A Happy Place to Call Her Own | Meet Creative Producer Tara Razavi
Think about some of your favorite artists at the moment, and we’ll tell you the mind behind their visual work. Los Angeles-bred Founder and Head Producer of creative production agency, Happy Place, Inc., Tara Razavi is the woman we have to thank for putting smiles on all of our faces with pieces of video genius like JAY-Z’s “MaNyfaCedGod," Aminé’s “Spice Girl," SZA’s “Supermodel," and Tyler, the Creator’s latest Converse partnership commercial.
With Happy Place, Inc., Razavi is building a strong-as-nails, bi-coastal team that has the same unique perspective and creative flair as she holds, and keeps her work solid with the ethic of never settling for less than her best. Even with big-name commercials and events (and even bigger-name artists’ music videos) tucked tightly under its belt, Happy Place, Inc. is really just getting started. And if SZA and Tyler, the Creator are just the beginning, then Razavi and her crew are about to make the music industry a happy-as-hell place to be.
You’ve been in the music industry for a minute now, working your way up from intern, and now calling the shots with your production agency, Happy Place, Inc. What’s the biggest thing you’ve learned about yourself throughout this journey?
In some respects, I learn something new every day, but the biggest things are probably that I'm a lot stronger and tenacious than I thought I was and that femininity in its true form is not a weakness but a severe strength. You know sometimes, you have moments in life where you think you're super strong or super smart or whatever you deem your personal strengths to be, but it's not until you get tested that you can truly measure those personal attributes. The beauty of it all, however, is that no matter where you actually measure, life gives you an opportunity to move that threshold further and further forward. It was after moving this line and consistently breaking through my own barriers of what I thought the tip of my strength was, that I realized I can legitimately do anything. It turns into a question of will. No matter how talented you are at something, it’s how much you’re willing to fight for something that will determine how far you go.
Tell me about Happy Place, Inc. When did it launch, how did you go about building it and bringing on your team of creatives?
I was working at, and eventually started running, someone else’s company for five years, dealing with a fair amount of things that were a good distance from what and who I always envisioned myself being at my best career self. I incorporated in 2008 knowing what my future held, but it wasn’t until 2010 that I really gathered the courage and confidence to make a leap of faith and give it all I got. Shortly after doing that, a friend of mine called and asked if I was down to produce a music video for the director she was repping, Taj. I said yes and that marked the beginning. I feel like I always had long-term goals in the back and maybe forefront of my mind, but in practical everyday work, I never pre-occupied myself with the end... I kept my sights immediately on the project and task at hand and it was almost the simplifying nature of that, that moved me through my path. I started with just Taj until he introduced me to another director and then there were two, then two became three, and so on and so forth from there. They’re not as fun, but slow builds tend to be stronger ones.
Describe the process of a project… from concept to execution.
Well, it can start in a few different ways, but simplified… either a label, manager, or artist will ask our team to submit creative ideas for a song or campaign or whatever they're looking to market. Sometimes the artist already has an idea, a base of an idea, or they may just know what they don't want. I've found that the best products come out of pure collaboration with the artist... because you're there to be an instrument in their overall message, so it's good to have their involvement. We go through the business of putting together all the logistics (blah), and then we move to pre-pro and execution.
"Take advantage of what makes you different and understand that it’s a strength, not a weakness."
It’s clear you’re a huge music fan. Where else do you grab inspiration from?
Inspiration is fun when it finds you, but once you start making a living off of being inspired, you have to find the balance of being open to receiving inspiration and seeking it out. You learn new ways to get inspired. Sometimes it's an experience, a moment, a mood. I have found that the best inspiration comes from people because the depth of the human soul is endless.
I remember going through a very uninspired time and I started thinking about children and the joy displayed on their face when they see the simplest things. I thought about how it's so easy to impress a child because everything is new to them. They're seeing everything for the first time. I got into the practice of seeing everything again for the first time, and it's amazing how much beauty there is in this world. Our minds are limitlessly powerful, so sometimes a switch of your mindset can change your whole world.
What’s your absolute dream project, and who would it be with?
I have two. One is in the works, so it’ll have to remain a secret for now. The other would probably be a film with director Denis Villeneuve. The precision in his execution is amazing to me. I think he is one of the new wave of creatives that understands that the audience isn't as dumb as they've been treated for years. He caters to an intelligent audience so he doesn't need to “overdo” it. No extra dialogue, no extra sounds in his score. His work, in my eyes, is well-written, shot well, cast well, and his direction shines through all of it.
In your past, you studied at UCLA to become a lawyer, then surprised your parents by following your true calling. How has their perception on your decision changed over the year?
Well, I’m very lucky because I come from a big, loving, supportive family. Especially my immediate family. My father was always such a forward thinker and would tell me that I can make money doing anything. He taught me the fundamentals of business and the importance of integrity in business. Things like being fair and honest, keeping your word, and honoring agreements. He taught me these things on a fundamental level and in a way that could be applied to anything I did. Then I had my mom who would always say, “You can do whatever you want as long as you're the best at it.” She would tell me that she’d be proud of whatever my best was, but then would finish with, “But, I know anything short of amazing isn't your personal best.” So there was this constant balancing act between pushing me and loving and accepting me no matter what. That being said, when I broke the news to them, my dad immediately seemed ok with it because he trusted me and the decisions I made. My mom naturally had some reservations, but when I explained my reasoning why, she was understanding. I told her that growing up, I watched her keep a job that didn’t fulfill her. That, although I know she did it for my sister and I, was still hard to watch and that I wanted to do something I loved. Now they post my work on their Facebook pages. Lol!
What message would you like to send to other first-generation American women?
Ooo.... probably that the culture your parents passed down to you is what is setting you apart and giving you a leg up. I was never raised around people from my culture (with the exception of my family), and so there was always a very clear divide between my American side and my Iranian side. It set me apart from some of my family but also set me apart from almost all of my friends. When you’re young, that can make you feel alone or like you don’t fully belong anywhere. You can’t yet see how much power rests in being set apart. You have to learn a lot on your own, for the first time, but a lot of strength can come from that… firstborn, first generation.
Take advantage of what makes you different and understand that it’s a strength, not a weakness. Be proud of it. Pull inspiration from it. Own being special. A first-generation woman in some families is a one-time occurrence.
You’ve worked with some of Hip Hop and R&B's most beloved. Could you share a moment with any of them that stands out and has left a lasting impression on you?
We’ve all heard: “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
It's not necessarily specific moments, but the artists with the best energy that always stand out to me. People like Tyler... I am continuously so amazed by him, his intelligence, his creativity, his fearlessness, his commitment to his team and leadership. His generosity and his foresight. He is truly one of a kind. Guys like Swizz Beatz and Daniel Caeser have so much positive energy, it's no surprise that their success keeps growing at the pace it has. SZA–talk about pure, powerful feminine energy! She's something else. I’ve been so fortunate to work with so many amazing artists and souls and every single one of them has an equally amazing manager or team. That's no coincidence.
Who’s your main MISSBISH?
My mom and my sister. My mom is stronger than she knows or gives herself credit for and my sister is perfection.
What are 3 of your favorite hidden gems of L.A.?
Ubatuba Acai… I’m obsessed. Temescal Canyon, and any Persian restaurant. ;)
What does MISSBISH mean to you?
MISSBISH, to me, is about a woman who stands in her ultimate strength, pure femininity with acknowledgment of the masculine to help balance her out. Someone who can walk in a room and demand respect without begging or screaming for it. Someone who has the ability to forgive, to learn constantly and to see or understand another person's plight and still love them for it. Someone who knows that everyone is doing their ultimate best at every moment, and who never settles for less than her best.