Faculty Blog: Igor Sunara

AWFF-Group photo

From L. to R. – Minh Ngoc Nguyen (writer/actress), Lauren Pham (Young Julia), Kieu Chinh (Garandmother), Richard Chamberlain (Igor), Ha Phuong (The lead), Meghan Sahli-Wells (Culver City Council member) , Igor the Terrible, and Georges N. Chamchoum (Asian World Film Festival Executive and Program Director).

Beloved SVA instructor, Igor Sunara is an awarding-winning director and cinematographer who has worked with Whitney Houston, Liza Minnelli, Diana Ross, Rod Stewart, Bon Jovi, Notorious BIG, and Dolly Parton, among others.   Now his first feature, Finding Julia, opens in New York and five other cities on December 1. Here, Igor talks about his process at the helm of a big production.

Please see Finding Julia’s website for more information:


Igor with Ha Phuong

I am happy to announce that my feature directorial debut, Finding Julia, premiered in Los Angeles at the SparkLight cinema in Culver city, on Saturday Oct 28th, 2017 at the Asian World Film Festival. The strong cast includes Ha Phuong in the leading role of Julia, Andrew McCarthy, Kieu Chinh and Richard Chamberlain.

w_ Andrew McCharty

Igor w./ Andrew McCarthy / (Julia’s father) Mike

Finding Julia is the story of a beautiful young Vietnamese actress who lost her mother when she was quite young, and is haunted by the fear of losing the one person in the world she can trust – her father. It stars Ha Phuong, a singer and TV celebrity in her native Vietnam, as well as Andrew McCarthy and Richard Chamberlain. We shot in New York and Viet Nam.

w_R. Charbelain-prepping role

Igor w./ Richard Chamberlain

Working as both Director and DP was a challenging task – fine-tuning performances while simultaneously overseeing the visuals. Actually, my initial intention was not to DP and direct at the same time, but Ha Phuong insisted – as a cinematographer I am used to making actors look their best. Long days shooting in one of New York’s coldest winters were hard. Fortunately we could call on cinematographer, and SVA graduate, Mike Simmonds, and later, Seamus Tierney.

Me and Poster FJ

I sought a balance between visual language and performance that could help communicate the psychologically intense subject matter subtly. I designed a “grammar” for the film’s subtext using the camera as an expressive – rather than a recording — tool. The camera became another actor, revealing her inner world visually in ways beyond words.


w_ Kieu Chinh

Igor w./ Kieu Chinh / Grandmother


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