Snippets: “Breaking into Hollywood”

Hollywood gatekeepers Katherine Sarafian, Sev Ohanian, Darren Boghosian, Michael Goorjian, and Tigran Babadjanian walk us through the twists and turns of their career and share the secrets of getting discovered. 

June 21, 2021  |  by Creative Armenia

Through rejections, acknowledgment, doubts, and soul searching, Hollywood masterminds Katherine Sarafian, Sev Ohanian, Darren Boghosian, Michael Goorjian, and Tigran Babadjanian paved unique paths for themselves. During our Creative Armenia Week’s “Breaking into Hollywood” panel they shared some stories from the bumpy route to their success, advised how to grab industry’s attention, and told how to get your foot in the doors of Pixar, UTA, and more. Listen to unprecedented insights from the people shaping Hollywood today and check out some of the remarkable ideas below.

Katherine Sarafian, Senior Vice President of Talent at Pixar Animation Studios

 

“When I look back on it, I’m like, ‘I’m a coordinator and someone is asking me this. I’m not a high-level person but I have information, I have access to that someone else does not have.’ That is when I realized that making it is like a sliding scale. It is when you are able to give someone and provide to someone else something that you didn’t have before. For me, that felt like a turning point and also helped my confidence along the way.”


“I said I am a terrible networker but I am a good connector. And I do see them as different things. You may not know anybody but what you do with the conversation that you do have, what do you do with the person you do get to know – be they Armenian or not – what you do at that moment and how you show up, what questions you ask. Are you more curious or are you more certain, are you coming with that preparation or are you coming with expectations, ‘Somebody owes me.’ I think it is really important to use every part of yourself in that connecting moment so that you are using it wisely. Because you may not get that second phone call, but you take that and you run with it somewhere.”

Sev Ohanian, Producer & Writer 

“I honestly do feel like I made it even before my career started. Just the privilege of being able to pursue this kind of lifestyle. I grew up in the greater LA area, my parents immigrated to this country when I was four months old. The idea of even trying to be a filmmaker was so foreign and so alien even though I was geographically close to Hollywood.” 

 

“My advice? Do your homework before you reach out to anyone in the industry, watch their movies, read their scripts, read everything you can find on them. And also make sure you are coming to them having self-educated yourself. Don’t be like, ‘Hey, what do I do?’ Be like, ‘This is who I am, here is what I want to do, here is what I have already done, and here is what I’m planning on doing. What do you think?’ You will have earned our respect, because everyone’s time is valuable, and with that, in place, you will also probably impress us. And then Darren may ask you to be his next assistant. So the most important thing is: come, having done your work, and be ready to demonstrate that you are willing to do even more work.”

Darren Boghosian, Talent agent at United Talent Agency

 

“The path that you shoot for or expect to walk down is not always what you end up doing. Everyone has their own path. And you never really know with the twists and turns who is that person you met that ultimately introduces you to that other person. Then in hindsight, you look back and say, ‘Oh, that is actually how it all happened.’”

 

“You guys have so much more at your disposal than ever. You can literally with your cell phone create something and send it to one of us and it is a click away. And if it’s brilliant, it’s brilliant. You are going to get a callback. You are. It was much more difficult when we were coming up. What were you going to do? Send in a videotape or something? Technology now has made it so easy for people to showcase their talent that, ultimately, the cream rises.”

Michael Goorjian, Filmmaker & Actor 

 

“Putting yourself out there and what you put out there, that kind of stuff – people are going to see it, and that is the best way to approach it, I think, by doing stuff and putting it out there. And there are a lot of things now with the Internet that can expose you to agents and people like me who are specifically trying to find actors and musicians. And the people that put themselves out on these social networks, a lot of them, that is how we find them. That would be my advice: do as much as you can while you are also pursuing the business side of it of meeting and contacting people.”

 

“Being Armenian… We have a huge culture. And we have so much that could be shared. And I would just encourage young artists who are Armenian to look at that. To get inspired by that. If we are going to create and it is going to be related to your heritage, dig deep and find things that you can share. That is going to help build us. Because there is so much there.”

 

Tigran Babadjanian, Talent manager at Principal Entertainment LA

 

“When I do see the Armenian last name, I will reach out or they will reach out and we will have a conversation. Because I am a firm believer that a rising tide raises all boats. It behooves me that all of us are successful and that we get to a certain place. Part of it is earning your seat at the table, really working your butt off, and being as talented as you can, no matter what it is that you do, being the best at it to get to the table. But the other part is, if somebody is working their ass off, to reach out and to help as much as you can. It is okay to help and it is okay to accept help. There is no shame in any of that because we have one common goal – to push ourselves and our people forward.” 

 

“Talent will never go unnoticed. I don’t care what anybody else says, we all have an ego, we all want to discover the next Sev or Leonardo DeCaprio, or whoever that is. We all want to find a person, or that project, or that piece of material. So instead of worrying so much about the chicken or the egg, focus on yourself, focus on the material that you are putting out there.”

 

Alec Mouhibian, Moderator 

 

“The fact and the matter is that almost every job in show business is an acting job to some degree. You, as an agent, are kind of on stage every time you try to make a deal. It is probably a good lesson for people to try to keep their eyes and ears open to the possibility that their skills in one particular department might be even more useful in another side of the industry that they didn’t really see themselves being a part of.”

 

“There is this endless rabbit hole for young creators. How do you read my script if I do not have representation? How do I get a representation? And that is where it ends… That is where the advice trail ends. Because there is no clear answer to any of this. It is why even choosing to continue to pursue a life in this world is kind of the filter. If you are still doing it after ten years of endless frustration, rejection, that is how you know, you’re meant for it. Because there is just not an easy path. There may once have been a slightly clearer path – it wasn’t easy but it was clearer – but now it’s all over the place.”

Content list

Amy Heckerling; an iconic American film director 

Sex, Lies, and Videotape; directed by Steven Soderbergh

Jurassic Park; directed by Steven Spielberg

Terminator 2: Judgment Day; directed by James Cameron

Sling Blade; directed by Billy Bob Thornton

My Big Fat Armenian Family; written and directed by Sev Ohanian 

Judas and the Black Messiah; produced by Sev Ohanian 

Brave; produced by Katherine Sarafian

Lifted; produced by Katherine Sarafian

Amerikatsi (post-production); written and directed by Michael Goorjian

Recommended Screenplay Competitions 

 

Script Pipeline 

Austin Film Festival: Screenplay and Teleplay Competition 

The Academy Nicholl Fellowships in Screenwriting

The BlueCat Screenplay Competition

The Black List