Cinema

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.

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 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! 💚

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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

Rest in Peace - Christopher Ad. Castillo

Chris loved cinema. He passed doing what he loved, (though that which he loved was immensely stressful), a quiet consolation. I hadn’t talked to him in quite a while, making this a bitter sting. He came from cinema royalty, his father being Celso Ad Castillo, the “enfant terrible” of Philippine cinema. Chris grew up as an actor, famous in his native country before making his way West and deciding that writing/directing was his calling.

Of course, I’d been meaning to call him for months now, to bury minor hatchets, every day putting it off for the unknowable future. He was in great spirits the last time I saw him at our mutual friend Rey’s play in Pasadena. Chris was one of the first people to screen a film of mine in LA (Still Lover), at a series he was curating at the ArcLight. He was also an OG member of LADS (L.A Death Squad), & had many great stories of 80’s LA punk street life (pretty hardcore stories I’d add).

May he rest in peace, the same peace he found on the 2d screen & while working to fill the flicker in his heart. A combination of sweetness and unpredictable anger rolled up in a soft Filipino shell. Rest in Peace, Christopher Ad Castillo. 

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Post Script:

While Chris was shooting a feature film (i had a minor acting role as MIRS), we teamed up to co-direct this MIRS music video (i just remembered  the name MIRS was, in fact, his suggestion after bouncing the idea of a solo music project I was pursuing). We had collaborated a few times prior & after, but this was my favorite, mostly because of the spontaneity. We shot the performance in-between setups for his narrative feature project. That project never saw the light of day I believe, but nevertheless, it was an interesting time & actually fun in hindsight (time softens blows). Chris had caught the DIY bug from a sort of bubbling cabin fever from having multiple projects fall through the Hollywood development crack, and without letting anything get in his way, he steamrolled through the project, much to his cast/crews terror. But it was a grand learning lesson for him, and a jumpstart to being prolific after many years sitting on the sidelines. 

Film Pipeline Interviews Amir Motlagh and Charles Borg about the feature film MAN

This is a recent article conducted on Film Pipeline (Script Pipeline) about my latest film release, MAN. Both Charles and myself answer great questions posed by Script Pipeline about the process of MAN. You can read the whole interview by clicking here: 

Here a small snippet:
"Options and possibilities have opened quite a bit. Filmmakers tend to idolize the big names because they like the toys and scale that comes with moviemaking. Most of the time, that’s just a hindrance because it gets in the way of truth."

MAN is available on Amazon Prime (US/UK) and Vimeo On Demand (worldwide) with a host of other platforms coming soon.

"Three Worlds" wins "Silver Award" for Best Editing at QPIFF

Following up on our "Best Feature" nod, we won a "Silver Award" at the Queens Palm International Film Festival, placing 2nd in the "Best Editor" Feature Film technical category. This award is shared between editor Bryan Tuck and me, though Bryan was the real workhorse in the post-production on this project. 

"Three Worlds" wins "Best Feature" at Queen Palm International Film Festival

"Three Worlds" wins a Gold Award for "Best Feature" in the Animation/Experimental category at the Queen Palm International Film Festival. Big congrats to the team. We also have a technical category win, a Silver Award for editing, so cheers to Bryan Tuck. 

QPIFF Gold Award Winner Certificate - Best Feature - Animation:Experimental - FRONT SIDE.png

MAN is now Available on Amazon Prime

MAN is now available on Amazon Prime (US). If you are a member, it comes free per that service. You can also rent or buy ($2.99-$9.99) if you are not a member.  (Amazon Prime UK is live as well)

If you prefer Vimeo, the film is a bit cheaper for both renting and purchasing. ($2-$7)

My simple MAN viewing guide - Be patient, watch in silence. 

WHALE HD Re-Release Season

While MAN just launched, ANIMALS secretly re-released WHALE in HD. While I'm generally against revisionism in art, some very slight modifications have been made to the 2010 release. We are in the software eat world age after all, where things get continuously updated. Nothing is ever finished until it ceases to exist.

The project is available for $2 to rent, $7 to buy and is available in all territories on Vimeo. The original SD version has been and still is available on Amazon (along with a few rare DVD's), though the new HD version will be available soon and free to Prime subscribers. If I could dictate your direction, I would say, use the Vimeo route for now.

 before.

before.

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after.

KEY ART REFRESH

 Typography redesigned by  Ali Sabet

Typography redesigned by Ali Sabet

The feature film MAN is officially live!!!!

Here it is! The second of three releases of the THREE MARKS, TOO MANY SIGNALS series. Only available on Vimeo On Demand (worldwide) over the weekend, then Amazon Prime (US/UK), and then the rest of the digital platforms.

I wouldn't tell you how to watch it, but I do think a solitary experience heightens the effect, preferably with some headphones. 

The film is experimental in the structural sense, so, come with open eyes and let it unfold at its pace. 

$2 bucks to rent. $7 to buy. A steal! 

Enjoy luv. 

(ps: If you were part of the IndieGoGo campaign, we got cheat codes :) )

Three Worlds - Mother's Day Surprise!

Happy Mother's Day! This is a surprise clip from the upcoming feature film, THREE WORLDS. Sign up for the mailing list on the sidebar to be the first to know our next screening/release schedule. Look out for our trailer coming shortly.

Synopsis 

Three Worlds (2018) 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.

Cast / Crew

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

Cast:

Amir Motlagh                 Saam Heidari
Samantha Robinson     Ashley Evans
Rey Deegan                   Charles Adler
Keaton Shyler               Danica Mihajlović
Gregory Linington        Thomas Blaumberg

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

““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

Three Worlds - Rooftop Sequence
Amir Motlagh as Saam. Samantha Robinson as Ashley
Gregory Linington and Amir Motlagh
Three Worlds - Suburbs of California
Keaton Shyler as Danica
Samantha Robinson as Ashley Evans 2
Hollywood Lake Amir Motlagh Keaton Shyler

Film Reviews...

Here is a quandary. I don't subscribe to reviews nor read them. The good or the bad weigh  equally in my book.

However, they provide value to those who are interested. And, in my personal case, anything good that comes down the pipeline is a tool to possibly get others interested. And for that reason alone, I share the good that comes down the pipeline.

Our Chicago screening went well. A film critic from THE IRANIAN (Jonita Davis) was sent to review the films, and she had a favorable impression.

You can read the whole post here: 

Some take away pull quotes:

This was a film that turned the job of “watching” back onto the audience, forcing them to reflect on the things seen, heard, and felt….

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
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