Recently, the vice-chairman of the Eurasian Creative Guild, Marat Akhmedjanov, returned from a tour of North America. He visited nine cities and held more than 60 meetings, thanks to which many new members joined the ECG; but, that is just the start, as many new opportunities and ideas have followed. OCA finds out more about what promises to be the start of an expanded relationship with global creative folk.
OCA: Marat, tell us, in what status and why did you go to America?
Marat Akhmedjanov: The trip to America took place in my capacity as vice-chairman of the Eurasian Creative Guild and a member of PEN Central Asia (International Union of Writers). This is a large and important country where, according to different sources, at least 20 million people from post-Soviet countries live. There are many Russian-speaking people, including participants at our Literary Festival. Proceeding from the fact that we saw interest and prospects in promoting creative initiatives of Central Eurasia, a tour was organized.
OCA: Which cities did you visit during the trip? Who did you meet?
MA: I visited Toronto in Canada, New York, Washington, Los Angeles and San Francisco – in the United States. I was on tour for three and a half weeks and during this time I had about 60 meetings, including with current or new members of the Eurasian Creative Guild. In New York, the meeting took place on Brighton Beach in Brooklyn. eleven people came – this was the first meeting of the Guild in the United States. It’s so great that these people had a desire to come to this meeting, and they took the time to listen to what the Eurasian guild does, how it can be useful, and why it’s important to be a part of this single cultural community. In Washington, seven people came. In addition to communicating with members of the Guild, there were a lot of meetings with politicians and foundations who also reacted positively to the ideas of the Eurasian Creative Guild. The largest and most successful meeting was held in Los Angeles – where 18 people attended. In addition, experts from Hollywood showed great interest, they want to know more about the Eurasian region, in particular, Central Asia. They are interested in joint projects, they are looking for creative talents from the region.
San Francisco, the leader of the Silk Road Foundation, Anita, was also interested in bringing bright, creative representatives from Eurasia to perform at Stanford University. Certain agreements on this issue have been reached. No less interesting, a meeting was held with creative representatives in Toronto in Canada. Eight people came, including Zaur Hasanov, the winner of our “The best film of 2015”. There they are also expecting that there will be more events related to Eurasia.
OCA: Tell us about the meeting in Los Angeles more. With whom were discussions held?
MA: At the meeting was the famous Hollywood producer Cyrus Yavnuk, who is a member of our Guild. He has made a lot of fantastic TV shows in the US. In addition, I also met an interesting actor, stuntman and animal trainer, Monty Cox, as well as the documentary producer and professor at the California School of Cinematography Amanda Pope. Separately, I met with the executive director of the American guild of cameramen, Tim Shaw. There were also young filmmakers and writers. The meetings were very active. For many in Los Angeles, we remain like a riddle as they know very little about us, but they want to know more. I think the meeting will have very great outcomes, not least because we discussed one of the Guild’s new projects.
OCA: Tell us, what’s the new project? When will it be implemented?
MA: We are going to hold a Eurasian Film Festival in Dacorum. Dacorum is the region of Great Britain, where leading film studios are concentrated, including the Warner Brothers. It was in Dacorum that they produced “Harry Potter”, “Robin Hood”, and “James Bond”. We want Guild members and their acquaintances to attract more representatives of Hollywood to the festival next year in the UK.
OCA: Have you reached all your planned goals by traveling to America?
MA: One of the goals and objectives of the trip was to meet with existing members of the Guild and attract new members. Before the trip, there were only ten members, after there were more than thirty. That is, the trip increased our membership three times. In addition, about 150-200 people learned about the Guild and its activities from attending the events. If I look at the statistics of my meetings, I visited one continent, two countries, nine cities and held more than sixty meetings. It was a very important trip. It showed me that on the other side of the Atlantic there is no less interest than in Europe. There, people also want to read writers, listen to music and watch movies from Eurasia. But in fact, this was not the only purpose of the trip.
OCA: Tell us about what else was discussed at your meetings? What agreements were made?
MA: We were looking for partners in America. It was important to make sure that there is a need for a Literary Festival in the United States. We negotiated for our festival to be held next year in New York and Washington – and they were very successful discussions. Today, the Eurasian competition unites four thousand creative people from all over the world and the Guild has more than 400 members. I think all these people would be interested to share their experiences and creativity with people in North America, given that there is one of the largest Eurasian communities in the world outside the former Soviet Union, about 20 million people. Our partners in America are ready to provide sites for our writers. The Wilson Foundation offered potential assistance in the form of a grant to pay for the arrival of writers. The trip showed that there are prospects, and we will work to ensure that our festival next year is held in New York and Washington with the support of PEN America. And perhaps we will organize the arrival of writers in Los Angeles and San Francisco.
OCA: You plan to release a new magazine, tell us about this project?
MA: Indeed, we are planning to publish an American edition of the magazine OCA (Open Central Asia). A journal that describes not only Central Asia, but all of Eurasia. It will be a Eurasian mouthpiece for English-speaking readers. In England, we have published a magazine under this title since 2009 and it is hugely successful. Now, in 2018, we hope to launch it in the US. We have already responded to authors and potential readers who would like to participate in the creation of a new publication. The first issue is scheduled for the spring of 2018. Among the editors who will take part in the creation of the American edition are Professor Rafis Abazov of Columbia University and the head of the Friends of Nukus Museum, David Pearce.
I would also like to note that from the fall of this year, we are planning to hold presentations of our authors in the United States. The first author, whom we will represent to the American public is the Tajik writer, Gulsifat Shahidi. The presentation of her work will be held in New York and Washington.
Next ECG North Ameriacan tour planned for July 2018, please follow us Facebook page for updates and notices!