Shooting Star

Filmmaker Sam Logan Khaleghi acts, directs, produces, and writes, and the West Bloomfield Township native is also giving Detroit a starring role on the big screen
Director Sam Logan Khaleghi
Sam Logan Khaleghi Photograph Courtesy of Sam Logan Khaleghi

He said he looked good in the black leather jacket, so he took it. In most cases, that’s not allowed. You can’t just run away with whatever you like from a movie set. But, of course, it was his set, his movie, his vision, and, not to mention, a wardrobe bought with his dollars. So, you know, it was, essentially, his leather jacket.

“This is the Lincoln jacket,” West Bloomfield Township-based filmmaker Sam Logan Khaleghi says, tugging at the sleeves and pulling on the collar. “I wore this in my film.”

Lincoln is the dark, scruffy, longhaired, leather-wearing drifter in Khaleghi’s crime drama Love Is a Thieves’ Game, in which a man returns home to seek out his father’s killer and, wouldn’t you know it, falls in love with the killer’s daughter.

Khaleghi describes the film and the process and his passion with pauses — “I’m looking for the right words” — followed by excited bursts of those words: “People always say, ‘I wish’ or ‘I want’; they need to start saying ‘I am.’” He knocks his sunglasses off the table three times and upends his bottle of water even more times as he flails his hands and arms. “This is my passion,” he gets out, miraculously not toppling anything. “I’m a filmmaker.”

Sporting a closer shave and styled hair — now that he’s no longer portraying a drifter — Khaleghi is focused on promoting his first feature film while finishing his second, Approaching Midnight, slated for a local screening next spring.

Approaching Midnight, which actually started shooting before Love Is a Thieves’ Game, stars Rochester Hills native Jana Kramer from Prom Night and the television series Friday Night Lights, and Khaleghi’s high-school pal Brandon T. Jackson, who co-starred in Ben Stiller’s new comedy Tropic Thunder. Pretty good company for his second film, Khaleghi admits.

As for Love Is a Thieves’ Game, Khaleghi not only played the lead role, but also wrote, directed, and produced it. Last September, the product of nearly two years of his life premiered to more than 400 people as part of a charity event for the Furniture Bank of Oakland County.

So when Khaleghi says, “my film,” he means it. Not in a look-at-me-I’m-a-filmmaker kind of a way (despite the leather jacket and the oversize sunglasses), but as if it were an extension of himself, as if he were referring to his arm or leg, or as if he’d racked up thousands of dollars on his credit cards to get the film finished and out. Unfortunately for him and his wallet, he started shooting too early to reap the benefits of Michigan’s new film incentives.

Still, that didn’t stop him from shooting nearly the entire thing in and around Detroit, save for a few scenes in Cologne, Germany, and New York City. He says Detroit’s urban textures lent themselves perfectly to the film, set in what he calls a “fictitious Detroit.”

Khaleghi, who skipped film school to attend the University of Michigan-Dearborn for corporate communications, is no stranger to the screen — or stage. He grew up doing commercials and spent his high-school years involved with the theater. He landed a national Toyota ad early on and he’s done spots for the now-defunct D.O.C. eyewear. Last summer, he went to the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London. He also helped produce the season finale of MTV’s Made in the Detroit/Windsor area. And, this summer, he shared a scene with Sigourney Weaver in the movie Prayers for Bobby, which was filmed in Royal Oak.

“My line was, ‘You should be ashamed of yourself,’ ” he says. “And she stared right into my eyes and I thought, ‘I’m sharing a scene with Ripley now.’ It was funny, too, because before she came on the set, the [production assistants] said to everyone, ‘Let’s not mention Gorillas in the Mist or Aliens to her, OK?’ I guess she gets bugged about those films all the time … and the only thing I’m thinking is, ‘It’s Ripley!’ ”

Khaleghi says it’s an exciting time to be in Michigan and involved in the film industry, with all the projects springing up and jobs available.

“This is a new industry here,” he says. “It’s a frontier, it’s going to get more exciting, and we’re going to get more recognition. Film is forever, and people never want to stop being entertained.

“That’s a perfect combination.”