Growing up in The Gardens neighborhood of San Jose, Mohammad Gorjestani’s parents pretty much let him do whatever he wanted as a kid. “We never had more than what we needed,” Gorjestani says about his modest childhood. The rough neighborhood provided many lessons for him, who came to the US with his parents during the Iranian Revolution.
“I want to be able to say I did everything I could to make the world better through storytelling.”
There were rules in place in his household, though. Three of them, to be exact: Be kind, be honest, and do your best. It is these.rules that Gorjestani has incorporated in everything he does.
“At heart, I am a classic entrepreneur,” says Gorjestani. “If I see a problem, I don’t want to run away from it. I want to provide a solution. I want to be able to say I did everything I could to make the world better through storytelling.” This mix of his skills and interests keeps Gorjestani busy.
Like making films, for example. After graduating from Vancouver Film School, Gorjestani premiered his first film, “The Shade,” at the Tribeca Film Festival in 2008. Most recently, he is working on a feature tentatively titled “Somehow These Days Will Be Missed,” focused on San Jose during the modern day 1991 gold rush when people were coming to work in the tech industry. This film has earned Gorjestani the 2012 Kenneth Rainin Foundation Grant for Screenwriting from the San Francisco Film Society.
As Creative Director of MKSHFT/CLLCTV (read “Makeshift Collective”), a full scale production company in San Jose, Gorjestani helps brands connect their story with the audience. Previous clients include Toyota, HTC, and currently, Facebook.
“We try to align brands with their values and tell those stories,” he
says, believing there is a lot of value in San Jose from a production perspective, and recognizing a need for a production company that could compete on a national scale. “There was a void and we filled it,” Gorjestani says.
His most recent venture is Volio, the start-up Gorjestani founded with Ronald Croen, co-founder of Nuance. They partnered with Esquire Magazine to release an app which allows users to experience authentic human interaction, without actually interacting with a human being. The app uses artificial intelligence and voice recognition to direct the user down a conversational path. It’s like those “Choose Your Own Adventure” stories, only far more robust and with more options.
“Imagine flipping through a magazine, and someone is talking to you, asking you to respond,” Gorjestani says, explaining how the Volio app works. “All of a sudden you’re engaged.” He has hopes of turning the app into a tool for people to make their own interactive videos. “We’re ahead of the curve here.”
“When you get off the airplane [at San Jose International Airport], you’re supposed to be in the center of the tech universe,” Gorjestani says, providing an example of such an interactive video. “You should have Joe Thornton’s [likeness] saying ‘Welcome to San Jose. What do you want to do tonight?”
Those rules Gorjestani grew up with continue to guide him to be the best he can be. “I just think it’s my instinct to always be building something bigger than myself.”