Filmmaker Sharisse Zeroonian

Young Filmmaker Wants to Explore Differences to Create Universal Themes

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BELMONT, Mass. — Filmmaker Sharisse Zeroonian wants to explore the space between identities: Are you Armenian? Geeky? Disabled? Different?

“The Mouse in the Bread,” the short film that Zeroonian wrote, directed and stars in, has been shown several times in the past year in local festivals and movie theaters.

From the opening scene, which shows the Armenian and American flags swaying in the wind, we know we are seeing an Armenian family. Yet, their ethnicity is not a focal part; it is just one aspect of who they are. The narrative follows Lili, played by Zeroonian, as she fits into her family life, living with her parents Miriam and John (played by Louise Mara and Alexander Hauck), as well as her extended family. Lili, a high school senior, is very close to her cousin, Kevork, played by Miguel Velazquez, as well as her grandparents. Everything becomes unhinged, however, when Kevork commits a crime. It seems all of a sudden, the gossamer-thin balance is thrown off for everyone in the family with the arrest.

“The Mouse in the Bread” was adapted from a short story Zeroonian had written.

“The characters were people I see in my life, people who struggle with relationships and lost connections,” Zeroonian explained.

Lili is a complicated character, one that seems to have a hard time finding herself as well as her place.

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“Are you crazy or are the people around you crazy? School, the Armenian community, and not gelling with people,” she said about her main character. Lili, as the film progresses, becomes less endearing.

In addition, she said her characters were created as a result of a “reaction to people relying on tropes or stereotypes.”

She added that she wanted her characters to be stereotype free and be considered “normal, everyday and authentic.”

“The Mouse in the Bread” is currently available on Amazon Prime and can be viewed for free.

Sharisse Zeroonian as Lili, with Alexander Hauck, who plays her father in “The Mouse in the Bread”

She also railed against mass media, when it shows “people of those backgrounds and a lot of misconceptions,” showing that a minority family was experiencing every single thing through that background and could not just experience something.

One creative force that she can relate to is comedian, writer and actor Aziz Ansari, whose Netflix series “Master of None” is about an American of Indian extraction, who does not filter everything through his background. Sure he is Indian, but he is also a New Yorker, an actor and a 30-something looking for love.

Topics: film

“Dev [Ansari’s character] and his family are shown as Indian-American but are not a complete caricature,” she said.

The cast of “Mouse” is diverse, though they play Armenians, and all were found on Facebook.

“I put out a casting call on Facebook,” she said, specifying male and female actors of various ages. After writing her post, she and her family got on a flight to Florida for a vacation.

“I landed and opened Facebook to find 30 notifications,” she said, with many actors sending videos. She praised her actors as “wonderful,” who not only acted in the film, but in the case of a few of them, lent their houses to the production.

In a recent interview she said that her favorite part of the process is writing dialogue.

As for the “technical stuff” having to do with filmmaking, she said, “I learned it because I had to.”

There is lots of dialogue between parents and children, as well as people within a community as well as outside it. Also addressed are learning disabilities, a theme to which Zeroonian is returning now.

“I primarily consider myself a writer,” she said. Her most recent project which she hopes to complete for television, is based on a play she wrote in high school. The project is called “One Plus One Is Two.” The original play, she explained, took place in the 1960s was about a woman who grew up with learning difficulties. Now, for the TV pilot, as an adult, she is campaigning for special needs students in public schools, in essence, “avenging the way she was treated as a kid.”

The TV adaptation is set in the present day, when the former child has a husband and grown daughter and is writing a story about her.

Louise Mara, who plays the mom in the film “The Mouse in the Bread.”

“The show is about being a real person and making real mistakes. Parents and children plan to do better, step back and readjust,” she said.

Zeroonian characterized her script as a mix of comedy and drama.

One influence on this project is “A Woman under the Influence” by John Cassavetes, about a woman who is acting increasing bizarre and her concerned husband tries to get her help at an asylum.

“He [Cassavetes] is tiring to see if the woman is mentally ill,” she said. “This is the same idea.”

“I really enjoyed his work,” she added.

Another influence is Greta Gerwig, an actress, playwright and director who in 2017 received much acclaim and three Academy Award nominations for writing and directing “Lady Bird.” The film is about the dynamics of a family, specifically a mother and daughter.

As for dialogue on screen, she said she finds “The Sopranos” to be tops, as well as the film “Good Will Hunting.”

The 24-year-old Belmont native has also written and direct other short films, including “Well Water” in 2017and now she has her sights set on a TV series.

Zeroonian received her bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Boston University. She currently works at an after-school program.

She was briefly a linguistics major before realizing that it did not present a “viable career path.”

“I am a lot happier because I am getting to be creative,” she said.

To watch “The Mouse in the Bread,” visit the link https://www.amazon.com/Mouse-Bread-Sharisse-Zeroonian/dp/B07PGWHLRV

To make a donation to her fundraising platform for her proposed television project, visit https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/one-plus-one-is-two-pilot-episode?fbclid=IwAR1i33B7tQcps73Pmr0CPo8-iZBVcwqF955c9JPM9lm6k0SyouNLi5oolKs#/

 

 

 

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