Award-winning actor-writer Zachary Laoutides was named Mogul’s Next Generation of Hollywood’s Rising Stars for 2019. Born in Chicago, Laoutides and Mexican-actress Mónica Esmeralda León formed the first Latino film studio Ave Fenix Pictures in Chicago and the Midwest. They are also founders of the cinematic approach today coined as La Raza filmmaking. We chatted with him about making movies through his studio Ave Fenix Pictures.
Thank you for taking the time to speak with us today. Congratulations on all your achievements to date. You were born in Chicago. Can you tell us a little about life for you there?
Thank you for reaching out. My life in Chicago is on pause, like everyone’s, it’s a little different, but you make the best of your situation. It’s a good time for an artist to do what they do … it’s given me the ability to write again and research.
Was it always a dream to work in the entertainment industry for you?
It started as a goal, and then the goal became a full-time job and I was like what did I get myself into (laugh) … I always wanted to be in an epic film as a youth, something historic – I was a big fan of Gladiator growing up – it would incredible to reenact the ancient cultures. The set designs and costumes would be like stepping back in time … That hasn’t happened yet, but it’s on my checklist of things to do.
Forming the first Latino film studio in Chicago must have been interesting. Tell us how that happened.
We never intended to be the first or even knew that we were until the media pointed it out. By default, we working with the people we were around. We turned our homes and our streets into the movie set. We recognized the entire project (our first film Adios Vaya Con Dios) was a long shot, but I believed in everyone, their stories, our experiences – I believed there was an audience for that.
Your studio, Ave Fenix Pictures, you co-founded with Mexican-actress Mónica Esmeralda León has a unique name. Can you explain the reasoning behind it?
It’s from Greek mythology, the Phoenix rising from the ashes, being reborn. We felt that our first film Adios Vaya Con Dios embodied that spirit. We were going to rise from the streets with our voices and art. Even if we got knocked down, we were going to keep getting back up. It’s actually exactly what occurred and we just kept on getting more and more inspired.
Do you have a specific preference of the genre or types of projects you want to spearhead with the studio?
I like drama and I like thrillers; those aspects are instinctively what I enjoy writing about. I think if we had the opportunity to do something with an enormous budget, I’d go the historical route. I believe a lot of the revolutionary figures in our history still have the chance to be reenacted or done again, Moses, Che Guevara, Zapata …
One of your highly successful movies is the crime-thriller ‘Adios Vaya Con Dios’. Can you tell us about that project and what made it so successful do you think?
Our entire La Raza concept, the people, the community, the neighborhood being labeled as the director hasn’t really been done before. It was unique that a neighborhood, a barrio made a movie. Churches have done it, but to have an entire community come together, all pieces of it, the good guys and bad guys so-to-speak was rare.
Another highlight, so far, is the film festival favorite ‘Black Ruby’. Can you explain the project and your involvement?
We used La Raza style again; we knew it was going to be the last film that we would create like that. It was less urban and more dramatic. We filmed a lot of it with the iPhone 7, it was actually the first feature to be shot with it. It’s a bittersweet project because the film was supposed to be black white, but it had to be distributed in color. So, it’s a bit hard for me to watch it that way.
What’s next for you?
The community and street performing is where I’m from, it was pretty amazing to see that transcend into Hollywood and mainstream. The next films will be bigger, but we’re still keeping our roots, we’re finding a much larger audience and that’s a good thing because we have a lot to say.
Please tell us how we can find you … .
You can check me out on Facebook and Instagram: