I love movies, I was practically raised in a movie theatre. Every Saturday, my mom would drop my brother and me (or sometimes we walked) at the El Cajon Theatre on Main street.
For just a quarter, you’d get access into that special world where the line between reality and imagination blurred when that deep red velvet curtain opened to display a window to another world.
Movies, Movies, Movies
Maybe it’s because my mom was in two Esther Williams movies and as a kid, my brother and I would browse through the scrapbooks and pictures she kept of those days. She worked at MGM and because she was only 16, she had to go to school on the set.
One of her classmates: Elizabeth Taylor. Liz was filming National Velvet at the time, and only 12. Mom says she was a wonderful person then, and yes, her eyes are really violet. But that’s not what this article is about.
I first came across Michael Goorjian because of the Spiritual Cinema Circle, a Gaiam company that provides a DVD of movies each month that are aimed at spiritual themes. As a member I received one DVD each month with a feature film and several little shorts.
Michael Goorjian’s first directorial debut, Illusion, captured my heart and I think it was then that I wanted to meet this young director. (He’s a two years older than my oldest child and my grandson shares his birthday, February 4th).
Maybe because it had one of my all-time favorite actors, Kirk Douglas, or maybe because it starts out in one of those old-fashioned movie theaters, (where I spent so much time growing up), or maybe because Michael followed a dream by not only writing its screenplay, but acting and directing in this heart-warming film.
This got me to thinking, so I looked him up on the internet — contacted his agent and within the space of a few short hours I had an interview with him.
He lives in the Bay Area (I live near Lake Tahoe) of California, so we agreed to meet in a favorite haunt of his, an Oakland coffee shop.
I remember the drive there was hectic as my husband hadn’t been off the land in about three weeks and is not used to driving in freeway traffic anymore. Needless to say, I was a jumbled mess by the time we found the place. Stepping out of the car in front of the coffee shop, he was sitting in front, in full view of the picture windows, and for a brief moment, I had the feeling that I was looking at a famous painting or something.
I realized immediately here was a man with heart. Feeling a little bit nervous and edgy, I calmed down after Michael and I started talking.
I immediately got the impression that Michael looks at life through a soft camera lens. His eyes were soft on me and gentle as we talked quietly. I couldn’t really tell if his eyes were brown, or more of a gray color, as they seemed to change hues as he talked about his films.
When Michael Goorjian first set out to make the movie Illusion, his intent wasn’t to make a spiritual film, it was to tell a story that entertains but also leaves the viewer with something more—a message—a meaning.
Little did he know that after struggling to make this wonderful film that it would later be picked up by Stephen Simon as a featured film for The Spiritual Cinema Circle’s May 2007 volume, a monthly subscription membership for spiritual films.
He grew up in Oakland and currently lives in San Francisco with his girlfriend Jolie and a couple of rabbits. Born in February, Michael is an Aquarian, a visionary, and a truly original and unique person who prefers the Northern California lifestyle to that of living in Southern California, though he does travel there for work from time to time.
Michael got bit by the acting bug in High School and went on to UCLA to study film making before auditioning and winning the role of a dancer in Disney’s Newsies starring Christian Bale and Robert Duval. From then on he never looked back. He continued acting and won an Emmy for his role as a young autistic boy in a film called David’s Mother.
Most would know Michael from his role as Justin Thompson in television’s Party of Five starring Neve Campbell. Other acting credits include starring roles in the films: SLC Punk!, The Invisibles (opposite Portia DeRossi), the Oscar nominated Leaving Las Vegas, Hard Rain (with Morgan Freeman and Christian Slater), Chaplin (with Robert Downey Jr.), Forever Young (with Mel Gibson), Broken (with Heather Graham), and Conversations With God, a Spiritual Cinema Circle film.
Directing – A Love of Film
In his mid-twenties, Michael tried his hand at directing. After corralling the help of friends from Oakland, he made a few independent short films, a music video or two, and a mock documentary called Oakland Underground. Michael then took on his first major independent film, Illusion, which stars Kirk Douglas.
Other recent directing works include a short film called Players’ Club (which swept the 2006 Elevate Film Festival in Los Angeles, including Best Director), Mark Twain’s The War Prayer (starring Jeremy Sisto), and the documentary You Can Heal Your Life (starring metaphysical lecturer and teacher, Louise L. Hay) The Shift, with Dr. Dwayne Dyer and starring friend Portia DeRossi.
It was because of Illusion and working with Stephen Simon on Conversations with God that Michael was introduced to Gay Hendricks, psychologist and partner to Simon on the Spiritual Cinema Circle and Hay House author. Hendricks introduced Michael to Louise Hay, which garnered him the opportunity to direct Louise L. Hay’s film, You Can Heal Your Life, and Dr. Dyer’s The Shift, formerly titled Ambition to Meaning, as well as an upcoming film with Jerry and Esther Hicks.
Though You Can Heal Your Life is filmed more as a docu-drama, it weaves the story of a young girl searching for meaning in her life between the interviews with such noted Hay House authors as Cheryl Richardson, Gay Hendricks, Gregg Braden, Dr. Wayne Dyer, Esther and Jerry Hicks, Leon Nacson, Christiane Northrup, M.D., Dr. Candace Pert, Mona Lisa Schulz, M.D., Ph.D., Doreen Virtue and of course, Louise L. Hay.
The Shift is an entirely different movie. Set at Asilomar, a coastal retreat in Monterey, California, it opens upon the intersections between the lives of a woman and her family on vacation, the owner of the retreat, a musician, a frustrated businessman and his wife, and a small film crew set on filming an interview with Dr. Wayne Dyer.
Next up for Goorjian is another independent film written by a favored teacher. Michael also plans to work on Beatrice, a story he has written loosely based on the angel who led Dante from the Inferno.
I caught up with Michael in May of 2009 in an Oakland, California coffee shop. I first saw him as I crossed the street toward the establishment. Bent over a laptop, his hair hanging down a bit, he sat in the window corner of the coffee shop, an artist, deep into his work.
He briefly looked up and I caught his eye. He has dark brooding eyes that soften to gray as he talks of his favorite things: making films.
After brief introductions and the unfolding of Michael’s back-story, I began the interview with Michael:
LOAM: What made you want to tell the story in Illusion?
MG: Have you ever watched a movie when after you left the theater, you felt you had to go home and take a shower? While I think that movies should be entertaining, I feel as if they should also have a message and a meaning that elevates the viewer.
LOAM: Did you set out to make spiritual films?
MG: I am a student of philosophy—but I didn’t set out to make spiritual films. I set out to make films that inspire and uplift, as well as entertain.
LOAM: I thought that starting the film from the premise of the Akashic records was brilliant—
MG: The Akashic records became a metaphor through which to tell Christopher’s story.
LOAM: What got you into directing?
MG: I love working with actors and I’ve had the opportunity to work with some incredible ones. I enjoy drawing a good performance from an actor that engages the viewer in the story. Some actors are incredible to work with. In The Shift, Dr. Dyer knew Ellen and Portia, and having worked with Portia on the Invisibles, she was a natural for her role in the film.
LOAM: I understand that Illusion is something you started to make yourself, something you funded.
MG: I wrote the first three parts of Christopher’s life and filmed that part of the movie with my own money, in the end relying on credit cards. We borrowed a camera from Francis Ford Coppola (and some wine), paying for some of the things we needed for the film with wine. After filming the three acts of Christopher’s story, begun in 2001, it took me until 2004 to find the actor to play Christopher’s father.
LOAM: What was it like directing Kirk Douglas?
MG: We rehearsed for a month the scenes Kirk was set to play. In the beginning I was somewhat intimidated by Mr. Douglas, but after rehearsing for a while, I realized we were the same, actors who love film. He was very easy to work with and easy to direct.
LOAM:I got the impression from Kirk that he wasn’t really acting, just being himself.
MG: That’s what a good actor does—makes the character real—makes the character come alive.
LOAM:It seems that you can do it all, acting, writing, directing, do you do anything else like editing?
MG: I can edit, I can also create the music for a film, though technically, I’m not a musician. I prefer working with others though in these endeavors.
LOAM: How important is a good film editor?
MG: Very important. A film editor brings a different set of eyes to the story, a different perspective. I love working with an Editor with a vision.
LOAM:What would you tell a young person seeking to get into films or any creative endeavor for that matter?
MG: Get experience. Go out and live life. Don’t get stuck in replicating your experience. Get a job, interact with people, and get life experiences.
Those interested in watching Michael’s films can purchase them at Amazon.com; all three are available at reduced costs there. To get the full benefit of You Can Heal Your Life, be sure to pick up the extended version as it has additional interviews with everyone including an interview with Michael.
You’ll be hearing more from Michael Goorjian, an incredible actor, writer and director, with a “heart as big as his head” beating inside that chest of his. (quote from Waking Ned Devine)