Comedy Series on “Doing Good” Makes its World Premiere at SXSW Film Festival
Cast and crew of “We’re Doing Good” at SXSW Film Festival March 13, 2022 with writer/director Elvira Ibragimova (front center). Producers: Lana Link and Rob Pfaltzgraff; Cinematography: Samuel Ott; Editing: Sam Zarrin; Music: James Newberry Cast: Emily Pendergast, Jonathan Braylock, Michael Ruesga, Olivia Choate, Tim de la Motte Photo credit: Wendy Goodman
By Wendy Goodman
Based on true stories, writer-director Elvira Ibragimova debuted her original web series “We’re Doing Good” at SXSW Film Festival 2022 in the episodic pilot competition. This inspiring comedy program takes viewers along on the journey of a millennial couple, played by Emily Pendergast and Jonathan Braylock, aspiring to make the world a better place. It starts with food composting, which goes awry as they drive around Los Angeles with their rotting, melting frozen food scraps in search of a compositing site.
Native Russian speaker, Ibragimova grew up in Tashkent, Soviet-era Uzbekistan until she was ten, at which point she and her family came to the U.S. as political refugees. Ibragimova’s background is half Jewish and half Muslim.
“Once we came here, we had an enormous amount of help and support from a few Jewish organizations in New York (the major one was NAYANA) as we settled in. They arranged for us to attend HAFTR, a yeshiva in Long Island and I was there for four years. This was the first time I really had a Jewish education, went to shul, etc. – while at the same time learning English and adjusting to life in America in general. I think this was a formative time in my life. Trying to reconcile American, Jewish, Muslim, Uzbeki and Russian cultures at the age of ten was overwhelming, and the thing I clung to most was finding humor across all of those particular languages,” Ibragimova explained.
“In Tashkent, I was a kid that liked to laugh and make people laugh and coming here and having to essentially re-learn how to speak and what was funny in this new world gave me this confidence throughout my life that I can make light of anything as a means of survival and growth.”
Ibragimova wrote “We’re Doing Good” based on real-life experiences she’s had with her partner Samuel Ott who works as Director of Photography on the series. The series is produced by Lana Link and Rob Pfaltzgraff.
While Ibragimova’s high-concept comedy and sarcastic humor lightens the subject matter of “We’re Doing Good,” the importance of tikkun olam, a Hebrew phrase meaning repairing the world, is a prominent theme of the series to which audiences can relate.
At SXSW, when asked what her biggest challenges were when filming, Ibragimova said, “I feel very grateful now because production had no major issues, and I had a lot of support and everything I needed. My challenges were more personal. I used to be an architect before switching to film, so I am a very plan-oriented rigid person…We had a really tight script, and then I got handed the best improvisors [actors] I’ve ever met. It was a constant push and pull [to not] yell ‘cut’ because we have something really good going on here. There’s magic happening. That was [my] internal struggle to constantly forget the plan and be flexible.”
Ibragimova started her career as an architect in New York and practiced improv comedy in her spare time. This hobby soon became her profession and led to creating “We’re Doing Good.”
“I was working at a really high-profile design firm in New York where a coworker recommended I take an improv class as a way to get better at pitching and talking to clients. Once I started doing improv and then sketch, I was soon spending all my free time performing and writing and filming and after about a year realized it wasn’t just a hobby. I quit my job at the architecture firm, applied to a yearlong comedy film program at Second City and moved to Chicago to study directing for a year. While at Second City, I made a short film that got me into a directing fellowship with Viacom and Nickelodeon which has helped launch my TV directing career and get me my first three episodes over the past year; that same short also got into a film festival where I met Lana Link from MPI. We stayed friends and once I moved to LA for the fellowship, we caught up. I was venting to her about how my boyfriend Sam and I were trying to compost one day and how horribly we failed. Lana encouraged me to write a script based on that incident and eventually we developed ‘We’re Doing Good,’” Ibragimova said.
Ibragimova is currently working on adapting “We’re Doing Good” into a half-hour series as well as a few other feature scripts.
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