With special guests Rayka Zehtabchi & Shaandiin Tome

With special guests Rayka Zehtabchi & Shaandiin Tome
On this month’s episode of the Periodical Podcast, Asha Dahya speaks with the “Long Line of Ladies” co-directors about “a different kind of filmmaking” driven by listening, collaboration, and representation — the non-performative kind.
After making the Oscar-winning short “Period. End of Sentence.,” Zehtabchi wanted to tell a stigma-free story about periods. That led her to researching tribal traditions and ultimately partnering with Tome, an indigenous filmmaker who skipped her own coming-of-age ceremony. To make their film, they established “complete and utter trust” — with each other, but also with the Allens, the Karuk family at the center of the film.

“Something we’re really proud of about this film is that … there isn’t a lot of conflict in it. It feels like it exists in a world that is celebratory.” — Shaandiin Tome

“We’ve seen people from all walks of life have really intense emotional reactions (to the film). And it’s because of love. You know, it’s like a hug.” — Rayka Zehtabchi

Asha Dahya
Hello rePRO fam! Welcome back to another episode of the rePRO Film podcast. I’m your host Asha Dahya, and after taking a short break last month for summer activities, it is great to be back with another fascinating and inspiring interview to share with you. This month in the repro periodical, we’re featuring a short documentary film called ‘Long Line of Ladies’, from filmmakers Shaandiin Tome, and Rayka Zehtabchi, who also happens to be the first Iranian woman to win an Oscar. No big deal.

Rayka is a director working in both documentary and fiction. Her documentaries “Period. End of Sentence.” and “A Woman’s Place” can be seen on Netflix and Hulu, respectively. Oscar-winning documentary ‘Period. End of Sentence’ is about a group of village women in Northern India who start a sanitary pad-making business in an effort to improve feminine hygiene and de-stigmatize menstruation. Along with the film’s release, Rayka helped co-found the non-profit “The Pad Project” to fight the stigma of menstruation and improve feminine hygiene worldwide.

Shaandiin is based in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Her breakout, award-winning short film Mud premiered at Sundance Film Festival in 2018, and she returned to Sundance in 2022, with ‘Long Line of Ladies,’ where it premiered. The short film won the ‘Documentary Shorts Jury Award’ at SXSW. Her cross-cultural experiences allow her to collaborate with other trailblazers in capturing untold stories among the Indigenous community, both as a director and cinematographer.

Long Line Of Ladies follows a girl named Ahty and her family as they prepare for her Ihuk, the once-dormant coming of age ceremony of the Karuk tribe where they celebrate a young woman getting her period and her symbolic and literal journey into womanhood. This stunning film, which you can watch on our site during the month of August, is a beautiful and powerful counter-culture message, portraying what it looks like to live in a world where menstruation is not taboo, shamed or considered dirty in any way. There is no major conflict in this film, it is all about community, family, tradition and love.

Now, I know what you might be thinking – that it is RARE to hear or see any narrative about menstruation that doesn’t include some sort of taboo or shame, but I think that’s what we loved about this film so much. We are so used to seeing the period jokes, the gendered mockery, and in many cases, the dangerous and detrimental impact of shaming someone for having their period and ostracizing them from society. Seeing this indigenous tribe in California come together, not just the women, but also the men, the dads, the brothers, uncles and male elders and power The women in their lives in this crucial moment on their life journey is really something to behold. So it was such an honor to be able to interview both Ryker and Chandan about this film and their respective work, especially at a time when there are major strikes happening in the film industry and uncertainty is everywhere.

In the following interview, it was really cool to hear Rayka’s perspective on making two films about menstruation, with complete opposite cultural sentiments as the driving force. It was also eye-opening to hear Shaandiin talk about what it meant to be an Indigenous woman filming another Indigenous woman’s Ihuk ceremony, as she candidly shares how different it was for her growing up because of internalized shame, a universal trait that many of us can relate to. I hope you enjoy both the film and this interview, and leave feeling like a new world that holds a default narrative about periods as positive and affirming, and Rayka, it is SO wonderful to be speaking with you both on the RePRO Film podcast! Before we dive into your work, I’d love to know how you met and the catalyst behind making it?

04:25  Rayka Zehtabchi
Yeah. I reached out to Shaandiin. I think really early on, we were sort of researching. My partner and I were researching, and. And basically stumbled upon this blog post from Pam Allen about her older, dotty, older daughter. Ty’s ceremony, a ceremony. I think the first thought was really like, you know, we need an indigenous filmmaker to like really, you know, bleed this and collaborate with. So I found Shaandiin’s work through I think it was through Sundance, actually, that you were like on a Sundance blog or article or something and found her work.

And I don’t know, I just felt really drawn to it. I loved I could feel her voice very clearly in her work and and basically just like reached out and we ended up having like a very long conversation over Zoom and I think connected a lot on a lot of things and and kind of like what our wants and desires were for some a project of of the scale and and just loved her perspective. And that’s kind of where it began

05:43  Asha Dahya
Shaandiin, let me hear your side of the story,

05:48  Shaandiin Tome
I guess it was a similar thing, right? I reached out and I think I mean, it’s pretty inspiring. Like when you see other women in film, I think like for like she’s so acclaimed and there’s so many things that she does to like, uphold and stay strong behind her voice. And I think that’s something that I really aspire towards. And so I could see that within our first meeting, like she’s very excited about the project. And yeah, I mean, it’s always great to work with people that inspire you and motivate you to try to do something that maybe you’re not entirely sure about. And so yeah, I think we had that first one conversation and kind of like saw eye to eye on a lot of things and also had our own perspectives.

06:34  Asha Dahya
feels like a big deal because for people who aren’t in the filmmaking world, to find a collaborative partner where you value each other’s perspectives because it’s so vulnerable and you have to be open to so many different ideas, I mean, that’s such a big deal. So to find someone who you want to work with is huge, right?

06:54  Rayka Zehtabchi
totally it was really vulnerable. And I think the other thing like Shandling just you know made several points about like, you know, like sort of seeing eye to eye, but also having your own perspective. And I think the other thing that really was very beautiful and very, very difficult about our collaboration was our strong headedness, impulsive, harsh individual, strong headedness and and like willingness to go there and challenge one another, even though it was difficult and uncomfortable at times. But I think what ended up happening every single time was there were sort of like this, like willingness to listen and grow, you know, even if there was a little bit of pushback, maybe, or defensiveness from the beginning. I think on both sides, there was always this willingness to like ruminate on what we talked about and grow and like, okay, so this makes me uncomfortable, but how can I step out of my own brain and, like, challenge myself here and do it together?

I think that that actually really, for me personally, like led to a very nourishing experience. You know, I think I think sometimes we sort of seek out situations that bring us comfort and don’t challenge us, you know, because we just want to sort of quiet that anxiety. But the best ways that you can grow as a person, as a storyteller and a creator is to put yourself in those situations where you really are being challenged constantly. If you can get to the other side, really beautiful things can happen. And I think we all kind of experienced that

08:44  Asha Dahya
and what resulted was just so phenomenal. I mean, long line of ladies is such a welcome dose of empowerment, cultural enrichment, and really subverts the numerous harmful messages we are accustomed to seeing around periods. Can you talk about the decision to highlight the Ihuk ceremony and follow Ahty’s journey to becoming a woman?

09:05  Shaandiin Tome
I guess I we both came into it with like different reasonings and we’ll explain our reasoning after. But I think for myself, like one of the first things that we talked about was like, how are we going to like, cover this ceremony? Like, how are you going to, like, understand like what it means to go through something as like a young woman that feels like empowered by her community.

And I think one of the first things I thought of was like when I was younger, I’m Denette and we have a similar ceremony called the Canada like where you get your first period and you have a ceremony. And I didn’t have mine because I was scared. And I like really like regret that time in my life. Like, of like feeling scared about, I guess, like what it meant to have a ceremony not being in touch with, like, who I was feeling like you were distant, even though like you were native.

Like your I guess like my family grew up in, like a very or my parents moved away from the reservation and, like, raised my brothers and I in a very urban setting. And so I feel like there’s a lot of disconnect there and a lot of self-hatred or like self-doubt. And so I feel like one of the first things that, like we talked about was just like, how cool is that Aussie in the Allen family?

You just have this empowered view of like what it means to go through something in a time of your life that can be like very difficult regardless. And so I think the decision was like made mostly just because the family was already so positive and so welcoming in general. And I think it was just meaningful to be a part of that experience and to be a part of something that I think like looking back, you could feel the importance of like what it means for like other young native women or other like young woman in general to see something that’s like really

11:03  Asha Dahya
That’s really beautiful. Thank you for sharing. That was it. Was there any sort of catharsis filming this story and journey, knowing what you’d been through and decided to not do? Like, what did it mean to you?

12:06  Rayka Zehtabchi
it through, you know, through a different lens because obviously I’m not native and I and I came from it from a from a different perspective, not necessarily even understanding the native perspective. Right from the beginning, for me, it’s like I kind of my first project that I did, my first documentary that I did was called Period End of Sentence. And this was years ago. And I was looking back now I feel like I was a baby when making that film just in a totally different headspace and so much younger and kind of just throwing myself into the experience.

But that film opened my eyes up to a lot of issues, a lot of issues that women deal with all over the world. Just stepping outside of my own bubble and the world that I knew. And that film specifically was about a group of women in northern India that start a business making sanitary pads as a way to eradicate the taboo around menstruation and also spread awareness about the importance of of of feminine hygiene in in in their community and just seeing like the the massive impact that that film had.

I was like just blew my mind. I was like, wow, this is like we have a responsibility as storytellers because we are capable of of making such an impact with the stories that we tell. Coming away from that project with the PAD project, which was the organization that was behind period on the sentence, I think we were kind of thinking about like stories, how we could not just reveal the shame around menstruation, but like, what is the other side of that?

Look, you know, in our like ideal world, you know, how do we as a society treat that topic right? Treat menstruation, not just menstruation but like coming of age as a young woman, how do we handle that and how can we highlight or find and highlight communities that do sort of handle it? And the ideal way that we would hope and then just kind of kept coming back to different indigenous cultures and communities and how so many different tribes do celebrate menstruation or have coming of age ceremonies not just for young women but also for young men and and just continuously feeling drawn to that.

And then came across poems, poems post about the whole ceremony and connected with her. And I think there was always this like, I think there’s this realization afterwards that like as a filmmaker, as a documentarian, too, like there’s plenty of stories that we want to tell, but it doesn’t mean that you always can tell the stories that you’re drawn to.

You know, it’s that, making it happen through, you know, our technical skills and storytelling abilities, but that, you know, it was going to be an incredibly collaborative process and that it’s precious, you know, if it’s if the story is going to be told, it’s absolutely if the story is going to be told, it’s absolutely got to be precious and handled with the utmost care.

16:40  Asha Dahya
I love what you said about seeing the other perspective of periods of menstruation. Like for so many people, myself included, there never was another perspective, i.e. the positive and a perspective. So even that alone is phenomenal and a really important aspect of what you both have done with this film. Something that struck me while watching was how this ceremony is such an intergenerational experience, and the way men play an important role. Can you both talk about highlighting Ahty’s dad, and some of the elder men who share their emotional recollections about the women in their families? It was just so beautiful to see so countercultural as well.

17:24  Shaandiin Tome
It’s such an exciting process to be a part of. And really, I don’t know, you kind of see things unfold and realize kind of like how necessary and how crucial it is that men be a part of things like this and that’s like where a lot of change maybe doesn’t like start but like it involves them and I think they are very crucial and like, aware of like what’s happening and they’re open and like their communication is there between like what is happening with it and like how that gives her like agency to, like, talk about like her own body and like how she’s feeling.

I think that kind of stuff is so important for for men to realize. And I think, like, I reciprocate by women and I think it gives women a lot of agency, like within their own lives and it makes them feel empowered. And I think like the overall feeling of like being there and like hearing these kind of things, like kind of made us like, like turn our heads just because we were like, oh my gosh, Like, we haven’t like at least me growing up, like my dad wasn’t very understanding of like what it means for me to get my period, even it ever, like, ask me like anything about it.

And so it was like a very disconnected thing that like I just talk with my mom about, like my brothers weren’t involved in it at all. And so it was a very healing thing to see that like, like they could be like active participants in like something that you would think is like a very individual thing, but like, it’s important not just like for your menstruation, but it’s like important for like how you feel as a woman.

Like what your role in society is like, how you feel upheld by like community members in a way that is it just like, I guess like who holds, I guess like a position of, like power. It like, feels very even. And I mean, it’s something that like we talked a lot about when we’re like making it is just like there’s so many things that this doc could be about. But I think like one of the really important things is like, like all, all these, like, men are here, like helping out and we have to like it.

19:35  Rayka Zehtabchi
yeah, I don’t think we were ever like, oh, let’s highlight the men because they’re just stories. Like, everyone’s just they’re like, everyone just has like men, women, but also like just all different generations. Everyone has a role or a role to play and, and it’s something that like has been with them as a community, as a family since day one.

So they’ve sort of been around that exposed to that and like understanding that like eventually their time will come, that they will have to play this role in ceremony. And so there’s nothing like, you know, there’s no necessarily highlighting that on our part. It just is how it is. And it’s beautiful.

20:31  Asha Dahya
yeah, it really is. It was so wonderful to see. I’d like more of this, please, everyone. And on that note, how can film and entertainment play a vital role in changing cultural narratives to amplify narratives that are out there around something that has been so infused with shame and stigma?

I mean, you know, people would be making jokes about it. We see these images of Tiger Woods handing a tampon to another golf player as a joke. I mean, the idea of it, so of it being so taboo is so universal. So how can we utilize films like Long Line of Ladies to make it universally celebrated and respected?

21:10  Shaandiin Tome
I think something that we’re really proud of about this film is that it was about celebration and that there wasn’t a lot of conflict in it, and it felt as though it existed in a world that was celebratory and celebratory. And I think that’s like, for me, at least part of the reason why people respond to it so much. And I think it’s not often that you see a film that is like about a young girl who just started menstruating that gets celebrated. And I think they’re like the stigma is there for me because it’s like there is so many conflicted stories about that narrative.

And so, like, it was really important for us to like, I guess like see what was in front of us, which was like the Allen family and like their community, and make sure that that celebration translated to like our film and like was full of like feeling empowered and excited. And although she was like maybe a little bit nervous about her ceremony, there was still something that she felt was like, very important. Like she saw a role for herself, like within her community. And I think like that for me, like helps with shame and stigma

22:23  Rayka Zehtabchi
Totally, totally agree. And that’s the thing, too, is like, you know, when you look at documentary, we talked about this a lot like sort of call to action documentaries especially. It’s like they’re filled with conflict and it’s almost like they can’t exist without conflict. Right. And or at least maybe that’s just historically what we’ve seen. I think, you know, that’s really what makes this film one of the many things that makes this film so special is to not have that conflict and to still be very emotionally invested.

When you watch the film, I mean, like we saw reactions. We’ve seen reactions from audience members, whether they’re native or they’re not native or, you know, whether they’re invested in this topic or they’re not. People from all different walks of life who have had really intense emotional reactions. And it’s because of love, like it’s, you know, it’s like a hug. Like that’s what it feels like, right? To like to express love towards someone. It can elicit that sort of reaction. And I think with storytelling, it’s like exposure is what can really sort of help change narratives. And society is exposing people to new ways of thinking, new perspectives, new topics that really, really does have a very big impact in how, you know, someone can view the world.

I was going to give an example, just like, you know, because I reflect on this a lot personally. One of my favorite things about making documentaries is the immense privilege that we have as storytellers to be able to meet people and community, things that we’re not familiar with, you know, as outsiders to, to, to have the ability to be able to get to know these communities and these different ways of life and, and, and build these bonds and connections with people that really are like long lasting.

Because I think it does a lot to sort of challenge your worldview and your perspective. And I feel like every experience that I’ve had in documentary filmmaking, I come away from it feeling challenged, exhausted, depleted, and ultimately, like spiritually nourished, more nourished because of it, you know, coming, coming away, just like having this, like, totally new perspective.

So I see where our similarities are. I see where our differences are, and that’s okay. And that’s beautiful. You know, and I think when you watch documentaries or you watch stories unfold, when you consume those stories, it can definitely have the same type of impact on people.

25:58  Asha Dahya
Yeah, I love it. You described it as a big hug and seeing the trees and the cinematography in the landscape, it just feels like so warm and beautiful. So yeah, it’s a beautiful ad describing it. I know you touched on this a little bit in the way that you communicated with the family and but can you tell me about the filming process, any challenges you came up against and how you prioritized cultural sensitivity throughout the shoots

26:24  Shaandiin Tome
I think Rebecca and I were both very similar in the way that you, you have a project and that you value like the people that are in it, you value the time that you’re giving into it. Like with that there’s also innovation within film and like how can you create change with something that can be like very boilerplate? Like there’s so many documentaries out there that exist about like native people or just like really anything, but like, how can you like, create change for not just like what the end product is, but also like for how you go about the process.

And I think for myself, like working in mostly like native indigenous film, like there is a lot of problems within like how people go about things and I think it can be like very hard, not just for, I guess like seeing how the process is, but it can be very hard for creativity, like it can be tough to try to like stick yourself out there and stand for what’s right and also like save energy to be creative at the same time. I think part of the process for us was like, how do we make sure that this doc is like also, I guess like doing what it’s saying that it’s doing, which is like being like a positive message for or I guess like an audience that might be non-native about native people, like upholding Native people to a standard that like feels very much like what they do and like, how can we make sure that that process is like invigorated with that? And so like, part of that was like giving agency to the I mean, to him, she’s like a producer on the project. But I think it was just like a lot of talking, like, how do we like maybe avoid like tropes or like stereotypes, like, like even though this is a documentary and these are like filming things that are going to happen in front of us, how can we make sure that, like, we’re challenging ourselves to say something different?

I think like not shooting the ceremony was part of it. Like really making sure that like we were like in everything that we were doing, it was like, how do we be intentional and like, respectful? Like whether that was with the cinematography or like the soundtrack or like kind of like shooting on film and not filming all the time. Like, how do we make sure that our intention is there and our intention is good and that we feel every part of this process and that we’re aware of everything that we’re doing because we want to make sure that we’re there as listeners and not like as extractors. And I mean, there’s like so many things that could be culturally sensitive about this and like things that did come up like that, like we got to the point of trust where it’s like, No, we can’t shoot that because that’s like something that we don’t allow to be filmed.

Or I mean, it came a part of the process or is just like, Oh, we respect that. And like, we don’t need that. Like we don’t have to have that in the documentary. And it like guided our whole entire process in editing around that to like everything about it was just like intention and yeah, a lot of checking in.

29:35  Rayka Zehtabchi
for me personally, like it took a lot of, I think tuning in to changing frequency and Pam and her community’s frequency and undoing a lot of the things that I had personally learned from other documentary filmmakers and like, you know, just other sort of like said boilerplate, you know, situations that I was that I was in. You learn from those experiences and then you come into this experience and you go, Whoa! Like, I have a totally new level of awareness of like, you know, little things or ways of, of maybe like directing or storytelling that I didn’t even realize, like, oh, maybe like I should question the way that we go about these things in the filmmaking process.

Like, maybe I should. Maybe that’s not the right way. You know, maybe there is a better way forward. And constantly having that sort of tension and being challenged was really, really, you know, amazing. And I think, you know, just let us down this path of complete and utter trust where we all, by the end of it, had such a clear understanding of what our role was in the making of this film. And it was really this like unified understanding that like we are like supporting the families vision, you know? So by the time we had our first cut, there were really no surprises. I mean, we’re so nervous, like sending it to Pam and her family. But like, the reaction that we got from them was just like, absolutely amazing. And I think made us realize like, how far we had all come together as a team, you know, where they were like, not surprised at all with anything that was in the film because all of that sort of heavy lifting and communication was done beforehand.

You know, all of this like approval and like how things are going to be captured and what can be captured and what can’t and why, most importantly, why like we understood that by the end and and that really was like very transformative for me personally, because I think I, I like I’ve brought that in their projects that I’ve, you know, and the other projects that I look to work on in the future, it makes me want to advocate for a different type of filmmaking because I think like what we learn from this experience made us realize like we do have a lot of power as filmmakers.

We do. And, you know, I think a lot of people are realizing this now, too, with the strikes that are going on. You know, people are unifying and realizing that like, no, we don’t have to accept what is the norm. We don’t have to keep doing that. We do have a voice. We do have the ability to challenge what has always been the norm and question it and question everything and say, you know, is this something that we’re comfortable with? Is this something that our film subjects are comfortable with? So, you know, I think that that’s been really, really eye opening and cool.

33:18  Asha Dahya
Yeah, absolutely. Well, talk about questioning the norm and and, you know, trying to see a different perspective, like, you mentioned, period and end of sentence, which for those who have been living under a rock or may not know it won an Oscar, I mean the fact that a documentary about periods won an Oscar is such a monumental sentence, and I love saying that, but it showcases a different cultural perspective to menstruation, specifically in India.

So what was it like for you working on going from that project? I know it wasn’t direct, but going working on that project and then working on Long Line of Ladies, which specifically amplifies the perspective of the tribe toward periods, which was very different. What was it like holding those two different perspectives in balance? It’s so fascinating, something that I haven’t really come across in a lot of the interviews that I’ve done such a refreshing way of looking at like, you don’t have to capture everything to get such a powerful message, a beautiful story. is such a strong sense of community and support not only what we see with art and our family and aunties, etc., but the messages around it, who can, what it means to the tribe. Can you talk about the importance of showcasing community, family and tradition in this film and those overarching themes?

38:32  Shaandiin Tome
I think for me, like, I mean, it’s all a part of the experience of being native or indigenous. I feel like obviously these experiences can be very specific, tribally, like from tribe to tribe, everything is different. But I think what we have within this realm of like after colonization and like kind of like being the I guess like being a part of like the short end of the stick.I guess like kind of experiencing a lot of trauma through like assimilation or even like massacres or like the gold rush that happened in the community. Like, there’s so many experiences that have brought us down and I think like what indigenous ness people have done everywhere is like, find the need to adapt. And so I feel like with that added adaptation, like the things that you do have with you at all times are like your family.

They are your, your community. It’s the traditions that you uphold and nobody can take those things away from you. And so like, even though the whole ceremony lay dormant for a long time, they still protected it and like, advocated for it later on. And they still felt the need that it was going to come back later. And I think cross I guess like when you look at indigenous tribes everywhere, there’s lots of scenes like that that like feel very important to I guess I kind of what the indigenous experiences and like how people can see that. And so I think like with specificity there’s like a lot of importance, but also like with I guess just love in like a tuning to I guess like what you see in front of you. Like it’s important to show that like community, family and tradition, like bring everybody together.

40:29  Rayka Zehtabchi
Yeah, the community aspect is so inherent and so built lovably powerful, and I think that’s what I hope people can take away from it. You know, when people watch the film that they can come away and feel like, Hmm, what’s my community like? You know, how do I have a community in my part of one? Should I build a community? You know, should I contribute more to my community because it’s just like getting to know him and her community. You realize, like, there’s such a sort of selflessness to how each and every one of them operate. It’s so much this idea of like we how can we grow together? How can we support one another?

It’s very different from the sort of life experience that I’ve had or I’ve observed around me. And I think that’s it’s quite rare to see that. And when you do see that, I think it can it can be really powerful and very it can it can force you to sort of look inward.

41:50  Asha Dahya
That’s a really great point. Well, let’s talk about representation on film for a moment. Shonda, in your experience with the Sundance Fellowship and your drive to uplift Indigenous voices and right to your passion for showing narratives about Iranian women that often aren’t shown in mainstream media, can you tell us from your perspectives why representation matters and how it’s mirrored in your careers and lives?

42:12  Shaandiin Tome
To me, representation is everything. I haven’t. I mean, all my life I kind of been stuck in this really tough place of like, how do I make films that are meaningful to me? Like, how can I have a career that’s meaningful to me just because of like, what I what I’ve been given? And I feel like it has been a tough job, like advocating for myself and kind of what it means to have representation that is meaningful and intentional and loving and representative of how I feel as indigenous woman. And so I think for me it’s been a really hard journey here. And I think with that becomes, I guess like you either succumb to these pressures that can be very difficult or you kind of fight that and you build a strength around it and like how can you make things different, especially like when you have the power that you do as a filmmaker.

I mean, like I think for myself, like none of my family or artists, like all my family has been through a lot generationally. And just like looking back, there’s been like so many hard times amongst, like how we’ve even just had to survive. And so I feel like the fact that I get to sit around and direct films that call myself a filmmaker and do something creative, feel like there’s a responsibility around that. And like, I mean, it’s hard because like, sometimes you have the pressure of, like, I as an artist, I have to say something and I have to advocate for my community all the time. And that can be a huge weight. But I think for me it’s like really important to carry that and carry that responsibility and do it creatively and like, how can you look around yourself and like bring of like yourself and like the generations of the past that have been able to do something like this?

44:11  Asha Dahya
Yeah, absolutely

44:12  Rayka Zehtabchi
I couldn’t agree more. You know, even though I’ve had a totally different life experience from Shonda and we’re both women and filmmakers and we’re like the same age and, you know, probably have been through some similar experiences on sets and making projects. And yeah, it can be very lonely sometimes, but I think like that’s where representation really matters is like, you know, also sharing the knowledge that you learn throughout your experiences with other people and saying, you know, like how can we sort of pass the baton and like really support one another, you know? And all I want to talk about this because there is a lot there is a big push for representation in our industry, but it’s not always in the right ways. I think there’s a lot of performative representation in our industry. It’s a lot of checking boxes and sort of not challenging the ways that we go about making these projects, but saying, oh, we need, you know, we need this type of, you know, we need an Iranian woman at the helm because it’s an Iranian story check.

You know, go do your thing and we’ll support you. But a lot of times that support doesn’t come. And that that feeling of agency being that woman at the helm of the project doesn’t come because you feel all these energies that are like clawing to get to the front and kind of struggling to let go of that charge and that control. And I, you know, and I think it’s wonderful that we are having this movement for representation in the industry, but we also need to be more critical of this movement. You know, we need to hold ourselves to a higher standard and ensure that it really is being enforced in a in a proper way and that that representation is not just checking a box, but it’s actually meaningfully giving a seat at the table to the people that should be telling these stories and not just giving a seat at the table, but like providing support, providing, you know, as a woman to I think like I’ve been so fortunate to have so many interesting and challenging experiences where I’ve step back and have observed and questioned things about myself in the way that things work and and and try my best to kind of take lessons away from every experience that I have. And one of the greatest joys for me in being in this industry and one of the things that combats the loneliness of being a diverse filmmaker or just a filmmaker in general, because it can be a very lonely process.

But like one of the things that combats that is taking that knowledge that I’ve learned and sharing that with other people, other filmmakers, you know, in a way that really says like, Hey, don’t do this. What I just did and what I just experienced, don’t get into that. Don’t do this, you know, like keep an eye out for this and, you know, hold yourself to a different standard. And, you know, I think that’s a really special thing to be able to sort of pass off to other people. So, you know, representation comes with responsibility. And I think it’s really important for everyone to realize that not just, you know, the people who need it the most.

48:02  Asha Dahya
It’s so powerful. And speaking of responsibility, I mean, I have a note switching gears a little, but it’s not really it’s kind of you know, we’re talking about the industry. Everyone’s familiar with the writer’s strike and the actor’s strike happening right now in Hollywood and a push for better protections for people and residuals and payment and support for people who work in the industry. As filmmakers, how are you both feeling? How are you affected, if at all? And what are you hoping will change

48:30  Shaandiin Tome
I’m very happy that the strikes are happening. I think it’s unfortunate that they have to happen. I think like it’s unfortunate that there is a lot of greed within the film industry that has created this really tough way to exist. It’s like a filmmaker or an actor or like really all of these other things that are so crucial to film and like the creative journey and like how important those roles are and how much people give to them. And I think like, I know people like my friends are like in I guess like the local union, I have people that I know within the cinematographers union, like my partners in SAG, like know tons of friends in the WGA. And like, I feel like the consensus among all of us, like when we get together and when we’re able to like, share with each other is just like how hard it is to exist and be creative and like how much is asked of you and like how much of your time is given to the actor film.

Just because it’s it can be seen as something that is like entertaining and glorious and like kind of all these things that like gives to take advantage of someone’s life. And I think it’s, I think like the pandemic was an important part of like that understanding of like, like, I know I, I loved living like, I loved like, being able to, like, make meals with, like, my partner and like, be with my family and do all these other things that I kind of forgot about just because of how much I would work and like work to the point of like, feeling like if I didn’t work, then I wouldn’t ever get a job again. And so I feel like the film industry preys on that kind of stuff. And I feel like it’s unfortunate and I’m just like so happy for everybody that is like striking and for everybody that’s wanting to do something right by film and really change the way that we make films and we create films because, I mean, it’s important, like we’re talking about like changing a film through like intentionality and like that sort of thing. But it was because we were given the time and like had this like really beautiful collaboration amongst us. There’s so many times where the situation, like where we were filming this film, could have gone wrong just because of the amount of greed that could have been there. Like this whole story could have been, like, squashed because like, somebody is like, ‘Well, we don’t believe in intentionality.’

We would just like want you to film everything. And so it’s like important to find those collaborations. But I think overall it’s just important to like value people and like make sure that artists feel valued as artists because like, weird, you don’t really see that in society. And like, art is so important to people to like, create representation or create an understanding or a perspective. And I think there’s so many things that art gives that aren’t being reciprocated through the film industry as it stands now.

51:27  Asha Dahya
Yeah, it’s just so unsustainable, right? Tell me how it’s affecting you. What are your thoughts?

51:38  Rayka Zehtabchi
I recognize that it will eventually affect me. And I think we’re just we’re at an inflection point, Like people don’t want to be striking. You know, people need to feed their families. But it just comes to a point where, like, you know, you realize that your value and your self-worth worth and self-respect is more important than, you know, the climbing or continue doing to sort of put up with the way that things are. I think we’re just we’re at an inflection point. It’s like there’s I don’t see unless some change occurs, I don’t see a way forward. Like, I really I really I don’t see this working anymore because like, creators are the heartbeat of this industry. And if they’re not satisfied, if we’re not satisfied and we don’t feel valued, then that’s just there’s no way forward.

52:48  Asha Dahya
It just feels like the industry’s never going to be the same and even when the strikes eventually end, not as if. All right, let’s go back to the way things were. I mean, so much has to change, but it’s really sad to see where it is now. So we will definitely keep tabs on it. And best of luck to you both. And hopefully you’re able to, you know, continue the work that you’re doing. So speaking of which, what are you both working on now or next that you’re able to share? And where can we follow, subscribe and stalk your your work online or elsewhere?

53:21Shaandiin Tome
Right now, I’m shooting a lot of friends film, so that’s been a lot of fun and really nourishing and exciting to remember that like I get to make films with my peers and have a good time doing it. I’m also like trying to work on my own personal stuff too. And I feel like more than anything, like because my partners also ensure like it’s like how do you like make most of the time that like we might not get together in the future. And so I think it’s it’s been a good time. It’s been a hard time. Think creatively, it’s been nourishing. I think. Yeah, I’m excited about the for the most part.

54:05  Asha Dahya
Well, we’ll share links to Instagram and and website for people to check out more right away. Rayka, where can we find you? What are you working on?

54:29  Rayka Zehtabchi
I’m working on a very exciting project. It’s something I have never done before, and just excited for that to come to fruition. It’s a long game. It’s going to be a while, knock on wood. I think another side to this question which like I’m just realizing this now because we get asked this all the time, right and in most interviews that we do, “what’s next” “what are you working on?” and I get filled up with the upmost anxiety whenever I’d I’d have to answer that,

Because it’s like, well, what do you say? You know, like, can I share what I’m working on or should I not share what I’m working on? Like, you know, if I’m if I’m undecided about what I’m working on, it’s like, oh, no, I have to tell people I’m working on something. You know? No, but I but I think the thing that I really I’m working on that is the most exciting to me is my own personal life outside of film. You know, I think I have grown up a lot.

I especially after the experience of making Long Line of ladies and realize like what the things are in my life that I really want to prioritize and that I haven’t given enough attention and love and care to. And one of the main things is building community. And I think I really came away from that experience feeling like and I felt like kind of low only for most of my life and most of my career especially.

I love that honest answer. I think it’s so valuable and very insightful to me personally. So thank you. Thank you both for sharing where you are and what you’re working. Yes. Tell me tell me. That’s incredible. We’ll definitely be sharing updates and keeping everything crossed for Shaandiin. That’s wonderful. And it has been such a privilege and honor to have an hour of your time today. Rayka and Shaandiin, thank you so much. I’m so thrilled that everyone gets to watch a long line of ladies this month on the repro film periodical. Thank you both and best of luck in everything that you’re doing in life and in work and in community. So thank you.

If you are someone who understands what it is like to live with shame and taboo around menstruation, I highly recommend you watch ‘Long Line of Ladies’ featured in this month’s rePRO periodical, by heading to reprofilm.org and sit with the beauty and power of its message. Additionally, I hope you will share this episode with a friend and help us spread the rePROFilm message and mission.

The Repro Film podcast is executive produced by mama.film

Hosted and produced by me, Asha Dahya,

Edited by Kylie Brown,

With original music by ParisJane and Marrice Anthony.

The periodical is programmed by Neha Aziz and written by Emily Christensen

Alex Sgambati is our Social Media Manager and

Rebecca Sosa is our Distribution & Impact Strategist.