Actor, producer and model M.Orgil graduated from the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in Hollywood. He is the first Mongolian actor who made his dream came true in Hollywood and is currently working to develop the film industry in Mongolia. M.Orgil established his own production called Makhaan Pictures in 2000 and is currently working on multiple international entertainment projects.
The following is an interview with M.Orgil about his experience in Mongolian film industry.
It is very exciting that you graduated from one of the first acting schools in Holly-
wood. Tell us about this.
I graduated from high school in 1992 and after that, I wanted to become an actor. I always loved watching movies. I really wanted to go to Hollywood if I had a chance. I didn’t have that opportunity in 1992.
At the time I knew a little bit of English, which I learned in high school. I thought maybe another language would be useful for my future career. So I decided to learn German and enrolled in a foreign language course. While I was studying German, I was still thinking of becoming an actor and filmmaker.
In 1997, I had a chance to meet the foreign relations officer from a college in the USA. He asked me what I wanted to learn if I went to college in the USA. I said, “I want to study drama, theater arts and acting.”
He was really excited by my answer because the students he met here in Mongolia said they wanted to be either a lawyer or businessmen. I was apparently the first Mongolian to say that I wanted to be an actor in the USA. He said he would send me an application and see me to the USA. At that time I didn’t believe him because 1997 was a very different time from now. Nobody imagined of going to Hollywood to study acting. One day, the application came and I went to the US Embassy in Ulaanbaatar. They issued a visa for me. After that, I realized everything is real and I would be going to the USA. That was amazing and I couldn’t even believe myself because the 1990s was just the beginning of change for Mongolian society. Mongolia became a democratic country. Everything was changing – the economy and society.
I was just a young man who had a dream of becoming the first Mongolian actor in Hollywood back then. That dream seemed to come true from that moment. Going to the USA was a big thing for not only me but my friends and family. It was a really life-changing experience, going to the USA in 1997. I entered a great college, I loved it, but it was not something that I was looking for as far as acting, so I had to change to another college. I talked to my public speaking teacher and he suggested that I go to a school called the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. I went to Los Angeles not knowing anyone there and auditioned for the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. After several months, I received a letter saying I was accepted by the academy. I danced and screamed from joy that letter brought to me. I moved to LA and started school at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, the very first acting school in the English-speaking world. I became the very first Mongolian to graduate from a professional acting school in Hollywood. That’s how I started my career.
“…Mongolia should be proud of its culture, heritage, and history. Those things should be put into a film. We can promote it to the world through films and become a proud nation…”
How did Americans receive you as a Mongolian?
It was funny on one hand and difficult on the other hand. The funny thing is that one of my professors asked me if we have a postal service in Mongolia. All they knew about Mongolia is the nomadic life. They didn’t know we had city like Ulaanbaatar.
Tell us about the local and international projects you worked on?
In 2002, I returned to Mongolia and made the very first Mongolian action film “Kill the Witness”. I did it just because I wanted to do it.I didn’t realize that we didn’t have a film market
I didn’t realize that we didn’t have a film market because there was only one cinema in Mongolia at the time. I spent a lot of money on that film, but I don’t regret it. The film was new and special in Mongolian society. At the same time, I realized Mongolian production crews, artists and executives were not ready for good film production. It was very difficult to work in that type of a situation, but I managed and released my film.
On the other hand, I gained a huge experience and knowledge about the Mongolian film industry and its development.
In 2005, I wanted to do something different, somewhere not in Mongolia. Luckily, BBC came to Mongolia. They selected actors for a documentary drama film called “Chinggis Khaan”. I auditioned and portrayed Chinggis Khaan in the film. This documentary was a huge experience gaining for Mongolians and achieved international recognition. The documentary gave a true cultural and historical depiction of the Mongolian history to the world. The whole world now knows who Chinggis Khaan was in reality and how he managed to establish the largest empire in the world. Prior to this film, people had a wrong understanding about Mongolians, our history and our culture.
After that, I made three films with Russians. Then I had to take a break because I wanted to change the film industry and implement the law on film. I started working for the government of Mongolia in order to make changes because no one seemed to care about the film industry at the time. Mongolia should be proud of its culture, heritage, and history. Those things should be put into a film. We can promote it to the world through films and become a proud nation. That was my goal when I worked from 2012 to 2014 as the Head of the Culture and Arts Department of the former Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, which sadly doesn’t exist now.
Then I worked on “Asia’s Got Talent” as a Mongolian producer of ethnic band Khusugtun and we became runner-up at the competition.From 2013 to 2016 I also worked as a ser-
From 2013 to 2016 I also worked as a service producer for “Marco Polo”, which is a huge Hollywood production. We did two seasons of “Marco Polo” series on Netflix about Khubilai Khaan, the grandson of Chinggis Khaan.
The last international project I worked on was “Mongolia’s Next Top Model”, which we finished in March, part of the global Next Top Model franchise that became a huge success in Mongolia. I participated in “Mongolia’s Next Top Model” as a judge.
Currently, I am working on a couple of film projects with my American partners in Hollywood. I am looking forward to making films with American, Russian and other foreign partners.
“…It is very important to have a Ministry of Culture for Mongolia. Today we don’t have one. The next government will be formed in 2020; it must have a Ministry of Culture because it is vitally important for a country with a small population like Mongolia, which has a huge history, to protect our culture from foreign influences…”
Who are your international partners? How did they reach to you?
As I said, I am the first Mongolian to go to Hollywood, this was twenty years ago. That’s how I started making connections.The Marco Polo production team reached
The Marco Polo production team reached out to me when I was working at the former Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism. It is very important to have a Ministry of Culture for Mongolia. Today we don’t have one. The next government will be formed in 2020; it must have a Ministry of Culture because it is vitally important for a country with a small population like Mongolia, which has a huge history, to protect our culture from foreign influences.
After “Marco Polo”, casting director of the Marco Polo production team Jessica Lewis called me and asked if I could work on “Asia’s Got Talent”.
What did you do on filmmaking at the former Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism?
I co-produced two Mongolian films, “Remote Control” and “Yellow Colt”. They were both well received by the international audience and won prizes. Remote Control won the Grand Prix at the Busan International Film Festival which was a historical success for Mongolian filmmaking.
I also initiated the Ulaanbaatar International Film Festival in 2013 and we made it truly international. We have a great team with the fantastic French coordinator Thibaut Barack who brings an excellent cinema and its creators from around the world to our capital.
The fourth edition of the festival will be held in October.
What did you do when Edutaiment TV asked you to judge “Mongolia’s Next Top Model”?
I found it amazing because it is global. Everybody around the world loves this show. We learned from those shows and will learn in the future. I want to express my gratitude to Mongol TV and Edutainment TV for bringing over international contents. We have so much to learn from them.
“…We are developing and we need good infrastructure, such as film studios. We must have film studios where our filmmakers and artists from Hollywood, China, Korea and Russia can come and make films. We need to build it and implement the law on film…”
What do you think of the development of the film industry in Mongolia?
It is developing. It is hard to say it’s good but it keeps developing. How do we measure the development of the film industry? We can measure it by the number of productions, quality of the films made and films released internationally. As I said a film called “Remote Control”, written and directed by S.Byamba, won the Grand Prix at Busan International Film Festival.
Another film called “Yellow Colt” was selected to A Window on Asian Cinema program at Busan International Film Festival. This is a huge success.
The number of Mongolian films being made within a year is increasing rapidly. Quality needs to be considered.
We are developing and we need good infrastructure, such as film studios. We must have film studios where our filmmakers and artists from Hollywood, China, Korea and Russia can come and make films. We need to build it and implement the law on film.