Written by Sapna Gandhi
Contemporary abstract artist, musician, filmmaker, and educator Bijan Machen is an instrumental player in bringing the eARTh Project to life. As Chief Creative Officer of the We Uplift The World organization, Machen co-created an educational workshop series that taught local youth the importance of cultivating community gardens, cooking healthy food, creating art, and understanding basic economics and business practices. WMM teamed up with the entrepreneur and artivist, by harnessing the power of mobile filmmaking technology and teaching Machen's students how to further apply a more sustainable approach to both filmmaking and life.
A former linebacker for Georgia Tech (where he graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Science, Technology & Culture) and an MFA graduate of Art Center College of Design, Machen works to challenge limiting beliefs and oppressive societal constructs, while supporting education, social justice, mental wellness, and global community through his various mediums of art. We caught up with the magnanimous and spirited Machen to talk all things art, filmmaking, and the power of positivity.
WMM: Where are you from, what is your background, and how do you think that informs what you do as a filmmaker/content creator/artist?
BM: I was born in Akron, Ohio to a very loving family of hard working people. My mother is a pastor and my father is an attorney. I think that having altruistic parents who always prioritized helping others naturally trained me to be a philanthropist and community builder. A sincere love for all people is at the core of everything I do, from music to paintings to WUTW education programs. We uplift the world!
WMM: What films made an impression on you? How? Why? What artists inspire you?
BM: Growing up I always loved Star Wars. I have a vivid imagination and really enjoy the characters and story lines in the Star Wars saga. Star Wars helped me to believe that anything is possible and that I can create my own world.
When it comes to fine art, I am hugely influenced by the 80’s NYC scene. Kenny Scharf, Jean-Michel Basquiat, and Keith Haring are my favorite visual artists.
I am a lover of all music and I take inspiration from gospel, hip hop, EDM, house, techno, jazz and soul music.
WMM: We Uplift The World -- what should we know? What makes it special and what sets it apart from what else if out there?
BM: WUTW is different from any other arts education company because we focus on hybridity and a multidisciplinary approach. We are able to effectively integrate fine arts, filmmaking, wholistic health, financial and business education, and fun experiences all into one idea. We aspire to be the premier company to connect the very best artists, brands and companies in ways that provide tremendous, sustainable value to communities around the world!
WMM: You consider yourself an ARTIVIST. How do you define that and what does it encompass? What drew you to doing this work, and who have been your sources of inspiration?
BM: An artivist is someone that uses creativity and art to make lasting change in communities, as opposed to more traditional means of protest and activism. You may not see me picketing on the steps of the capitol, but you will always find me impacting the lives of young people in the communities where my presence and skills are most needed.
WMM: What role has WMM played in your work? How has WMM helped you develop as an artist / collaborator?
BM: We Make Movies has opened my eyes to the abundant potentialities of film, especially mobile filmmaking. I have learned how to use an iPhone camera to transform the lives of different people all around the world.
WMM: What would you change if you could, about your career trajectory? Any advice for other filmmakers/artists/educators/fellow humans sharing the planet?
BM: I am quite happy with my career trajectory and I am loving my journey. If I could change anything it would be to have the ability to make more people aware of what we do and scale at a level that can create more global change in much less time. There are a myriad of challenges and issues that can be solved with creativity, great business skills and the effective use of video storytelling. I hope to continue positively impacting massive amounts of people with WMM!
WMM: What is next for you?
BM: The next step for WUTW is to transform the eARTh project into a web/mobile app that can be accessed by creative entrepreneurs of all ages, anywhere, and at any time. We are building an app infrastructure and hiring the best educators that we can find to make this dream a reality.