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Who made Diamond's award-winning movies?

Meet the Hollywood veteran movie producers (feature filmmakers), Chris & Annmarie Aronoff of Plan A International, who produced the international award-winning “The DA50 RG Origin Story”, “The Black Knight”, “Just Imagine” and “The Story of the DA62” videos along with Diamond Aircraft, and learn how taking a ‘research’ flight changed their lives to combine their two passions.

Recently these two Diamond DA50 videos won 16 awards across the globe for Best Advertising, Best Commercial Video, Best Feature Documentary, and received 9 Honorable Mentions and Official Selections for Branded Content film festivals in 13 countries including USA, Canada, France, Italy, Germany, UK, Singapore, India, Russia, Ukraine, Chile, Bhutan, and Romania.

About Chris & Annmarie Aronoff
Working collaboratively, Chris and Annmarie Aronoff, combined have produced over 20 feature films, several documentaries, TV series, and have led over 350 global marketing campaigns. By selling hundreds of movies and TV series into 130 countries, they have closed deals with: DISNEY, HBO, PARAMOUNT, SONY, DISCOVERY, NETFLIX, ZDF, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC, TF1, SHOWTIME, BBC, ABC, NHK, FOX, NBC UNIVERSAL, and CNN.

Both realized their passion for film in their teens, started their careers out of university film schools, by founding their own production companies, then worked with major production companies and Hollywood studios on multi-million dollar movies and TV series, and in international sales & distribution to networks, theaters, and platforms around the world.  Then one day during a blizzard, in their 30s, they met each other, started working together, recognized their shared passions, fell in love, got married, started a company, and continue to work together producing projects in Los Angeles, California.

Many thanks to Chris & Annmarie for taking the time to answer our questions.

Why movies & how do you choose the movies you produce?
CHRIS: We have each made a lifelong career dedicated to movies and the film industry, which has been really fulfilling.  We’ve both had the privilege to learn a range of skills and work in producing, directing, writing, editing, VFX, and distributing with very talented people.  From working in both large company/studio settings, to creating independently, we’ve had the opportunity to sell our films to international audiences.  What we’ve learned is that, when we dedicate years of our life to a project, it can have a pretty vast reach, so we aim for our films to be our best work, mean something more, and be about something we are genuinely interested in.  For me, I was inspired by The Lord of the Rings movies, the outstanding VFX and perfectly crafted story and characters, that raised the bar in moviemaking, and inspired me to go in this direction.

ANNMARIE: We always aim for the movies we develop and produce to have a larger purpose, to potentially change someone’s life in a positive way, either by creating awareness, helping a cause or a charity, or to weave in a few ‘what ifs’ that might give a person a new perspective, to try something new in life, or to add an item to their bucket list.  For me, as a kid, it was watching Indiana Jones, which instigated my dream of exploring the world.  These scenes of faraway exotic lands like the pyramids, the castles, and the Venice Canals stuck with me up until the moment I experienced them all, in person.  It’s a really vivid story that can sweep you off into a world onscreen, as you learn about something completely new.  This is what we aim for and hope to do for others through our films.

How and when did you each fall in love with aviation?
ANNMARIE:  I have always been fascinated with airplanes and airplane stories.  Even while pursuing my Bachelor degree in film, for my student films with zero budget, I found a way to film aerials from a Cessna, and directed a dramatic scene with cast and crew in a Boeing 737 passenger airliner for a psychological thriller.  Somehow an airplane always played a role.
In my 20s and 30s, I was selling movies and TV shows to networks worldwide, traveling overseas regularly for business to over 40 countries.  I really enjoyed commercial flying, and loved layovers!  I always made the most of layovers, exploring international airports and aviation museums.  There was just something about aviation in my blood.
My uncle was an RCAF Fighter Pilot and flew F-86 Sabres and tested CF-104 Starfighters with Erich Hartmann.  His stories certainly peaked my curiosity.  I had good friends who were pilots at a NATO Airbase, and while I listened to a lot of flying stories at the Officer’s Mess, many movie ideas started creatively forming in my mind.  It was all about sharing stories, so I thought, why aren’t there more mainstream movies/series about aviation?  Then, I had one life-changing moment: standing in a grass airfield in Italy, watching friends fly their WWI replica planes overhead, doing aerobatics in the sky, that’s when I knew that I needed to capture this magical essence, develop these stories, and put them on the screen, because more people need to know about this fascinating aviation lifestyle.  

CHRIS: Actually, aviation for me, well, I’ve always been scared of heights, and really wasn’t very comfortable with flying in airplanes.  I always had a respect for pilots, but didn’t think piloting an airplane was something I would actually ever do.

So, it’s easy to guess which one of you became the pilot.  What led you to learn to fly?
ANNMARIE: Funny where ‘research’ leads you… In 2015, we were writing a screenplay for a movie that has a ‘girl learns how to fly’ scene.  I wanted to be able to accurately write the scene from a real experience using the correct terms.  Meanwhile, Chris had been building drones and flying them for filming our documentaries, and became more interested in the prospect of trying to fly a real airplane.  So, we thought, let’s get actual pilot flying experience, and take a discovery flight.  Chris will learn how to fly, and I’ll sit in the back and take notes for the screenplay.  CUT TO: (KVNY) the Van Nuys Airport taxiway, the world’s busiest GA Airport, we were watching the many private jets land and were both surprised when the instructor quickly handed over control to Chris and he rumbled down the runway, ascending into the air for the first time!  I grasped onto the back of the seat in terror, asking myself, “why am I doing this?!  do I not value my life???!”  The feeling passed as I became mesmerized by the view from above Los Angeles, by experiencing different maneuvers, and by my complete confidence in Chris (and the instructor) to fly the airplane.  Chris was a natural, and it became one of the most thrilling experiences we’ve had together!

CHRIS:  I loved flying the plane immediately!  I knew I wanted to pursue more.  We don’t have much spare time, so it didn’t seem logical at all to take flight lessons.  But Annmarie was encouraging and said, ‘just start and see where it takes you’.  So, I started taking lessons in a Diamond DA40, overcame my fear of heights, weaved in flight lessons in-between filming on location, and eventually, got my Private Pilot’s License!

How/why did you choose a Diamond DA40?
CHRIS: In LA and the surrounding area, there are so many flight schools, so I was asking myself which airplane I’d like to fly.  I did a lot of research and reviewed a few options with Annmarie.  I pointed at one that I was leaning towards and said, ‘this one, the Diamond, is rated the safest’.  Annmarie said ‘then that’s the one!’  I admitted that it was a more expensive option, but serendipitously there was a demo in town we could take a look at.  So, my first experience flying a Diamond was a brand new DA40 Tundra Star.  It was a dream to fly.  It’s modern, sexy, the safest, and everything one could want.  

ANNMARIE: As soon as I sat in it, I felt ‘at home’.  I loved everything about it: the low wing, the G1000, and that new plane smell.  Chris chose SoCal Flying Club at San Gabriel Airport near Pasadena, which has a fleet of Diamonds and started training on the DA40.  To me a few dollars more to fly the safest option was definitely worth it.  I’ve always felt at ease in the Diamond.

What was the most memorable flight you’ve had in a Diamond?
CHRIS: We started filming a lot of aviation series and documentaries, with air-to-air, ground-to-air, and some amazing airplane rides.  Of course, though, my solo for the first time was the most memorable.  But the most impressive was flying the DA62 along with Diamond’s demo pilot over the Alps.  We traveled to Austria in 2017 and visited the Diamond Aircraft Factory.  

ANNMARIE:  It was a dream day to tour the factory and to experience the DA62 in the air.  It was interesting because we felt a special connection with both the DA62 and the DA50.  Little did we know, where life would lead us next with those airplanes!

From producing Hollywood movies to filming award-winning content for Diamond Aircraft – why was producing videos for Diamond Aircraft important to you?
ANNMARIE: A large part of Chris’s supplemental pilot education was watching flying videos which really help open up the aviation world to prospective pilots, by sharing real experiences.  It’s interesting how much videos serve this industry, which requires ongoing learning for the advancement of pilots and the aircraft they fly.  Through his training in and our tour of the Diamond factory, we gained a huge respect for the Diamond Aircraft company and what drove it through its decades of history to what it is today.  We had started producing series and documentaries about Airparks and Airports, and had recently produced a feature film documentary "SkyGrazers" about the International Flying Farmers organization - people who are living the dream on their own airstrips, and flying themselves anytime, right from their own backyard, to help create awareness about the pilot shortage.  So, as professional movie producers with a vested interest as an audience, we recognized how we could also help tell the story of Diamond and its aircraft on screen, in a way that preserves the history and brings out the fascinating aspects of what makes these airplanes so outstanding.  

CHRIS: We were impressed that Diamond was driven by and accomplished its goal to build the safest aircraft in the world.  So, then when we collaborated with Diamond, it was about discovering the process and the people that help the interesting story take shape on screen.  For us personally, flying a Diamond had changed our lives for the better, so we were genuinely excited to share the prospect with others.  We also come from a similar perspective, being spouses who fly together and invest in an airplane, understanding what a family might consider before selecting, renting, and/or buying an airplane.  We believe that for other pilots out there, if they were going to entrust their lives and investment in an airplane, we wanted them to learn as much as they could about that airplane from the videos. 

How did the DA50 RG Origin Story come about?
ANNMARIE: When we filmed the DA62 series, as we drove 12,000 miles across 26 states, we heard so many great stories about the origin of Diamond from many of the aviator legends of Diamond.  As we were sitting captivated by Diamond history stories shared at The Beef and Barrel Steakhouse in Tennessee, we had that familiar feeling: ‘this needs to be shared onscreen’.  The DA50 RG was that aircraft that was a product of Diamond’s ambitious journey to pursue building the safest plane.  The admirable intent and accomplishment of Diamond intrigued us, and so we not only wanted to learn how it happened, but we were excited to share the remarkable story onscreen in a documentary style video.  So, another couple road trips throughout Europe and North America, a vehicle full of film gear, hours of interviews with the wonderful staff at Diamond, air-to-air filming over the Alps, into the hotbed of OshKosh, and we had our footage.  Months of editing and crafting the story, we were so pleased to present The DA50 RG Origin Story and honoured to have it recognized for its achievement and now awarded in several countries.

What does aviation and producing movies have in common?
CHRIS:  For both flying an airplane and producing/editing a movie, it’s all about making quick decisions, every detail matters, and you always have to precisely see both through to the end and beyond.

ANNMARIE: ‘Story’ is key not only for movies, but also for aviation.  Swapping stories weaves
the aviation community together.  Story is the tradition, the tie that binds aviators, age-old camaraderie, vicarious adventure through each other’s pursuits, harrowing events, lessons learned, and outrageous ‘somehow I lived to tell it’ moments.  Explorers, seekers, pilots learning from each other, and always entertained.  

What are some tasks that you handle that one would not think of?
ANNMARIE: Airplanes have personalities.  And just like how a character in a movie, or a person onscreen has their own theme music, so does an airplane.  We tell the story of an aircraft, specifically a tail number that has its own unique trim, fit & finish, paint, specs, and it takes on a certain persona.  I remember meeting the DA62 for the first time and feeling like I was in a dream, just such an illustrious presence.  Its presence humbles you. When I met the Black Knight DA50 RG, I walked in, saw it there, and was speechless, such a commanding presence. We love flying the DA40, but the DA50 really takes it to a whole new level of luxury and volume.  Our job is to bring that persona to life on screen, let its personality shine, with the right visuals, camera movements that work with its body, a setting to reflect and let it receive focus or become apart of the landscape, but most importantly, the music.  In movies, characters will have their own musical score theme motif, to help guide the audience’s journey with that character, and it’s the same thing with airplanes.  We use different pieces of music to let certain aspects of the aircraft’s characteristics, persona, and abilities come alive.  You want to get to know an airplane as you will make an investment in and entrust your life to it (well, and the pilot).  So, it’s important to learn who that airplane is, and let its attributes speak to the audience.  

CHRIS:  We think about and learn so much about the airplane, the company, the customers, and all of the competition.  As a director, you learn so much more than is actually on screen in the final product, as you have to then make countless decisions of what is important to the story, what is not, and what is best conveyed through other means or future stories.  Especially when we’re editing a cohesive longer form story which not only has to be relevant today, but also as archive for many years to come.

What is the most fulfilling part? 
CHRIS: Certainly the end result is the most fulfilling part, watching it and then hearing people’s excited reactions, even when they don’t even realize we were the ones who produced it.  

ANNMARIE: Stirring a feeling or excitement in somebody to pursue a dream.   To hear them say, I watched the video and then I knew!  Or ‘I want one’, and they have never even thought it was a possibility.  But it’s also interviewing Diamond staff, owners, dealers, and hear all about their story, their connection to their passion.  We’re grateful to talk with people about what makes their hearts sing, what brings out the best in them, and that they get to talk about one of their most exciting achievements.  Those are great days. 

Highlights of doing this work? 
CHRIS: Besides the meals at the Katana Café, it’s flying with the Diamond test pilots, demo pilots, and new owners.  

ANNMARIE: Flying Diamonds seems to bring out a smile in everyone, which aligns with our own mission.  Everything we create, we aim to uplift, enlighten.  You leave a trail in your life and we want ours to be one that helped people discover something that they could enjoy, experience, and be in their element with.

What did you learn in the process?
CHRIS: Filming at all of the Diamond Aircraft and engine factories, we were struck by the precision, accountability, quality, perfection, reliability, resulting in a completed aircraft.  It actually inspires even more confidence in the Diamond that I fly.

What has been most challenging about incorporating aviation in movies?
ANNMARIE: It’s a challenge to capture the feeling of flight.  It’s not necessarily what you see out your window, what you hear on your radio, but rather what you feel in all your senses combined.  The feeling of awe and wonder.  Still to this day, I am thrilled every time I watch an Airbus 380 lift off.  I will never quite fathom how it’s possible.  So, in what we create, when filming and editing, and amidst the stories we share on the screen, we hope the viewer can escape for a moment, lift off the ground, and experience the wonder of flight.

Where do you want to fly next?  & Ultimately?
ANNMARIE:  We love flying the DA40 up the Pacific coastline to Santa Ynez (KIZA) for a picnic and a hike.  Looking forward to Sedona next, and perhaps up to Canada next year.

CHRIS: Right now, I’m working on my Instrument Rating.  So, we’d love to fly up to Oregon to see family, and then around the USA.  In 5-10 years, we plan to fly around the world together in a Diamond twin, aiming for the ‘most enjoyable experience’, rather than setting a record.

What has ‘combining your two passions of aviation & movies’ taught you?
ANNMARIE: Each flight we take and each project we create is an adventure that feels like the start of something new because each time it opens you up to a new area or a new concept.  It’s constant discovering.  You set your sights wider, further, and higher.  It’s funny because I think back to that moment, flying with Chris for the first time, thinking “do I not value my life?” and the answer now is ironic, because, the more we fly, the more I realize just how much, yes, I indeed valued my life in that moment, that day, and every day, and the precious time we have together, to take a leap, to try something new, explore, pursue our dreams, live life, and do what we love the most.  

CHRIS: Life is full of challenges, so why not share the gift of adventure, through a story on screen of what opportunities are out there.  So, if watching a video helps you imagine what your life could be like if you owned an airplane, or had access to an airplane, it can change your life for the better.  It certainly has for us!

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