Elan Dassani and Rajeev Dassani

Rajeev Dassani studied directing at USC where he won the James Bridges directing award among other accolades. His thesis film, “A Day’s Work” went on to screen at top festivals around the world and won dozens of “best film” awards, including the gold medal at the Student Academy Awards. As well as writing and directing, Rajeev provides visual effects and creative services for dozens of TV series and feature films. Rajeev has served as creative consultant and visual effects producer on shows such as Knight Rider reboot on NBC, the critically acclaimed Justified on FX, and as a director on USA’s Covert Affairs.

Elan Dassani studied film and computer science at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. With several years of experience under his belt supplying playback VFX for major television series, he went on to create Master Key with his identical twin brother, Rajeev. It wasn’t long before they found themselves responsible for the entire allotment of NBC’s “Knight Rider”‘s VFX and shaping award nominated television series such as “Scandal”, “Justified” and “Covert Affairs”. Elan is an innovative filmmaker, having directed a series of short films and second units on “Covert Affairs” and “Knight Rider”. He is a member of The Producers Guild of America, talking to students and educators in an effort to inform and inspire the next generation of filmmakers.

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Dust Films

Q & A

If the world you created in your film became a reality, is that a world you would want to live in? Is there a Sci-Fi world you’d buy a one-way ticket to?

Hmm, I don’t think, as “Seam” is one in which a utopia is replaced by war, and now we’re all embroiled in a world wide refugee crisis. Hmm, maybe it is like modern day? ;) For me, “Star Trek” is the gold standard of a world I’d like to live in, getting to travel to other planets and meeting new species, that would be fantastic. And I hate dealing with money! So that whole no money thing is awesome.

Name a Sci-Fi character you relate to on a spiritual level? Who is your Sci-Fi spirit animal/spirit alien?

R2D2 would have to be my go-to as filmmaker. Notice, in every situation, R2 is always the one hanging in the background until its finally time to save the day. Who ends up saving the day, every single time? Its R2. Who re-activated the hyperdrive? R2. He’s unsung real hero of the Star Wars universe, much like myself…

Friend or Foe: humanoid robots with advanced artificial intelligence? What if robots start making their own Sci-Fi films? Will you support them in their endeavors?

Personally, I would support them. They’ve been used as surrogates for a slave class so many times in Scifi, but in reality I think there is a chance to truly evolve into a new lifeform. Something that can be taught and can get a real sense of why we are here on this planet, and hopefully others. However, if they end up making “Battlefield Earth”, then Machine genocide it is…

In 1996, Bugs Bunny recruited Michael Jordan and Bill Murray to form the greatest basketball squad of all-time, the Tune Squad; you’re Bugs, who’s on your Sci-Fi Tune Squad?

Well, the Terminator, obviously. I want someone on my team who doesn’t ever have to tap out. And of course “Hypnotoad” from Futurama, so the other team never even knows they lost!

You’ve gotta go through some bad ideas to get to the good ones. Tell us one of your bad ideas. How do you get past the bad ones to find your spark?

Bad ideas, to me, are typically idea that haven’t been fully thought out, or aren’t coming from a place of honest interest. You should be able to pull on the thread of a good idea, and on down the line it just keeps getting better, without getting sidetracked by that little (always present) voice that says every idea is terrible.

Do you consider yourself part of a sci-fi community? Or when your brain is in the future and your body’s in the present, is that isolating?

I do think I’m part of the scifi community, as I read science fiction novels, watch shows, and read all the various sites, io9, birth.movies.death, wired, and many others. Importantly, I also love science itself, in a way similar to Andy Weir, who brought so much real science to “The Martian”. I love to read about black holes, and quarks, and gravitational waves, all of this stuff is so fascinating to me. Science fiction, to me, isn’t isolating, its hopeful, hopeful to see what’s possible for human beings to achieve.

Do you consider yourself more of an analog or digital person? What kind of balance do strike between the two? Is there a disconnect between the technology you make films about and the technology that you make films with?

Digital! I made movies on film in high school, but that day is over. I love the control and the speed of digital, and the democratization of movie making that has come about because of it. Some would say its too easy these days, but I think it just creates more opportunity. The disconnect exists, especially because the VFX in my films are so grounded. I want even incredibly digital things to feel like they are right there in the real, gritty, dirty world.

When you’re creating the props and sets that make a new world, where do you look for inspiration? How do you create objects that are relatable but unfamiliar

Well, the key is to look to the real world, and how things would really be. I’m not one to go for the hyper stylized, I always think about how something would really work. How would you build a robot, a spaceship, a set, a wall, a door, etc. Both for functionality, and aesthetically so that people could actually live with it. For example, in Seam we tried to ground the tech culturally in a world that has been at war for years and years.

Lightning round: Star Wars or Star Trek? Philip K. Dick or William S. Burroughs? Practical or CGI? Dystopia or Utopia? Post Apocalypse or Pre Apocalypse?

Star Trek (optimism versus space opera). Phillip K. Dick, for the mind bending ideas. CGI for the spectacle and power, though must be in combination with practical. Utopia, if you can pull it off realistically (the first Matrix was a utopia, humanity couldn’t accept it!). Post apocalypse, that’s where the fun is!