A 20-year-old film foundation in Thousand Oaks has been awarded a $10,000 grant from the California Council for the Humanities to produce a film about an Armenian family's immigration to America.
The Armenian Film Foundation is one of 18 nonprofit organizations throughout the state to share a total of $165,000 in grant money for public humanities projects, said Patrice Garrett, a council spokeswoman.
"From Bitlis to Fresno" documents the history of the Karabian family that settled in Fresno in 1896 after leaving an Armenian town that is now part of Turkey, said J. Michael Hagopian, the producer.
Filming started about a year ago, Hagopian said. The grant money will be used for further script development and, depending on other grants being sought, the finished product could be available on video next spring.
The total cost of the project is about $100,000. Hagopian and assistant producer Barbara Gilmore have donated their time as part of the grant's conditions that call for matching funds, he said.
Hagopian said several scholars have joined the project to help make the film more relevant to the general public. He said he hopes the film will someday be aired on public television.
The idea for the project followed a film the foundation made in 1982 that documented the arrival of the first Armenians in California in 1878. During that research, the Karabian family surfaced, he said.
"We came across a lot of families, and this seemed like a good one. We did some more detail work so it will be like a case study," he said.
Up to 300 members of the Karabian family, who now live throughout the state, gather annually for a reunion in Fresno, he said.
The finished film, which will be the foundation's 14th project, will be about an hour long.
Buyers of past films have been individuals, schools and colleges, Hagopian said.