and events with RFC, the relationship has helped launch the careers of many talented producers in the region who have benefited from the bridge-building nature and educational importance of cross border production by PGA mentor members for over a decade.

In June 2018, Mashayekh was elected as Co-Chairman of the International Committee for the Producers Guild of America. In that capacity, he has been proactive in globally branding the World's largest producers trade organization with a membership of over 8500. He has been instrumental in increasing the membership of the specific committee of 180 members he Chairs by over 100% since taking over from his predecessors in 2018, proving that when people feel empowered and motivated by action and results, they will be engaged to participate and add value to the group.

Mashayekh is also the Founder of "Producers Without Borders" (producerswithoutborders.com) a private network of proven International Producers and thought leaders who thrive on working and learning from one another in film, television, and multimedia. The initiative began in 2015 as a curated series of film entertainment seminars at World Class Film Festivals and Markets (such as BFI London, Marché du Film in Cannes, Berlinale Horizons, FilmBazaar in India, FOCUS London, AFM, Awal Film Festival in Jordan, and Cairo International Film Festival) and has now blossomed into a tight knit group of responsive filmmakers who "act" rather than "talk." 

 

 

In an interview with Kayvan about his PWB dinner at Long Beach on the croisette during the 75th annual Cannes Film Festival, here is what he had to say:

 

Can you tell us about your film "The Keeper:The Legend of Omar Khayyam" that you wrote, directed and produced in 2005?

KAYVAN: Simply stated, it was a labor of love that took seven years of my life to put together and was the greatest lesson in filmmaking "do’s and don’ts.” Looking back now after all these years, I’m extremely proud of it because I don’t know how we pulled it off. I recently listened to my own voice from nearly 20 years ago in the Director’s commentaries, and got chills listening to how I was attempting to layer the film so it would have resonance in the future for the next generation of viewers. I grew up on a healthy diet of the “Kubrick" school of filmmaking. As a student, I was so inspired by how his visuals would captivate an audience while the words spoken on the screen may not have necessarily made an impact on that same audience when it was made. 

 
How did you get into producing?

KAYVAN: By default. I was trained as a lawyer and quit the active practice to pursue my new career path in filmmaking by going to film school in New York. Lawyers tend to micro manage details, which is critical in their practice. In the creative world, you have to weave a delicate quilt with the financing side (Risk Assessment/potential ROI), if you want to get a project moving forward. I’ve found that it is critical to delegate authority and confidence to trusted people who are better, smarter and stronger than you, regardless of gender or ethnicity. You’re dealing with human beings from different backgrounds, cultures, languages, and work ethic who have enormous talent, energy, emotions, skills coupled with fears, volatility, etc..so you just have to learn to weather the storms and create opportunities where the synergy amongst them creates an environment conducive to proper collaboration. Most importantly for me, I had the benefit of having a world class mentor, Branko Lustig, Two Time Oscar Winning Producer of “Gladiator” and Schindler’s List."

 

Many people don't know what a producer's role is. From your POV, what is a "producer"?

KAYVAN: Anyone that can get it done…period. Of course there’s the “guild” definition of who can call themselves a “producer” in the entertainment world. However, my definition is much more expansive and comes from the ability of an individual to tap into all the resources he/she has in collaborating, creating and delivering the final product. Producers have multiple skill sets that cross pollinate into other professions, whether it be law, finance, technology, medicine, etc. Often times story lines are stripped from those branches of a tree of creativity that requires that specific background knowledge to implement effectively.

 
You have produced a very successful global networking movement called "Producers Without Borders". Can you tell us about that?

KAYVAN: PWB started in 2015 as a series of seminars with the participation of a myriad of colleagues during the Cannes Film Festival who helped me instruct newbie filmmakers on the ins and outs of the film business. The talks were hosted and organized via my professional relationships with the Royal Film Commission of Jordan. Today, PWB has grown into a global network of proven thought leaders who thrive on working and learning from one another in film, television, multimedia, law, technology, finance, medicine, architecture, real estate and many other professional industries where the cross section of expertise in each relative field helps service the whole group. We are a closed group. No newsletters, endless chat groups or conference calls. We meet in person, face to face, to create lasting relationships based on personal connections where your word is your bond.

 

What are the many festivals and cities that you now produce your private events?

KAYVAN: Going back to 2018, I’ve held my high octane, curated networking events in Berlin, Los Angeles, Paris, Cannes, Venice, Toronto, and London…there are many more upcoming cities around the globe that are planned specifically for PWB. As the demand for connectivity amongst professionals skyrockets, PWB events have become essential. During the covid restrictive years of 2020-2021, many people were reluctant to travel and see each other face to face, but now the exact opposite is happening where I’m having to be more measured regarding the size and scale of the events. For me it’s about curating the quality of the potential connections, rather than the number.

 

In this long ride you've been on with your successful PWB creation, what have been the greatest rewards? And challenges?

KAYVAN: The greatest reward I have received is truly the incredibly positive feedback from attendees who are longing to connect to an authentic network of individuals. My curation process is a big puzzle in my head where I imagine the conversations at each table. How and why I seat them there depends on a multitude of factors where I feel they will get the most out of the interactions with their colleagues at the table. The challenge is to improve and innovate with each passing event and learn what needs to change for it to survive.

 

You attend Cannes every year. When was your first Cannes and how have things changed for you since then?

KAYVAN: My first Cannes was 2002..but I skipped Cannes in 2005 and 2006 when "The Keeper: The Legend of Omar Khayyam" was Theatrical in the US for 53 weeks and I was traveling with the film…and of course, 2020 was virtual and not in person.

 

You held your last PWB event at the 75th edition of the Cannes Film Festival. How does the past, present, and future factor into it?

KAYVAN: Cannes 2022 was a magnificent celebration filled with warmth and camaraderie. It was my 15th networking event (including previous incarnations of my global gatherings) dating back four years. They just keep getting better because the people who are now attending are very enthusiastic about maintaining their long term relationships. For example, I had individuals attend my event in Cannes who came to my premiere 18 years ago and were thrilled to reconnect with colleagues from the past and meet new ones for the future. There are essential people in my network that go back 38 years!

 

What's next in the pipeline for you as a producer of film and of PWB?

KAYVAN: I am bombarded with requests to produce films with my colleagues, but honestly my energy and attention is so focused on keeping this going into the future, that I’m very selective now about my time. I’m happy to entertain offers for producing if my heart and mind are both in it. I hope that with each passing year I will have the energy to orchestrate these unique gatherings, so the next generation of producers are inspired to create lasting bonds that passionately ignite projects around the world. My mantra has always remained consistent for PWB…collaborate, create, deliver.

Interview with Producers Without Borders (PWB) Founder Kayvan Mashayekh at 75th Annual Cannes Film Festival

Interview with Producers Without Borders (PWB) Founder Kayvan Mashayekh at 75th Annual Cannes Film Festival

Interview with Producers Without Borders (PWB) Founder Kayvan Mashayekh at 75th Annual Cannes Film Festival

 

 

Interview by Vanessa McMahon

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