· Jan. 29, 2023

Foad Faridzadeh’s sultry commercials for Secrets Resorts & Spas, one of which aired during the 2017 Golden Globe Awards, were created with “a 90-person team, a massive 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.”

Faridzadeh, Computer Animation and Interactive Media ’04, is a director, writer, and visual effects expert who takes on a wide variety of projects. Though he loves Steven Spielberg, he was inspired to become a director by his father Mehdi, 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.

“Understanding [post-production] prior to shooting gives you so much more of an advantage. Even if plan A or plan B doesn’t work out, you’ve already done your homework.”

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.”

Still image from Lady Gaga’s “Marry the Night,” for which Foad ’04 supervised the visual effects (produced by Studio Bus, 2011).

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.”