FIRST PUBLISHED ON April 06, 2009 in OC Arts and Culture Magazine.
Evan Vincent: Please tell us more about yourself, your background, education and what you do.
Amir Motlagh: I am a filmmaker, more specifically, a film director. Initially, I started as an actor, spent a few years getting professional training (Stella Adler, Meisner, Strasburg etc.), then one day, came up with an idea for a film, got a few people together to help, hustled my way into some equipment, and made my first film, Dino Adino in 2001. That was the start of a long love affair with media creation. At that point, I also had a BA in Psychology from UCLA. In some strange misguided way, I thought that this would help me be a better actor. After another five films, some success, some failure, I went back to school to get an MFA, specifically in directing, at Chapman University, mostly to better understand the process of film directed, not just my way, but also in a way that’s been established through a hundred years. Education, any way you can get it, can only help motivated people grow as artists; that’s the bottom line. But of the same token, if I were to listen to everything that they feed you at film school, I would never make another film again. Thankfully, that didn’t happen to me. And, at this point, I have made ten films, which have played all over the world.
EV: Who are your biggest influences?
AM: This is an ever changing answer to that question, but historically and immediately, John Cassavettes, Abbas Kiorastami, Won-Kar-Wai. John Cassavettes because of what he ultimately captured from his performers. They were living life on camera, not in what we think of as naturalism, which is often times boring (not always of course) but in realism, in fiction, with heightened states of circumstances. The behavior exhibited was higher art, and captured the nuance’s of theater acting, but brought down to life with a camera lens. Oftentimes exhausting, but nevertheless, greatly satisfying. Kiorastami, well, what he does with narrative is a direct evolution of cinema. His cinema is different, without formula (but his own), but it penetrates farther then most films. What we worship in the US is script and story. We assume we figured all this stuff out. Obviously, Kiorastami is one of many testimonials to the fact that we are wrong. I’m not implying that story is not essential to his work, but the way story and script is utilized, gives a different effect. Other things are emphasized. For him, everything alive is story. Won-Kar-Wai both because of his narrative inventiveness, and for the mood he creates. His cinema is so sophisticated, but never esoteric. Its also incredibly entertaining, infused with beautiful images, mastery of technique and just plain cool.
EV: What are you three favorite films?
AM: In all honesty, I cannot answer this question. Filmmaking is such a broad concept, and there has been a tremendous amount of work that has amazed me. To single them out is unfair.
EV: What inspires you as a filmmaker?
AM: First and foremost, the world around me. My family, friends, neighborhood, my background. After that, nature.
EV: Name one person in the filmmaking world you would like to work with?
AM: Can I name three? Gus Van Sant, Harmony Korine, and Michael Winterbottom. Gus Van Sant is a modern autuer. I would love to learn his process, for both his mainstream and on-mainstream projects. Harmony Korine, because he isn’t looking for safety when he works. Its exciting to see an American Filmmaker pushing boundaries still. As far as Michael Winterbottom, well, I would just love to be in one of his films, really.
EV: What do you feel is the most difficult part about being a filmmaker?
EV: Who is your target audience?
AM: For the work I have done thus far, that question doesn’t have a direct answer. But I will say that, mostly for people who want to be inspired, to think, or reflect possibly about their own lives.
EV: What is the biggest piece of advice you would give to a filmmaker that’s just starting out?
AM: The biggest advice I have is just to make inspired work. This doesn’t mean that everyone will love it or be inspired, but just that you really believe in what you are doing. Also, go out and hustle, find a way to make movies. Learn, rather by going to school or doing it on your own. But I worry that going to film school first, will be a dead end, because if you really are into filmmaking, you should already be making movies.
EV: Finally, where can we see your work?
AM: My feature film Whale should be premiering in the festival circuit soon. This took four years to make. Plain Us is currently screening at film festivals, knock. knock. is being distributed by Ouat! Media and Movieola-The Short Film Channel, Still Lover is available at CrushedPlanet and other distributors. These titles along with my earlier work is being made available on a new DVD, includingPumkin Little, My Break Ups Into a Million Pieces, and Love @ 11:47. You can catch many of these titles now at my Vimeo page before the DVD is released at http://vimeo.com/user792020/videos. For more information on Whale, please go to www.whalethefilm.com. For additional information about what I’m all about, please go to www.amirmotlagh.com.