The world behind a film set swept Syahirah Mansor off her feet, being surrounded by industry experts sparked a fire in her heart. Living in sunny LA, she has worked on some of the biggest Hollywood sets including Netflix, The Ellen DeGeneres Show, HOB Max and more. Below, Syahirah shares with us how she got her big break, dreaming big and never looking back.
When did your journey as a creative begin (both personally and professionally)?
When I was young, my house served as a set for numerous Malaysia drama television shows and I was constantly surrounded and by industry professionals. I vividly remember when the director invited me to sit on his lap so I could see the monitor. I was enamored by the shot on how it all works, which provided a glimpse of my career path.
Fast forward to my time at Sunway College, I thought that I needed to study business to have any sight of a successful career. However, I was never motivated by any of the subjects throughout the curriculum. I was missing something and I had no clue what it was. Although I finished my A-Levels, I knew that this wasn't something I want to pursue.
After graduation, I took a break from my studies and I was offered to work on a couple of Malaysian television sets. The odd call times, caffeine-filled nights and crew camaraderie - it sparked a passion of filmmaking that I've been missing. I immediately knew that I wanted to continue on this path and make my way to Hollywood. Numerous people thought I was crazy for my ambition and a lot of them laughed at me...
Regardless, I took it as a challenge and called a couple of my friends to make a short film for my college application. I applied for College in the United States and got accepted with a scholarship.
I received my BA in Cinema Arts & Science with a concentration in Producing and Directing from Columbia College Chicago in 2019, graduating with Summa Cum Laude honors. I packed my bags and finally made my way to Hollywood, LA by moving to the West Coast. I got my start working for The Ellen DeGeneres Show, 2656 Marketing and currently, Tool of North America.
Strong bonds with the audience don't just happen. It comes from a place of credibility and straying away from the artificial. You have to earn their trust.
What is your life ethos and how does it relate to your creative journey?
My life ethos is truly to dream for the stars and don't let anyone tell you otherwise.
Throughout my creative journey, I could remember every single person that have told me that my dreams were too big. Of course, there were moments where I took the negativity to heart but I realized that this thinking only limits my potential.
I eventually leaned into all the criticism and took it as fuel to my further my career. As creatives, it is important to to be thirsty for the unconventional and chase personal growth. Every small milestone counts!
What are some of the things your artworks are constantly seeking to explore?
Authenticity and diversity.
When I started on my creative journey, I would always write stories and create experiences of what seemed to be "likable" rather than portraying experiences that were genuine to myself. However, I didn't realize that I was hurting my potential instead.
Strong bonds with the audience don't just happen. It comes from a place of credibility and straying away from the artificial. You have to earn their trust. Therefore, it's important for me to build courage and share what is genuine.
Diversity and inclusivity is also something I am constantly seeking to explore in my work. It is important that we encourage racial and gender diversity in all aspects, whether on-screen and/or off-screen. There's many pros in inclusivity but I've learnt that collaborating with other individuals will take your work to new heights.
What was the most significant/impactful project for you thus far — why?
One of the first advertising campaigns I've ever produced was a Walmart and Pinterest Summer 360° campaign. The campaign was to create the ultimate 360° backyards scenes that were inspired by Pinners favorite summer moments. Pinners experienced a seamless journey through each location where they can look around and become part of the summer fun.
It was such an amazing experience because I walked out of that project feeling fulfilled as well as confident that I am on the right career path. It was such a fast-moving production and I enjoyed all of its ups and downs. I also had tremendous support from my Executive Producer who helped mentor me throughout the process.
How do you see the world?
The world is filled with artistic inspiration! In every corner you look, there's always a story to tell. You just have to look!
What type of artist do you wish to be, and what's your ultimate goal as a creative?
I want to be an artist that constantly seek growth. The creative journey is is a very long road and it'll take a lifetime to develop your craft. When you feel like you know it all, that is when you fail. Art is ever-changing and transform over time. As a result, I want to be an artist that developed their skills over time and continuously learn the ins and outs of my craft. I want to always have the willingness to throw myself in new things, experiment and push the boundaries. Always break the rules!
What is your favourite and least favourite part of the creative process?
My favorite part is collaboration! I love working with other talented individuals and learning from their thinking. Brainstorms, thought starters and design meetings are the highlight of my work days because you're able to riff off each other until you find that lightbulb moment.
My least favorite part is creative blocks. Without a doubt that those moments can be extremely frustrating at times, especially when it span across a long period of time. However, there is a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow! That feeling when you break through that block and can't stop writing your thoughts is indescribable.
What’s your guilty pleasure(s)?
Reality TV shows! Think about those producers on Survivor? That's dedication!
How would you describe your creative and artistic style? Do you feel much has changed?
I would describe my artistic and creative style like a big packet of variety candy - multidisciplinary and always a surprise!
For the longest time, I always thought I would only express my art in filmmaking. Movies and television shows have always been my one and only passion. However, I took the risk and started working in experiential production. I was involved from conception to production in advertising campaigns that involves VR, AR, WebGL, activations and events. Although they are different, I felt that the experience helped made my creative and artistic styles more open to different mediums.
Who is someone you would love to collaborate with and why?
I want to collaborate with my fellow Malaysian creatives. I would love to start working with all the talented individuals back home and showcase their unique creative styles.
Please share with us who/what you are constantly inspired by!
Reese Witherspoon and her production company, Hello Sunshine. Their company puts women at the center of every story that they create, celebrate and discover. They are a female-led company that has over 18 Emmy nominations and is ranked as the world's 50 most innovative companies by Forbes.
I want to be a part of anything that helps change the narrative for women, especially in the entertainment industry. I am extremely passionate about placing the spotlight on talented women and pursuing gender equality in the workplace.
Lastly, please shoutout 3 of your favourite local creative crushes and their IG handle!
- Novak Batik @novakbatik
- Jasmine @jasmineecp
- Adibah Khalil @adibahkhalil