Zanah Thirus, producer + director

Zanah Thirus, director and producer, joins the 2020 edition of Reel Chicago Black List, an annual celebration of African-American creativity published during Black History Month.

The Reel Chicago Black List includes Global Mixx founder Mary Datcher, McDonald’s US Marketing Director Lizette Williams, and filmmaker Rhyan LaMarr. To view the archives, click here.

Zanah Thirus is a producer, director, actress, and writer from Chicago who is featured as Diversity in Cannes’   Top 10 Filmmakers of the Decade. Since 2015, she has produced fourteen films, five of which are streaming on Amazon Prime Video.

Zanah’s film festival credits include an official selection at Bronze Lens Festival of Atlanta (2019), Best Female Director Award (Cineplay TV Awards 2016), Best Director Nomination (Georgia Shorts Film Fall Festival 2019), and Best Short Film nomination at the Content Creator of Atlanta Awards (2019).

Since launching her brand, Zanah Thirus Productions LLC, Zanah has shifted her focus to merging arts and activism though documentary and narrative storytelling.

Zanah’s films surround subjects such as gender, race, politics, and mental health.

Meet Zanah Thirus

What did you originally want to be when you grow up?
A zoologist. I started college when I was fourteen years old after being homeschooled my whole life. Being that young, I really liked animals (and I didn’t really understand what went into picking a major/career), so I picked zoology. That changed after I had to dissect a frog.

How did you get into the film industry?
I got my masters degree in Cinema Productin from DePaul University when I was 22 years old. I was tired of being on indie films sets that were run very poorly, so I wanted to learn how to produce, and be able to star in my own films. Since 2015, I’ve produced fourteen films. FCB Chicago saw my reel and emailed me. A few months later I got my first ‘real’ production job as an associate producer. That was three years ago. So I guess you can say I got into content production by accident?

Who were your mentors?
In the ad agency world there are several people I look up to who have inspired me- Renee Williams Royal, Elena Robinson, Stephen Clark, Stacy Miller, Ayana Picariello, and Soria Callison. I don’t have anyone I really look up to when it comes to indie filmmaking.

What is your greatest achievement?
Being named one of the Top 10 Filmmakers of the Decade by Diversity in Cannes. Also the fact that all of the award winning films that I’ve produced have had budgets of less than $5K.

What is your greatest disappointment?
I don’t have any.

What are your pet peeves?
When indie filmmakers write scripts that cost over a million dollars to produce instead of writing scripts based on the resources that they have available to them.

What are your predictions for the film industry over the next decade? 
I think more and more people are realizing the power of collaboration and that you don’t need a large budget to create high quality/award winning work.

What famous actor plays you in your life story?
Probably Zendaya.

What do you wish you had more time to do?

What drives you to create?
Watching people cry when watching my films. Knowing that my work moves people, really inspires me to keep going.