CEO of his self-made companies, Sumerian Records and Sumerian Films, Ash Avildsen proves you really can do it all.
He has written and directed the new highly anticipated series Paradise City, a scripted music drama and sequel to Avildsen's 2017 film American Satan.
The TV series stars rocker Andy Biersack as Johnny Faust along with Bella Thorne, Drea De Matteo, Mark Boone, Perrey Reeves, Rys Coiro, and Olivia Culpo, and is the final work of the late Cameron Boyce who passed away in July 2019 at just 20 years old from epilepsy complications.
Boyce's character, Simon, has a similar storyline to Avildsen's own life. Like young Ash, he's in a band, is a concert promoter and a booking agent.
He is also the son of a single mom and a famous father who didn't want the pregnancy and has no role in his son's life.
Ash is the son of Academy Award winning director John Avildsen (Rocky, Lean on Me, The Karate Kid) The real-life father and son had no relationship until Ash was in his mid 30s and became a self-made success.
Avildsen grew up in a small Washington D.C. apartment. He was constantly getting into trouble which led to a six-year stint at military school that was paid for by a child support victory that his mom filed against his father. That day would change his life.
Ash Avildsen: My dad was sitting two seats down from me while I waited to go in and it was the first time I had seen him in the flesh. He was reading a newspaper and didn't look up to acknowledge me. That was a defining moment in my life.
"As a kid I remember having to go to court to testify about why it was in my best interest to go to this private school in virginia. My dad was sitting two seats down from me while I waited to go in and it was the first time I had seen him in the flesh. He was reading a newspaper and didn't look up to acknowledge me. That was a defining moment in my life."
"For kids that grow up with one parent and especially boys without a dad, you can go on one of two paths: you can blame the world, your parents, blame God, blame lack of God, or it can light a fire under you that you're gonna make it no matter what."
Avildsen turned that fire into motivation. When he turned 18 his father no longer had to support him so he was on his own.
"I wanted to try my hand at music before film and TV because I didn't want it to look like I was trying to exploit my last name or emulate my dad. People still accused me of it. I used to have to go on message boards and say, 'One, I never f*#ing met him and Two, he had nothing to do with the rock and roll business so there wasn't any nepotism."
Avildsen created his own path different not only from his father but from everyone else, too.
"When I started getting momentum in the music business with my band and as a concert promoter, there was this new wave of hard rock and heavy metal bands coming up through the dawn of music social media which was MySpace. I was booking these bands that were drawing hundreds of fans from all over the country because of the power of the internet.
"Record labels either didn't understand this new wave of music breaking on the internet-not the radio-or they were offering these Draconian record deals that weren't artist friendly."
So in 2006 Avildsen started a record label: Sumerian Records. "It was very DIY. I did it out of a small apartment and people thought I was insane. Music piracy was huge, Spotify and Apple Music hadn't started yet, but I believed in it. And the bands I started the label with chose to renew contracts because of trust and a great working relationship."
Avildsen: Now we have independently produced an entire first season of a scripted television show. People thought it was a crazy gamble.
Paradise City is a symbolic, full-circle triumph for Avildsen. "Now we have independently produced an entire first season of a scripted television show. People thought it was a crazy gamble. It's Sumerian Records part two. I'm writing and creating and performing again."
Avildsen appears a little past the midpoint of the season as Levi Svengali, a New Orleans based record producer who plays by his own rules. "Paradise City is the most creatively fulfilling thing I've ever done in my life."
The most personally rewarding, though, was finding a way to forgive his father for abandonment and forge the way to a beautiful friendship.
"On my first birthday that we spent together, he said 'I'm so sorry. There's no excuse for the way I behaved back then.'" Shortly after Avildsen and his dad connected, they shared notes on the script of American Satan, particularly one that keeps the protagonist, Johnny Faust, the unlikely good guy versus the lost soul-a seque that would enable Avildsen to tell so much more about the characters in the series.
"[American Satan] was a classic good vs. evil cautionary tale. Paradise City is a human story about unorthodox families. Almost everything in the script is taken from real-life things that I or the cast have experienced. Life isn't always a simple right or wrong answer. It's written to get people talking in a 'what-would-you-do' way."
Avildsen had the privilege of working with Cameron Boyce in his final piece. "I've worked with a lot of young talent between music, TV and film and I can say out of ALL of them, for someone who had achieved so much success at such a young age he was so humble, professional, courteous and appreciative.
"As a producer and director I couldn't have asked for a better actor to work with. I don't believe in coincidences, only messages and miracles. When things like this happen I turn to my beliefs in spirituality. I believe consciousness is eternal and his spirit is somewhere else on a new journey.
"Every day on set he just lit up the room and made you think, 'this is the coolest thing I could be doing right now, is working with this kid.' He was incredible."
For more on the late Cameron Boyce, click HERE