Frequently Asked Questions
The purpose of our film is to preserve and present the legacy of William Saroyan and to create the spirit of brotherhood and understanding among all nations.
The film premiered on April 13, 1991 at the William Saroyan Theatre in Fresno, California. The running time is 65 minutes. The documentary was originally shot on 16 mm Film, however for projection purposes it is on DVD format, in the English Language, with or without Armenian subtitles. Narrated by William Saroyan and Mike Connors, Music by Paul Nazlikian, Graphic Design by Sarkis Muradyan, Written and Directed by Paul Kalinian and Produced by Dr. Susie Kalinian. Please refer to Synopsis section of our website.
Not yet. Since 1991 various organizations around the world have been benefiting by showing our film for their fundraising purposes as well as familiarizing the life and works of William Saroyan to their communities, and we have been more than happy to personally show the film at their events. Once the film is available for purchase, then we will not be able to show it as a fundraiser and donate all the proceeds to the sponsoring organizations. Eventually we would like to make the film available to schools, libraries and the general public, if we can find a reputable distributor.
No, we have never charged to show our film. In fact we created the film as a labor of love through our own resources, volunteers and private donors. In some instances during film showing events, we have even subsidized our own expenses.
Yes, there are many schools and nonprofit organizations that would like to show our film for their educational and fundraising purposes but cannot afford to organize an event and need your public support. We have several Thank You Gifts available for your donation. Please refer to Donation/Order section of our website.
The documentary has received 6 International Film Festival Awards, including the Gold Award for Best Documentary Film from the Philadelphia International Film Festival, as well as special recognition for the Film’s Music Score by Paul Nazlikian and Script Writing by the Kalinians. Please refer to Awards section of our website.
Since 1991, the film has been shown multiple times in 60 cities in 16 countries around the world. Having been seen by more than 1 million people, the film continues to draw interest and inspire new generations of fans for William Saroyan, The Man, The Writer. Please refer to Film Tour section of our website for more information.
It has been an amazing experience. Saroyan has such an international following; his books have been translated in over 24 languages and have sold millions of copies. With his universal themes of brotherhood and tolerance, he bridges people of all cultures together. More recognized and appreciated around the world, than in his hometown of Fresno, he continues to inspire new generations of writers and brings people of all walks of life together. We recall after a film showing in Italy, a little old lady approached us and said, “I am Italian, I don’t speak English, I don’t even speak much Italian, but I understood your film completely!” When we first arrived in Turkey, a country known for perpetrating Genocide against the Armenians, we were a bit hesitant at what might happen to us. With our considerable 5 luggage in tow at the Istanbul Airport, we saw hundreds of people in line with open luggage and mayhem. Upon telling security we were there to show our documentary film on William Saroyan, we were saluted and amazed to immediately go through customs untouched. We were impressed by their warm hospitality throughout our trip, even the Turkish journalists; it was beyond our expectations. We later learned they considered William Saroyan to be one of their own, since his parents had been born in Bitlis, and 7 of Saroyans books had been translated into the Turkish language. We were also impressed after a film showing in Haifa, when a rabbi in the audience spontaneously came up to the podium with us and began talking about his friendship with Saroyan, after we had been invited by the Cinematheque Cultural Committee of Israel to show our film in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. For more information, please refer to Film Tour section of our website.
Yes, there have been hundreds of reviews and articles written about the film, mostly in English and in Armenian. We have had numerous interviews after film show events and also several radio and TV interviews in Fresno and Los Angeles, CA, Sydney, Australia, and Marceille, France. Please refer to Newspaper Articles section of our website.
First we used black and white, high grain film, to give an ‘old film effect,’ and many volunteers! We were very meticulous in recreating the scenes that were described by Saroyan’s narrative. For example, after many months of research, we finally found our Steam Train located in a Railroad Museum in a small remote town in Portola, Ca. The committee of the museum graciously offered our pick of their trains and volunteered their time and engineers for 2 days of shooting. We drove nearly 25 miles north of town to find their only Black man, to play the memorable train scene from Saroyan’s “The Human Comedy.” Please refer to Newspaper Articles, English, June 13, 1990 section of our website. The other end of that ‘waving train scene’ was filmed 328 miles south, in Fresno, CA, after searching through hundreds of children in several elementary schools, to find the perfect 7 year old ‘Ulysees.’ We especially enjoyed recreated scenes from Saroyan’s childhood. One of the best compliments we’ve received by audience members have been, ‘Where did you dig up that old film footage of Saroyan’ or ‘How old were you when you filmed Saroyan as a child?’ For which we enthusiastically reply, ‘over a hundred!’ Please refer to Film Trailer.
Absolutely, although Saroyan and I were both not aware at the time that I would later make a film about his life, he would tell me during our many conversations together how much he appreciated listening to the recorded voice of famous individuals and learning about their life and works. And so I was thrilled to come across some of his own recordings of his voice, after his death in 1981, for which the film was fashioned around, during our 8 years of film research.
Yes, it would have been much easier to make the film had we known we were going to do so when Saroyan was alive. After his death, it took many months to receive permission from various sources to have full access to all of Saroyan’s archives. Another challenge was the amount of material we amassed during our 8 years of research. We had several hours of footage we had to edit to one hour, due to time constraints and funding limitations.
One of the reasons I came to live in Fresno, was to photograph William Saroyan. After many unsuccessful attempts and 12 years of failure, I finally met him on March 26, 1976, through my good friend, sculptor and artist, Varaz Samuelian, without whom I would not have been able to meet and photograph William Saroyan. Please refer to “How I Shot Saroyan” section of our website.
On March 26, 1976, I took a series of characteristic portraits of Saroyan, one of which was selected by the USA/USSR Postal Services for their Commemorative Postal Stamps, jointly issued on May 22, 1991 in Fresno, Californian and in Yerevan, Armenia. Two years prior to the official unveiling, I was secretly notified by the Postmaster General in Washington DC, of their intent to create a Saroyan stamp 10 years after his death, their request to review my series of photographs, and the honor of having my photograph selected out of 400 submissions, for their postal stamp. They also requested my permission for the USSR Stamp and swore me to secrecy on both accounts, until the international official unveiling. It was the first time in the history of both nations that an individual was jointly honored on a postal stamp, and that individual was William Saroyan. Please refer to USA/USSR Saroyan Stamp section of our website.
The day Saroyan died in Fresno, CA on May 18, 1981, the local newspaper published a special tribute to him, including several of my Saroyan portraits. Since he shied away from photographers people were interested in my meeting and “How I Shot Saroyan.” I made a 10 minute slide show which I presented locally, as the demand increased, I added music, Fresno scenes and Saroyan’s voice. Soon I was lecturing at libraries and universities. At one such university in Chicago in 1987, an enthusiastic audience member offered to be my first contributor if I would put Saroyan’s work on film. I wrote a new script and with the support of my wife Araxie Kalinian, my son Harold Kalinian, the film’s Technical Engineer, and my daughter Dr. Susie Kalinian, the film’s Producer, we made the documentary film and named it, William Saroyan: The Man, The Writer. That presentation in Chicago inspired me to make the film and to portray Saroyan through film, as I saw him, as one of the great writers of our time. Please refer to Making of the Film section of our website.
I was always a big fan of Mike Connors of Mannix fame, and felt he had the perfect narrative voice. I sent him a letter and I was surprised and excited when he personally called me 2 days later at my photography studio in Fresno, agreeing to be my film narrator. It turns out Mike’s parents were also from Saroyan’s ancestral Bitlis and they grew up in Fresno together as neighbors on the same street. As a fan of William Saroyan, Mike was pleased to narrate the film and donate his time.
As a young boy growing up in Beirut, Lebanon, I read his books and was impressed by the simplicity of his stories, his characters and his themes of brotherhood and humanity. Saroyan spoke for Armenians to the world. He gave international recognition to his people at a time when they remained dispersed and continued to meet with prejudice and outright hatred. Through his work, he brought more public understanding to the culture and the quality of the Armenian people than any other person in Armenian history. By international standards, Saroyan is the most famous literary figure produced by his ancient people. Yet he is also thoroughly American, in his writings, character and being. I wanted to show that dual cultural heritage, and how that inspired him to become one of the great writers of our time.