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An Interview with Armin Nasseri, Director and Star of Seeking Valentina

by Mike Haberfelner

May 2015

Films directed by Armin Nasseri on (re)Search my Trash


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Your upcoming movie Seeking Valentina - in a few words, what is it about?


Seeking Valentina is a psychological thriller about a Jewish Iranian-American writer named Benjamin played by Ali Bavarian [Ali Bavarian interview - click here], who lost his wife to cancer after a year and rents out his bedroom to a mysterious woman named Valentina played by Kristin West [Kristin West interview - click here]. Over the course of three days, Valentina disappears and Benjamin goes out to search for her not knowing if this could be a dream, a hallucination, or if the tenant is a runaway or a ghost. It's an ambiguous story where it allows the audience to think for themselves.


What were your sources of inspiration when writing Seeking Valentina, and was any of it based on personal experience?


I had this story in development about a father and son living in a remote area in the outskirts of California. As I was writing the treatment, I was thinking about my father, who is a handyman and a landlord. Of course his job was to pick up the month's rent and fix any maintenance problems that were reported, but I had this curiosity of what would happen if the person, who was the source of your income just disappeared without a trace? I am also a big admirer of Ingmar Bergman's work and Persona was a huge inspiration for Seeking Valentina. Ingmar Bergman's movie contains all sorts of themes from death, betrayal, insanity and illusion vs. reality, which are key elements in Seeking Valentina.


With Seeking Valentina being called a psychological thriller - how would you describe your approach to the genre, and to what extent does your movie follow genre conventions?


The color blue is referenced and shown in Benjamin's story. The color blue symbolizes depression, melancholy and this gloomy atmosphere that Benjamin is surrounded in. At the same time, Benjamin is still mourning the loss of his wife as well as having deceased parents, an estranged sister and his only child that he's trying to reconnect with. He's a lonely man that hides behind his charm and internalizes his pain.


Do talk about the overall look and feel of your movie for a bit!


Of course there is the look and feeling of blue in Seeking Valentina. Benjamin's residence takes place in a remote area. He lives in a 1800's house that is surrounded by trees and acres of land. There are mystical and mysterious elements to the story and it continues to get more and more moody as the story progresses.


You also appear in front of the camera in Seeking Valentina - so what can you tell us about your character, and what did you draw upon to bring him to life? And did you write him with yourself in mind?


Yes, I did write him with myself in mind. I play the role of Jay. Jay is Benjamin's disgruntled brother-in-law. He is a bookish, collected guy, who is just fed up with the tensions between Benjamin and his sister Ana played by Vida Ghaffari [Vida Ghaffari interview - click here]. My character's objective was to not only watch Ana try and bring Benjamin back to sanity, but to make sure that Ana stays in reality and making the effort of getting Benjamin the help that he needs.


What can you tell us about the rest of your cast, and why exactly these people?


That's a great question. The casting of this film was premeditated. Being an Iranian-American of first-generation, it was very important to me that the Iranian-Americans in this story were portrayed by actual Iranian-Americans and that they have a voice in cinema. My second cousin Mel A. Gibson, who plays Benjamin's son Jacob, is a newcomer in the film world. He is half Iranian and half Caucasian. I feel that it's absolutely necessary to show the world that actors of Middle Eastern decent, who look like Mel and Vida, are ethnically ambiguous. The other cast members are Srinivasa Kapavarapu, who is a dear friend of mine and I went to acting school with him. Srini is Indian and portrayed Benjamin's psychiatrist Dr. Lodi and also in the cast are the wonderful Emily Heffner and Diane Silvester who play Amy and Pamela. They work at the rock shop, which plays a significant part in the fictional town known as Red River Valley. I wanted to cast a movie that showcased diversity, gender balance and actors playing against type.


Do talk about the shoot as such, and the on-set atmosphere?


The principal of photography took six days, 500 miles starting from North Hollywood, Ojai and the Inland Empire. We had a very small crew. It was a low budget and many of the cast and crew members were working multiple positions on the set. It was one of those production experiences where we would go from wearing summer clothes in one city to wearing winter clothes in a snowing city around 7,000 ft above sea level. Also, we were working, eating and sleeping in the same house that a huge percentage of the movie takes place in. Everybody was working tirelessly and I can speak for everybody that we all gained life experiences pertaining to our creative, personal and work growth.


The $64-question of course, when and where will the film be released onto the general public?


We are still in post-production. We are anticipating that it will be released in the fall.


Any future projects you'd like to share?


I have a number of projects in development. There is no movie as front runner at the moment.


As far as I know, you initially entered the filmworld as an actor - so what got you into acting, and what can you tell us about your training as an actor?


Ever since I was a child, I was always intrigued by actors performing on television and movies. I was entertained by what they were saying and how they were saying their lines on screen. In my eyes, the actors on screen were getting away with swearing, lying, kissing, sex, violence and murder. That's when I decided I wanted to become an actor and get away with all of those things. When I entered high school, I took a drama class and auditioned for a part in The Crucible. I was one of the two freshmen that landed a part in the play. I was surrounded by upperclassmen and it helped me grow as an actor. I had a small part and received a positive reception from multiple classmates and faculty members. I moved to Wilmington, NC at the age of 20 and started working on small films with my friends. I studied Meisner acting under Jack Landry and got further training at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in Hollywood, where I studied method acting, Shakespeare along with singing, dancing and stage combat during the intense eight month process.


What prompted you to also step behind the camera eventually?


I had two choices. I could just focus on acting and go from audition to audition hoping that the directors can select me or do what Robert Townsend, Warren Beatty, Jon Favreau and Woody Allen do and that's grabbing the bull by the horn and do it yourself by creating your own opportunities as well as for other artists.


Any movies of yours (in whatever position) prior to Seeking Valentina you'd like to talk about?


In 2009, I directed a short film from my school titled Jump, which is about a guy who falls in love with a French prostitute as he tries to get her on a train to New York before the cartels find them. After I finished school, I started working on multiple positions on film production before editing. One of the projects I edited was a web series called Blackman Depressed created by Derek Dow. He is a multi-talented Chicago native and a friend of mine, who I learned so much from. Prior to Blackman Depressed, I also worked on a short film titled Son Shine. The film is directed by my friend Katrelle Kindred and the story follows the 1992 LA riot from the eyes of a 13 year old boy and the film has gone through 13 film festivals.


How would you describe yourself as an actor and as a director?


I studied theater, Sanford Meisner, Uta Hagan and Konstantin Stanislavsky from different instructors. I believe that acting on screen is 80% attitude and 20% dialogue. As an actor, I take what's written on the piece of paper and facilitate it. I do my research, take events from my life experience and substitute it on the characters that I portray. For me, the accomplishment is to embody the spirit of a character and stay in the moment. As a director, not only does the outlook of the film and the cast have to be spot on, but the chemistry is the most important thing - or else how do good actors but bad chemistry sell on screen? I describe myself as an actor's director. I come from an acting background and I like giving actors the freedom to bring their characters to life and giving them the direction that will help the story do justice.


Filmmakers, actors, writers, whoever else who inspire you?


Some of the actors who inspire me are Robert DeNiro, Daniel DayLewis, Gene Wilder, Dustin Hoffman, Robin Williams and Kevin Kline. Filmmakers that inspire me are Alfred Hitchcock, Stanley Kubrick, Martin Scorsese, Sidney Lumet, Hal Ashby, Rob Reiner, Jonathan Demme, and Ingmar Bergman, whose movies have been the biggest inspiration for Seeking Valentina.


Your favourite movies?


Some of my favorite movies are Stand By Me, Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho, The Graduate, A Clockwork Orange, Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, Goodfellas, After Hours, A Bronx Tale, The Shawshank Redemption, Pulp Fiction, Swingers, and the list goes on...


... and of course, films you really deplore?


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x-rated  find Armin Nasseri at

I can give you a list of many bad movies, but to cut my answer short, I hate films that have no character development. Films that already have everything established for the audience to just accept and to rely heavily on just the plot during a run time two hours or more.


Your/your movie's website, Facebook, whatever else?


You can check out our website

Like us on the Seeking Valentina Facebook page and also follow us on Twitter.


Anything else you are dying to mention and I have merely forgotten to ask?


You have forgotten to ask me if I like to play the bongos?


Thanks for the interview!


© by Mike Haberfelner

Legal note: (re)Search my Trash cannot
and shall not be held responsible for
content of sites from a third party.

Thanks for watching !!!



Robots and rats,
demons and potholes,
cuddly toys and
shopping mall Santas,
love and death and everything in between,
Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

is all of that.


Tales to Chill
Your Bones to
a collection of short stories and mini-plays
ranging from the horrific to the darkly humourous,
from the post-apocalyptic
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tales that will give you a chill and maybe a chuckle, all thought up by
the twisted mind of
screenwriter and film reviewer
Michael Haberfelner.


Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

the new anthology by
Michael Haberfelner


Out now from




On the same day
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and your Ex wants
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... and for the life of it,
you can't decide


A Killer Conversation

produced by and starring
Melanie Denholme
directed by
David V.G. Davies
written by
Michael Haberfelner
Ryan Hunter and
Rudy Barrow

out now on DVD