Interview with ‘Layers of Lies’ Filmmaker Ramin Sohrab

By Iman Sadri

November 19, 2023

The Persian Observer : Thanks you for chatting with The Persian Observer. Please describe your early life education and upbringing. 

Ramin Sohrab : I had the privilege of spending a significant part of my formative years in Finland, having relocated from Tehran with my family when I was just 5 years old. Growing up in Finland provided me with a diverse and enriching educational experience. Beyond the traditional academic setting, From a young age, my father trained me in martial arts. This dual emphasis on education and martial arts not only laid the foundation for my personal and physical development but also fostered a deep appreciation for discipline and perseverance

The Persian Observer : What were the earliest influences that you in involved in film ? 

Ramin Sohrab : Well, I grew up loving martial arts, and that got me hooked on action movies. Watching legends like Jackie Chan and Jet Li kick butt on screen was just awesome! It got me super interested in how movies were made. Those action heroes made me want to tell stories through film from a really young age.

Ramin Sohrab at the L.A. Premiere of ‘Layers of Lies’

The Persian Observer : What are your Top 3 favorite Films of all time ?  

Ramin Sohrab : Picking just three favorite films is tough, but if I had to choose, Gladiator would be at the top. It’s a beautifully shot revenge story that always gets me. Then there’s Forrest Gump, I love it for its simple yet deep characters and the way it tells such a complex story. And of course, The Dark Knight – it’s a total cinematic thrill ride, delivering an unmatched action experience.

Ramin Sohrab behind the scenes of his film ‘Layers of Lies’

The Persian Observer :  What were your Top 3 favorite TV shows growing up and currently on TV ? 

Ramin Sohrab : Well, when I was growing up, Friends was my go-to. I’ve seen every episode so many times; I practically know all the dialogues by heart. Not sure if that’s a talent or a sign I had a bit too much free time! Nowadays, I’m into Suits, Death Note, Seinfeld, and How I Met Your Mother. These shows always manage to keep me entertained and hooked.

The Persian Observer :  What was your earliest film-making experience growing up at home ? 

Ramin Sohrab : My first taste of filmmaking goes way back to when I was just 5 years old in Tehran. I had an amazing opportunity to be a part of a movie called ‘Yaran,’ starring the legendary Jamshid Hashempour. It was an unforgettable experience that sparked my early fascination with the magic of the film industry.

The Persian Observer : Who are your Top 3 favorite actresses of all time ?  Who are the top 3 Hollywood actresses you want in your future films ?

Ramin Sohrab : Well, picking my top three favorite actresses is a tough one, but Sandra Bullock has to be up there. She was amazing in Speed. Meryl Streep is another powerhouse, and Angelina Jolie, she’s just a total badass. As for future films, working with Charlize Theron, Priyanka Chopra, Golshifteh Farahani, and Nazanin Boniadi would be an amazing experience. They bring such incredible talent and diversity to the screen, and collaborating with them would be an exciting prospect for any project.

The Persian Observer : Who are your favorite Top 3 actors of all time and which Top 3 Hollywood actors do you want in your future /films ? 

Ramin Sohrab : Haha, you’re hitting me with the tough ones! Alright, if I had to pick, Keanu Reeves, Joaquin Phoenix, and Daniel Day-Lewis are definitely in my top three favorite actors. As for dream collaborations, working with Tom Hardy, Mel Gibson, and Behrouz Vossoughi would be incredible.

The Persian Observer : What was your education in terms of film-making ? If no academic course of study how did you learn the steps to putting together a film ( short, long-feature) – ie : what resources / mentors / online platforms / self-creation were the sources of education ? 

Ramin Sohrab : I went to the Stella Adler Academy of Acting and Theatre for my filmmaking education, but honestly, I’ve been around cameras and performing my whole life. By watching others make films, I started to get the hang of it. The best way I learned was by doing. So, from a young age, I made short videos and scenes to better understand filmmaking and storytelling. Plus, having a background in martial arts gave me a cool insight into action filmmaking.

The Persian Observer : Congrats on Layers of Lies – when did you start working on the film ?  What were some of the inspirations behind the project ? (ie : action genre films )

Ramin Sohrab : Thank you! The journey with Layers of Lies began about 10 years ago when I first started dreaming of making my own film in Iran. Little did I know it would take this long, but looking back, the process has been incredibly rewarding. Beyond fulfilling my dream of creating action films, this project served as the best film school I could have asked for. Throughout the journey, not only did I learn the ins and outs of filmmaking, but I also experienced significant personal growth as a filmmaker.

Ramin Sohrab in a scene from ‘Layers of Lies’

The Persian Observer : What was the filmmaking process of creating Layers of Lies? Describe the writing, filming, location scouting, casting, producing, editing, musical composition process for the film. 

Ramin Sohrab : The process of creating ‘Layers of Lies’ was quite a rollercoaster. Right from the start, we faced challenges, as I didn’t have permits to shoot in Iran, and the government wasn’t thrilled about the idea of an action film being made there. From day one, I had to fight for my vision. Despite being born in Iran, having grown up in Finland made navigating the cultural and communication differences in Iran challenging.

Every aspect of the production presented its own set of difficulties. Word got around in the film industry about our project, and people assumed it was a multi-million dollar film from overseas Film Kharejie. In reality, it was among the lowest-budget films made in Iran. We faced multiple interruptions during shooting due to politics, cast and crew issues, and just plain bad luck. I even had to halt production because I broke my leg during a scene, requiring surgery back in Finland. Also we had to stop again when I contracted COVID-19 in Tehran. So this stoping and filming happened several times. But despite the ongoing challenges, I refused to give up, and here we are.

The Persian Observer : Layers of Lies, had tremendous acting, action, suspense, intrigue and tenacity of your character. What were some films in Hollywood history that were part of the inspiration if any ?

Ramin Sohrab : I’m glad you enjoyed ‘Layers of Lies’ ! When it comes to inspiration, I drew significant influence from Hollywood films, particularly the ‘Taken‘ series and ‘John Wick.’ My vision was to create a Persian version of ‘Taken’ infused with a generous dose of action, aiming to deliver an entertaining experience for the audience.

Ramin Sohrab has received international acclaim for ‘Layers of Lies’

The Persian Observer : Elaborate on the casting process for Layers of Lies, the actors were all superb ? How did you get them to perform so well ? 

Ramin Sohrab : The casting process for ‘Layers of Lies’ was approached with a Western filmmaking perspective, also reflecting my background as a graduate actor. Drawing on my own experience, communication with the actors came naturally, allowing us to establish a strong understanding. Casting was relatively straightforward, as I sought actors who not only shared my vision but also believed in the groundbreaking nature of the project in the context of Iranian cinema history. The collaboration with the talented cast was a key factor in achieving the superb performances seen in the film.

The Persian Observer : Describe how to multi-task with directing and acting at the same as well as fight choreography ? How did you manage to do it all so ? Was Sylvester Stallone (actor / director) in the Rocky series an inspiration ? How did you learn to do all of the major roles in the same film ? 

Ramin Sohrab : Juggling multiple roles as a director, actor, producer, writer and choreographer in ‘Layers of Lies’ was a challenging yet incredibly fulfilling experience. The inspiration came from a deep-seated passion for filmmaking and a sheer determination to see my vision come to life. At the outset, I didn’t have a clear roadmap for how I would fill all these roles, but the unwavering belief in my film’s potential drove me forward.

While it wasn’t easy, the necessity of the situation left me with no choice but to take on these major roles. The process was a manifestation of my passion for filmmaking and a firm belief in my ability to execute each aspect of the project. In a way, the approach was akin to the inspiration drawn from Sylvester Stallone in the Rocky series, where wearing multiple hats became a means to bring a unique vision to the screen. The journey was challenging, but it was the only way for me to make my dream a reality.

The Persian Observer : Elaborate on other films you have made / highlights / experiences from these other films since you started filmmaking. 

Ramin Sohrab : During my 15 years in the industry, I’ve been part of various projects, each contributing to my growth as a filmmaker. One standout experience was making a short film called ‘Violin.‘ It not only won awards globally but also opened my eyes to the international side of filmmaking. The success of ‘Violin’ was a turning point, setting the stage for me to bring ‘Layers of Lies’ to life and letting me learn and evolve along the way.

Ramin Sohrab in a scene from ‘Layers of Lies’

The Persian Observer : What are some future films / projects you are working on now ? 

Ramin Sohrab : I currently have multiple projects in the works, and the locations for the next set of films are still in the air. Depending on various factors, I might find myself in Finland, Thailand, or right here in the US next year, filming my upcoming projects.

The Persian Observer : How can we get more Persians to get involved in filmmaking and telling our stories in Hollywood ? 

Ramin Sohrab : To get more Persians into filmmaking and sharing our stories in Hollywood, let’s focus on a few things. We need more workshops, mentorship programs, and events where Persian filmmakers can connect. It’s essential to have support from the community and financially from those already in the industry. The key is learning to collaborate and support each other. If we build each other up, more Persians can succeed in Hollywood. It’s not about competing; it’s about working together. ( Jah vase hamamun hastesh).

The trailer of ‘Layers of Lies’

The Persian Observer : How has Layers of Lies been received in the filmfestivals and when can we expect to see the film?

Ramin Sohrab : It’s been truly surreal—the last thing I expected was for my action film, ‘Layers of Lies,’ to win over 40 awards in film festivals worldwide among thousands of submissions. It’s a clear sign that I’m on the right path and loving every moment of it. As for the film release, we’re planning to launch it in early 2024 in the US, followed by releases in Canada, Europe, Scandinavia, and Iran.

Follow Ramin Sohrab on social media @RaminSohrab