Tedi Sarafian: From Terminator Screenwriter to Altergeist Director

Tedi Sarafian
Tedi Sarafian

While trying to gain a foothold in Tinseltown, Tedi Sarafian wrote an original screenplay that attracted Hollywood star Arnold Schwarzenegger and director Jonathan Mostow.

The resulting feature film, Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, became the 3rd installment of Sony Pictures’ blockbuster Terminator franchise and established Tedi as a major Hollywood screenwriter.

His creative journey continued and now Tedi has made his directorial debut with the psychological thriller Altergeist.

As RMN Stars wanted to know more about Tedi’s strides in the entertainment business, he was invited for an exclusive interview with Rakesh Raman, the managing editor of RMN Stars.

Here’s the interview with Tedi Sarafian:

1. As you have decided to extend your role from a writer to a director with Altergeist your debut film as a director, are there some synergies between these two roles – screenwriter and director?

Absolutely. While screenwriting you enter into a deep creative space and follow the integrity of the characters that are almost magically emerging before you.

While directing you are still following the characters except now they are flesh and blood and communicating their intentions; and through this collaboration and synergy comes greatness. I love listening to my characters, whether imaginative or real. Through them the true story emerges.

2. What inspired you to choose horror genre for Altergeist because most horror movies hardly have any creative differentiation while they look alike?

The horror genre has always been a favorite of mine growing up and has sculpted my sensibilities throughout my career even though I have been asked to write sci-fi action mainly.

And the audience is a lot smarter than often Hollywood gives them credit. Altergeist is a sophisticated horror film and I believe it plays perfectly for an audience that is ready to experience more intelligent films that live in their beloved genre.

3. What is the release schedule for Altergeist? Will it be released in theaters? If yes, what is the objective behind showing it at different film festivals?

4. As marketing is a big challenge for film companies, how do you plan to market the film? Have you earmarked some budget for marketing?

5. What will be the role of digital and social media in your film’s promotion and distribution?

6. Do you have any fiscal or non-fiscal targets for Altergeist?

Unfortunately, we are not able to comment on questions 3 through 6, as we are currently negotiating terms for distribution.

7. What message do you have for aspiring filmmakers who want to become directors?

Get a camera and do it! Don’t wait for anyone to like your art. It’s up to you to believe in your vision and follow it through! Make your movie starting now!

Tedi Sarafian’s (pictured above) training in film came early in life, from two legendary iconoclasts in the industry; his father, award winning screenwriter / director Richard C. Sarafian (Vanishing Point) and his uncle, Academy Award honored director, Robert Altman.

Growing up on set, he was given a rare inside education in all aspects of filmmaking and by his late teens, was working as an assistant editor. He took a hiatus from the family business to attend North Texas University, where he studied film and music, and to play guitar with a traveling R&B funk group, touring the country for 2 years.

Returning home, Tedi found he was able to draw from the wealth of his experiences and colorful people he met on the road and turned to writing screenplays.

His imaginative storylines were fast-paced with smart characters and his affinity for epic action sequences quickly got the attention of major studios. His first produced credit, Tank Girl, starring Lori Petti, became an underground cult film. He then went on to write and co-produce Roadflower (aka Road Killers) for Miramax.

Amidst a successful streak of high profile writing gigs and spec sales, Tedi wrote an original screenplay that attracted Arnold Schwarzenegger and director Jonathan Mostow. The resulting feature film, Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, became the 3rd installment of Sony Pictures’ blockbuster franchise, grossing $450m worldwide, and firmly established Tedi as a major Hollywood screenwriter.

Working on original screenplays and rewrites for top directors such as Ridley Scott, John Singleton, Gary Ross, Michael Bay and Sam Raimi, Tedi has several screenplays presently in development including, The 8th Voyage Of Sinbad for Sony and Arabian Nights based on a treatment by Sam Raimi, as well as 20th Century Fox’s Creature From The Black Lagoon.

Altergeist marks Tedi’s directorial debut. A psychological thriller starring Kristina Anapau (Black Swan), Altergeist is based on true events and filmed entirely on location in beautiful Northern California at the historic Korbel Champagne Cellars.

This interview was coordinated by John Negropontes, Producer, HeckArt Studios.

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