Pezhman Hadazi is a man on the go. Since he arrived in Vancouver a year ago, he has been a whirlwind in bringing Persian cinema to viewers in North Vancouver. Now his films are being appreciated by both Persian and non-Persian audiences on the North Shore and beyond. Who knows what he’ll do next?
Hadazi arrived in Vancouver in July 2015 as an actor and production manager for films being produced in Iran, where over 100 movies are released every year, making Iran the fourth largest centre for film activity in the world. His participation in movies was a fluke. He was a civil engineer at first in Iran, then became a tour operator in Kenya where he met a film crew looking for assistance in producing their script. He was also offered a part in their movie and found he had a talent for acting, but it is his skill for “making things happen” that reveals his true talent.
In Vancouver on a visit, he discovered that no one was organizing any Iranian movie showings. He did his research and learned there was a large Persian community in Vancouver, mostly in North Vancouver. Looking deeper, he found the Centennial Theatre on Lonsdale available for rent, but they had never showed a Persian movie.
Hadazi paid a deposit to the theatre and set about finding ways to sell tickets. He worked social media and Persian events and went to the newspapers. His break-even goal was 300 seats, but the first showing at the Centennial sold out all 700 seats in advance. Given his immediate success, rather than help him build up the movie-going community Iranian newspapers decided to charge him fees for advertising. Rather than promote the news that Persian movies were now available in Vancouver theatres, they requested a percentage of his ticket sales.
The costs of showing an individual imported motion picture are considerable. The movie producer in Iran must be paid a fee for the use of the movie, there are shipping costs, advertising and promotion, tickets to sell, a rental fee for the theatre, and theatre staff to be paid. No one in the Persian community wanted to take those financial risks. Profits were not guaranteed.
The second movie that Hadazi booked sold 1,200 tickets in advance and he had to host two showings at the Centennial. The third showing was held at the Kay Meek Centre in West Vancouver, as Hadazi looked for a smaller venue. Looking around for smaller venues easier to fill, he found the VanCity theatre downtown, at 180 seats an easier sell but more expensive to rent. However, here he made a new and important discovery. Being downtown and being promoted by VanCity, the film drew a new and different audience. About three-quarters of the ticket buyers were not Persian, but Vancouverites looking to learn about Iran, especially since the international boycott against doing business with Iran has been withdrawn.
He now hosts six shows a month in the Lower Mainland, with a screening once a month at the Centennial Theatre on a Sunday. All in all, his films now draw an average of 1,000 people a month at $12 a ticket; enough to pay his bills and pay him a small salary. All of these films are made in Farsi but come with English sub-titles. Occasionally they don’t, which leaves Hadazi scrambling to get the titles inserted, typical of the many little details that an organizer like him must deal with. If you have a staff of one, you do everything yourself. But if you are a whirlwind like Hadazi, it all seems part of the job description. For information on upcoming Iranian films, log on to www.vanif.ca
By Michael McCarthy