Intense Performance: On camera and off stage w/ Zachary Laoutides - risks, rewards and Hollywood politics.

Intense Performance: On camera and off stage w/ Zachary Laoutides - risks, rewards and Hollywood politics.

Mary R. Smith
Created By Mary R. Smith
On Nov 26, 2018
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Intense Performance: On camera and off stage w/ Zachary Laoutides - risks, rewards and Hollywood politics.

Actor Zachary Laoutides has more to his name then just several feature films that he wrote, produced and acted in; he co-founded Ave Fenix Pictures, the first Latino film studio in Chicago and the Midwest. In 2016 the studio's release of Adios Vaya Con Dios was the first feature film to incorporate actual street artists from Chicago’s barrio (unified in ceasefire) to tell their stories.
 
Laoutides lobbied in Hollywood for the directorial title to be credited to them ‘La Raza,’ meaning the people. Equally, in 2017 Laoutides experimented being the first to incorporate EVP (electronic voice phenomena) recorded by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Detroit during exorcisms in the theatrically released movie Arise from Darkness. This year Laoutides wrapped up shooting Black Ruby, the first iphone 7 feature film.
 
We were able to catch up with Laoutides in Chicago to ask him how he continually succeeds to tightrope the risks, rewards and politics in Hollywood.
 
This is real for you -- I mean real success; you’ve been in the news regularly the last two years. How do you balance writing, acting and working in the film business?
 
Writing has become a hobby for me and it’s therapeutic. I can’t just pick up and write -- I need to be in the right environment and research needs to happen beforehand. That’s been the most enjoyable because stories take you on journeys and learning about others. The business end of the spectrum is what it is -- that is the part I least enjoy, but you need to learn it or someone else will control it.
 
As an actor you’ve spoken a variety of languages in your films -- why do your movies feel foreign when you’re making them in the states?
 
Latino is label, we’re everything -- a mix of artists from Europe, Latin America all working together. I’d say a more proper definition is the first experimental film company to break out of Chicago and the Midwest. Our style incorporates a universal range. We may use Spanish terminology at times, but look at our music – it’s the best in the United Kingdom. We reinvented the term ‘La Raza’ and added it to the film vocabulary. 
 
You have credited your last three films under the director ‘La Raza’ is that style of filmmaking something Ave Fenix Pictures will continue with?
 
It was very special to create movies with so much participation coming from our community in Chicago, but also around the world. I don’t think every film needs to be like that and Black Ruby may have been our last, but it’s a beautiful sense of fulfillment at the end of the day to see so many people coming together.
 
Your films have all become the first to do something ‘new’ in cinema, so do you brainstorm what you can do different for each movie you make?
 
No. These are just ideas, some stick and some don’t. It’s hard to be different when so much has already been done in cinema. I just think about things inversely as a whole, that’s who I am -- I actually don’t watch much film; I’m very selective, so I really don’t get influenced by other movies.
 
How did you get an art house paranormal thriller (Arise from Darkness) to become commercialized and theatrically released?
 
I think people like art house movies; I wouldn’t have done it differently. The ingredients we were using called for that formula. It’s different because you don’t really see paranormal art house films, but taking risks is why Ave Fenix Pictures is still making movies three years later.
 
I liked the original version -- when the movie was called ‘When my Eyes go Dark.’ The poster, the trailer, the title seemed emotionally profound… Did it bother you to give up artistic liberties; was there politics involved?
 
I liked our original presentation too; we did well at Film Invasion Los Angeles last year and took home some nominations. I knew if the film was going to get released that changes were inevitable – but the movie itself is one hundred percent the same. I wasn’t crazy about people pushing the film into horror or making the trailer look fast, reduced and scary – but the flipside is that it gives us exposure to all sorts of audiences and I appreciate that – I think you need to value and understand the process of film distribution, once you do that you won’t get so upset that they didn’t do it your way.
 
You have seven film nominations in Los Angeles, the Huffington Post and many critics recognize the risks you’re taking as an actor – are you happy with what you’ve accomplished in the last two years?
 
I really don’t look at the time lapse. I just committed myself to this line of work -- when I’m in I’m in. I have an athletic and competitive mentality; my dad was a semi-pro football player and my grandfather was a boxer. It’s learning, it’s training, it’s taking punches and criticism – I get off on that. I treat the film business like a sport.
 
What’s next for you -- You’re uniquely able to create your own films that cross over into mainstream Hollywood. Is that good enough?
 
If I’m not using my abilities then I don’t feel right, it’s not good enough for me. So far I’m blessed to make a living creating artwork, but I don’t take things so seriously -- life can change in seconds. Before I was around my family were immigrants and farmers, the next generation worked in factories, were carpenters and blue-collar -- I’m reaping the benefits of their hard labor. I understand that this is a rarity and I treat it as such.
 
Follow Zachary Laoutides at Facebook.com/zacharylaoutides

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