Bizzay turns heads in Alaska film industry

It all started with a cheap camera and a love of film and television.

“I got started in film when I was about ten years old. I had just moved to Alaska, I made a friend on the first day and we bought a cheap ten dollar camera,” Zayn Roohi said. ” We thought we were movies stars.”

Roohi is a senior mechanical engineering student at UAF, works as a marketing photographer and cinematographer for the university. He is one of the co-founders of the Anchorage based production company Bizzay, along with Norberto Dejesús Jr., Sebastian Baquero, Traejen Scott, and Arslan Malik. The fledgling production company received a business licence and opened their doors in November 2016, but have been making content since 2008.

“A bunch of people got involved, and we got to high school and film was just something we sort of did on the side, but it was never really a career,” Roohi said. “I was always a science and engineering guy, like that’s what I wanted to do.”

Roohi recounts that during his high school years, he and his friends would produce videos for their school and promotional videos for clubs and teams.

” We got a bunch of big gigs, well not big gigs, we did videos for the school and an international violinist, but nothing super big,” he said.

After being excepted to New York University’s film school, Roohi decided that the $70,000 a year price tag was too much to spend on a degree, as a result he began pursuing a film degree at UAF. He was quickly disappointed in the faults he saw in the film industry.

” A month into the program I felt like there was just something wrong with the film industry now a days, you can see it in the film schools, you can see it on big sets,” Roohi said. ” It’s a really pretentious industry, no one likes helping each other out, so I was like, I don’t want to get a degree in this, I don’t want to be involved in this.”

After that experience Roohi decided to switch to mechanical engineering and he and his friends took a long break from making films and shorts. The dream of making films had taken a back burner to Roohi and his cohorts, and they focused on their college careers, until recently.

“It wasn’t really till last summer that we kinda got serious, we had some big films, we had some big premiers in Anchorage, actually in theaters.” Roohi said. “Our first premier was three short films, one was called ‘Easy Money,’ one was ‘Tragedy,’ and the third one was called ‘Rouge Money.’ It was a trilogy of short films.”

Bizzay debuted their first feature film, “Chance,” on June 30, 2017 at the Alaska Experience theater in Anchorage. The film is about the causes of homelessness and the impact it has on peoples lives. Staff from Upper One Studios, another Alaska based production company, were impressed by the college students’ film and entered into a partnership with Bizzay to help finish and produce “Chance.”

Currently, Bizzay and Upper One Studios, are collaborating on a new project called “Probation,” a comedy written by Rick Mallars and Tom Karpow of Upper One Studios. “Probation” follows the life of Devon Marshall, a burned out prosecuting attorney turned probation officer. Auditions for the project were held in July, and were part of an open casting call for actors around the state.

Full films and clips of these and other projects can be found at bizzaymedia.com, and upperonestudiosinc.com.

Matt Mertes

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