Sumana Syed

Filmmaker | Writer

What’s your creative profession, and what led you to pursue it?

I am a filmmaker with a very vivid imagination which dates back to my childhood. I used to film my own stories with my camera. What stands out from those early years is the absence of positive Muslim representation in the media. This gap fueled my journey into filmmaking, driven by a desire to share my experiences and uplift those who share my identity. Everyone has their own stories. We all have unique stories to tell.

How has your journey been so far?

I relocated to Chicago from Dallas, Texas to study at Columbia College. The school and city has a great film scene. My professors are also very encouraging, they emphasize the importance of weaving authenticity into my film work. It really helps that I get support from the POC students. As a filmmaker, this support is crucial, not just for expanding my network but for having a solid support system.

What unique challenges or frustrations have you faced as a Muslim creative? 

Most of the time I am the only POC or hijabi Muslim woman on a film set which can be challenging at times. At first, I was quite intimidated but now I use this challenge to motivate me to create films for the Muslim community. I want to show the world that Muslims can be in a creative field like film.  

What are you currently working on? 

I am currently working on my senior thesis film pitch at the moment at Columbia College. My short film is a psychological thriller about the stigmas surrounding mental health within the Muslim and South Asian-American communities. I am really excited about this project.

Which individuals within the Muslim creative community do you admire?

I am inspired by the creators of Ms. Marvel and Nida Manzoor, the creator of Lady Parts. I love how she represents Hijabi Muslim women in a positive light. 

What kinds of opportunities are you actively seeking or hoping to explore within your creative journey?

I am looking into internships, fellowships and working on film sets.  

How can people get in touch to collaborate with you?

You can get in touch with me through my website or IG page @hijabimainlead

How does your cultural background influence your creative process?

My stories are shaped by my South Asian Heritage. I am embracing who I am by writing nuanced introspective characters.

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What are your long-term goals as a Muslim creative?

My heart is in writing! However, I would like to explore other avenues of filmmaking such as producing. My end goal is to become a jack of all trades. A writer/director/producer. I dream of establishing my own film studio one day.

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