Lena Khan is the Assistant Director of the film.
How would you describe In-World War (the film itself) in no more than seven words?
The movie Brant [IWW Director DJ Bad Vegan] refused to give up on.
Why did you get involved with it? How did you hear about it?
I thought it was a project with a good and sincere intention, and as a Muslim American I appreciated what it was trying to do. I heard about it from a friend of mine.
Did you enjoy working on the film? What was the best part for you?
I think the best part was enduring all the trials of it with the rest of the crew. We bonded. I became friends with the sound mixer, and I used the cinematographer to shoot my next video. It was like bonding through struggle.
How long have you been working in film/involved with film?
I went to UCLA film school and graduated from it around four years ago. Oh God, has it been that long? Wow.
What is your goal in filmmaking generally (director, writer, director of photography, key grip, etc.) and why?
I'm generally a writer/director, mostly because I found that studios weren't making the types of projects I wanted to work on. They weren't telling the stories I wanted to also be told. I figured the only way to make that happen was to make them happen myself.
In your view, why is filmmaking and making art important to society as a whole?
Fortunately or unfortunately, film is how people learn these days. Everyone knows about Rwanda because they saw a movie about it, not because they read it in a book. It influences people, and if we want to be responsible about what influences our society, we need to be involved and support it.
Did helping make an indie film leave you with a positive or negative outlook on this type of ultra-low budget filmmaking (and why)?
I appreciate and respect the amount of work and blood and sweat that goes into it, but I guess I pray I never have to do a movie on that shoestring of a budget myself!
How do you feel about the genre of science fiction? Is sci-fi just for fun or can we tell serious stories that are culturally relevant? (Okay, that’s a loaded question.... but still, what do you think?)
Of course you can tell sci-fi stories that are relevant. If you think about it, most successful sci-fi movies are based on a comment about society and where it is heading. Even before movies, didn't Brave New World tell us something about the author's thoughts on the future? Didn't a lot of it come true?
The film takes an unusual sci-fi approach to issues of racial profiling, Islamophobia and the so-called “war on terror” -- how have these issues impacted your life and your work?
Islamophobia has affected my life more than most things in the past six years. I have it in mind when I see the vitriolic rhetoric of politicians and hateful policies against Muslims these days, I notice it when I hear of uncles and cousins of friends improperly charged or imprisoned for no reason, I notice it when I get onto planes and sometimes people give me fearful looks, and it has defined my career. I hope to use media to oppose what it has done to me and those of my faith. Media, films and television have made people ignorant of my religion, causing them to hate those of my faith. I'm hoping to use faith to tell stories of who we really are.
Before you started with IWW, what did you expect it to be like working on the film?
I expected it to be less crazy.
How was it actually, compared to that? What was exactly as you expected it? What was very different?
It was immensely different. Brant was a previously accomplished producer, so I expected he'd have a larger budget! Unfortunately, it's hard to raise money for your film, and his struggles were a testament to that.
DIY filmmaking can be rough. What was the worst moment? If you have one, share a painful memory from making the film, to give a taste of how tough it got.
It got pretty tough -- tougher than I've ever seen an independent film. The hours were long, we didn't have enough time to sleep, there wasn't enough food or good quality food, and people were working beyond their roles. The worst moment was when the crew threatened to quit. I had to intervene and keep them from all walking out. At one point, it got too much even for some of the highest positions, and when they left, I had to take over their duties. It was insane.
What did your experience of working on IWW tell you about humanity and people in general?
I learned that it doesn't just take a lot of passion to get something done. You need people to be willing to sacrifice it all for the filmmaker's dream too... and they don't always want to do that, and we need to know who wants to and who doesn't.
What have you been doing since you worked on the film? What other film projects have you done?
I've been working as a director. I've directed a good amount of respectably budgeted music videos – most of which have 1 to 5 million hits on YouTube – and I'm now working on my first feature film.
Why should people get involved with, donate money and/or help out on IWW?
You should get involved, learn about it, watch a clip if you can, and if you believe in it, put your money or effort where your mouth is. If it's not your interest or you don't even like it, that's fine, but if you do, just supporting without any action or money unfortunately isn't much help to indie filmmakers.
What else would you like to say about your experience on IWW? Any funny anecdotes or behind-the-scenes stories?
It was madness, but I learned a lot from it.