Shahin Sean Solimon’s Hollywood success story isn’t one you’ve heard before, but it just might become the norm. While many struggle to slowly climb established-industry rungs, Solimon carved his own path, learning just about every aspect of moviemaking in order to create a one-stop-shop for theatrical-quality films. Unfettered by accepted constraints, he’s able to accomplish great things in a fraction of the time.
Solimon’s Giant Flick Films is currently in post-production on Awakening Alpha, an ambitious, mind-bending sci-fi certain to strike a chord with fans of cerebral horror and TV shows like The Twilight Zone and Outer Limits. Solimon didn’t merely write/direct and produce the film—he’s the star!
Awakening Alpha tells the story of a man who wakes up from deep sleep to discover that he is the last man on earth and there is a dark force coming from the sky. Written, directed, and starring Shahin Sean Solimon, the film has everything a genre fan would love to see in an exciting sci-fi film, including aliens, flying saucers, giant pods, robots, the undead, and great visual effects, including some classic stop-motion technology!
Dread Central was lucky enough to sit down with Solimon recently, where the Renaissance filmmaker explained why it’s necessary for today’s up and comers to wear many hats. He also explains how ambition, not money, is key to success.
Shahin Sean Solimon: Pleasure to be speaking with you. Basically, my family are all artists. My mother is a very famous Persian singer (my dad is American and my mother is Persian); she’s been performing since I was born so it runs in the family. It’s just been in my blood since I was a child. I’m sure you hear that a lot. I was actually hesitant; I didn’t want to get into entertainment so I went to school for business. But the desire crept up on me and I realized better do what I need to do or else I’ll regret it later.
DC: What are your biggest inspirations as a filmmaker?
SSS: Simply: Entertaining, because I’m a fan first. I want to entertain and deliver something people haven’t seen before.
DC: In addition to writing and directing, you also perform in and produce your movies. Do you do all these jobs because you want to or because you have to? Today’s filmmakers are forced to wear a lot of hats, right?
SSS: It’s by necessity. I’m a single father, so I didn’t have the chance to go out on a lot of auditions. I just didn’t get the opportunity to get out and do the whole nine yards in terms of doing auditions for small parts. I have a lot of friends who have gone that route, but because I had so many responsibilities, I began to study filmmaking. And, it just so happens, I’ve always been the guy somebody calls to put together a computer or a stereo system. I was shooting videos with my mom in Encino when I was 14; it was a big production studio and I fixed one of their cameras for them, like a $100K camera, and I fixed it in 10 minutes for them. So, they offered me an internship right there and then.
What I’m getting at is that I love to create, but I’m also technical. But in today’s world, it’s a perfect match. Filmmaking today isn’t like it was 50 years ago where you could take for granted that the other guys knew what they were doing; the camera guys and the special effects guys. These days, if you’re a director, you want to know everything, at least to some point, so that you can provide some sort of support for yourself. Otherwise, you’re not going to get anything done or it’s going to take years. It just so happens I like the entire process. So, to answer your question, I would love to work on a project where I’m only acting or only producing or directing or writing. It just so happens I have all those skills under my belt now.
And I’m very happy about it, because of how quickly I can start working on new ideas. Right now, I’m working on a supernatural 1940s style film; we just came up with the idea and now we’re about to shoot it and it’s going to be awesome. That’s empowering, you know? Knowledge is power. When I come up with an idea, I don’t have to wait 10 years to make it into a film. We’re trying to do this turnkey where we can make a film in six months. And not just a film set inside a house or someplace small but a large-scale film. And we’re almost there; the technology is really helping us and the skills that I worked hard to obtain are really kicking in now. And I’m also mentoring my daughter who’s now turned 19. We have the same editing capabilities as a big studio, and right now, the field is wide opened for guys like me. It’s a good time.
DC: So, let’s talk about Awakening Alpha and what inspired you.
SSS: I’ll say it’s not like anything people have seen before. It’s an inspirational film inspired by shows like The Twilight Zone and Outer Limits. I love Rod Serling and I’ve studied his writings. If you want to do something, don’t try and reinvent the wheel; just study the things that you find most inspiring. Don’t copy them, but use that material as your guiding light, your blueprint for success. I mean, think about it: No special effects, no budget, no color, and The Twilight Zone still cannot be touched.
DC: I watch those marathons every year.
SSS: Me too! Every Thanksgiving! I’m always like, “You guys go ahead and eat turkey; I’ll be over here watching this marathon!” So, I came up with this idea centered around the last man on earth. I know it’s something that’s been done before but I just figured, “Let me see what I can do with this.” So, I did the script and it came out very unique.
Basically, it’s a simple story about a man, but it’s very mind-bending. But if you like shows like The Twilight Zone, then you’re going to get it.
DC: What are you most proud of in Awakening Alpha?
SSS: You know, I don’t know if every filmmaker is like this, but I’m the kind of person who feels like he’s trying to sell something when I’m excited about something. I want everyone to like it and I keep pointing out everything positive I see. But I think it’s a very dynamic script. And after we shot it, I was like, “You know what, this isn’t what I was envisioning. Let me rewrite parts of it.” So, I ended up rewriting the whole thing! Then, we shot a whole new film in 30 days. But I was thinking, “This is what a studio would have to do, and we did it with no budget.” It’s so amazing. I can’t believe we have this capability. It came out exactly how I wanted if not better. I was able to use some of the best parts of the footage we shot before and tie everything together, so it became a much more dynamic film with a very mind-bending ending. A friend of mine saw part of it and said it looked like a $40M film! I was very inspired because I want to make something worthy of a wide release. I’m shooting for the stars!
DC: Anything else you want to tell our readers before I let you go?
SSS: People ask me if I’m rich; I get that question all the time. But I wish! It’s all about the fact that I’ve studied my craft. You don’t need money, it’s all about how passionate you are and how much you love what you’re working on. It can be done if you really want to put the effort into it.