Interview with Filmmaker Hiag Avsharian (PULLING THE GOALIE)

Directed by Hiag Avsharian
“Avsharian has cleverly framed his film about male infertility from a conventionally male perspective using hockey as a metaphor to provide both context and levity. Sport provides an immediate connection to an uncomfortable and embarrassing topic with both situations and language that are laughingly familiar to both men and women. As an entry into the increasingly complex and demoralizing process of the infertility treadmill about which men frequently feel baffled and disengaged, Avsharian uses that parallel to create a deeply personal and compelling narrative.

Get to know the filmmaker:

1. What motivated you to make this film?

Short answer:

Reason 1: To make the greatest impact towards infertility awareness and advocacy. If this film could help in any small way to make infertility treatments more accessible via expanded health insurance coverage, that would be truly amazing.

Reason 2: To not live with regret for not making this film! I had a unique window of opportunity due to a big career transition and if I didn’t commit to making this film when I did, it may never have happened.

Long answer:

I have been writing this screenplay on and off again after the birth of our first child Megan (with the help of infertility treatments), in 2009. As emotionally difficult as our infertility journey was at times, I became aware of how much more difficult the journey had been for others (e.g. multiple miscarriages). I also learned that infertility is relatively common and on the increase as couples wait until later in life to get pregnant while at the same time nearly all pop culture gives us the sense that it is easy to get pregnant. Furthermore, stories are almost always about men resisting their wives’/girlfriend’s desire to start a family, which works for drama and comedy but greatly misrepresents men, and especially men going through infertility. Lastly, and importantly, infertility treatments are expensive and insurance coverage varies widely based on where you happen to live. Thankfully we could afford the level of treatment we needed, but I thought it would be a social injustice if a couple couldn’t have a child because they couldn’t afford treatments. All in all, I felt like this was a story that I needed to at least try and tell once it had rooted itself in my head.

2. From the idea to the finished product, how long did it take for you to make this film?

13 years!

3. How would you describe your film in two words!?

Trojan Horse. The film hopes to engage a wide audience with an approachable sports theme, hockey, and engage an audience with lighthearted fun humor, but then slowly transition them to a very serious topic. By the end, what started like a light-hearted romantic comedy ends up being not only a drama, but an educational film for infertility advocacy and awareness.

4. What was the biggest obstacle you faced in completing this film?

For years it was just writing it. Raising kids, building a career, and just general procrastination kept it on the back burner. But here is what I call my 5 point plan for making a film:
Go Through Pain & Suffering
Be Unemployed (career transition still in process)
Schedule A Global Pandemic
Get Lucky (financial means)
Burn the Ships: Commit

5. What were your initial reactions when watching the audience talking about your film in the feedback video?

It was thrilling! I really couldn’t believe it. To hear these sincere, articulate, complete strangers saying the name of my movie was crazy cool. I loved that it was all just super positive. I know constructive feedback can include critiques, but just getting all positive was such a wonderful experience.

Watch the Audience Feedback Video:

6. When did you realize that you wanted to make films?

I told myself that if I didn’t finish writing the screenplay I’d regret it forever.
But once I finished the screenplay, I felt that if I didn’t at least film something I’d regret it forever. From there it sort of snowballed until I hit a point of no return to decide to green light the film with my Producer and I decided to go forward. By then it was a short film and I had a very special window of opportunity and decided to commit to this crazy venture.

7. What film have you seen the most in your life?

Probably the original Star Wars. I was 6 when it came out and the entire Star Wars franchise is deep in my bones.

8. What other elements of the festival experience can we and other festivals implement to satisfy you and help you further your filmmaking career?

Filmmaker forum/feedback on how best to monetize an independent short film to share best practices with real-world examples of what worked, didn’t work, etc.

9. You submitted to the festival via FilmFreeway. How has your experiences been working on the festival platform site?

Excellent. Super easy to use on a laptop or mobile device.

10. What is your favorite meal?

Toss up between a fresh falafel plate and, since I rarely have it, a nice steak with a glass of red wine.

11. What is next for you? A new film?

I’m opening a franchise swim school in Spring 2023 called Big Blue Swim School – that is my real “job”. As for film, my dream would be that PULLING THE GOALIE catches the eye of someone who wants to make it into a feature film. Making a feature film would not only help with infertility awareness and advocacy, but sounds like a lot of fun.


By matthewtoffolo

Filmmaker and sports fan. CEO of the WILDsound Film and Writing Festival

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