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|Will Sal find True Love? Meet the creator of ‘Brownies’ to find out|
|Blogs - Spotlight|
|By Cee Zee|
Desi Webseries about one man’s quest to find his soul mate… on a matrimonial website
Farhan Arshad is currently part of the TV Comedy Development team at Sony Pictures Television. In 2010, Farhan graduated from Northwestern University with a MFA in Screenwriting. Prior to his job with Sony, Farhan interned with Comedy Central and in 2009 was one of five writers selected to participate in the Comedy Central Rocktern program and was invited to submit jokes for The Daily Show and The Colbert Report. Upon completion of the program, Farhan was commissioned to write promos for The Jeff Dunham Show. Farhan used his Northwestern Film Grant to co-write and direct a half-hour pilot entitled Prison Boat. The pilot was nominated for a Chicago/Midwest Emmy in the Student Production category and also received an honorable mention from the Los Angeles Reel Film Festival.
Our Desi World recently talked to Farhan about his brand new venture: Brownies, a Desi web series about an an AB(C)D’s quest for true love. Here is an excerpt from the interview.
What inspired you to create this series?
About a year ago, I got into a debate with a colleague who works at one of the bigger TV networks about the lack of diversity on television. You’re starting to see some South Asian actors on TV, but they’re mostly supporting characters and are just there for comic relief. This person argued that there just wasn’t a real market for a “non-traditional” protagonist. I don’t think it was meant as insult, but what was said to me really struck a chord. So in short, I wrote this series to prove that a minority protagonist could not only be engaging but also carry a story and appeal to a wide audience.
I had the general idea for Brownies in my head for a longtime, but got really motivated to actually write it after that conversation. As a writer, you’re always encouraged to write “what you know” and I really wanted to tell a story about an American Desi family. We obviously have a ton of Bollywood movies and even have a lot of English Desi-centered films, but we haven’t really seen a ton about the the South Asian American. I’m not sure why that is. There’s a ton of Desi people in this country, but we haven’t seen our stories told yet. While Brownies is not a true story, I think everything I write is an extension of me and my own personal experiences. I like to write lots of different things, but the protagonists in my stories always tend to be Desi even if the story itself isn’t Desi-centered.
With the help of my producing partner, Byron Austen Ashley, we were able to get this project going. He was able to recruit Jac Reyno (cinematographer) and Wolf Kirchner (editor) to the project, who are both really talented!
Do you really believe in arranged marriages? I assume, not; so why is the concept of arranged marriage so bad? Or is it the concept of matrimonial websites that lends itself to comedy?
I think as long as an arranged marriage isn’t “forced” then it can work. Your friends and family know you the best so having those people setting you up with people they think you could really hit it off with I think could work. That being said, I think marriage is so much more meaningful when your spending it with someone that you not only love but is your friend. My own personal views definitely line up with Mustafah’s, but this series isn’t about condemning arranged marriages. Instead it’s a story about one guy’s search for love.
What are you like in real life? Do you have anything in common with the main character?
Oh, man! That’s a really tough question. I’m probably a closet nerd at heart. I think in a lot of ways Sal is a REALLY exaggerated version of me and that aspects of myself probably come out in Sal. I remember going through a bad breakup once, and thinking to myself that maybe I’d get a dog to fill that void. That sort of inspired the “I’m just at that point where I either need a dog or a wife” line. There’s a lot of silly things that a person thinks about internally but that they don’t ever dream of vocalizing. Sal’s problem is that he actually says those silly things.
Are you an ABCD? What are some challenges of being an American Desi?
Haha, I am an American Born Desi, but I LOVE Desi culture, so I’d like to think that the “C” stands for anything but Confused!
So Lana is really cool… fab actor. What/who inspired her character? She has got a bit of ‘Megan’ (Drake & Josh) in her, what is she like in real life?
I’m glad you liked her! She’s played by the incredibly talented Yanellie Ireland. I have a younger brother, named Nabeel who did a great job of helping me direct the first two episodes, in real life. To an extent she’s probably somewhat mirrored off of what he was like when he was little. In real life, we only have a four year age gap, but a lot of our relationship is based on that. When I first wrote the script, there was a younger brother character instead, but Yanielle was great that we just had to rewrite the character. You’re right, she has a lot of spunk and really did a great job of delivering her lines. In real life she’s a total sweetheart. At such a young age, she’s already really professional. At the end of the shoot she went around telling everyone that they were her best friend.
Kan Sugandh, Nishi Munshi (who was recently on Revolution!) , and Brandon Meyer all did equally as fantastic of a job. I’m really proud of the cast we’ve been able to assemble.
Were your parents supportive of this venture?
They’ve been amazingly supportive of me my entire life. They’ve always told me I could do whatever I wanted, and I REALLY tested that when I decided not to go to law school so that I could pursue screenwriting. Everyone has just been totally supportive including my beautiful fiancee, both of our families, all of my friends, and the cast and crew behind the series.
How did your American friends react to this show?
Overwhelmingly the response to the web series has been really positive. A lot of my non-Desi friends really have enjoyed this as well.
What are your plans for this show? What is the next level?
We’ve got an eight episode season completely written, and we plan on resuming filming in early January. The plan is for the webseries to go three seasons, and I already have a draft of the series finale already written. The ultimate goal though would be to get a version of Brownies on TV or the big screen.
Do you have a mentor or a producer/director that you emulate?
I’m a huge Larry David fan. He’s such a genius. He’s not a mentor of mine, but just someone I think is brilliant. Through a Comedy Central writer’s internship I was able to meet and spend a little bit of time with Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, Wyatt Cenac, Larry Wilmore, and Aasif Mandvi – it was probably the coolest experience of my life. These guys are obviously amazing talents, and I was really blown away just by how they tick. A part from being geniuses, they’re also really nice guys. I’ve also been lucky to have a lot of amazing teachers and bosses along the way.
Have you had any interest from any producers, sponsors or investors?
We have been getting a lot of interest in the series and are sort of digesting everything right now!
Has the show had any traction so far?
It’s starting to gain a really strong following. Without giving away anything, we have had some really interesting inquiries.
Will the main character get married, ever??? Should there be a spoiler alert?
I can’t give that away!! You’ll have to keep watching to find out!