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Tony Zarindast (born 1934 as "Mohammad Zarrindast" in Tabriz, Iran) is an Iranian-born producer of such low-budget fare as Death Flash and Hardcase and Fist and he says the task of selling violent action movies abroad has never been more difficult. Zarindast, whose movies often wind up going straight to video rather that debuting at the local megaplex, is a small part of a huge U.S. independent film market that in fiscal 1998 accounted for nearly $2.3 billion in theatrical, video and television sales abroad. To stay competitive, Zarindast often shoots his movies at breakneck speed, filming a scene only once before going on to the next. When he isn't scouring the planet for financing from banks and private investors to bankroll his movies, he's writing, directing, editing and even acting in them, too. Yet, Zarindast notes, censorship in some countries makes it difficult for small independents to market their action films. Big studio movies and stars get all the breaks, he claims.
Zarindast grew up watching Hollywood movies and television shows in a remote corner of Iran, and dreamed of one day making films with some of the actors he enjoyed seeing on the tube as a boy. Tony finally got that chance in 1980, when he released The Guns and the Fury, a film about two Texans who discover oil in the Mideast. The film was shot primarily in Cairo and starred Peter Graves of TV's "Mission: Impossible." "Peter Graves to me was bigger than God," Zarindast recalls. "So, when I grew up to be a filmmaker, I said, 'I'm going to cast Peter Graves,' and I took him to Cairo with Cameron Mitchell, Michael Ansara and Albert Salmi. These are legends. . . . The picture opened in Texas to great reviews."
Tony owns a condo in Northridge, where he spends endless hours hunched over an old editing machine he bought at a bankruptcy sale, Tony Zarindast puts the finishing touches on feature-length action, horror and adventure films that he then sells throughout the world.The walls of Tony's editing room are lined with memories--old movie posters for films he made like Death Flash ("Jean-Claude Van Damme turned down the role") and Hardcase and Fist ("It was shot in the old Folsom Prison using 300 to 400 inmates"). One of Zarindast's more successful films was Experiment 904's Werewolf, which he made for a pittance--$350,000. The 1998 film has already sold 40,000 units at video stores throughout the United States, for close to $1.5 million in revenue, and the foreign rights have been sold for another $1 million, he says. In the film, Zarindast portrays a security guard who is injected with the blood of a werewolf. "I become a werewolf!" Zarindast says in his best salesman-like voice. "I smash my car into oil wells and blow myself up! That film has sold all over the world!"