Life, Like A Fingerprint (or: Why Ted Never Wanted To Be Marlon Brando)

In my very late teens, I took up acting by chance. I had been interested in movies (grew up on foreign cinema), and had no direction in my life (aside from snowboarding), and it fell into my lap in the way most things do. One part, get out of trouble card, the other, channeling the trouble. It was sort of necessary, however brief.*

One of my earliest teachers, Ted Jones (an alias) was a white-bearded man in his sixties. He had bit roles in several major movies, and did regional theater most of his life. And for extra money, he was a licensed taxi driver. He emphasized that the profession of acting was an ill-advised path, whether you “make it or not” and like many actors, he found the line of work accidentally, to get out of trouble himself. Nevertheless, he was good at it, and I believe he actually liked it. At his point though, he might not have had a choice, habits are hard-worn.

One day after some standard, silly actor exercises, while we sat in some weird meditative sit down position, while giving a lecture, Ted Jones blurted out tangentially, “I would never trade my life for Marlon Brando’s”. I felt he had ruminated over this many a time before. Marlon Brando was of course, at that time, and to this day, regarded as one of the greatest movie actors in cinema history (if not the greatest). This is of course, a consensus popular type of “greatest” because people hardly ever know what they are talking about when describing performances. But Brando was mythicized in acting circles, much of that owed directly to the hands of director Elia Kazan, most notable, when Brando played ex pugilist & has-been Terry Mallow in the exceptional film, ON THE WATERFRONT. The myth was solidified, specifically in one scene romanticized to death, that in which Brando plays with his co-stars (Eva Marie Saint) glove in a naturalistic, off- the-cuff, improvised way. To this day, there is neither a film school nor an acting class unwilling to sell you on the regurgitated magnitude of this moment, frozen in time. Kazan was certainly a sound director (a personal favorite), and one that became infamous in the black listing scandal during the McCarthy era, which seems to be in the zeitgeist again. Brando of course rose to fame prior, playing Stanley Kramer in A STREET CAR NAMED DESIRE, first on stage, then on the big screen.

Brando always disparaged his profession whenever given the opportunity (as do other well-known actors, possibly as a mimetic homage to other great actors, or possibly something more internal, though I don’t want to speculate), and barely prepared for his roles as his career went forward and fame overwhelmed. A story comes to mind is that he had a microphone in his ear, reciting lines feed to him over radio waves. Though, he certainly was a natural, and his naturalness was something we like to see on screen. That’s usually what differentiates actors that we prefer. Something about the personality and ease in front of a camera. The rest of it, the spectacle of losing weight or becoming physically something altogether different, those actions have a tinge of superficiality attached, though they make great press and help win awards. But that extra stuff often has less gravity then a mere smile, a face never too pretty nor too ugly, and a certain charisma we call star power for lack of the right words.

But coming back to Ted Jones remark - Brando’s life was full of tragedy. He hit the highest highs, and the lowest lows, and for Ted, life was more than a career. That kind of thinking is irrational, or rather, incomprehensible for a 20-year-old would be artist. Glory is after-all, the immortality that we seek. To change the world, blah blah, ego blah! But, we all learn of the tradeoffs of these grandiose illusions as time marches forward, and with every level up, after a brief period of ecstasy when going up, the psyche neutralizes and you deal with life in much the same way as any other period. There is a clip of an older, more mature Mike Tyson dismissing all his championship belts as meaningless. And a life filled with excessive tragedy and suffering, even when the highest peaks were reached, was too much of a net negative tradeoff when the macro lens was applied as far as our subject Ted was concerned.

Of course, there is an additional argument to be made here, one that we can’t skip over, one in which the great writer, & lover of the twitter argument Nassim Taleb calls an example of “sour grapes”. That Ted Jones, never achieving the status he craved consoles himself through an illusion, or rather, delusion to protect his ego. Of course, this is a psychological possibility, but also, a weak, projected judgement about the wants and needs of another human being, with another fate, and an individual path like a fingerprint, as valid as all others, and inseparable from all others. All of the upside, and limited downside is nice, but the universe is a trickster. (a side note here, Taleb has major distaste for actors and the acting profession, which is ironic in that it is the king of Lindy when it comes to professions).

Which brings me to this: the highs will bring the lows, and like a roller coaster, up and down it goes.

*Post script - I quickly found my way out of that career because the auditions I got called in for and the opportunities at the time where horrendous (terrorist shit). I had decided that my stories where essential & no one but myself could tell them (immigrant shit), so I moved into another realm, just a hop, skip & jump away. This trajectory is partly why I have such fondness for John Cassavetes to this day.

What is the movie "Three Worlds" about?

Every week since its release, I get an email (or several) asking a question similar to this, “hi, can you please explain “the XYZ” scene in your movie Three Worlds (sometimes they spell it “3 worlds”). Occasionally, I get the all encompassing, “what is the movie Three Worlds about?”

I try to reply back to all the sincere questions, but the answer is not a fully satisfied one, though the response to my answer seems to be enough.

I recently tried to think if I had ever thought about “meaning” in a film. And it occurred to me that I had not, at least not in a concrete way, but I assume this is irregular.

My answer is always the same; “I have my ideas about what the scene (film) is about, but yours are better than mine, even if you haven’t decided yet.”

Happy Thanksgiving Friends, enjoy time with your loved ones. And if are particularly feeling alone, reach out and say hello.

Roscoe and Amir

Screening dates and events coming up for THREE WORLDS & MAN!

Our producer Charles Borg hosts IFP CHICAGO’s “Filmmakers Friday” on Friday, November 9th at 4:30pm where we present both THREE WORLDS and MAN, followed by a Q/A and mixer.

On November 14th, at 5:15, MAN screens at Tribeca Flashpoint Chicago at the “Screening Room” followed by a discussion.

Both events are free to the public.

ANIMALS Do Work

Name dropped in a trailer for a film about a Werewolf Philosopher, a first for me

In what is now a first for me, I got name dropped in a trailer for a DIY film from NY based filmmaker/blogger Sujewa Ekanayake about a Werewolf philosopher solving the case of a string of dead art filmmakers turning up in NY.

Yes, in fact, that is the synopsis.

I received an early version of the film (was informed that some changes will be made) and sat down with it last night.

Again, I’m biased (see the trailer below), but knowing Sujewa’s work over the years, he reminds me of a living, breathing indie music fanzine from the 80’s-90’s. If you know anything about that time, you know that it was a labor of love, & it was the underpinning that drove that scene.

“Werewolf” never takes itself serious (its absurd comedy after-all), and Sujewa spends time through the Werewolf expressing his love for the things he’s interested in, centered around his influences, while imbuing the film with a workable philosophy that translates to the real world. It also has several legit laugh out loud moments sprinkled throughout.

This type of filmmaking is certainly not for everyone (long transitional cutaways/ long single take dialogue sequences/ a certain DIY wandering edit / no budget), but I can’t help but respect his drive and his passion for the scene he nurtures in it.

I think, in a different timeline, we would have had more variety of this type of work, but the indie film world never shaped up like the indie music scene; still, we have Sujewa keeping the fanzine alive with his particular vision.

“Werewolf Ninja Philosopher” is playing Oct 25-31st at 7pm at the Maysles Theater in Harlem. You can order it on VOD here as a pre-order.

When you get your voiced dubbed because you lost your tongue

In May, I got asked to do an interview on a new show highlighting Iranian (American) artist/entertainers/entrepreneurs living in Los Angeles titled IRANGELES.

The shows producer (a real nice dude, Ben) told me it was for a London based broadcaster, so I figured it was BBC Persia. I was mistaken (no big deal though I should be more diligent), instead it was for a new Iranian Satellite Broadcaster (out of London) who I’m not familiar with.

In any case, the show went live on the broadcaster (just the other day), and I got a call from my father, signaling a bit of irritation in his voice. The back story is as follows:

Turns out, my cousin saw the episode (other side of the planet), who then alerted my uncle, who then called his sister (aunt), who then called my mother, who then told my father, who then called me to lecture me about my lack of Farsi. And why was that?

Because my Farsi has gotten so inarticulate that they ended up dubbing my voice.

Keep sharp the native tongue my friends :)

Below is the episode on YT which includes my segment starting at 12:04 in Farsi.

A meta episode in the vein of Seinfeld, not much happens - Things w/ Amir Motlagh Ep 13

This is all meta and in the vein of Seinfeld; nothing happens, and all bundled with 99% less laughs. Anyways, as I had feared before I revamped this, that bottlenecks would thwart my consistency. And, yes, they have. So, while I have been perpetually aiming at making these better, or rather, more value oriented & better researched, that has not happened. Will it, who knows? To be honest, it is what it will be.

Though, I do like to talk freely like this, so, maybe I’ll just keep at it. The volume has been increased as my friend Jonathan implored me to bump the gain knob. I noticed that I was mixing it at a volume that film dialogue would be at, and that is probably to low for the web.

What happens in these 7 minutes? A quick chat about the last couple weeks, the weather is spectacular and why you should read ZEN AND THE ART OF MOTORCYCLE MAINTENANCE by Robert Pirsig.

As always, come say hello and subscribe if you’re feeling generous, if not for these, but for all the other more important stuff.

With love,
am

Additional Screening Dates set for MAN & THREE WORLDS

After a great THREE WORLDS screening and panel (moderated by Omar McClinton) at VAiFF, we picked up two additional dates in Chicago to see the films screened.

We will be doing a “Filmmakers Friday” at IFP CHICAGO on Friday, November 9th at 4:30pm where we present both THREE WORLDS and MAN, followed by a Q/A and mixer.

On November 14th, at 5:15, MAN screens at Flashpoint Chicago at the “Screening Room” followed by a discussion. Please contact with appropriate heading to be included in the guest list for this event.

"Three Worlds" invited to screen as a "Festival Spotlight" film at VAiFF

Three Worlds screens once again in Chicago as a “Festival Spotlight” film for the annual VAiFF. Screening takes place at 1:30pm, Sunday Oct 7th at Fort Knox Studios. Producers will be on hand to take questions. Tickets for the event are part of the festival pass. Click here:

30 Days to Equanimity - Things w/ Amir Motlagh Ep12

In this episode, we talk a bit about how we can develop a practice to increase overall equanimity, and bring more peace into our lives. The episode functions more like a podcast (its long, pacing is slower which fits the theme), so if you prefer, drop in your own background music if it helps. I didn’t want to force you into anything.

This discussion has no political overtones, nor does it try to usurp therapy or other methods. It has worked for me after a long search and experimentation period and is very simple and extremely easy to implement into your routine. It has also worked for several friends who sought assistance.

What is important here is that you stick through it for 30 days. The science into the why's is less important than the practice. The practice and its focus are what will bring about an easier way of handling the constant stressors that is life itself.

The video also dropped out after a few minutes due to a technical glitch, and you are left with photos of doggos (Roscoe + Buckley), which again, made the edit more in line with a podcast, and less jump cut orientated. I think this accident made for a much better video in either case.

Have a lovely day.

THREE WORLDS Reviewed by Premier Arthouse Cinema Site PINNLAND EMPIRE

When you make art & you put it out into the world, it becomes a vulnerable time if you haven’t done the necessary work to detach. Essentially, equanimity is the only barrier between this raw period and the world. I seldom read or look at reviews, but this one was a bit different because I felt the reviewer got it (the essence), for lack of a better term, and that connection is wonderful.

So, when you got a moment, check out this THREE WORLDS review from the stellar arthouse cinema site, PINNLAND EMPIRE.

Amir Motlagh dispels some of the superficial stigmas put on Los Angeles while at the same time embraces the very real superficialities associated with L.A. (outside of Los Angeles being the epicenter of the entertainment industry, it’s a very cool city unlike any other if you know the right people).

And putting all Mekas/Malick comparisons aside, this is very much Motlagh’s own film. The movie is filled with obvious autobiographical content that comes off as genuine & organic as opposed to pretentious. That’s not an easy task with a film like this (ambient, sprawling, artistic and sometimes chaotic). A young filmmaker could easily get self-absorbed & pretentious with a movie like Three Worlds but that’s not the case here.

This will definitely require a second (or third) viewing. And that’s a good thing. This isn’t something to fully digest in one sitting.
— Marcus Pinn

Three Worlds Upcoming Screenings

Three Worlds” screens Sept 23rd at the Mockingbird Cinema, Birmingham UK as part of the B’ham Sci-Fi Convention Fest. Then back to Chicago, as the “Spotlight Film” for VAiFF Fest Oct 7th (location info coming shortly).

ThreeWorlds_amirmotlagh.jpg

Things w/ Amir Motlagh Ep11

Slowly turning into a pod(web)cast, lol. This was longer than I wanted, but much quicker to get through on the backend. Still working it out. Fixed the audio drop-out issue, which is a weird Premiere Pro bug.

I have been feeling under the weather (not emotionally man!!), but pushed through to keep consistent.

This episode is more free flowing, as I go through some history of filmmaking in the last couple decades. Again, my preparation is next to nil, which is why so many important points where skipped over. The tradeoff is that I can actually deliver these in a weekly manner.


THREE WORLDS is HERE!!

You can finally watch THREE WORLDS on Vimeo On Demand starting now!  This is the soft launch, with many platforms coming soon including Amazon Prime. Though, being an amazing first adapter, you don't like waiting.

I don't want to say too much about the film, but it is a unique experience. Like my other film MAN, it benefits from putting the phone and distractions away for 90 minutes. Though, while part of the same series of works, THREE WORLDS is nothing like MAN on a structural/formalistic level. (if you haven't watched MAN, click here).

Additional info:

Three Worlds is a psychological science fiction drama that explores the three lives, or 'worlds,' of a man who undergoes an experiment that triggers haunting memories and alternate life memories.

Written & Directed by Amir Motlagh
Produced by ANIMALS, Amir Motlagh, Charles Borg
Director of Photography: Amir Motlagh

Starring:
Amir Motlagh
Samantha Robinson
Rey Deegan
Keaton Shyler
Gregory Linington

Editing: Bryan Tuck, Amir Motlagh
Original Score by Julian DW Brink

Sound Designer & Re-Recording Mixer: Stephen Holliger

1/3 of the THREE MARKS, TOO MANY SIGNALS trilogy.

Press Quotes:

"It's rare to mix rawness with beauty" - Marcus Pinn PINNLAND EMPIRE / ZEBRAS IN AMERICA

"It's always exciting whenever a distinct new voice makes itself heard on the indie landscape. Amir Motlagh is such a voice...."Honest and soulful" - Adam Schartoff FILMWAX RADIO

“There is without a doubt a definitive boldness to “Three Worlds”, both in its tone and aspirations, and it will certainly require viewers to lean in a little closer, which is never a bad thing…..a curious and
fascinating watch.” - David Fowlie KEEPING IT REEL

The experience of both films (MAN + Three Worlds) is one that any film connoisseur must have. To sit with an awareness of the film, and, an awareness of how you are watching it, is a surreal act that can only be described as “art.” Motlagh’s work is definitely a piece of art in the medium of film.” - Jonita Davis THE IRANIAN

 

THREE WORLDS pre-order is live!

Our second feature film for 2018 (Three Worlds) is now available for pre-order! Please show your support by committing early & locking into our lovingly easy pre-release rates. 

Available on Vimeo On Demand (worldwide) starting Sept 7th, 2018. (i think we'll let it drop Thurs ;) )

Premieres on Amazon Prime Video in the latter half of Sept, with a full digital rollout in the following months.

The full OST (soundtrack) by Julian DW Brink premieres on all music platforms Sept 14th, 2018.

This release marks the conclusion of the "Three Marks, Too Many Signals" series of works. 

PS: If you haven't yet watched MAN yet, now is a good time, after you pre-order this! 💚

------------------

Synopsis

Three Worlds is a psychological science fiction drama that explores the three lives, or 'worlds,' of a man who undergoes an experiment that triggers haunting memories and alternate life 'memories.

Credits

Written & Directed by Amir Motlagh
Produced by ANIMALS, Amir Motlagh, Charles Borg
Director of Photography: Amir Motlagh

Starring:
Amir Motlagh
Samantha Robinson
Rey Deegan
Keaton Shyler
Gregory Linington

Editing: Bryan Tuck, Amir Motlagh
Original Score by Julian DW Brink

Sound Designer & Re-Recording Mixer: Stephen Holliger

Media Quotes

“It’s always exciting whenever a distinct new voice makes itself heard on the indie landscape. Amir Motlagh is such a voice.

honest and soulful.. ”

— Adam Schartoff FILMWAX RADIO

“It’s rare to mix rawness with beauty.”

— Pinnland Empire

““These unique experiences are made even more exceptional for their Iranian-American perspective.” 

...the experience of both films (MAN + Three Worlds) is one that any film connoisseur must have. To sit with an awareness of the film, and, an awareness of how you are watching it, is a surreal act that can only be described as “art.” Motlagh’s work is definitely a piece of art in the medium of film.”

— Jonita Davis THE IRANIAN

“there is without a doubt a definitive boldness to “Three Worlds”, both in its tone and aspirations, and it will certainly require viewers to lean in a little closer, which is never a bad thing…..a curious and fascinating watch.”

— David Fowlie KEEPING IT REEL

The Passing of A Friend - Things w/ Amir Motlagh Ep10

Was not going to do one of these this week, but then I figured that, knowing Chris, he would have been like, "fuck you dude, do one of these on me!" 

I just pulled up our last text message, in which he states that I owe him a Roscoe's Chicken and Waffles dinner. I can't seem to recall why?

Still working out some audio drop-outs, but I think I figured that out. If you're interested in getting your weekly (bi-weekly) dose of these, please subscribe. 

Christopher Ad Castillo: https://www.imdb.com/name/nm1779820/?ref_=nv_sr_2

Celso Ad. Castillo: https://www.imdb.com/name/nm0145036/?ref_=nv_sr_1

MIRS video we co-directed on the set of his film LosAngeles7: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d_lyA...

RIP Christopher Ad. Castillo