A Golden Moment
Alexan Sarikamichian is an Argentinian film director and producer who makes short films and music videos. His work is often inspired by what he calls the “golden moment of youth”; adolescence and discovering love and sexuality. Always ready to experiment and challenge himself, Alexan has begun taking photographs, mixing his talents from film and directing into other mediums.
LA: Can we set the scene by going back? Transport us to your childhood. What was Alexan like as a child?
AS: As a child I didn’t have any fears, I had a very happy childhood, my parents always gave me a lot of freedom, and I lived in a house situated in front of a park, so I had no time to get bored. I liked to put together activities, I organized parades, TV shows, skate championships, musicals, and I always had many female friends, so I spent most of my time with girls. I grew up surrounded by women and my life is still that way. They have a strong influence in my personality.
“I do not know where I'm going with all the photos I'm taking but I like to think I use it as an entertainment because filming is hard and expensive”.
I said this phrase because now I find myself doing many more fashion-related photos, although I do not consider myself a photographer, it's something that amuses me, and I use it for hobbies while I finish the post-production of my films and their premieres. Now I am with three large projects, and I am very anxious and I always need to be on the move. Filming takes more time every time I do it and is much more expensive. I’m also aiming much higher. I want to improve myself in each project, that is difficult and also a challenge.
LA: I would call you a visionary, and a medium mixer. You produce, make films, direct them, and more recently are shooting images. How does your creativity work? Do you choose to do what you feel, when you feel it. Or is there more of an intention behind it?
AS: I think that what surprises people the most about my work is that I am a little bit in everything, it is also because the projects are independent, so I have to take care of all the areas, and pay for them. My last client told me that he hired me because he could not understand how it was possible that I could get involved in everything. I’ve studied film production and I think that is my vocation, for me, to produce is to bring to reality, a script, an idea or a thought, therefore I look for the resources that are within my reach to do it the way I can. I also adjust those resources, because I feel proud when I come up with ideas when we don’t have much stuff. I have this idea that if there isn’t much money or resources, there is more creativity.
I’m free to work the way that I want, the most important thing is to have a synopsis or a clear idea of what I want to do, and then I work with the attitude and naturalness of the actor or model who becomes my great inspiration, and above all with his/her energy. I am always clear on the aesthetics that I want to give to my projects, each one has something in particular, but the stories end up being put together on the set, where magic and dreams come true at that present time, and it is a unique moment because when you are passionate about something, it shows. I also enjoy it because they are not just jobs for clients either, but very personal projects and they have a lot of me in them, they identify and represent me. In other words, they carry my stamp. A very important thing when I finish a project is to see myself in what I did, as well as seeing my mark. They should know that that photo or that video is very "Alexan Films".
LA: People have been known to call Buenos Aires the "South American Paris", I haven't been lucky to venture as far as South America but Argentina is definitely on my list. Could you take us on a personal tour, tell us about the hotspots?
AS: Buenos Aires is beautiful, I love living in this city, you can find everything. My last short film “NOTES” tells the routine of a girl, with her real thoughts and without any filter, but aesthetically we transform the city into Paris. People who live here may think we did it in Paris when they see it. Buenos Aires has its facades, and a very romantic and baroque architecture. There are some areas downtown and in the neighborhood of Recoleta that could clearly identify with Paris. Paris is one of my favorite cities where I would love to return and shoot some scenes. The Dreamers of Bertolucci fills me with inspiration, and I think it is a pearl of European cinema.
I love going for bike rides through my city, and when I do I enjoy seeing places that inspire me, I love the locations and they lead my imagination to situations that later I transfer to photography and movies.
LA: All your films are immensely visual/visceral. Are there any particular shots that have a memorable anecdote behind them?
AS: My photos are all analog, my first shoots were made with disposable cameras, and then I improved, but that aesthetic represents me, and also the magic of 35 mm is that one does not know the result, until after a while the film passes through the laboratory. During the previous days I’m dying of anxiety to know how they came out and when I see them, they take me to that unique, unrepeatable moment that is within that photo, they represent that naturalness, and I find them so real that they also provide me with a nostalgic feeling. The analog has some special colors and textures. Filming is always an adventure and also crazy process, everything is so fast, and with so much adrenaline and all the time you have to deal with many things, so not only do I use the photographic record to help promote my work but also to remember that moment forever.
"My work as a photographer speaks of a golden moment of youth, full of dreams and fantasies to fulfil"
My videos and my photos are with young people, teenagers. I called it the golden age because it is that moment when we feel invincible, and we can achieve anything, it is a stage where we believe that we can fulfill all our dreams, that’s why I love it. Maybe it is close to seventeen where there’s also plenty of innocence, and everything is a fantasy, where you go out to explore the world but at the same time you have to study and prepare yourself for what you want to become. Although dreams are renewed, because the most beautiful thing in life is to have goals and fulfill them, I also deeply believe that fulfilling a dream can change your life. I live my life dreaming, when I go to sleep and when I'm wide awake.
LA: What does sensuality mean to you? How do you go about creating those levels of intimacy between the cast members?
AS: I like sensuality from the innocent point of view, from love. It could be performed in a playful and beautiful image, where the priority is always the comfort of the actor. As they are models, most of my actors do not have complexes with their bodies, they are used to show themselves. And since projects are often born out of my desire to work with them, the result is always what they want to give. There are many ways to show the body, but the key is how, and I feel that I do it in a naive and also romantic way. In a context where my stories speak of a sexual awakening, because it is during the stage of adolescence where we find our first love, we recognize ourselves with our body and there is also a lot of experimentation, from a very natural and free place.
Models in Argentina are few and most of them know each other, and I create very good work groups, where there is a lot of confidence and a lot of freedom to be able to speak and express opinions about everything.
After each project I keep being their friend, they are part of all stages, from the moment the idea is born, until they see the processes to have it finished, a project does not come out if I do not have their consent, for me it is important that they are satisfied with the work, what is seen and how it looks.
LA: When I watched the film, Bring me Down, I connected with her heartbreak almost immediately. You brought back that angst of missing the chemistry/intimacy, but also knowing that that magical feeling is no longer there. It was incredibly moving, as someone who is nostalgic for an old love, it really hit me. Was this music video inspired by a personal break-up? What was the story there?
AS: Love is what inspires me the most, but also the lack of love. In those moments you find yourself with so much loneliness and so much anguish that they make you grow, and also learn a lot, but it is a moment of so much pain that will always be marked on you. Undoubtedly, there is a lot of me. Chita, the singer, let me work with a lot of freedom; in fact she helped me in the production process. The video has the kind of nostalgia I feel identified with, and is in the final stage of a couple, which are already in an unstable relationship, where there is love, but there is also pain, there are fights, and one takes refuge in an intimate circuit of friends receiving protection and love. I think we're all going to feel identified with the video, because we went through those circumstances. I suffer a lot for love, but I also always believe that things happen for a reason. I believe in destiny, for me strong loves are for life, that's why I was lucky to get them back even though I had to take some distance sometimes. Love is the strongest thing in the world.
LA: Have you had any critiques for shooting such open and at times sexually explicit content? How do you deal with that?
AS: Luckily I didn’t have any problems, I think my work isn’t so massive, and I'm more from the “underground” movement. What matters most to me is what my family and friends think.
My friends are my support and they are the ones who see my mistakes and I listen to them carefully, I accept any criticism from them to learn a little more every time.
Related to comments that are posted on Instagram or Facebook there are a lot of things to say, but I keep the good messages, I value very much the students who write to me to ask things, and I always encourage them to do it. They are very creative people who keep their ideas and don’t materialize them, so the important thing is to do it, and never mind if you don’t get the result that you expect, you surely learned enough for the next one.
LA: Do you aim to shoot a wider/more diverse range of cast, or is Alexan films destined to capture only "the golden age of Youth"?
AS: I would love to film with film actors, I think I'm doing these videos now because it was the fastest and easiest way I found to show my work, and it also helped my life experience to show that. Of course I try to grow and show other stereotypes and other life situations, I think it's a process, but I'm going through it. This part of my life marked something in me without any doubts and I had to leave it reflected.