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An Interview with Vida Ghaffari, Star of Seeking Valentina

by Mike Haberfelner

June 2015

Films starring Vida Ghaffari on (re)Search my Trash


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Your new movie Seeking Valentina - in a few words, what is it about, and what can you tell us about your character in it?


Even though it's a short film, there is a lot to mention about Seeking Valentina. It's about Benjamin (Ali Bavarian [Ali Bavarian interview - click here]), a Jewish Iranian-American writer, who is grieving the loss of his wife. When he takes in a whimsical and engaging tenant Valentina (Kristin West [Kristin West interview - click here]) and she mysteriously disappears, it is for the audience to decide is she a ghost, a hallucination, a dream or a runaway.

I play Ana, Benjamin's sister, who is concerned for his emotional well being. Armin Nasseri [Armin Nasseri interview - click here] was the writer and director of the film and he produced the film with Kristin. They all did an amazing job and shot the film in some very scenic locations.


What did you draw upon to bring your character to life, and how much of Vida Ghaffari can we find in Ana?


What I liked about this role was that she was just a woman who was worried about her brother. Coming from a close-knit Iranian-American family, I thought of how I interact with my own immediate family. She didn't have to wear a veil or fit into a stereotype like most of the roles I play.


How did you get involved with the project in the first place?


I have the good fortune to have the same manager, Matt Chassin, as Kristin. He thought I'd be perfect for the role of Ana and pitched me to Kristin and Armin. I've got to say as an actress it's great to be repped by someone who really believes in you and stands by you and Matt truly exemplifies that.


What can you tell us about your director Armin Nasseri [Armin Nasseri interview - click here], and what was your collaboration like?


Armin really knows how to direct actors on set. Since he's also a trained actor, he really knows how to give the proper adjustments to propel the scene forward.


Do talk about the shoot as such, and the on-set atmosphere!


Armin Nasseri, Kristin West, Vida Ghaffari

I had my shoot in one afternoon and we shot it in the LA area. Since I'm used to playing such character roles, I was surprised that I didn't play the stereotypical LA Persian woman I've played before. You know tight clothes, too much makeup and lots of bling! Or the other extreme, which is a meek veiled woman. Armin wanted to break away from stereotypes and cast against type and he truly accomplished that with this film and with none of my mom's costume jewelry collection to boot or my veil "collection" that I've amassed for shoots and auditions!


Any future projects you'd like to share?


I just shot a fun role in a comedy sketch on the Jimmy Kimmel Live show. It should be airing any night now. I also recently shot Strangers in Book, another film where I had the pleasure of working with Kristin West [Kristin West interview - click here] yet again. Christy McGinity from Little Women: LA also acted in the film and so did Carl Bressler (The Usual Suspects, Battlefield). The film has a great ensemble cast which also stars a few of Matt's other clients like Jon Mack (Saw VI), Marv Blauvelt (Jurassic City), and of course Kristin (Expel the Wicked).


West Los Angeles Chamber Vice President Steve Little, Chamber President Roozbeh Farahanipour, Phil Bennett of the City of Los Angeles, honoree Vida Ghaffari and Board Member Elham Yaghoubian

Photo courtesy of Albert L. Ortega/Gettyimages

I was also recently given a Certificate of Appreciation of behalf of the City of Los Angeles for all my hard work and dedication to the city, which was signed by 5th District Councilmember Paul Koretz. In addition to that, the Chamber also held an event in my honor, where I received an honorary membership to the Chamber. I was truly honored by Roozbeh Farahanipour, the President of the Chamber and the rest of the Chamber's members to receive this incredible commendation, especially as it's one of the largest and oldest Chambers in Southern California. There was a lot of press coverage and a lot of my celebrity friends attended, so I was truly humbled and very grateful for the opportunity.


What got you into acting in the first place, and did you receive a formal education on the subject?


I've always loved performing. I got a minor in theatre at the University of Maryland, College Park and have taken many acting and improv classes over the years to hone my craft and stay sharp. I recently took an amazing acting workshop with actress and acting coach Porter Kelly that I highly recommend and I plan on continuing to study with her.


Can you still remember your first time in front of a movie or TV camera, and what was that experience like?


I got my start as a reporter, so I was used to being in front of the camera, but from more of a journalist's point of view. I started out by acting in some shorts and student films and it was an amazing experience to portray another person and put myself in their shoes.


What can you tell us about your filmwork prior to Seeking Valentina?


After getting my start in student films and shorts, I then progressed to being cast in indie films, especially in the horror genre, as well as in TV. I acted in The Mindy Project's pilot on Fox as well as Mind of Mencia. I am also a voiceover artist and have voiced commercials, narration projects and just made my animated film debut, voicing two roles in Lovesick Fool, which stars Fred Willard, Lisa Kudrow, and Janeane Garofalo. This film was written and directed by Dominic Polcino (The Simpsons, King of The Hill, Family Guy). I have worked in all sorts of mediums... on-camera actress in TV and film, voiceover artist and reporting/hosting for some international satellite TV stations.


As far as I know, you do have a background in sketch comedy and improv. Now what can you tell us yout that aspect of your career and your very own brand of comedy, and how did that help you with your acting career?


I love improv and have studied up until level 5, the graduate level, with the Uprights Citizens Brigade, UCB, where Amy Poehler (Parks and Recreation) was one of the founders. I think improv helps with everything, be it voiceover on or on-camera acting roles. Even as a reporter. It helps you to think fast on on your feet, make strong choices and requires teamwork and listening skills, which is so important for a performer.


Actresses (and indeed actors) who inspire you?


Vida with Seeking Valentina co-star Mel A. Gibson

Oh so many. I like the ones who make strong, powerful choices like Meryl Streep, Shohreh Aghdashloo, Viola Davis, Kate Blanchett, Jodie Foster, Dame Judi Dench, and Helen Mirren, but I'm also a big fan of classic actresses of the golden era like Bette Davis, Joan Crawford, Elizabeth Taylor, Vivien Leigh, Audrey Hepburn, Katherine Hepburn and so many others. For contemporary actors, Robert Downey Jr., Denzel Washington, Daniel Day Lewis, and Sean Penn are outstanding. As for the classic stars, I really like Marlon Brando, Sidney Poitier, Laurence Olivier, James Dean, Cary Grant, Richard Burton and many more.


Your favourite movies?


Too many to list but I really do like the modern classics like Being There, Harold and Maude, Annie Hall, The Godfather and The Godfather 2, Chinatown, Scarface, Cinema Paradiso, Amadeus and A Clockwork Orange, The Princess Bride, The Last Emperor and so many other films from the 60's, 70's and 80's. It's endless. I also like the old school classics like Sunset Boulvevard, Gone With the Wind, A Streetcar Named Desire, The Wizard of Oz, Mildred Pierce, and countless others as those films hearken to the golden era of Hollywood, which I'm a big fan of.


... and of course, films you really deplore?


I'd rather focus on the good than the bad, lol...


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Anything else you are dying to mention and I have merely forgotten to ask?


I am trying to create my own projects that I am motivated to get off the ground. First and foremost, I am in pre-production on a documentary about my dad, Dr. Abolghassem Ghaffari, who was a renowned scientist and mathematician. I wanted to do it sooner, but I lost him about a year and a half ago, so it's still very challenging for me, but there is so much interest about him on a global scale, especially in the math and science academic communities, that I'd like to do so. He had a love of life and a joie de vivre that I'd like to capture more than anything else. I screened a featurette at a memorial about him last year and everyone in attendance who saw the film really enjoyed it and convinced me to make one. I will be collaborating with a dear friend, noted composer David Raiklen whose father also worked on Apollo 11, though I'll never know if our dads ever met, but I have a feeling they did.


Thanks for the interview!


© by Mike Haberfelner

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Thanks for watching !!!



Robots and rats,
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Your Bones to

the new anthology by
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On the same day
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A Killer Conversation

produced by and starring
Melanie Denholme
directed by
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written by
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Ryan Hunter and
Rudy Barrow

out now on DVD