WESTBROOK – Westbrook is a long way from Hollywood, but that doesn’t mean filmmakers can’t pursue their craft here.
Ahura Zakhuur Diliiza, the owner of Unicorn Cove on Main Street in Westbrook, is a case in point. He has started a film company, Unicovia Pictures, which released its first film, “Anikruya,” in 2009. Diliiza now is working on his second feature, “Falcyyr,” a fantasy action film about four women chosen to become the legendary Valkyrie in order to save humanity from an alien race. He recently shot some scenes at historic Willowbrook Village in Newfield.
Diliiza took a few moments recently to answer some questions about his film and his passion for filmmaking with the American Journal.
Q: How long have you lived in Westbrook?
A: I have lived in Westbrook for about six years. I own and operate Unicorn Cove School of Metaphysics on Main Street. We moved here from Portland in July 2006.
Q: What got you started in filmmaking?
A: My story’s very simple; I got involved with film because I have a great love for film. I became very dissatisfied with what Hollywood was putting out. It seems that Hollywood thinks it’s OK to put forth racist ideas, sexist ideas and insult the integrity of women, and, in fact, all people. They have so much money, power and wonderful equipment that they should be able to do a much better job rather than mass-producing movies that have been done before with the same ideas that have been around since the 1940s. It’s time for a new era of film. I learned from a very wise teacher that if you didn’t like something, instead of sitting around and complaining, do a better job. This is what I am endeavoring to do.
I decided that I am going to make beautiful films. Film that is nontoxic, film that does not have the message of racism. Film that does not have the message of sexism, as well as film that does not have bad words so that children could no longer watch films because of a silly rating. My films are very friendly. They’re action-involved and yes, I guess you could say that there’s some violence in them, but I don’t do an over-abundance of it. You will never find nudity in my films and you will never find foul language in my films. I appeal to the intelligence of people and I decided that was what my films were going to be about. The first film I did was very positively received and I’m hoping to do more.
I don’t like what Hollywood is doing. I’m going to see if I can do better. I don’t have their money, I don’t have their power and I don’t have their equipment, but I have 10 times the creativity and I’m putting it to use.
Q: Did you have any other jobs in the film business before starting Unicovia Pictures?
A: I grew up in California and there are all kinds of casting agencies. I did extra work like a lot of people do. It’s not necessarily a guarantee that you will be put into a feature role, but at least I could be involved, and that’s exactly what I did.
Q: Is there any significance to the name Unicovia Pictures?
A: I guess if I had my own world it would be called Unicovia. I own a business, Unicorn Cove, I just had this thing with unicorns. The unicorn is the dispeller of evil and that’s kind of how I view myself, so my world would be called Unicovia, so therefore, Unicovia Pictures.
Q: Your first film, “Anikruya” was released in 2009, how was it received?
A: It was very well received, we got a standing ovation (after the premiere). We premiered it in Massachusetts, because most of our actors and their families were from there. We worked very hard on it and I think the film came out beautifully. I’m learning as I go. It didn’t come out like a $20 million film endeavor, but with $1 million (if I got it!) I could do the most beautiful film ever. We loved “Anikruya” and other people loved it. too.
Q: What is the plot of “Anikruya”?
A: There is a teenage girl who enters into an old library (we used the Walker Memorial Library for this scene) and an ancient book appears in front of her, which she picks up. She is mystified because this book is a living book that transforms into a young girl that tells her the story of the Anikruya, or unicorn. However, because she picked up the book, she is now part of the story and she must get the living book to a destination for the Anikruya to retrieve it so that it will be safe. She is being pursued by darkness because evil wants the book and it ends in a battle between the Anikruya and the dark forces to save her and the book. The film is 45 minutes. It is not a long film, but it is a beautiful one and was our first attempt at doing a feature film.
Q: Where can people see it? Is it on DVD or Netflix?
A: Currently it is available for sale on DVD through the Unicovia Pictures website atwww.unicoviapictures.com and at Unicorn Cove on Main Street in Westbrook. It is available as a pay-per-view on the Unicovia Pictures website, as well, so people can watch it like a rental online. In about a month or so, it should also be available on Amazon on Demand. I would like to get it on Netflix, but I understand that Netflix has some very staunch requirements for independent filmmakers (we’ll see if we can knock down that wall).
Q: How did the shoot at Willowbrook go?
A: The shoot at Willowbrook went awesome. The director (of Willowbrook) was very generous with his time and very generous with having us on the property. I’m very thankful to them. We even got them involved. We got the director and one of the board members involved in the film. They have extra roles, and the director even has a full speaking role. They loved what we were doing and we really loved the place. I would like to see Willowbrook do well in the future because I believe that it is a very valuable part of Maine and Maine history.
Q: When do you expect “Falcyyr” to be released? And where will people be able to see it?
A: I am expecting “Falcyyr” to be released early next year. I’m taking my time on this because I’d like to have the film finished before I say when it will be released. I kind of made that mistake with my first film. I planned the release date before it was actually finished being filmed, and being an independent filmmaker means that I have no money, that I have to take things as they go. I’m hoping to release it in some of the major film establishments, even Cinemagic (I believe I have every right to; I have the same right to release it anywhere Hollywood has a right to) and in independent film theaters also. I will release it as wide as I possibly can. And I’m hoping that everyone will be able to see it in their city. The director of Willowbrook offered to have a screening there, as well, which I think would be a great benefit to both of us. Like I said, I have no money, but I have creativity. I have some good people working with me and we will do the best that we possibly can.
Q: How do you go about finding cast and crew?
A: The cast and crew are mostly my family and my students. There are also people I met while networking during the production of “Anikruya,” and some of them are involved, as well. I also have a way of getting people involved. As I said before, the director of Willowbrook wound up with a speaking role and the third extra we had that day was a friend of his who saw him in costume and stopped to take photos, so I pulled that guy in, too. We all work together to make what needs to happen, happen. I can’t afford to pay anyone at the moment, so I work with who I have. But like I tell them, if you’re with me in the beginning and stick with me, we’ll all make it big together.
Q: If people were interested in helping out on this film, how would they go about doing that?
A: The best help I can get from people right now is in the form of money. Everything I’m doing right now comes out of my own pocket and from those participating contributing what they can as well. We’re running an ongoing fundraiser to have money for things like better cameras, lighting and editing equipment, costuming, set construction and occasional location fees (not to mention care and feeding of cast and crew). If people want to help they can visit the “Falcyyr” or Unicovia Pictures websites and make a donation through our FundRazr campaign button. I am also very open to sponsorship from local businesses in exchange for mention in the film (like product placement, walk-bys, direct mention, etc). You can find all that information on our websites or contact me directly. We are also always in need of extras. “Falcyyr” will prove to be an epic adventure that the whole family can enjoy.
Q: Do you have any advice for young, aspiring filmmakers?
A: The only advice that I could give young filmmakers is the advice that was given to me, if you have a dream that you want to see made manifest in film, you have to separate yourself from the rest of the world and make the decision to do it. And once you’ve made that decision, stay focused from the very beginning until the end of the project, no matter what anyone says or does. There will be people who will want to support you and people who will be against you, but when it comes down to it you and you alone must decide. Don’t be concerned with how much money it will cost, don’t be concerned with what equipment you have. Even the shabbiest equipment with a lot of focus and creativity can create a beautiful work of art in film. That’s the best advice I can give. Keep going, no matter what. If you hit a wall, climb it.