Director's Spotlight: CHRISTINE VARTOUGHIAN

December 21, 2017

 

In the Director's Spotlight this week we are proud to present our interview with writer/director Christine Vartoughian. Her debut feature film about love and suicide which she wrote and directed, Living with the Dead, has been awarded the Audience Choice Award at the Art of Brooklyn Film Festival, Best First Film at LIIFE, and Best Feature Film at Aberdeen Film Festival in the U.K. She wrote, directed, and produced the short, The Visions of Dylan Bradley, a modern day fable about the dangers of virginity. It traveled to festivals in the U.S. and Europe, and received the Cine Golden Eagle award. 

 

1. What inspired you to start your blog A BEAUTIFUL BLUR?

 

I was inspired to start my blog, A Beautiful Blur, after a month of

being a background performer, or as I call it, a "pretender." I

initially began doing BG as a way to pay my bills while working on my

second feature film as a writer and director but I soon realized that

there is a lot of interesting experiences from that kind of job on

set. I knew that I wanted to write about how living in NYC (or

anywhere, really) can make someone feel like they are in the

background of their own life and I think paralleling that with being

an incognito part, one of many people in the crowd, of a big set would

be an interesting way to parallel my personal life and my life as a

filmmaker. I strongly believe that no experience is a wasted one and

that we can learn from everything we do. I also wanted to give a voice

to background actors because while they are not always treated very

well, they're still a necessary part of what you see on screen.

Everyone can read about being directly behind-the-scenes and relate to

the topics even if they don't work in film or TV-

https://www.christinevartoughian.com/abeautifulblur/

 

2. How do you feel growing up in New York City may have inspired you

to pursue a career in writing and directing?

 

I think the art and culture in New York City is a huge part of why I

went into filmmaking. I was a very young teenager when Velvet

Goldmine, directed by Todd Haynes, was released in indie theaters and

that movie really did it for me. I probably wouldn't even know about

it if I didn't grow up in such a cultured and diverse city. I think

a large part is also that I wasn't just an American, but I was a

first generation American born to refugee parents, so coupled with

being in NYC and raised with European values for art, it made me

really seek out all the different art events and museum exhibits that

go on in NYC. The writing part is all because my mom taught me to read

at a very early age so my love of words has been with me as long as I

can remember and goes way beyond screenplays. I think I would die if I

wasn't able to write.

 

3. Having worked in theater and film, how do you determine if a story

is a better fit for stage or screen?

 

A lot has to do with the dialogue. Some lines are so poetic and

beautiful when said on stage, but if you were to take the same

dialogue and put it in a narrative film or TV show, it could possibly

sound unnatural or melodramatic. I think with film and TV the goal is

to make audiences feel like what they're watching is "like real

life" where in theatre audiences are aware they're not watching

real life. I think this has to do with the fact that we have screens

in our home that we watch in private where as in theatre is a place we

have to go and sit amongst strangers. It's almost like the

difference between a newspaper article and poetry.

 

 

 4. What inspired  you to write and direct The Visions of Dylan Bradley

and Living with the Dead? How are these films similar? How do they

differ? Where are these films available to be seen?

 

The Visions of Dylan Bradley was my thesis film and can be seen for

free online here- http://www.dylan-bradley.com/

I had a friend at the time who was in similar situation as Dylan and

my way of cheering her up was to make absurd jokes of how she can

trick her boyfriend into losing his virginity to her. We had so many

concoctions that we decided to make a dark comedy about it.

Living with the Dead was born out of some of my own experiences and I

really needed a way to write about my own life and get some catharsis

and create something positive out of suffering. It has a few things in

common with The Visions of Dylan Bradley- both have a young woman as

the central character, both include a character that commits suicide

on screen, and both have books and note-taking involved. Both films

deal with issues of love and loss and the path to realizing that the

way we see people is not always how people actually are. They both

have a decent amount of sarcasm but DB is a comedy and LWTD is a drama

with some lighthearted moments.

 

 

 

Living with the Dead is currently available on Amazon VOD in the US

http://a.co/0zIyh5i

 

and Amazon Prime in the UK-


https://www.amazon.co.uk/Living-Dead-Emily-Jackson/dp/B071KDH7MV/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1511370356&sr=8-3&keywords=Living+with+the+Dead

 

Germany-

https://www.amazon.de/Living-Dead-OV-Emily-Jackson/dp/B072R5X7L4/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1511372639&sr=8-1&keywords=Living+with+the+dead

 

Austria-

 

https://www.amazon.com/Living-Dead-Emily-Jackson/dp/B072KM2VBH/ref=sr_1_1?s=instant-video&ie=UTF8&qid=1511372751&sr=1-1&keywords=living+with+the+dead

 

And Japan-

https://www.amazon.com/Living-Dead-Emily-Jackson/dp/B072KM2VBH/ref=sr_1_1?s=instant-video&ie=UTF8&qid=1511372525&sr=1-1&keywords=Living+with+the+dead

 

It will be available in Canada, the Danish, (look this) early 2018.

 

5. Which films directed by women do you feel are most important and

influential in our society today?

 

I love Sophia Coppola's Lost in Translation. I think what makes it

valuable and timeless is that it's about a young woman who is smart

and attractive (but not glamorous) and gets lost behind her new

husband. She's not always very nice or polite but we like her even

in spite of these things, so it shows that women don't have to be

these delicate, pleasing, dolled- up creatures. I also think the whole

process of making this film shows how strong women directors are, how

fearless it is to just get a tiny cast and crew, fly to a foreign

country, and shoot wild in the middle of busy streets all day and

night.

I also recently saw Lady Bird, and I think it's especially profound

to see Greta Gerwig, who is known as actress, directing. I think it

bursts the stereotype that women and actresses can only be movie stars

that sit in a chair getting their make-up done; We can be the boss and

run a set as well.

 

6. What advice would you give to aspiring filmmakers? And, what advice

would you give to yourself 10 years ago?

 

I think the advice I would give to aspiring filmmakers is the same

advice I would give my ten-years-younger self, and that's to focus

on the creative aspects of the film or show, and try to stop having

the daily existential crises. Don't worry about failure, don't try to

be perfect because things you make on screen will rarely look the way

you had them in your head. As John Steinbecks's wise words in East of

Eden: "And now that you don't have to be perfect you can be good." I

was so hard on myself ten years ago, and while it fueled me, it also

burnt me out. For any aspiring filmmakers, it's most important to not

exhaust yourself. It's really not a race.

 

Christine Vartoughian is an award-winning filmmaker. You can see her directing work and her blog, A Beautiful Blur, on her website https://www.christinevartoughian.com/

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