Of course, Nawaz is no stranger to success. We’ve spoken with her before for a Q and A at an earlier stage of the project and anyone with even a brief understanding of Saskatchewan film and television will remember Little Mosque on the Prairie’s triumphant run from 2007 to 2012. This time around, Nawaz says that the three grants she received seriously helped land some additional funding.
“The series got so much attention in Canada and worldwide from the promotion of the trailer, we were able to attract a new investor, USHub, to help finance the second season. Our goal had been to increase views to the [series] which we achieved and we also increased investment.”
The web series, which was one of the top three most viewed CBC Gem short form originals last year, is described by the national broadcaster as being a show where “Zarqa [the main character] – a divorced, middle-aged Muslim woman – strives to reinvent herself… until her impulsive and vindictive personality gets in the way.” With each episode clocking in at less than 13 minutes, the show is incredibly bingeable and has been green lit for a second season.
The project, however, has not had a short road to fruition. After producing a trailer, Nawaz turned to Crowdfunding to raise part of the project’s initial budget. As the creator of the series posted on that original crowdfunding page, the goal was to create a series “with more bite” and one that challenged how the film and television industry viewed Muslim women.
“Muslim comedians like Ramy Youssef (Ramy), Aziz Ansari (Master of None), and Kumail Nanjiani (The Big Sick) have been criticized for portraying white female romantic leads as the trophy, at the expense of Muslim women who are stuck playing the comic foil. ZARQA is going to change all that!”
It’s not like Nawaz had only ever created Little Mosque on the Prairie before diving into this newer venture. She’s also written two books (Jameela Green Ruins Everything and Laughing all the Way to the Mosque), led four short films (Fred’s Burqa, Random Check, BBQ Muslims, and Death Threat), and been part of an expansive documentary about equal access for Muslim women in Canada (Me & the Mosque). Having sold pilots on both sides of the border, and been a journalist since the early nineties, Nawaz brings an exceptional list of accomplishments along with her to any project. She was happy to share with us how her provincial funding was received by Canada’s national broadcaster.
“CBC Gem was very impressed with the support Creative Saskatchewan gave to ZARQA through its major marketing fund. We have sold both the 1st and 2nd season to USHub which will get us a global audience.”