A DIRECTOR TALKS SECRETS, HELICOPTERS, AND LADY GAGA
“If you don’t become the next Spielberg, you’ll make a very good porno director,” Mehdi Faridzadeh told his son—director, writer, and visual effects expert Foad Faridzadeh, Computer Animation and Interactive Media ’04—upon seeing his commercial for Secrets Resorts & Spas, which aired during the 2017 Golden Globe Awards.
Though Faridzadeh’s résumé definitely does not include pornography, his sultry commercial is full of steamy encounters set to breathy music, encouraging viewers to “make a secret.” It was part of a series of three spots created with “a 90-person team, a $4.5 million budget, helicopters”—and filmed in just a few weeks.
Several shots of a couple cavorting in water drew on Faridzadeh’s experience using underwater camera setups for his short film The Lake. “Filming shorts, I did all kinds of experiments,” he says, “so I let my imagination go wild filming this commercial.”
Though Faridzadeh loves Steven Spielberg, he was inspired to become a director by his father, who had been a film producer in Tehran, Iran. Faridzadeh’s father also encouraged him to learn about editing, from initial concept to post-production. “Most directors don’t know the post-production process,” Faridzadeh says.
After graduating from FIT, he apprenticed at the visual effects and animation studio Rhythm & Hues in Los Angeles before returning to New York to attend NYU’s graduate film program and intern (fetching coffee and cleaning bathrooms) at the production company Quietman.
Eventually, Faridzadeh got the chance to provide technical direction for an anti-steroid public service announcement produced with ad agency BBDO, Major League Baseball, and the Partnership for a Drug-Free America. This led to a job as a technical director at Quietman, and “right after that, I got a call—the PSA had been nominated for an Emmy.”
Since then, he’s worked on movies (like 2013’s Shadow People), commercials for well-known brands (Dior, Alka-Seltzer), docuseries (like Refinery29’s Tehran Unveiled), and short films. In 2019–20, he even directed an opera, Giovanni Bottesini’s Ali Baba, performed by Opera Southwest in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
As creative director and visual effects supervisor for Lady Gaga’s 2011 Marry the Night extended music video (which the multi-hyphenate icon herself directed), Faridzadeh worked on storyboards, planned the production, and “created a marriage between visual effects and what’s happening on screen.”
During one scene, several cars were supposed to burst into flames, but not all of them did. “Lady Gaga was so in character we just continued. I’m a huge fan of filming as much as possible on camera and only using [visual effects] to further enhance the picture,” Faridzadeh says. “Our eyes are so used to recognizing what’s augmented, it makes good post work even more important.”