We caught up with our friend and alum Amin Esmaeilipour who joined us from Singapore. Amin is a gifted actor, writer, painter and photographer with a huge amount of potential. We wanted to see how life has changed since we last saw him on HI.
Who is Amin Esmaeilipour? Tell us about yourself.
I am 19 years old; I was born and raised in Singapore. I am of Iranian descent. I am an actor, writer, painter and Photographer.
What drove you from your hometown to come to Los Angeles? You’ve traveled a great distance. What did you expect to find?
Looking back at the beginning in 2015 when I visited Iran for the first time in my life I spent a year and a half studying there. Until that time, I never really thought I would be an actor or a writer let alone both. But one day during my time over there I realized, that I am getting older and by default have more independents and control of my life. I knew I needed to have a purpose, something that made me get up in the morning, see beyond what I thought was possible. So I began to study screenplay writing and went on to write my first screenplay and learning acting through various resources at the time. Naturally being a teenager very few around me really thought anything about what I was doing amounting to much. But deep down I knew there was more in me, that this ‘purpose’ could unlock doors to places I never knew existed. I thought “why not me?” When I came back to Singapore from my trip, I had a clear vision of where I wanted to be and worked around the clock getting there, which led me to an almost miraculous opportunity though the HI program to come to Los Angeles. I expected to learn more about myself as well as be pointed in the right direction on how I can prepare myself to be able to make it as an actor and writer.
What are some things that you took with you after the HI program and applied to your career?
The HI program was the beginning of the next stage of my life, it brought with it new habits, new ways at looking at situations, both in my art and in daily life. It also was in a way a celebration for me to make a concrete step to come to the HI program. Once there it validated the steps I had been taking in my life while adding different dimensions to it. It influenced my career in many ways such as the need to add more content (in my case writing more screenplays and a book), diversifying the acting techniques and the mindset to never stop working on oneself just to name a few. In general it was a game changer for me as I began to add more structure and discipline to the way I approached my career.
You came to LA as a newer actor, and you’re also a writer. Has the acting training helped you with your writing in terms of character development, story arcs…etc? Now that you can envision it from the actor’s point of view.
Acting training has immensely helped my writing, especially in understanding of the different logistical requirements that the writer has to take into consider from a production point of view. Obviously each writer has there own philosophy and own style which is why the same characters with the same journey could turn out into two different stories when you give it to two different writer. I traditionally put an emphasis on how I feel, If I don’t laugh, cry or feel the right emotion that audience is suppose to be feeling while writing the scene then I know I need to change it. I still follow this method but I supplement it with the advice I had received that helps me tactically strategies and logically find the best path for the story to follow which definitely helped with the flow of the story stabilizing it nicely to make better sense and easier to follow. So it becomes controlled chaos rather that getting out of hand.
Tell us about your writing process and what you like to write about? What stories do you want to tell?
I generally start with an inkling of an idea that can come out of anywhere. My idea for my first screenplay came up while waiting in the queue at the bank. Afterwards I simply ask myself the question “what if…” and that takes it to an entirely new level of creative freedom; removing all perceived restrictions with different scenarios, points of conflict, relationships…etc.
Writing is daunting and makes me nauseous sometimes. However, it is also magical, wonderful and makes me feel alive. After I have a clear defined outline of the moments I feel are critical to the structure and flow of the story. I begin work on building around them, sometimes there are ten moments other times twenty – it depends on the story, every screenplay comes out differently depending on what could happen.
While I write, I sometimes go days on end without taking a break. So much so after an intense couple of days of writing, dreams manifest themselves of me in the shoes of the character, in their world doing what they’re suppose to do or sometimes something the complete opposite and that makes me think of another way to tell the story. My favorite part of the process is when I get feedback on a story and have a chance to improve it further, since the input of another person can bring a whole new dimension to the story and an added depth in places I hadn’t even considered.
I don’t have a particular genre. I love writing classic concepts and themes from a new vantage point without losing the magic. I enjoy each story in its own way. I write stories based on what touches me. I want to tell stories that inspire people, while bringing them on a fulfilling journey.
Have you been able to find opportunities in Singapore? How are you tackling roadblocks?
Over the last year since the HI program, knowing where I am and realizing where I want to be has helped turn roadblocks into opportunities to grow. Preparation was key during the early stages. I knew I just had to keep moving forward and continue to improve myself, my acting and my screenplays, I had done that through various acting and writing master classes. I began to create more screenplays, expanding on the screenplays I had already written and branching out to different genres having also finished writing a 200+ page book.
Has your writing style changed as you’ve grown and matured?
I write based on how I feel and what’s happening in the world, the older I get the more I feel that I tend to juggle the different aspects of the story better. There is a clearer, concise and considered approach to the story. I spend more time reviewing my work as I gotten older. By the time I was 18 I was making sure I read my screenplays at least 15-20 times before I’d consider them finalized in anyway even then I left the door open on changing them if I need to. Now at 19 I make sure to write every day and try to keep the same concentration, attention to detail and intensity in how to story was told as I had when I began writing years ago.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years time from now?
As I think of my goals and dreams, my personal goals and career goals. I see myself working with extraordinary people creating amazing pieces of art through the medium of film and television. Writing new stories and making those stories come to life.
We first met Justin Parker when he was just 8 years old. Adam Rotenberg recently caught up with JJ to find out where his journey has taken him over the past 4 years since he joined us on HI and what’s next for this talented young film maker, who will surely be making his mark on the industry!
HI Director Lilly Dawson met you when you were just about 8 years old. She saw something wonderful about you at such a young age. You flew from Sydney to Melbourne to do an acting workshop on a scholarship. Tell me what you recall from that experience.
Lilly Dawson, wow, a true mother figure to me in this industry. The unique experience with Lilly was one of those moments that you know would be a defining chapter in your life. One exercise was how to walk the catwalk. I had been exposed to modeling before, however, this was different. I lined up to walk, I took one step and was told to stop. “I don’t believe you.” In short, I tried again and received the same answer. On the 3rd time round, I walked in such a way, it didn’t feel natural however it felt true to me and what I expressed, unknowingly, was confidence, maturity and a clear sense of a destination. Lilly taught me… to walk.
You’ve gained a reputation of being mature beyond your years. What would you say to young artists who are just starting out and how to conduct themselves as professionals?
Research, experiment and apply. Confidence in yourself and who YOU are at that point in time carries in itself, maturity. It doesn’t matter if you are changing career or picking up a side job as a bartender. Be interested in it and others will look to you and believe it. It doesn’t matter if you don’t know what a Manhattan is… go on the internet and install fact and knowledge into your character to deliver a believable performance… even if it’s to your highly intoxicated mother who has kindly offered her time to try your concoctions.
Confidence is key… even when you have no fucking clue what the key is.
Besides acting, you are establishing yourself as a filmmaker in directing. Who are some directors and films that have inspired you?
Well, at the end of the day there is no ONE or COLLECTION of films that define cinema for me. Of course there are influences but storytelling is what drives this fire inside of me. Whether its, directing, cinematography or acting, I start to create a natural uncontrollable hype around the script, characters, relationships, situation, risks etc, adding to a more tangible story for the audience to be invested in.
We are all innate storytellers. There is a reason why some are more interesting that others.
Along with directing you have become very proficient in cinematography. You’re an academic when behind the camera. You study lenses, and the latest camera technology. You flew yourself to the United States for a course in the RED camera. How was your experience? What did you learn?
Technology is rapidly changing entity, its important to stay up to date in the cheapest and most immersive way possible. Master classes and Academy courses are a fantastic way to dig your fingers into new gear with industry professionals around to pick their brains. I took a chance, gathered some funds and flew to Idaho, USA to experience large format digital cinematography lead by Stills and Motion Picture Cinematographer Ivan Agerton (Blue Planet II). Overall, unforgettable experience, incredible people and high performing cinema cameras.
You own the skill of the craft. The tools do not define your skill
Let’s get real. You are very impatient and you call people out on their B.S. Do you think that helps or hinders you?
Where did you pull this question from Adam? I sense underlying tones of revenge. Yes. The truth is sometimes the hardest thing to hear or digest although it is sometimes exactly what an idea or situation needs. Of course this can greatly hinder an individual with good philosophies based on their delivery. We are all the same alien on this planet trying to figure shit out. Being mindful about the delivery, composure, audience, situation, risk etc, will greatly alter the outcome. Perhaps in your favor? Don’t beat around the bush though, address the issue straight up. Be real and logical.
Raw and uncompressed.
Along with film, you have a taste for the finer things such as Porsche automobiles. Tell me about your interest in them, and how that started.
My father has always had a great interest in motorsport. It’s a common interest we share. I asked him one day what his favorite car in the world was, he reply “the Porsche 911”. I never really gave it much though, at the time he owned a 3 series BMW and seemed happy. That same year I shot my first documentary about the E30 BMW M3, “Homologation”, and what I found would change the way I saw the automobiles forever. In short, the E30 BMW M3 was one of the first German production cars to be designed purely for the track and THEN homologated for the road. To this day, Porsche is one of the very few car manufactures that design and create their vehicles in this fashion. Of course these are just luxuries or a hobby, however, after my father finally achieved his dream of owning a Porsche, I can safely say I can understand what it feels what its like to drive a sports car engineered this way… although…he doesn’t know I took it for a spin.
“Attention to detail, my son” – My Father…on a daily basis.
You are constantly busy working on projects. Can we see your work? What’s next on your agenda?
As I reach the conclusion of my 5 years at film school, I can safely say I will have work to show. The years prior are filled with experimentation and exploration into the world of filmmaking and story telling. Mistakes, yes. Regrets, never. I constantly look avenues to get away from the theory and immerse myself into the controlled chaos of a film set. Small roles, such as coffee boy, just to get close to the camera, the actors, the director. Bleeding enthusiasm and the lust to learn will never go unnoticed. Recently, picking up a credit as Junior Camera Assistant under one of Australia best 1st AC’s, David Elmes (The Matrix, Hacksaw Ridge, Thor: Ragnarok, Ghost in the Shell) on an Australian feature, Judy and Punch. Truly an unforgettable experience and learnt more than I ever did at the 5 years in film school.
School isn’t just an establishment of rules. It’s a place to break them.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years? 10 years? Still in Australia, or will you be making the leap to Los Angeles?
I am only just coming to the end of my 5 year plan I first wrote out in 2014, Hollywood Immersive. Yes of course it has changed since then. But to where I see myself in the next 5 to 10 years isn’t really a mystery. I have a gut feeling, like a magnet, pulling me in a direction of my career. There is no right and wrong path, only the one YOU manifest. The path is already made… all YOU need to do is start walking it. WRITE down achievable goals and outcomes and chip away at them every day. Time + Intensity = Results.
We are only Human, after all.
We were lucky enough to catch the talented Rachel Kim Cross for a five minute chat about her HI experiences, auditions in LA and her recent successes. Read more below.
You recently shot the feature How Do You Know Chris in Melbourne. Tell us about that journey and all about Christal the character you played.
‘How Do You Know Chris’ was a very special experience for me. It was my first lead role in a feature film. I was thrilled to be cast as Christal. The exciting part was understanding and inhabiting Christal’s mindset and the way she saw the world. She’s fiercely intelligent, dark, bitchy and fragile. The entire film is set at a party, in 2000 where the protagonist, Chris Black, invites an assortment of people to a celebration at his Collingwood apartment. Most of the guests at the party aren’t familiar with each other. Just like Christal, who is Chris’ ex-girlfriend. We see her journey as the night progresses and her complicated past with Chris, who she holds incredibly close and gets her only affection. We had a week of rehearsals before shooting and that time was invaluable for us to be able to film this in the short time-space we were shooting, I flew back from Los Angeles for the shoot and lived in a house with some of the other cast members that weren’t from Melbourne for 5 weeks. It was wonderful to live and work together with everyone. We all became a close family.
You’re a 2 time HI participant joining us in October of 2014 and then again in February of 2015. What take aways did you have from HI? Was there a particular thing that stood out for you?
Hollywood Immersive was the perfect introduction for me to Los Angeles. Coming over here for the first time and doing a program that supports your transition is invaluable. I often have other actors ask me about if they were to do the program and I honestly can’t recommend it enough, especially if they haven’t been over to experience Los Angeles before. That’s why I did it twice! Both times I learned about the industry here and what steps I needed to take if I wanted to move here. It’s a very supportive environment and truely was the best steps for me to take to learn about how to transition here. I was constantly inspired by all the mentors from Beverly Hills Playhouse, industry coaches, speakers and the other talented actors from all around the world on the course. I think the thing that stood out for me the most was that I could move over here and pursue a career. I secured management in LA and started working on getting my visa as soon as I finished the second program.
You’ve had a really successful career in Australia in modelling and acting. This really started to flourish in 2015 and then suddenly you were everywhere! Tell us about that journey.
When I got back from my second Hollywood Immersive program in Feb 2015 I had secured representation in LA and I was inspired and my number one priority; i.e.moving to Los Angeles and how I could make that happen. I initially started modelling to build up my portfolio, save and work with as many people as I could in the industry in order to get my O1 visa. I never thought it would kick off quite like it did but it was awesome! I enjoyed how my modelling and acting gigs always informed each other. I’ve met and worked with amazing people in the lead up to moving to LA. That definitely boosted my confidence and enabled me to feel like I was ready to make the move and book jobs in the US. This industry is challenging but so is anything worth pursing.
Now you are in the US – 01 in hand! You’ve got a great manager and you’re getting out there for some big roles and booking already. How is the transition going for you?
It’s been wonderful so far! Having come over here 4 times before moving, I had some idea of Los Angeles and connections with people from Hollywood Immersive. I think that really helped the transition for me personally. Also, having a wonderful management team before moving here was definitely a bonus. I self taped for a lot of US projects in the lead up to moving here, got comfortable with the accent. It’s really exciting going out for auditions several times a week, I’ve never auditioned so consistently in my life as I have in the US, the industry doesn’t compare to Australia. I absolutely love working in Australia and I would always go back there in a heartbeat for the right projects – there are wonderful shows being made there but the opportunities for me in Los Angeles allow me to see a bigger future in this career.
Tell us about the job you recently did and who you ended up meeting as a result?
I recently shot a big commercial which was another fantastic experience! I was directed by Mark Romanek – he wrote and directed one of my favourite films One Hour Photo with Robin Williams. He directs all of Justin Timberlake, Beyonce and Jay Z’s music videos. The cinematographer was Sam Levy, who most recently shot Ladybird.
It was amazing to make connections and work with such incredibly talented people in the industry. I kept pinching myself that I’m in Los Angeles working with these people! I had the biggest smile on my face! The energy on that set was a wonderful experience. I can’t wait to see what’s next!
How do you compare auditioning in the US vs Australia?
Auditioning here is a lot more fast paced than Australia. You usually only get one take per scene and you just have to go in and make a bold choice. I really try to take my time in the room and not rush it. Everything is very last minute here and I have been getting used to getting auditions through very late at night or the day of the audition. I am in a position now where I have the time to prepare properly for the audition where I can which is really great – and I don’t have to work around the constraints of a job which is such a bonus.
What’s coming up?
A TV series that I shot late last year called Mr Inbetween premiered at Sundance Film Festival in 2018. It’s been picked up by FX and it’s premiering this September in the US and Foxtel in Australia. It’s also being screened at MIFF in Melbourne. It was directed by Nash Edgerton and is starring Scott Ryan who was also the writer, Brooke Satchwell and Damon Herriman.
What bit of advice would you give to a 19 year old Rachel?
To love myself. I was very insecure at 19. I always knew I wanted to be an actor but I was often quick to judge myself, influenced by others around me and was told to go to University and do something else other than acting. Eventually I forged my own path and went to acting school, but it took me a couple of years to listen to myself and do what I wanted to do, not what I was expected to do.