Filmmaker Sam Logan Khalegi also stars in his film, “Approaching Midnight.”
CLEARWATER – Although San Logan Khaleghi spends much of his time in Detroit and Los Angeles, the time he appreciates the most is spent visiting Clearwater.
Khaleghi, 29, makes movies. It is something he has wanted to do since he was a teenager and his latest, “Approaching Midnight,” debuted at the Cobb Cinemas at the Countryside Mall on Friday, Sept. 20. Although he couldn’t be here for the opening, he did appear on the big screen via a Skype hookup and talked to those at the movies about it and his time in Clearwater.
In an earlier interview, he talked about his father who has lived in Clearwater for the past several years and his many visits because of it.
“I pretty much come down there every summer and help my Dad with his youth soccer league,” he said. “He helps disadvantaged youth with an after school program and helps build team spirit teaching soccer skills. He brings fun and joy into the lives of kids.”
“Approaching Midnight” is a movie about a young Army sergeant who returns to his small town after fighting in Afghanistan and losing his best friend in a firefight. He has to face his friend’s grieving wife who blames him for the death, and he discovers that his former girlfriend was killed in a suspicious car accident.
Khaleghi, who not only stars in the movie but is also the producer and director, said making the picture was a labor of love for him.
“I’ve surrounded myself with a great crew and team behind the lens,” he said. “So when I’m acting, I can concentrate on that. Everyone is there because they want to be here, everyone wants to do their best job.”
He said a movie with a million-dollar budget is quite different than one with a $300 million dollar budget. But it has its advantages.
“With a big studio, it is different; things that happen aren’t always the director’s choice, but I have complete creative control here,” he said.
A plus for making a movie that has such a heavy military presence was something that Khaleghi says was something that he’ll never forget.
“We launched the world premiere in Michigan where the movie was shot, and it was a fundraiser for the American Legion,” he said. “Most of the soldiers in the movie were actually veterans of recent conflicts. So if it looked like they knew what they were doing, how they were standing, how they held their weapons, it was because those guys are real. That was very important for me. I’m a very patriotic person. They are real heroes. We made sure we had an authentic flavor to the film. They are real.”
Getting those veterans to act in the film was something Khaleghi’s father, Jay, says is a gift his son has – a gift of great communication.
“Considering how young he is, especially as a young, new director, I’m happy and proud of him, even though I might be biased,” Jay said. “He puts in a tremendous effort to get the move done and I’m amazed with the communication with the staff and people he gets involved with. He always gets what he needs to make it happen. He has just amazing communication skills and he is doing a great job in that area.”
The elder Khaleghi, 55, has lived in the Cove Cay condos in Clearwater off U.S. 19 since 2006. He has been teaching in Clearwater for the past 8 years, and since 2010 has been teaching mathematics at St. Petersburg College.
His son began visiting him since he moved to the city.
“He visits me or I visit him,” he said. “He loves it in Florida, and who wouldn’t enjoy the beautiful weather we have here.”
That his son ended up making movies was not a surprise to his Dad. He remembers Sam wanting to make movies as a young teenager.
“He was 14 or 15 and had a lot of interest in making movies,” he said. “He was always involved in theater when he was going to school in Michigan, and then he got serious about movies. He bought a small camera and began shooting things at home. That was the beginning of it.”
The younger Khaleghi remembers it much the same way.
“I was making Super 8 films, fake commercials. I love telling stories. I didn’t go to film school but did communications as my undergraduate degree and got a masters in marketing. It is important to have an understanding of marketing. After all, film is now a global business”
His marketing background, he says, has allowed him to appreciate what is happening with his latest film, “Approaching Midnight,” that didn’t happen with the first film he directed.
“This film is being distributed by Monterey Media,” he said. “This gets us plenty of media exposure. This is all new to me, I’m excited and I’m enjoying it. I’m glad we’re reaching a bigger audience.”
As for the future, Khaleghi says he intends to keep making movies, even though it is hard work to be successful.
“I’m trying. Sometimes people will see me and recognize me and that is satisfying. We’re hustling every day. You have to; and to keep making a good product.”
Khaleghi didn’t hesitate when asked how he would like to be thought of as he continues to make movies.
“I’d like it, if in ten years, somebody says, hey, there’s a Sam Khaleghi movie, let’s go check it out.”
No matter what else happens, he says he’ll continue to visit Clearwater on a regular basis, and bring friends with him.
“My friends all want to vacation in Clearwater. They love the sand and the beaches,” he said. “Some of my guests want to go to the sponge docks in Tarpon Springs. That is something that is unique, all those little things. As for me, it’s like coming home.”
“Approaching Midnight” is playing at the Cobb Theater in Countryside and Tampa. It is scheduled to run through Oct. 4, but it could be held over if the response warrants it.