Good afternoon, YouthMundees! At YouthMundus, we aim to not only be a platform for music, film and global change, but for the artists and global changemakers who create them. Our Artist Spotlight series aims to create a space for discovery of new, budding global talent, while simultaneously offering you an exclusive glimpse into their creative process.
For many, entering the work force is a scary, intimidating endeavor. This was no exception for the "quarantine graduates" - those graduating in 2020 and 2021 - who were faced with the additional challenges of a stagnant job market and new uncertainties. However, with the correct mindset and tools, challenge can lead to innovation. Today, YouthMundus talks with Deana Taheri, recent NYU graduate, international artist, and co-founder of Bad Behavior Lab.
Congratulations on graduating from NYU this past spring! Did you experience any unique problems/worries because of the timing of you entering the work field?
Graduating on its own is extremely stressful for a multitude of reasons, but nothing could have prepared me, or any of my fellow 2020 graduates, for the obstacles placed before us by COVID-19. As artists, it is rarely straightforward when it comes to consistent employment; but, with the addition of the pandemic, jobs within our industry were non-existent. The industry had collapsed and was fighting for its life. Despite this creating a significant disadvantage for the graduates of 2020, it created a drive within so many of us, me included, for creating our own opportunities. It can be easy to sit back and wait for opportunities to come to you; but, in the desolate industry climate we were given, we had to find new and inventive ways to show our creativity and do what we had been trained for.
And that’s where Bad Behavior Lab comes into play?
Yes! Bad Behavior is a mixed medium artist’s lab dedicated to creating original works by multi-hyphenate artists. I co-founded the Lab with my close friends Zac Branciforte and Julia Di Lorenzo. We were all feeling creatively stifled from being stuck in the hamster wheel of the pandemic, which led to Julia conceiving a play. Coming out of NYU gave us such a wonderful advantage when it comes to collaboration, thanks to the incredible people we had the chance to learn and grow with.
Bad Behavior Lab hosts "Go To Your Room!” a biweekly showcase of digital work as well as an original play, which we live-stream. Through this series, we made a space for artists to freely create and debut work on a regular basis. By defining ourselves as a “lab” we do not have to limit ourselves to only one area of entertainment. When we have access to so much incredible talent in so many different areas, why would we ever force ourselves to create only one?
Many people find the online format we've had to adjust to over the past year to be a hinderance, especially for performance. But Bad Behavior Lab started out - and thrived - solely online. How did you achieve this?
I don’t believe being online is a hindrance, and there is no point in trying to cover that we are in a virtual world. Instead, we can embrace it and use it as an opportunity to explore and try new things! Something we all agreed on while conceptualizing Bad Behavior Lab was to find unique ways to use the virtual world to our advantage. For example, the addition of the webcam allows us to play with audience perspective when debuting our plays. The webcam gives us mobility; we, and the professional who direct the plays, now have access to birds-eye views, multi-camera setups, and close-ups in a completely new way.
Though we began our journey with solely virtual work, we will be premiering our first live theatre production in collaboration with The Tank and The Actor’s Fund, “The Inferno, by Dante”. Starring a cast of emerging NYC based artists, the show will perform July 5th, 6th, and 7th. Keep an eye on our Instagram @badbehaviorlab for a ticket!
You’ve moved around quite a bit. Tell us about how your experience abroad has contributed to the stories you strive to tell as an artist?
Yes! I was born in London, moved to California, back to Bristol, then Birmingham, then Qatar, and now New York! As a child, I may not have really appreciated the benefits of moving so much, but I absolutely do now. As entertainment, storytelling, and performance have always been my passion, I have been lucky enough to create a web of international artists from all around the world.
Being an international artist, I felt isolated for a long time. I lacked a sense of belonging, struggling to answer the seemingly simple questions “where are you from?” Yes, I have found a home in New York, but no matter what, I will always be a British/Iranian girl and will never be able to give you a definitive answer to that question. But I realized that I was not alone in this struggle. I found that many international people also struggle with the inability to give an answer to that question.
Could this be the inspiration for your short film, TRANSPLANT?
I knew I wanted to illustrate the shared international experience in a narrative way, and that is the inspiration behind TRANSPLANT. The film works to assign a physical description of the goods and bads of being constantly uprooted. The majority of the team is made up of international POC artists, and this was of primary importance when I started the production process. The experiences I wanted to depict are all extremely unique to third-culture kids and needed to be told by them. A unique challenge of this production was a beautiful one: giving each artist full creative liberty. This came mainly in the music and in the collection of footage. Of course, not every idea worked, but approaching the film with this open mindset resulted in original, beautiful ideas to flourish. Working together, we were able to create something that I know is truly incredible!
What needs to change at the industry level so that diverse voices are given a better chance?
On a basic level, the American entertainment industry is not welcoming to international artists, unless it is convenient. I learned quickly that it was not going to be easy for me to “break in” to the working industry. In America, international students are often held back from the work opportunities until their post-graduation year. And the instability that comes with being a temporary visa holder makes it less likely for industry professionals to even bother with you because of how much work it is to keep you around. This, however, gives international artists a unique ferocity and drive. International artists have such a depth of knowledge and experience to offer, it really is a shame that so much of the entertainment industry neglects to explore them because of an inconvenience.
How will Bad Behavior Lab continue after the pandemic?
The Lab will most definitely be carrying our work into the post-pandemic world, beginning with the first live this summer. We hope to continue our exploration of medium, especially as opportunities for live, in-person work increase. Having founded Bad Behavior Lab during the peak of COVID-19 era, it is time for my "pandemic baby" to see the real world, and for me to apply what I’ve learned as Bad Behavior Lab continues to grow.
TRANSPLANT is in competition at select festivals, recently earning two honorable mentions at the Independent Shorts Awards for Best Women Short and Best First Time Female Director.
Do you have any recommendations on how we can support diverse voices?
By ensuring that diverse and international voices are uplifted and amplified on a platform like yours is a wonderfully effective way to support diverse creatives. This creates opportunities for our passions to be showcased and emphasizes the importance of diversity on all platforms.
For newest submission calls, tickets, and live events, follow BAD BEHAVIOR LAB on Instagram and Facebook. Keep up with Deana on her Instagram and Website.
Thank you all so much for your continued support. We look forward to bringing you the voice of more inspiring artists and changemakers in 2021.