Off Camera . . . with Producer Howard Kazanjian
Mastermedia CEO Dan Rupple talks with Howard Kazanjian, producer of Star Wars: Episode VI—Return of the Jedi and Raiders of the Lost Ark.
Dan: Thank you for being with us, Howard. Before you began to chart a course into the movie industry, what and when was the spark that drew you to this career?
Howard: The spark, as you call it, was my parents handing me their 8mm spring-wound camera at the age of 11. I was taken to the movie theaters at a very young age and was captivated by the idea of recreating a world of storytelling by visuals.
Dan: Transcending cultures, nations, and age, Star Wars has become the global folklore of the 21st Century. What do you think it is about this epic story that resonates so powerfully?
Howard: First and foremost, credit must be given to George Lucas because he created a new way of storytelling. We all grew up hearing fairy tales, but George created a new fairy tale for the screen.
Stepping “out of the box,” Star Wars combines traditional Hollywood filmmaking with fabulous elements and techniques of storytelling through exciting visuals, great music, sound, special effects, creatures, captivating characters, eye-catching sets, and tight editing. This was new-world technology with fast action. It was a new road to filmmaking that captured the imagination, first of America and then the world. Most important, it had story that didn’t end two hours later.
Dan: During your early years in the industry there were relatively few Christians working in the media. Now, thankfully, Christian media professionals are too numerous to count. What changes have you seen through the years in the Christian presence within the industry? And what changes have you seen in the media’s perception of the Christian community?
Howard: Today, there are more Christians working in the media. But media now has hundreds of thousands of employees—more than ever before. The industry has become even more secular, and I would say increasingly negative toward Christians. What we need is more Christians in the decision-making areas of our industry. We need Christians as attorneys, executives, agents, and those who can green-light projects.
Dan: Working within the mainstream film world, how does your faith inform your role as a producer?
Howard: My faith keeps me going. My faith is my hope for tomorrow. My faith is my rock.
Dan: Has the Christian community ever questioned why you produce mainstream, “secular” fare, as opposed to explicitly Christian films?
Howard: Christian films are rarely approved by studio heads. I choose my films rather than have them assigned to me. I am very selective of the films I work on and, hopefully, they are appropriate for family.
Dan: What advice would you have for the young Christian who feels a call to the film industry?
Howard: Be strong in your faith. Be tough, yet soft. Learn your craft well. Work hard and long hours. Shine for the Lord. This is not an easy road to travel. As you get to a certain level you may find that there are no executives who will agree with your thinking and push your project to the top.
Dan: Howard, your friends at Mastermedia are proud of who you are as a Christian, as a media professional and as an example of a follower of Christ within the media. We ask our entire Mastermedia community to continue to pray for you and your family. Thank you!