Recently I had the good pleasure of checking out the film Sinbad: The Fifth Voyage, via Netflix, and fell in love with it instantly. I’m a fan of the Sinbad mythos, so I decided to contact the filmmaker and star Shahin Sean Solimon for an interview and to see what other projects he has in the works.
Hey Shahin, thanks for the time for this interview.
Thanks for having me James. Its a pleasure to be interviewed by you.
First off, you originally were going to make your next film a sequel to Plan 9 From Outer Space? Why the change of heart? And will the soul of Ed Wood still peek within the film?
After writing the script and making a bunch of adjustments, I realized that Plan 9 should stay in the archives of history, me or anyone else touching it will not do anything but make the original one step older.
So now you have taken the original idea and changed it to Attack on Alpha Centauri. What do you have in store for the audience? If you can tell us, what is the plot of the film?
Sure, It’s a very bizarre Sci-fi story that I wrote as an original concept. In the distant future, Josef wakes up from a deep sleep, not knowing who he is, or where he is, but realizing he is in the middle of the Apocalypse, he meets another 7 strangers. But it’s far worse than they thought. Josef will soon realize his true destiny, and what is really happening.
Sequels and remakes/reboots/re-imaginings are the way of Hollywood right now. How are you combating that with changing to an all new idea for your film?
I feel like it has become a conveyor belt of reboots, and 99% of them are not close to being as good as the original concepts. Look at all the lame Terminator, Total Recall, Alice in Wonderland, and Willy Wonka films, etc., should I go on? Haha.. If we don’t attempt to create new and original stuff, how are we going to have new classics?
Considering Hollywood tends to go for the easy marketable names and franchises when making films, what are your thoughts on the state of Hollywood right now?
I always look at movies for what they are, and not where they came from. Sometimes you get great stuff from the studios, no matter who is attached, or you have a flop that costs 100 million. Or you have a surprise indie film that is so unique and cool, that it takes your breath away, that was made for a few grand, or you have what looks like some idiot who should not be making films. That’s what I love about movie making. You never know. Its unpredictable.
Will we see any familiar faces in Attack on Alpha Centauri?
Possibly, working on the script, all I know is it will be fun to make.
Will you be going the IndieGoGo or Kickstarter route with this film? What makes it desirable to go that way instead of trying to shop your screenplay to producers?
I’m not sure yet, I will first get the project ready, and then decide.
Were you a sci-fi fan growing up? If so, what films did you gravitate toward and would say influenced you to get into film making and/or influencing this film you’re making now?
Yes, a major Sci-Fi fan. I feel its a great way to see the future, get inspired, or inspire someone else. Just look at what Star Wars and Star Trek have done for the world. NASA is almost run by trekkies, that means it was a positive effect on them. I love fantasy, and out of this world mythology. Always have.
How did you get into filmmaking? The bug is contagious, but what were some films that made you think, “I need to make films one day!”?
My mom and dad are both artists. I have always been drawn to creating and performing in cinema. They go together in my book. I am also very grateful. I know what I want, and was meant to do. I wish that everyone had that same drive for what their passion is for in life. I hope that I can expand massively, and worldwide. I am working very hard to do so. Right now its 12:06am, as I write this, and I am happy to do it.
I love that you encompass all the facets of a filmmaker. Writer. Director. Actor. Producer. Editor. Which job do you like most? Which do you like least?
Thank you! I would have to say in this order:
1) Writing (because your creative juices really flow here, based on what you can and can’t do when filming)
2) Directing (the development process of the script, and pre-visuals are very fun for me, also the shooting of course. I typically know what I want on set, so I move fast, which I think everyone appreciates)
3) Acting (Acting to me is writing, except I am illustrating with my face and body language, creating a being that does not exist, its very fun and creative for me)
4) Post production is my least favorite (its fun, but very challenging) but I look forward to seeing the results. So that keeps me tuned in and motivated to get through it.
How did Giant Flick Films come about?
GFF is something the guys and me came up with when I first finished film school, and wanted to have a brand to work with.
Doing some research on you, I see that you are of Iranian descent and came here at the age of 6 and lived in Tampa with an adopted family. Did you ever get to see films of Iran, especially the pre-revolution era, the 60’s and 70’s. I’m a huge fan of The Cow and Kaiser, and even one of Abbas Kiarostami’s first films before the revolution, The Report.
How was it growing up in the States? I see that your adopted father was a film and TV professor, so that must have helped you along with your endeavor.
I am Persian-American, but more American since I was raised in a full American family until my teens. That allowed me to see and learn about multiple cultures and appreciate people as people, and not as a race or color. My American father, George, was an amazing man, much like John Wayne, if John Wayne had a PHD and was a college professor. I feel very lucky that I was taught so much at an early age by him. Learning about art and movies was one of them. I also got a chance to learn great American cinema, and learn so much since I was a kid. He was a great man.
I just want you to know I loved your take on the Sinbad mythos. What made you take on such a classic and timeless character?
Thank you. I am a very romantic person at heart. So I love those old sword and sandal films, with the mythological creatures, they had a romance to them. Sinbad was a natural fit for me. I am very proud that we were able to make it, and now moving forward the experience was awesome!
How did Patrick Stewart come into the mix for the narration? Personally, he’s the icing on the cake, giving the film a gravitas. Also it must be amazing that he is playing your older self.
Sir Patrick Stewart is one of the coolest, most amazing, and talented individuals I have ever had the pleasure of working with. I think the Universe brought him to us. I am not even sure how it all happened, it was so fast. However, I am glad it did, and looking forward to working with him again. He is a very kind, and generous individual. He deserves his success.
Stop motion, especially in the 3 Sinbad films from the 70’s from the great Ray Harryhausen, is something I cherish. So to see it featured in your film was a joy. I always worry most films nowadays will just be CGI and that’s all. What made you use stop motion? Who did the stop motion for your film and how long did it take for it to finish?
The entire VFX team, really headed that department very well. It was great to see it happen. We had very talented team of guys like Mark Sullivan, and Ron Cole who created and animated the creatures. We had an amazing team of compositors, and other VFX people who blended everything together, it just all came out great. But was a ton of work.
You have a great cast of characters around you, especially the villainous Deev, played devilishly by Said Faraj. How essential is it to you to find the right actors to play the roles you’ve written? Do you do the casting or have final say in the process?
Yes, Said was great! So was everyone else. I don’t like to make it a big fuss, I try to see from the point of view of the fan. If a person can carry a role, brings a certain style, and knows how to give a good performance, I don’t like to make it too long of a process. Because that creates drag.
Will we see a sixth voyage of Sinbad?
Never say never again! Haha.
Besides the epic undertaking of this sci-fi epic, any other films being produced by your and your company?
Yes, but I don’t like to hatch my chickens before they are ready, so STAY TUNED!
I know our readers can’t wait to see what else you have in store.
Thank you James! Great questions! You are a great writer! Looking forward to reading more of your work!