JEDDAH: Effat University will play a leading role in building the filmmaking industry in Saudi Arabia, said Dr. Mohammed Ghazala, the university’s Visual and Digital Production Department chairman.
The department was established in 2013, when cinemas were still banned in the Kingdom. It offers courses in production, screenwriting, animation and interactive media. The first students graduated last year.
Effat University’s President Dr. Haifa Jamal Al-Lail told Arab News the department was established to interact with the global and regional community mainly through social media.
“Social media received a lot of attention with the rise of Arab Spring, and since then Arabs have had a growing presence on social media channels,” Ghazala said.
“Arab countries accepted social media platforms as an influencing factor in the lives of people, and now social media plays a critical role in Arab countries.”
Ghazala said the department was the first in Saudi Arabia to offer cinematic arts studies.
“Our instructors come from different areas of the world, such as the US, Korea, Malaysia, Jordan, and Egypt,” he said.
“With tremendous efforts, we were able to make a new method and style to deal with cinematic products, and allow students to express their dreams, hopes, challenges, fears and thoughts via film.”
Princess Lulwah Al-Faisal, vice chair of the Board of Trustees and general supervisor of Effat University, and Dr. Haifa Jamal Al-Lail, made an academic visit to USC School of Cinematic Arts at the University of the West, in western California, in 2012, where they saw the importance of having a visual and digital production department.
They signed an agreement with the USC School of Cinematic Arts and worked with the Saudi Ministry of higher education to introduce the program at Effat University in September 2013.
“During the past five years, we have developed the curricula with massive assistance and academic support from USC, one of the best film schools in the world. New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts has been annually reviewing the department’s curricula since 2016,” Ghazala said.
“We have faced a lot of new challenges for a university, students and staff in the Kingdom.”
“We had a new curricula that needed to be developed when there were no cinemas, no professionals (particularly female professionals), and no academic schools in this particular field,” he said.
More than 75 percent of the department’s graduates are working in areas such as local television, while other students had begun startups.
The department made a number of strategic partnerships to support students.
“Our strategic partnership with the General Authority for Audiovisual Media helped us to find actors and actresses. We also will have an agreement to allow our students to do their internship in the largest media production city in the region, in Cairo.”
The department will take part in the Cannes Film Festival in mid-May at the invitation of Saudi Film Council, sending the first-ever Saudi official delegation, Ghazalah said.
The Kingdom hopes to open at least 300 cinemas and develop a solid film industry by 2030. This will create 30,000 jobs and add value to the economy.
“The production of digital and visual media is an attractive area for Saudis, especially in light of the positive developments witnessed by the Kingdom with the launch of Vision 2030,” said Jamal Al-Lail.