There couldn’t have been a more pleasant way to launch into Fall and to get to know this fascinating, native Fresnan Filmworks volunteer, than to have a morning coffee with Steve Ohanesian – surrounded by the much-loved garden that graces his beautifully restored, Tower District mission-style home – only a brief walk to the historic Tower Theater.
You seem a man of many talents. Can you give a summary of your career(s)?
My schooling is in architecture and engineering. When I got out of school, with an engineering degree from CSUF, there was no work in the construction industry. My father had been purchasing farmlands so I started out as a farm manager here in the Sanger area. When opportunities came along for design work, I was able to pick and choose the ones I really wanted to be involved with.
How did you become interested in design work?
As an infant, my father and mother pushed me in a stroller around the gorgeous areas of Van Ness and Brown where we lived in a house that still stands today. I grew up in these surroundings and I suppose that’s how architecture formed in my mind. I didn’t see fish in hooks, I didn’t see hunting birds or animals, or riding horses – I saw lovely homes, small and large with lovely, charming period landscapes.
My education gave me a tremendous advantage in the physical world. I went to work in a loosely-knit group of fourteen farms, knowing nothing about agriculture. The training of engineering, which is applied physics, gave me such an advantage to learn quickly about plant physiology, mechanized agriculture, fair workplace conditions – that, along with Latin language, I consider those strong factors in my ability to learn about developing a business and making lives easier for the working people.
Engineering provided me with the viewpoint as to the how and why of things; anything we perceive or encounter has components – and it has had an effect on how I look at conflict and things unknown.
Let’s talk about your love of, and interest in films and your involvement in Filmworks:
When I started the next book of my life in the Tower District, there were 16 reasons I’d written down and one of them was the Film Festivals. So that’s the beginning. I cannot possibly live all of the lives that interest me, and through film I’m able to vicariously live through the experience of others.
What film genre(s) are you drawn to?
I cannot subdivide any less than the range and depth of filmmaker’s mind and message and I’m very grateful that Filmworks brings such diversity through this media. I literally look forward to the film each month. I don’t deliberately look at film critically – I get swept up into the craft, the art.
What Filmworks’ screening really strikes you and why?
Each is so different from the rest. In recent memory I’ve enjoyed the set of three Spanish language films presenting the entrapment in people’s lives and how they can be so disconnected. What appealed to me was the variety of styles, yet the continuity – because of the single filmmaker, and the variety of cultures and socioeconomics and how people are insensitive sometimes, because they are living a role or a mask.
How about films outside of Filmworks – commercial or metro films?
I have a tradition of a seeing a blockbuster once a year with my kids but that’s about it. Filmworks has set such a high standard. I look for so much more from films because of what I’ve learned from Filmworks and Reel Pride, that I find commercial films not as nourishing.
What about volunteering at Fresno Filmworks?
I love being part of the institution that has so much helped me. I love meeting other volunteers, sometimes as varied as the film themselves. I love being in the Tower Theater building. I’m so grateful that Lawrence and his family have made such sacrifices to keep this facility second to none in the region. The benefit of volunteering helps you form a pleasant new habit once a month. Other benefits are developing pride and commitment to a cause that is very worthwhile in today’s mediocrity and mass-consciousness marketing.