Filmmaker Series: Asif Akbar
My name is Asif Akbar. I am primarily a professional film director, writer and producer, in Hollywood. Originally born in Bangladesh and raised in Cleveland, OH since the age of two, with most of my family settling here in the U.S., then I relocated to Los Angeles many years ago, shortly after graduating high school at the age of 18 and have been since living the dream doing what I aspired to do here in the west coast.
What initially got you into filmmaking?
I’ve always loved to create, write and tell my own stories as a child, from a very early age. My favorite hobby as a kid was making home movies. I had what nowadays is primitive, a handy cam. I edited on 2 VCR's and had the beginning of my career. I was blessed to have the mental support of my father as he understood the business side of it all.
My father Enayet Akbar Milon has produced films and TV shows in his native Bangladesh. They were professionally produced and I was amazed at every aspect of the process of making content in this business. Not only that, I was able to participate in every aspect of it, learning every step of the way from an early age, but I enjoyed it more than anything. I was in front, behind, everywhere and loving it.
I also found out I was naturally good at it, as this is what I wanted to do from as early as I can remember.
Who are your biggest influences and why?
My father is one of my biggest influences and has shaped me into who I am today. There are many other influences but he remains my most influential, along with many friends I have also gotten to know in this business over the years.
I have also admired legendary directors such as Charlie Chaplin, Steven Spielberg, George Lucas and James Cameron as they were all innovative filmmakers in their own right in the history of cinema. Then of course, I’ve also been inspired very much by watching many influential top actors and actresses from around the world, especially in both Hollywood and Bollywood.
How important is film as a medium and art form in the world, today?
Wow that’s a very important question in today’s society. We are going through many changes in the world faster than ever in history and the movie industry is also growing and changing faster than ever.
Now is the time to make statements in the most creative ways possible. The audience is also changing and as filmmakers, we must adapt to how today’s audience can be connected with the best.
I also love to make movies that make a difference but also at the same time allow the audience an escape from reality to a world of imagination. There is so much sorrow and tragedy in the real world, we need to continue to see triumphs and good stories that will inspire us to be better as we grow in life.
I always think back to how I have been influenced growing up by so many great films and TV shows. What you watch is sometimes what you may become. I want to help people escape for 90 or 120 minutes. I want to make people laugh, cry, be scared, think and feel good through my stories. I also want people to carry on a message that can change someone’s life for the better, even if it was just one persons life that changes for the better from watching one of my movies, then I feel like I have done my part.
Do you have a set process when making film?
I try to think of every aspect of the job as a filmmaker, from the writer, director, producer, actor, and pretty much about how every other department will have to do their jobs to create the vision we wish to achieve. I plan the movie in my head and shoot to edit.
With our post pandemic world of filmmaking, every day going to set is a risk, so now we have to think of more ways to utilize the time and be more efficient with our shooting schedules, the faster a movie can be shot the less riskier it is for people to get sick or the production to be shut down. I have to adapt the way I work and approach each film I start under the circumstances and with resources available for every production differently.
What has been your favourite film to work on and why?
That’s almost like asking someone which one is their favorite child. I’ve really enjoyed making a talking horse, kids Christmas movie earlier this year called "Ace and the Christmas Miracle", that should be out hopefully this Christmas or the next. I’ve also recently had a lot of fun making the new action film "The Commando", that I directed just last month.
Which genre do you enjoy working in?
I work in all genres. Horror, Sci-Fi, Action, Romance, Family.
Pretty much, if a subject and story is good, I’m on it. I don’t consider myself a director that’s exclusive. If it’s a great concept with a good cast and crew, then I will give it my all. 100%. If I take on a project I intend to make it the best possible movie I can with what I have to work with.
In my opinion, filmmaking is the most collaborative art form and I love collaborating with people with expertise from all genres.
Is filmmaking your primary source of income?
I am 100% into filmmaking and have been blessed to call this my primary career and business. I am a dedicated filmmaker and it has been very good to me. I am very, very blessed and privileged to be doing what I am doing. I feel like I’m living the dream, it has taken me more than 18 years to get to where I am today in this industry, but at the same time I do know I still have a long way to go as I still feel like I have a lot more to learn and accomplish and to get to my goals, in this business.
It’s a process that takes a lot of hard work, dedication and patience, but every day is still very fascinating and motivates me to grow more in this field.
What is your definition of success?
Dedication. Don’t be lazy and if you start something then make sure you finish it, quitters do not succeed.
You have to stand out and show people you can make magic happen, sometimes challenging yourself can make you do your best work and accomplish things you’ve never imagined you could.
Be careful in the friends you keep along the way. Stay faithful and loyal to those who believe in you. I have worked with a lot of people o numerous projects over the years from top to bottom of the best to the worst in this business. I’ve been both behind and in front of the camera and have seen more than most can handle. As we have learned as kids, always treat people the way you want to be treated. Jealousy, anger and destructive personalities I steer far away from and try to keep my friends and family away from that too.
I try my best to be considerate of others and be easy to work with, but at the same time if someone becomes difficult, then I must also put my foot down to achieve what is best for the project and everyone involved. I respect people for what they bring to the project. With each movie I look at the cast and crew as family. I bond and get things done and delivered.
This is a very small town, our reputation whether it’s good or bad, gets revealed very quickly. As easy as it is to be nasty and angry, you can be caring and creative. A positive attitude goes a long way in Hollywood.
What advice can you give our readers, should they wish to pursue filmmaking?
Believe in yourself and love yourself first, but don’t be arrogant and conceded. Don’t underestimate your goals in life, anything truly is possible and you can make your dreams come true if you are persistent, I know from experience.
Nowadays, anybody who has a phone, camera, IPad, can make a movie and tell a story to an audience. But that also means you have to standout as the competition has risen. Do the best you can, to be the best. You don’t have to spend millions of dollars or be rich. Your hard work, dedication, creativity, talent and the cast and crew make a difference in how your work turns out at the end of the day. Dedication, discipline and a good positive attitude will get you far ahead.
When you shoot, be prepared and be aware of what can go wrong. Always have an option A, B, and C or maybe even D, with everything you plan. Be prepared that what you have written can change very quickly as you must learn to adapt with what you have in reality to work with vs what you want. Weather, actors, producers, etc. in one day, things can change and you must be mentally prepared for anything at anytime.
Do you ever suffer from creative burnout? How do you combat it?
Everybody does. I am continually working on projects, but at the same time I try to find just the right amount of balance with work and family.
We all need to be human sometimes and not always try to be superhuman. Know the limits and balance out your life.
Whether it be making movies or making deals for my distribution company 'Avail Entertainment' or spending time with friends and family, all needs to have a balance. I’m also lucky to have a lot of people around me to help in things. My 2 partners in my distribution company 'Avail Entertainment'; JJ Rogers and Phil Herman, help out a lot with carrying some of the load of our business in the company.
I am a man with many hats that I must wear on a daily basis and that sometimes is good, sometimes bad. But if something goes wrong, then I am the kind of person that steps up to help find a solution ASAP. I never blame others, I just fix things if I can and keep going.
Having solutions rather than problems is a key to moving forward and getting things done.
What projects are you currently working on?
I am preparing for a very big and ambitious project, “MR-9”. It is about Secret Agent Masud Rana, with code name MR-9 of the Bangladesh Counter Intelligence Agency. This superstar agent has been popular for over 55 years. He has appeared in the widely popular novels written by Qazi Anwar Husain, with over 550 and counting novels published in the series to date by his publishing company Sheba Prokashoni. I have adapted the novel into an action packed screenplay and it is readying to shoot.
Due to the unexpected arrival of Covid-19 and restrictions of travel there have been delays. But it will go into production in 2021. It will take me to exotic locations and will be a big international production.
But in the meantime I just finished filming an action film called "The Commando”. It stars Mickey Rourke and Micahel Jai White, who plays James Baker a DEA agent. Baker returns home after a failed mission and is suffering with PTSD. What he doesn’t know is that the house he is living in with his family, has millions of dollars hidden all over.
Rourke plays Johnny. Johnny has just been released from prison and is coming to get his money. Along with his goons nothing is going to stop them from getting there loot. Nothing except James Baker.
The film has a great ensemble cast as well, with supporting by Jeff Fahey, UFC legend Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone, Gianni Capaldi, Cord Newman, and Brenden Fehr, to name a few of the other guys.
Everyone is going to love what we have accomplished with this movie. One of my greatest highlights of course on this one is working with the legendary Mickey Rourke. Mickey returns to the screen in top form. Physically and mentally. He is doing what he does best and even did some of his own stunts and fights on film himself, after many years. He plays a badass villain that I can’t wait for people to see. The fights in this film with Michael Jai White and Cowboy Cerrone will also have some new and diverse flavor to them.
What are your hopes for the future?
To juggle my home life and profession in filmmaking. I plan on continuing to shoot many more movies and live my dream doing what I love in this business. This is my life and I am adapting to all new ways of completing my films and trying to be the best husband and father I can. But the health and safety of my cast and crew are a main priority, along with protecting my family and taking care of them.
Lastly where can people find you?
Facebook: Asif Akbar
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