Iranian-born & Bay Area film director, screenwriter and film producer , Kamshad Kooshan, immigrated to the United States at the age of Sixteen. He has been involved with photography since the age of 12 and has had many exhibitions. Additionally he has directed full length plays in various San Francisco venues and has written and published many short stories, among them, Moonlit Garden, a collection of short stories published by Raha Press.
Since graduating from San Francisco State University and studying at American Conservatory of Theatre, Kamshad Kooshan has written and directed three short films, with the last one, The Last Illusion touring such venues as American Film Institute and UCLA Film & Television Archive. He has taught at the Graduate Motion Picture & Video department of Academy of Art University in San Francisco for four years. Surviving Paradise is his feature debut and the first American film by an Iranian-American filmmaker distributed in North America.
Kooshan was born in Tehran, to a middle class family. His father Abbas Kooshan, was deputy to the former Prime Minister, Mr.Ali Amini, while he was at the Ministry of Treasury. His Uncle, Dr. Esmail Kooshan, a Berlin educated film lover with a PHd, who brought professional filmmaking into Iran and established Mitra Film and later on Pars Film, the only movie studio with a back lot in Iran for years. As a director & producer, he was the major force in shaping the mass view of films in Iran. Kamshad Kooshan visited Pars Film Studios and attributes part of his love of films to those adventures at Pars Film Studios. While he was around 2 years old, however his father died and his mother “Noori Khanoom”, Aka “Soghra Noorol Sadat- Sadate Larijani, despite all obstacles decided to raise her 5 children, namely the 5 boys she had, by herself. Noori Khanoom was from a wealthy family and because her clerical father was one of the Military Judges, she was not used to doing work and had always been surrounded by domestic help and chauffeurs, but soon she learned to rely on herself in order to raise her family. In the early 1960s traditional Iran was not an easy place in dealing with single mothers, but Noori Khanoom persevered and made sure that the boys all received a decent education. Kooshan spent his childhood going through austere environment where money was short and parental supervision was minimal and that is where he was able to receive most of his education, namely from the street and friends. One of his main loves was Music. Even though he was completely immersed in memorizing all the songs he could hear and learned to play music by ear from early on, his mother’s adamant rejection of Music studies or any presence of instruments in the house, led him to abandon his passion for something less threatening to his studies at school. He picked up Photography while he was around 12 years old and continued on. As a 16 year old, he became heavily involved in the Iranian Revolution of 1979, but his mother forcefully decided to cut his presence in Iran short and send him abroad to United States, where he traveled alone to go to High School.
Career in the United States
Coming to the States, he quickly attended Skyline High School in Oakland, California, where such noted personalities as Tom Hank, had previously attended, while figuring the ins and out of life in America. Being raised as a middle class child in Iran, he had led to believe that he must study a science major in college, so after graduating from High School, he studied Mechanical Engineering at Holy Names University and Chico State University, but after studying for 3 years he realized that he did not know what he should study. He took three years off from university and went to work in the “Real World”. Even though his first passion was always Music, he knew that he was too old to become an established Musician, or an Orchestra Conductor. For a while he thought of studying Philosophy and then Law, but eventually he decided that the fate of the future was in the field of Computers. In 1986 he went back to San Francisco State University and studied Computer Science and received his Bachelors with high grades. Now that he had definitely decided what his occupation would be and then later on in 1990 landing a high paying job at Sybase Inc, he decided to concentrate on his Artistic life. Having set aside his musical passion, he decided to concentrate on a new way of expression. He had done photography since he was 12 years old. He now decided to go back into the dark room and spend many hours and days in the dark room to do experimentation with visual composition. In the next few years, he also started to concentrate on Literature, namely short stories and Novels. For a few years he read and read most of the canons of literature and most of the notable writers works. Having studied the ins and outs of writing short stories and Novels, he started to translate short stories from other languages into Persian. This included works by Italo Calvino and Jorge Luis Borges. He eventually started writing short stories and all through out 90’s, he wrote many short stories. In 1991 he went back to Iran to visit his family and in that trip, he showed a few of his short stories to renowned Iranian Poets and Critics, such as Ahmad Shamlou and Mohammad-Ali Sepanlou. Sepanlou, identified several characteristics in Kooshan’s short stories such as his visual way of writing and his strong similarities to watching a movie. He encouraged Kooshan to continue. Kooshan, upon return to the United States, decided that the logical next step would be to not only continue writing short stories and do photography, but allow these two fields to merge and lead him into film making. He started to concentrate his complete attention on watching films. For 2 years he watched most of the films of the History of Cinema, including the European films and Japanese films. At the same time he started to attend Film Arts Foundation, and independent film organization in San Francisco. He quickly learned the ins and outs of practical aspects of film making. As part of his work he made several short films which led him to go on a national tour in the United States as part of The International Tournee of Iranian Short Films which exhibited a program of short films that included Kooshans’ near feature “The Last Illusion” and went on to such noted venues as, American Film Institutes’ Kennedy Center in Washington DC, Harvard Film Archive, Seattle Art Museum and later to UCLA’s Film & Television Archive. Upon arrival from this national tour, he received an offer from Academy of Art University in San Francisco to teach Screenplay writing and “Aesthetic & Style” at Graduate Film Department. In addition he was a graduate student advisor on Master Thesis for many film students. Having received this offer, after 6 years he quit his job at Sybase Inc and officially changed his means of living from science to Arts. He was at the Academy for 3 years. During his time at the Academy of Art University, Kooshan attended many seminars and conferences on Independent Film Making, including a trip to Sundance Film Festival at Park City Utah and attendance at Independent Feature Project in New York City. He started to write the screenplay for Surviving Paradise, which went on to be selected as part of the 50 selected screenplays from more than 2000 screenplays submitted to Sundance Screenwriters Lab. Kooshan went on to make, Surviving Paradise, his feature film debut in 2000 which starred the Oscar nominated Iranian star, Shohreh Aghdashloo. It took him 3 years to complete this project, but as an independent film, he worked on all aspects of this film, from gathering the financing to its shoot in Los Angeles and later on its distribution. He started the editing in San Francisco and with the help of a good friend, he secured a Co-Production deal with the Italian Sound Designer and producer, Fillipo Bussi, allowing him to go to Italy in order to do the Sound Design on the film. After attending various International film festivals, including Cairo International Film Festival and Dehli Film Festival, Surviving Paradise premiered in Los Angeles and was in theaters for 3 months, making it the first English language Iranian film to be distributed in the United States. Surviving Paradise has been shown on many Television Stations around the world, including at prime time to more than 500 million people on India’s prime channel.
- In Search of Reality (aka Dar Jostejooye Vagheiyat), Writer/Director, 7 minutes, Video Documentary, 1993
- The Ring (aka Halghe), Writer/ Director, 8 minutes, Video, Narrative. (1995)
- The Last Illusion (aka Akharin Khiyaal), Writer/ Director, 47 minutes, 16mm, narrative. December 1994. Screenings at various venues such as: American Film Institute’s Kennedy Center in Washington DC, Harvard Film Archive, Berkeley’s Pacific Film Archive, Vancouver’s Pacific Cinematheque.
- Butterfly (aka Shaparak Khanoom), Director, Feature, Multi-Betacam, Teleplay. 1999
- No Comment” (Bedoone Sharh), Writer/Director, Video, 2002–2005
- Surviving Paradise (aka Raaze Behesht), Wrtier/Director/Co-Producer, 2000, Feature, 35mm, Adventure/Drama. Released Theatrically in the United States. Participated at such film festivals as, NY Film Festival, Cairo International Film Festival, International Film Festival of India. Broadcasted by many TV stations around the world. Scripts chosen by Sundance Film Festival
- The Lonely Woman (aka Zane Tanha), Co-Director. A full length play by Dario Fo, (S.F, CA 1994).
- Waves (aka Moj), Co-Director. A full-length play showcased in 1994 at the Exit Theater (S.F, CA).
- Operation No Penetration! (aka Dokhool Mamnoo), Co-Producer, Golden Thread Productions, Next Stage Theater, 1997 (S.F, CA)
- Behind Glass Windows (aka Poshte Panjereye Shisheyi), Co-Producer, Adeline Street Theater, 1998 (Berkeley, CA)
- Nestle , 2004
- To Foot (aka Be Paa), Photography Exhibition, Arya Gallery, 2002, Tehran, Iran.
- Talk of The Town (aka Goftegoo Dar Shahr), Editor. A monthly Persian Arts magazine (Bay Area, 1988–1991).
- Moonlit Garden (aka Baghe Mahtabi), . A collection of short stories in Persian. (Raha Publishing 1999)