Arpa International Film Festival Team
Our 2017 Arpa International Film Festival Team consists of a youthful and experienced group of professionals from wide cross section of the film industry. Their ideas and mutual creative force are what drives the festival’s production and programming, in order to give both the filmmakers and the audience the best festival experience possible.
SYLVIA MINASSIAN, Festival Founder
Sylvia Minassian started annual Arpa International Film Festival in 1997, with a mission to create a dynamic forum for international and local filmmakers who explore such issues as diaspora, war, genocide, dual-identity, exile and multiculturalism. Minassian believes that a festival is first and foremost a product of its participants. She takes great pride in representing AFFMA, a non-profit art foundation whose sole purpose is to recognize the diverse tapestry of international talent and presenting their creative work to an appreciative audience. Each year, the festival looks forward to screen an exceptional program of films from many different countries, taking great pride in the works of all of the filmmakers who, in their brilliant visions, have created their own distinctive place in the Global Film Community.
MICHAEL ASHJIAN, Festival Director
Michael Ashjian is an entertainment attorney at William Morris Endeavor Entertainment (WME) in Beverly Hills. His practice focuses on entertainment and intellectual property transactions for both production companies and talent. He has worked at companies like Universal Pictures, Starz Entertainment, WME & Ramo Law. He’s also written several articles related to the trends in the entertainment industry. Michael graduated from Southwestern Law School, and holds a history degree from UCLA with a minor in Film, TV, and Digital Studies.
HAIG BOYADJIAN, Festival and Gala Awards Banquet Producer
Haig Boyadjian is dynamic professional specializing in public relations, marketing, communications and development. He led the social impact outreach for the film The Promise and is currently working on publicity campaigns for several films. Haig has served as Senior Director of Communications and Development for the American University of Armenia (AUA), and oversaw marketing and development for the New York-based nonprofit organization – Children of Armenia Fund (COAF). He was head publicist to iconic entertainer Ed McMahon and has also worked for Universal Pictures Home Entertainment while completing the Entertainment Public Relations program at UCLA Extension. He holds a bachelor’s degree in International Relations from UCSD.
MARAL KAZAZIAN, Marketing
Maral Kazazian is one of the first members of AFFMA. She holds a degree in chemistry, but her passion for films takes her around globally, and along with her husband they have become serious students of cinema. Maral’s deep interest in photography allows her to connect deeper with people and the many avenues they encounter along the way, she reviews films and invites online audience to engage in creative dialogue on international and independent films.
SONIA KESHISHIAN, Jury Liaison
Sonia Keshishian holds a master degree in Dramatic Arts from the CSU in LA. While attending the Theater of Arts, Sonia was one of 40 students selected for the prestigious UCLA summer workshop theatre where she was singled out by the Los Angeles Times, Variety and the Hollywood Reporter for her work. She has acted opposite such acting giants like Ruth Warrick, James Whitmore, Betty Field, and Walter Abel in several theatre productions. Sonia has been a board member of AFFMA since its inception serving as jury liaison where experienced industry professionals pave the way for these talented filmmakers into perfecting their craft.
SHARON SWAINSON, Communications & Development Director
Sharon Swainson is a dynamic professional of many talents. As founder and president of Change Agents LLC, she helps businesses with a variety of communications needs. A project of Change Agents is MySupportPal.com, where she leads a team of experienced coaches who empower people to solve work-life challenges. Further, her passion for the film industry is aligned with her belief that art can be a change agent for the betterment of humanity. Sharon is “thrilled to be connected with Arpa and its progressive film festival.”
GREGOR ZUPANC, Artistic Director of Programming
Gregor Zupanc is an award winning film & TV director and producer. He is the creator of several short films and documentaries, as well as the two TV Shows picked up by the largest TV Network in the entire Balkans, Serbian Public Television (RTS). Gregor is currently in production of several different web shows for YouTube and he’s also in the middle of developing a script for his first feature film in the USA. He adds: “My vision for Arpa International Film Festival is to create a vibrant Hollywood melting pot for brave international filmmakers, innovative voices and socially engaged movies that have visual power to awaken pure and unforgettable theatrical experience“.
MICHAEL ALOYAN, Programmer
Michael Aloyan was born in Hollywood, CA. Enthralled with films and storytelling, he started making animated films with his father’s Hi-8 camera at the age of eight, eventually shifting to live-action filmmaking. He has written and directed multiple short films, including “Subhuman (Untermensch)”, which won the Best Short Film award at last year’s Arpa Film Festival. Aloyan recently penned “String”, a pilot that Fox Television Studios is developing. He is also currently casting his screenplay, “Forget Me Not”, set to star Nia Vardalos (My Big Fat Greek Wedding), making his feature film directorial debut.
VANESSA TURCHAN, Filmmaker Liaison
Vanessa Turchan is an LMU graduate with a BA in Communication Studies and a Minor in Business Administration/Marketing. She has been a member of the Arpa Film Festival Executive Committee since 2013. Primarily she is the filmmaker liaison and handles all correspondence for the festival. Her experience at companies like NBC Universal and C Publishing has prepared her for the entertainment business, therefore bringing insight to the Arpa Film Festival.
JACQUELINE DER-MESROPIAN, Community Liaison
Jacqueline Der-Mesropian, an Art History major from the Richmond University in London. Her strong interest in the arts got her involved in the Arpa Foundation for Film, Music and Art (AFFMA) since 2004. As a Member of the Board and a Community Liaison, Jacqueline has been working with AFFMA and its signature event Arpa International Film Festival for the past 10 years.
TALIA TANIELIAN, Associate Producer
Talia Tanielian is a USC graduate with a BA in Psychology and a Minor in Business Administration. She is currently pursuing a Juris Doctorate from USC’s Gould School of Law. Because of her background in the entertainment industry and public relations, she brings her expertise to Arpa International Film Festival from production to presentation. Talia has climbed the ranks of Arpa from Intern to Associate Producer in just a few short years.
DON HANNAH, Photographer
Don Q. Hannah is Vice President, Creative Services at Film Solutions LLC, and founder/principal artist at Parallusion Media Group. Don is a member of the executive committee for AFFMA since 2004 and serves as the official photographer for Arpa International film festival.
LORENA DILANIAN, Social Media Manager
Lorena Dilanian grew up in Los Angeles where she spent the majority of her childhood and adolescent years studying theater. It was during these years spent in the performing and production aspects that she developed an immense appreciation for art as a means of storytelling. Currently, she is studying Psychology and Film & Media Studies at the University of California, Irvine. She is fascinated by the way a film can open one’s mind, showing viewers realities that they may have never known and telling stories that can inspire and awaken.