Entertainment Spotlight: Filmmaker Ara Soudjian Discusses Life-Long Dream

Asbarez has often given broad coverage to the arts and culture, keeping up with up-and-coming talent in our community. Our correspondent Georges Adourian caught up with some of the new rising stars in cinema, television and the arts for our 2010 Year-End Special.

We will be presenting Adourian’s interviews in a series of discussions with filmmaker Ara Soudjian, actor Hrach Titizian, and Canadian-Armenian actress-director Garine Torossian. In their own words, each discusses their individual struggles, the challenges facing young entertainers, and the unique projects that have propelled their success.

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Ara Soudjian is a filmmaker and music video commercial director. The founder of Treaty of Sevres Filmworks, Ara has built a vibrant career for himself in digital media. He is a longtime activist in the Armenian-American community and has lent his talent to organizations such as the Armenian National Committee of America and the Armenian Youth Federation.

Soudjian discusses his life and passion with Adourian below:


GEORGES ADOURIAN: It’s always intriguing to know how someone came to the decision of becoming a film-maker, as it is a totally different “animal,” unlike the dream to become a doctor, a lawyer or even a musician or an artist. How did you come to realize your dream?

ARA SOUDJAIN: I was about 12 or 13 when I knew that I wanted to become a filmmaker. My mother, who was an aspiring actress at the time, would take us to the cinema every weekend. If it wasn’t the cinema, it was renting movies on our old beta tape player. Movies served to be a form of escapism for me. I always was intrigued with movie magic. I would constantly hound my Father to take me to Universal Studios. He would take time off of work to take us (siblings and me) and videotape the “behind the scenes” secrets of cinema portion of the tour. I would come home and watch and re-watch our outing from Universal and try and emulate the tricks presented to us.

In the summer of 1989, I happened to watch Spike Lee’s “Do the Right Thing”, and from that day forward, I was sold on becoming a filmmaker.

G.A.: Before starting to direct music videos and a film you worked in Hollywood participating in the making of films such as “13 Going on 30”, “Confessions of a Dangerous Mind”, “Intolerable Cruelty” and “The Ring 2.” Can you describe these experiences and your role in each project?

A.S.: Working for “Hollywood” is a great experience. You get to see first hand what happens behind the scenes. What Directors do to prepare, what producers do, what an Art department does. I was lucky to get hired as a PA on the DreamWorks film, “The Time Machine”. On my second day, Steven Spielberg dropped by the office to review some illustrations and give his input to the director and art director. This is something you see on the bonus extras on DVD’s etc…I got to see it first hand. I ended up jumping from job to job for about 4 years. Worked with a lot of amazing people, and gained valuable experience on how to make coffee and Xerox papers. What I didn’t learn was how to direct, how to edit, how to shoot, etc. Working in Hollywood is good for making contacts and networking, but it’s not so good if you want to become a filmmaker. It was 2004, and at the time I was working as an assistant to a high profile producer. I loved working for her, but knew I wouldn’t be fulfilled unless I did my own thing. So in the fall of 2004, I decided to pursue gigs as a director. I began to shoot, direct, and edit short subject documentaries, music videos, and commercials. I did this to build my reel, which eventually lead me to a short career in directing music videos.

G.A.: You directed music videos for labels such as Sony Music and Warner Bros. Records. How would you rate these projects?

A.S.: Directing Music Videos is great! It’s a way to be creative and it’s also a good way to showcase your talents. Working with the music label is always a tricky experience. You don’t have much time to plan, nor have a secure budget to work with. The record labels know what they want. They hire you to bring their ideas to life but that’s not always the case though. Sometimes the label will give you full creative license, which is what Serj Tankian gave me when I shot “Money.”

G.A.: A few months ago you made a short film titled, “A Nice Old-Fashioned Romance” which is based on William Saroyan’s short story with the same title. Why did you choose Saroyan?

A.S.: I wanted to do something for myself. It was the spring of 2009. I had put all my energy into trying to get signed to a production company. I was successful by signing on to a BIG production company, but I wasn’t happy with the work given to me. It wasn’t fun or fulfilling. I wanted to do something for myself, and that’s when my wife encouraged me to make a short film.

I told her about this short Saroyan story that I had always loved. I let her read it and about ten minutes later she said that we should do it. So we did!

G.A.: Take us through the making of the film, starting from the writing of the screenplay to its first screening.

A.S.: Well, the screenplay was basically there because of the short story. My wife, Garinee and I added a couple of short scenes that we thought could help translate the story to the screen while still staying true to the original version. We did everything ourselves. We shot it, directed it, wrote it, produced it, set decorated it, and picked wardrobe. It was a great experience.

We also worked with some talented friends of ours who served as the actors.

For the main character, we knew we needed a talented budding actor and were lucky enough to meet young Joe Kaprielian, who plays Aram. He’s extremely talented and is going to be a big name soon! He’s already been in several commercials, etc.

G.A.: “A Nice Old-Fashioned Romance” has been selected and screened in film festivals such as the LA short Fest and the Arpa International Film Festival. How did the film do during those festivals; what was the reaction of the audience?

A.S.: Well, it went well. Unfortunately, we happened to be in Europe at the time it screened at LA Short Fest, but we heard nothing but great reviews. In fact, my brother made a little short video of audience reaction. Here’s a link.

G.A.: Do you have a particular idea or subject matter that you are passionate about transforming to transform? Will something be missing in your life if you don’t realize this dream?

I have a couple of ideas, but there’s one that always keeps coming back. It’s an idea that I’ve had since high school. It’ll happen one day.

G.A.: Are there any new projects on the horizon?

A.S.: I’ve been blessed with some cool projects this year.

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