‘Are you Amir Shah?’inspects the ugly side of Hollywood and examines how far one is willing to go in order to achieve their dream and make it in the industry. In this episode, we delve deep into the dark and uncanny world of mega Texas beer commercial producer, Amir Shah.
Cult Critic – Are you Amir Shah? revolves around racism and hate. What motivated you to tell this story?
Amir – Growing up in the United States, you learn to see the narrow-mindedness of America and Americans. America is a great land of opportunity, but America fails in a world of language learning, multiculturalism, and international understanding, global knowledge and acceptance of multi-cultural points of view, and compassion for the international world stage. The United States is a superpower with a powerful military , a US dollar that globally dominates, and English is the crown king or queen language that every race and nationality is expected to know and speak! , yet the American soul doesn’t dominate the international soul because it is empty. Americans are not known to travel anywhere, are mono-lingual, don’t know where many countries are, and simply don’t care. Not all Americans are like this, I’m not saying that by any means, but a lot of them are. In the United States, everything in hollywood & show business overall, must encompass the American way” or the ” Hollywood way”; you have to literally please American audiences and almost kiss their ass, and what I’m doing is quite the opposite : I’m making a complete mockery of the whole hollywood system in my own perspective ” This story analyzes hatred and racism, breaks it down psychologically, and attempts to raise questions and possibly find solutions to ignorance, arrogance, and narrow-mindedness. I love America ! It’s my country! I was born here! I’m just speaking a certain type of truth in a satirical way that may slap audiences in the face. I would love to one day see our American president sit down with the Russian president or even the Chinese president, drink some beers together, make peace and seek common ground !
Cult Critic – what do you wish the audience take from the experience?
Amir –This entire show or episode is a statement that raises several questions about American television, American pop culture, and the way commercials in the US are mass produced on TV. I want audiences to watch this as if they are watching a charade, a theatrical- multicultural parade of mockery with both satire and sarcastic hopelessness. To achieve the American dream or Hollywood stardom, so to speak. The whole notion of originality has been washed away and/or devalued or deformed and there is nothing really unique anymore in the eyes of American television. Advertising an Arab beer in Russian? Who the hell does that ? A former white supremacist being asked if he can speak any Russian? Why would a former white supremacist know any Russian? Why is it expected that when Americans visit Moscow that every Russian should know English? How many Americans speak Russian? or Chinese ? or German or French? How many struggling American actors are willing to dance in a Budweiser commercial and speak and sing in Korean? These are some of the thoughts and questions that I would like audiences to experience while watching this.
Cult Critic – Editing plays a significant part of this piece. Tell us about the process and what prompted the choices you made?
Amir –I like putting my audience on an intense, riveting , maniacal, psychedelic rollercoaster
Cult Critic – Women are highly objectified in this episode. What is the statement you’re trying to make about the use of women’s sexuality in commercials?
Amir –We are in an ” instagram generation”. When you go on Instagram every day, it’s literally like opening a playboy magazine ! Super hot girls in bikinis are either showing off their hot bodies or they are promoting ” bang energy drink” or they are just simply showing off their hot bodies for everyone to see to get as many ” likes” and ” followers” as they can ! The whole notion that ” sex sells” and ” hot girls sell” has caused a huge stereotype for the ” instagram generation” and just for American pop culture overall. I’m making a mockery of the instagram generation and I’m making a mockery of super hot girls who have thousands or millions of instagram followers , and the most alarming thing is that none of them are award winning screenwriters, producers, directors , singers, or actresses! If they sit by the pool in a bikini and hold a champagne bottle and just show off their body and the champagne, that photo alone will get them thousands or millions of likes and followers, but if a hot model in a dress sings italian opera with no bikini, she probably won’t get the same attention! We are in a very shallow and empty ” Instagram generation” and every commercial or music MUST HAVE super hot girls in bikinis! I’m simply using sarcasm, satire, and psychological exaggeration to tell my audience, hey ! look , you want hot girls! you wanna see hot women in bikinis, fine! I’ll give it to you…BUT, I’m going to show it to you in the way American television , American pop culture, and the ” Instagram generation” demand it. I’m basically making a sarcastic, satirical mockery of the whole Instagram generation; I’m also showing what actresses have to go thru or what they put themselves thru in order to make it in hollywood and I make a mockery of that by calling them ” international flapjacks.”
Cult Critic – What were the biggest challenges you faced during production?
Amir –Casting! Casting! Casting! I served as a casting director! and I’m not a casting director nor am I a talent agent! Casting for this episode was an enormous pain in the freaking ass!!!!! I spent several weeks looking for actresses, dancers, models, music video vixens who were willing to dance the way I wanted and say the script that I wrote! A couple girls denied the roles I gave them. To be in bikinis, dancing, as the ” international flapjacks” some of them gave me an uptight attitude, were a bit stuck up about it, they told me , hey , i have to contact my agent or my publicist!, i said really ?! ok! Well who the hell are you? Are you a mega hollywood star that you must contact your publicist? Are you that big of a hot shot? I don’t claim to be any hot shot and I don’t claim to be a mega director or mega producer by any means. I simply like casting hot models or dancers to give them an opportunity! The one thing that annoys me as a producer with hot girls is an attitude I receive for a script I give them. I don’t need any bad attitude from any girl nor do I have the time for that. This is the performing arts. This is theater. I’m creating a point of view. The model is the actress and you’re given a script to portray a certain image and I’m paying you for it! I went through several actresses and models. A few of them were very unreliable, very unprofessional, didn’t return my calls or text messages, so I moved on but eventually found the cast I wanted !
Cult Critic – You wrote, directed, produced and starred in the episode. How was the creation process like for you while having to fill these many roles?
Amir –I would say about 50- 60 % of the middle to end of the script was improvised ! As I was writing and filming constantly, I started filming a ton of footage that I didn’t even write! A lot of the creation process came from spontaneous , guerilla style filmmaking! Ideas came flowing to me like rain in the sky! Basically, when you have written a script and you’re writing and writing and writing and writing…! and all of sudden you stop writing, and you just constantly film a ton of footage. You film all of this footage because they are simply ideas coming to you in your sleep, in your nightmare, or maybe just getting out of the shower and all of a sudden an idea comes to you for a scene for your web series.. As I was fulfilling each and every role, ideas came pouring in from consciousness. It’s just a very normal process. It’s the process of both darkness and light. A lot of ideas come pouring in and you may not understand them immediately but you film them regardless whether you have any understanding of them or not. You just go ahead and shoot the images in your head and those images connect with the script that’s not even complete. It doesn’t matter if the script isn’t complete. The script isn’t supposed to be complete in the sense of, ” imaginative consciousness”. The script is supposed to be complete physically in front of your mac, but if the scenes are not complete in your mind, then that means the script isn’t complete in the imagination or in the consciousness, so therefore you must continue filming more scenes from the images in you head, even though what you see in your script on your computer isn’t finished.
Cult Critic – Who inspired the characters you presented? Are they based on real life people?
Amir –I used to work at the Ft .Lauderdale international airport and my experiences working there actually inspired me to create these characters ! I spoke Russian at the airport constantly! It was part of my job. I remember meeting a girl one time during my shift and she told me to my face ” who studies russian??!! because I told her I speak and study Russian. I ‘ve been to Russia. I’ve studied the language, I have watched the ballet in Moscow, I’ve listened to the Russian symphony orchestra, and I have read Russian literature in college.I love everything about Russia and russian culture and I’m not ashamed to talk about it! I have always been fascinated by Russia , their political landscape, and of course the sour and bitter relationship between the USA and Russia. I wouldn’t say the characters are based on real life people, but from what I experienced working in the airport, coming across a lot of ignorant, narrow-minded people and even working with ignorant, narrow-minded employees, all of this energy gave me the fuel and fire to create Episode
Cult Critic – Which films did you draw inspiration from?
Amir –David Lynch’s Eraserhead & Blue Velvet, Lars von Trier’s Dogville, & the house that jack built, Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange, Terry Gilliam’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, David Fincher’s Fight Club, and Martin Scorsese’s Casino.
Cult Critic – Share an unforgettable moment from production.
Amir –Actress Kaytlin Lachelle from texas, who appears throughout the entire episode, sent me a video clip of her with a bud light in her hand speaking her lines and she was a little bit tipsy or maybe even a bit drunk speaking her lines just in that sequence. I told her you have one really terrible take, you sound drunk, and i don’t think i’m going to use it. Then I watched that video clip again several times and every time I looked at it, I thought to myself, what the hell is this? What the hell am I going to do with this , because I’m actually starting to like it! How can I use this footage ? There’s something about it that started to excite me and turn me on. It started to stimulate my senses and my imagination. I ended up adding that video clip into a sequence and it turned out to be one of the most brilliant sequences from Kaytlin Lachelle that I’ve ever seen her do….!
Cult Critic – Tell us about your next project. What do you have in store?
Amir –Are you Amir Shah? Season 2 Episode 5 !!!! The story and the characters continue on! The other character I play, Saeed, has unfinished business with Amir Shah. He still has to star in this mega Arab beer commercial and fulfill his dreams! There are a lot of unanswered questions in episode 4 that will be explained in Episode 5! This summer I begin writing the script for episode 5. Production will begin in Miami, Atlanta, and New York City.