Salman Sajun is an Independent Filmmaker with a passion for Cinematography, currently based in Montreal. We first came across his work through his delicious short film, Midnight Snack (turns out it is one of his own favorite projects too).

Starting university to study economics and anthropology, Salman realized that graphs and dissertations wasn’t exactly what he wanted to do with his life. He ”was lucky enough to have the opportunity to join a Concept Art program in Toronto for two years that really allowed to me grow and develop as an artist. I concluded my final year at the Vancouver Film School where I completed the Film Production Program.”

He talks to The Desi Design about his work and projects, inspiration and productivity and about being a creative professional.

salman sajun midnight snack vote 2013 triangularity

How did you start in the film/animation field?

I’ve always had an interest in film and animation, but it wasn’t until a few years ago that I realized the medium had the potential to help me express myself in the best possible way. It all began about 7 years ago when I bought my first ever camcorder. Once I started experimenting with the camera, it just snowballed from there. Meeting the right people to collaborate with and honing in on techniques was all part of the learning experience.

And when it’s so much fun to do- why would anyone stop?!

Tell us about your personal favorite project(s) of your own?

That’s a tough one seeing as I am my own worst critic! There are a few projects that come to mind… My favorites projects are the ones where every element just falls into place.

I can confidently say VOTE 2013, Triangularity and Midnight Snack are some of the ones that I really enjoyed working on from concept to completion.

VOTE 2013 was one of those projects that had it all and even though it was very rushed and we worked with a skeleton crew, it was one of my most enjoyable experiences, and I am extremely proud of the result.

Triangularity was a personal project and there is no better client then yourself! I love installations and Triangularity was a great little project that turned out exactly as it was envisioned. If you want to read more about Triangularity there is an interview I did for Kessler Crane a few weeks after it was released that will shed some more light on the project.

And finally Midnight Snack. It was created as a pitch and even though it’s a little rough around the edges it turned out to be one of my favorites. I collaborated on this project with my cousin and close friend Hasan Raza who is an awesome upcoming animator. It was an extremely rewarding experience of trial and error complete with fishing wire, steel amateur and a magnifying glass rig I had lying around, but the end result was a fantastic learning experience that culminated in a great little stop motion piece.

What is your biggest frustration when working on client/commissioned projects?

There are always a number of factors that can cause frustration when working with clients. I realized the hard way however, that a number of issues could easily be avoided by ensuring you have a well spelled out contract- one that defines expectations and highlights key elements of production. So I’m happy to say that in my recent work my clients and I have managed to avoid almost all points of frustration.

That being said the toughest pill to swallow is when a client chooses to change an idea after delivery or doesn’t launch the campaign in the same direction as originally discussed. It is incredibly frustrating to pour your heart into a project and to never have it see the light of day.

What inspires you?

I’m easily inspired! I am surrounded by so much creative energy that it’s hard not to be constantly motivated.

The city I live in plays a big part. Your environment surely influences you and currently Montreal has been an awesome inspiration.

I have a list of blogs and websites that I follow on a daily basis to help keep ideas flowing and to see what my favorite directors/ filmmakers/ designers and the community in general is up to.

I also have an inspiration board that I keep up to date. I am in the process of riffling through archived images that I have collected over the years and am compiling them to one Pinterest board. It’s a mash up of images that range from spaces, installations, creations and objects.

What’s the best thing about being a creative?

The best thing about being a creative is the freedom to play. Being perceived as a creative, allows people to put their trust in my ability to play. This is an incredible realization because it ultimately leads to unique artistic adventures.

That being said however, I am a firm believer in the fact that creativity does need boundaries. The best kind of creativity stems from being able to conceptualize within a framework. I believe that you need to be restricted in some way in order to bring balance to an otherwise fragmented explosion of ideas. Even when conceptualizing a personal project, I try to make sure I ground it in a certain direction so as to not lose sight of the key message that is to be conveyed. Internalizing this fact really dawned on me during my training as a concept artist where I realized conceptualizing a project is the best way to channel my creativity.

Your favorite designers, artists and works?

There are so many artist and designers that come to mind it’s hard to narrow it down to just a few! The list of names keeps growing every day. The names of directors/designers/artists that I am most recently drawing inspiration from (in no particular order) are – Lernert Engelberts, Sander Plug, Stefan Sagmeister, Andrew B Myers, Carl Kleiner, Sean Stiegemeier, Michael Langan, Karim Zariffa and Bob Partingto… Again this is just the tip of the iceberg there are far too many brilliant artists out there doing unbelievable things.

Do you have any formal training or education in your field? Is it important?

I started out my university education completely convinced I wanted to complete a degree in economics and anthropology… 5 years and one degree later I realized this was not what I wanted to do with my life. I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to join a Concept Art program in Toronto for two years that really allowed to me grow and develop as an artist. I concluded my final year at the Vancouver Film School where I completed the Film Production Program.

My education provided be with a concrete base to start from that has been instrumental in helping me understand a number of things including, how to run a set efficiently, how to go through pre-production effectively and that taking on projects of any magnitude can be possible with the correct amount of due diligence.

Formal training has shaped and enhanced my path in this industry. Like any other educational endeavor, it boils down to what you take out of the experience, for me it was extremely rewarding.

Tell us about your work habits. Do you like deadlines? Are you easy to work with? Are you self-disciplined?

I am extremely organized when it comes to my work. I start things off with a solid plan and try to make sure the project develops with that as a guide. So deadlines are absolutely essential. I think I am easy to work with, though you’d probably have to ask someone I have worked with for a less biased answer! As long as the people I am working with are pulling their own weight, we’ll get along just fine. I can however, get frustrated easily when I see inefficiency and  may not be the most fun to be around then, but I feel it is all for the betterment of the project at hand.

How do you keep yourself energized, motivated and at your creative best?

I keep myself motivated by constantly creating or building on ideas and concepts. When I’m not working on a commissioned project, I am envisioning new ideas and experimenting with different techniques, so that when I am working on a concept I have a pool of ideas and techniques to pull from.

I also really enjoy life drawing and sketching, so when ever I need a change of pace its always good to get back to basics and just draw.

Your tools of choice? What apps, software and non-digital tools are essential to you?

Good old pencil and paper I would say are my most used tools. But when shooting I rely heavily on Dragonframe, Premiere and Photoshop. None of my recent projects would have been possible without the help of Cinema 4D and After Effects so I will add them to the list. However I can only get by with those, I do need someone on the team who specializes in navigating those programs proficiently.

How do you stay productive?

As I had mentioned before, I stay productive by constantly pushing towards fleshing out ideas and build on concepts and testing out crazy ideas.

Have you noticed any remarkable talent or project in the design/creative field coming out of Pakistan?

Yes, absolutely! Following the The Desi Design has really helped expose me to a number of talented artists in Pakistan. I recently got in touch with Shehzil Malik and am hoping on collaboration with her on something soon. (Yay! uniting great talents aren’t we! – Editor).

Having filmed VOTE 2013 in Pakistan just a few months ago I had the pleasure to work with a few extremely talented individuals. Maaz Maudood did a brilliant job with his work on the animatic in Cinema 4D and his dedication while animating was really admirable. I have now worked with Amar Ayaz twice, both times on stop motion projects in Pakistan, and he has been a real pleasure to work with. His dedication to VOTE 2013 really went above and beyond and I look forward to seeing what he gets up to in the months to come. Sana Nazir, who also worked on VOTE2013, was an asset to the team, her tack sharp creative problem solving and keen eye for detail really helped on the project and it was really refreshing to be on set and rest assured knowing that everyone responsible for their part delivered not just what they needed to but more. Hasan Habib is another up and coming animator who is doing some really incredible stuff with After Effects. I have worked with him a number of times and is one of my go to people when it comes to After Effects.

There are a number of immensely talented artists in Pakistan and I look forward to collaborating with more in the future.

Your ultimate professional dream?

Only to take over the world….one creative commercial at a time!!  On a serious note, I would like to eventually evolve my freelance brand into an agency where I would be able to develop brands, shoot creative commercials and execute diverse marketing strategies. There is nothing more rewarding than working for myself and if I am able to do that with a team that sees eye to eye with my goals Im sure that world domination joke can be made a reality ;)


Learn more about Salman Sajun at his website.

Title image from Salman Sajun