HomeCommunity NewsDarian Talks Hollywood, Ghosts at Rotary Meeting

Darian Talks Hollywood, Ghosts at Rotary Meeting

Craig Darian, left, the keynote speaker at Thursday’s meeting of the Rotary Club of San Marino was prompted by longtime friend Andy Barth during their entertaining exchange at San Marino Community Church. Kamala Kirk photo

Along time entertainment executive, producer and businessman, Craig Darian is somewhat of a renaissance man who has been involved in many different facets of the industry over the course of his career.

During his address to the Rotary Club of San Marino on Halloween, the former San Marino resident spoke to a packed room with an audience that was eager to hear all about his rise to success in Tinseltown.

Darian started out by telling the crowd how he got his start in Hollywood at the age of 19 as a lab technician at Consolidated Film Industries in the summer of 1974. He later found an opportunity as a studio projectionist and by the age of 26, he had become vice president of Ryder Sound Services; at 29, he as president and CEO of the industry’s largest post-production studio.

“The common denominator that connected all of those roles was my love for people and my love of production,” Darian said.

Over the years, Darian has owned and operated several companies and served in many senior management positions for publicly-traded and privately-held companies. In his current role as co-chairman and CEO of Occidental Entertainment Group, he presides over five operating divisions, including 14 sound stages and roughly three dozen office buildings comprised of roughly a million feet of production, editorial and creative office space.

When asked what was the most fulfilling aspect of working on a movie, Darian described himself as a “deal junkie” who loves production, construction and leadership.

“Those who know me in the industry often call me a ‘diversified businessman’ or an ‘entrepreneur with multiple interests,” he pointed out, adding with a laugh, “I’ve always been a guy who has believed that you can lament the bad or rejoice in the good, and frankly, I rejoice all the good in my life. I’ve always been very optimistic and have navigated well in complicated waters. The industry has changed a lot in 45 years and I’ve loved every aspect of it—no regrets.”

Darian pointed out that the two biggest game-changers in the entertainment industry are technology and globalization. Thanks to more efficient technology, he has been able to accomplish so much more, such as distributing over 100 films in Southeast Asia, signing and scanning documents, wiring money, sending emails in real time, and setting up calls between major cities.

“The world has become much easier to navigate because of the beauty of technology,” he said. “Once upon a time in the entertainment industry, it didn’t quiet exist that way.”

A firm believer in the importance of good relationships, both personal and professional, Darian has successful long-term relationships with his business partner Albert Sweet, whom he co-owns Occidental Entertainment Group Holdings, Inc. with, and Howard Kazanijian, whom he started Tricor Entertainment with.

“Trust is a centerpiece in every relationship so if you abide by the premise of trust and loyalty, it’s very easy to have long-term relationships,” Darian said. “If you asked me how many times I’ve had a furious argument with Howard or Al, I would say somewhere between none and zero. I just love those relationships.”

The other important—and longest—relationship in Darian’s life is that of his wife, Kimberly, who he recently celebrated 44 years of marriage with.

“My family life has been especially charmed with such a loving wife, three beautiful children who went through all the San Marino schools, and four beautiful grandchildren,” Darian said with a big smile. “That’s the best part of life, no question.”

While none of his children followed in his footsteps to pursue careers in the entertainment industry, Darian said that he and his wife are extremely proud of their children’s individual accomplishments.

“The paths that our kids have taken have all been wonderful, honorable and successful,” Darian explained. “They all love what they’re doing and Kim and I are happy and proud about that. The entertainment industry is complicated terrain—it’s not for the weak of heart and spirit. It’s definitely not for everybody.”

When asked what his favorite or most exciting moment in the business was, Darian said that there have been many. Whether it’s cutting ribbon on a new stage that’s opening, closing a deal or completing an acquisition, he loves it all.

“If I win a prize in a Cracker Jack box, I get excited about that!” he laughed. “There has just been one nice thing after another. I’ve enjoyed it all.”

Darian’s other big passion is philanthropy and he has served on the Board of Directors for various organizations, including his roles as president of the board and co-chairman of the Veteran’s Affairs Committee at Shakespeare Center LA, being on the Los Angeles Metro Board for The Salvation Army, and many others.

“I do my best to keep our veterans off the street and in employment, leading to the happy outcomes they deserved,” Darian said. “And I like Shakespeare and literature, and what it does for kids. It keeps them out of the judicial system and gangs, and gives them a pathway to jobs and education. While we can’t fulfill every role, I try to contribute my small part.”

A recipient of countless awards for his philanthropy and community efforts, one of the awards that Darian was honored with was the “Hero of Hollywood” award along with actress and singer Debbie Reynolds in 2013.

“When I was four-years-old, my mom used to sing Debbie’s song, ‘Tammy’s in Love,’ while rocking me to sleep,” he reminisced. “When Debbie and I were on stage together, I shared the story with her, and while people were taking pictures of us, she leans in and starts singing the song! That was a special moment.”

Darian also shared some movie-watching tips with the audience when they attend their next Oscars viewing party. He recommended watching a movie the same way that one would read a book. He also has to watch a movie several times in order to observe particular aspects of the film.

“Whether you’re looking at costume, set design, acting or music—these are all different disciplines,” Darian explained. “But when you combine them all together, it creates for a wonderful experience.”

Halloween wouldn’t be complete without some ghost stories, and as it turned out, Darian had several up his sleeve. They were all connected to his previous home in San Marino, which he described not as “haunted” but rather, “occupied.”

“It was never a frightening house but it was interesting enough that UCLA’s paranormal team wanted to come and stake out the house for a period of time,” Darian shared.

At the time they lived in the house, Darian’s young daughter often felt a heavy pressure on her chest—as if someone were sitting on it. Appliances constantly went on and off and on one occasion, Darian observed the lights that ran down the driveway go off in a row, one after another. The electrician described the occurrence as “impossible” due to there only being two light settings, attributing the cause to a ghost on the invoice and not charging the family for the check-up.

All ghost tales aside, when asked his plans for the holiday were, Darian said that he and his wife were planning to go spend the evening with family and maybe go Trick-or-Treating.

“We just love Halloween.”

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