Saudi female film producer reaching for the stars

Saudi female film producer reaching for the stars
Jumanah Shaheen believes Saudi Arabia has a lot of talent and stories to share. (Photo by Maram Hassan)
Updated 29 April 2019

Saudi female film producer reaching for the stars

Saudi female film producer reaching for the stars
  • Rising visual effects expert worked with famous names including Taylor Swift and Maroon 5

JEDDAH: Saudi film producer Jumanah Shaheen is reaching for the stars.

Born and raised in Jeddah, the young visual and animation expert has found herself rubbing shoulders with some of the biggest names in the entertainment world, including the likes of Taylor Swift and Maroon 5.

And despite a relatively short career in the movie industry, ambitious Shaheen has already set her sights on running her own content creation house on the lines of Disney and Pixar. 

Shaheen grew up moving between the US and Saudi Arabia, giving her a good understanding of different cultures from an early age.

After completing high school in Jeddah, she moved to the US in 2010 and obtained a bachelor’s degree in animation and visual effects from the Academy of Art University, in San Francisco. After graduating in 2015, she moved to Los Angeles, where she currently resides, to advance her professional career.

Shifting between countries and cultures meant Shaheen often struggled to fit in, but she noticed that the one common interest she had with many people was her passion for movies, animations and various characters. “This was always my way of formulating relationships with those around me,” she said.

Watching movies was also how she entertained herself. “From an early age I loved writing, drawing and re-enacting different movie scenes. I would also imagine myself as one of the characters in my favorite movies.”

Shaheen was always fascinated by the messages behind films. Through watching television, she learned not to judge others for their actions but rather to search for the reasons behind those actions. She said: “Rather than debating about which movies were better and picking favorites, I felt that every movie served its own purpose.”

She chose her field of study to act as a vehicle for sending out positive messages.

“If I were to do something good in this world and have a positive influence, it would most likely be by sending a message of having a little empathy when dealing with others and try to understand where they might be coming from before judging them. I feel that movies and animation, with the right message, can have a much bigger impact than other mediums,” added Shaheen.

As a visual effects (VFX) producer, Shaheen meets with clients to establish what effects are needed, assess footage, determine how many artists are required for a project, and communicate thoughts back to the client. “I also have to orchestrate what is being done, to make sure that the work is done efficiently while sticking to the time frame and budget.”

Hiring the correct talent is also key. “Each illustrator, for example, has their own style, so I have to make sure that the style fits the project that I am working on.”

In addition, Shaheen maintains constant communication between the production team and client. Developing a strong relationship with the client and artists was vital to achieving a project’s desired outcome, she said.

“I prefer to have a relationship with the artists where we can talk about the project and include them in every step, because at the end of the day if the client decides to change the concept, which the artist spent time and effort working on, they might not feel as frustrated.”

Shaheen said that having a strong technical background and being creative, were key attributes to success in her field. It was also important to keep up to date with industry advances. Shaheen does this by taking courses, volunteering for various projects and checking out different forums online. She also attends seminars and art exhibitions in order to “stay inspired.”

Depending on a project’s budget, level of quality, resolution and extent of visual effects, the production team can be as small as three people or as large as 400.

Shaheen described the technical process as Photoshop for video. But unlike with still images, the movement of objects have to be tracked to make the video look seamless. This means many calculations, math and physics.

“It’s not as simple as copying and pasting because it has to look realistic,” said Shaheen. “Even for something as simple as a walk, you have to realize that there is more than one joint moving, so it does take time to create it and make it look real.”

Shaheen has a long list of contributions to well-known and award-winning productions including feature films such as the Oscar-nominated Arabic movie “Theeb,” drama “Fruitvale Station,” “Captain America: Civil War,” and “Advantageous.”

She also worked on popular TV series such as “Modern Family,” “Fresh Off the Boat,” “Black-ish,” and “Arrested Development.”

Her music videos have included work for internationally famous artists such as Taylor Swift’s “Look What You Made Me Do,” and Maroon 5’s “Three Little Birds.”

Swift’s video was one of Shaheen’s more challenging projects. “It was my chance to prove myself because I had just been promoted from coordinator to producer. At the same time, it was a big project with a team of only 30 people working on it.”

She said she had to take on the roles of producer, coordinator, personal assistant, and runner, and worked long hours, six days a week for the duration of the project. “The stress of this project also meant that I got to build a much stronger relationship with the artists that I was working with, who were very supportive.”

During her recent visit to Saudi, Shaheen was pleased to see the positive changes taking place in the Kingdom’s film industry. She believes Saudi Arabia has a lot of talent and stories to share.

She noted that Saudi films such as “Wadjda” were proof of the talent in the country, in addition to other short films and songs by local artists she found to be very creative.

“I think that these short films can someday turn into feature films and these songs can become soundtracks to these films. it’s just a matter of giving them the opportunity and space to creatively convey their ideas and to express themselves.”

Shaheen feels there is still room for improvement and space to grow for the industry.

“For example, there are still no clear guidelines as to what we can and cannot do. We definitely do have the resources to compete with the movie industries abroad, but it’s just a matter of being daring enough to take the step,” she added.

Looking ahead, Shaheen would like to set up her own production house but not the kind that would provide services and take on commercial projects. “I would like to have my own content creation house working with in-house scriptwriters and concept artists, kind of how Disney and Pixar started.” 

For anyone thinking of entering the industry, Shaheen said it was important to take every small opportunity and turn it into something big.

“My first job was to hold a door open on set for eight hours. It was tedious but I got to see the different people walking in and out such as producers, and directors. Eventually, when one of the assistant directors called in sick, I was able to move from a personal assistant to assistant director.”

 


Arabic calligraphy’s fusion with Japanese captures beauty of both worlds

Arabic calligraphy’s fusion with Japanese captures beauty of both worlds
Noha Raheem says when she was younger, she discovered the three famous Japanese written scripts — including Kanji, Katakana and Hiragana — and she was awestruck. (Supplied)
Updated 23 June 2021

Arabic calligraphy’s fusion with Japanese captures beauty of both worlds

Arabic calligraphy’s fusion with Japanese captures beauty of both worlds
  • My enthusiasm for Kanji script started six years ago, says Saudi designer and calligrapher Noha Raheem

JEDDAH: Saudi artist, designer and calligrapher Noha Raheem ventured into the world of calligraphy in an unconventional way, fusing her interest in Kanji — the logographic Chinese characters used in the Japanese writing system — with Arabic calligraphy.

The result has been a portfolio of unique and eye-catching works that capture the beauty of both worlds
“I’m fond of Arabic calligraphy and graphics in general. My enthusiasm for Kanji script started six years ago,” Raheem told Arab News.
“Any calligraphic font has its roles and system. When I was younger, I discovered the three famous Japanese written scripts — including Kanji, Katakana and Hiragana — and I was awestruck. The impressive vertical letters, the way they are formed and their meaningful symbols were like a secret code.”

FASTFACT

In Arabic calligraphy, writing proceeds from right to left and forms a horizontal line. Artists rarely confine themselves to convention, though.

In Arabic calligraphy, writing proceeds from right to left and forms a horizontal line. Artists rarely confine themselves to convention, though.
“For Kufic calligraphy and freestyle in Arabic, I was driven by passion. I was inspired by Hajji Noor Deen in my beginnings, and later on, I created Arabic calligraphy in the Kanji style to show the beauty and flexibility of this complex yet innovative mix,” Raheem said.


The self-taught calligrapher discovered the roles and philosophy behind the beauty of Kanji script. “It is said that the only rule for Japanese and Chinese calligraphy is that it is beautiful, no matter what is written. What matters is how it is written. That’s why I believe the Kanji style can be merged and fitted with our Arabic letters to create a masterpiece for both eye and mind,” she said.
She explained that Arabic letters are equally malleable. “They can be shaped in any way, and still keep their form and meaning. Today I wrote my letters in the Kanji style. Later, I might do it in Urdu just to show the world how flexible and beautiful Arabic letters are.”
Raheem’s artworks, including famous sayings and poetry in Arabic, are written freestyle — a tricky task.


She also writes Qur’anic verses in Kanji: “I love to write words that anyone can relate to, including poetry and short verses with iconic and universal messages. I can apply this art to any word, as long as it makes sense to me.”
Raheem is faithful to the cultures she draws inspiration from, using traditional Sumi ink and off-white, antique-style background colors with black script, or vice versa, to mirror the essence of the Japanese style.
She also uses Japanese calligraphy brushes, Xuan rice paper, and Kakejiku, a Japanese hanging scroll used to display and exhibit paintings and calligraphic inscriptions and designs.
Her love for and dedication to Japanese art drove her to share her knowledge and display her works at art cafes, galleries, and sushi restaurants in Saudi Arabia and Dubai.
She encourages other Arab artists to explore the beauty and flexibility of the Arabic language and preserve it through art. Raheem can be found at her Instagram account @noha_raheem.


Daily virus tally hits 10-month high in Saudi Arabia

Daily virus tally hits 10-month high in Saudi Arabia
Health authorities urged the public to continue to follow all precautionary measures. (SPA)
Updated 23 June 2021

Daily virus tally hits 10-month high in Saudi Arabia

Daily virus tally hits 10-month high in Saudi Arabia
  • Authorities urge compliance with health guidelines

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia on Tuesday recorded the highest single-day total of new COVID-19 cases since Aug. 13, 2020.
Authorities in the Kingdom reported an additional 1,479 infections, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 476,882. Of these, 11,131 remain active and 1,487 patients are in critical condition.
The Health Ministry also said there have been a further 12 virus-related deaths, raising the death toll in the country to 7,703.
Makkah region has the highest number of new infections, with 431, followed by the Eastern Province with 280 and Riyadh region with 256.
The ministry said that an additional 920 patients have recovered from COVID-19, bringing the total number of recoveries in the Kingdom to 458,048. It added that about 16.8 million doses of coronavirus vaccine have been administered, an average of 94,104 a day, which is a rate of 48.2 doses per hundred people.
Health authorities urged the public to continue to follow all precautionary measures and ministry guidelines to prevent the spread of the virus. All ministries and other government bodies in the Kingdom are working together to ensure compliance with health guidelines.

HIGHLIGHTS

• Saudi Arabia reported 1,479 new cases on Tuesday.

• The Makkah region reported the highest number of infections.

• With 12 new fatalities, the death toll has risen to 7,703.

The Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development carried out 448,126 inspections of commercial establishments in the private sector throughout the country in the first five months of this year. The aim is to ensure employers are following all rules and regulations relating to pandemic-related health protocols and to Saudization legislation. The teams recorded 45,421 violations and issued 51,005 warnings.
The ministry called on employers to adhere to its decisions and legislation relating to the labor market, improve the working environment and implement localization rules, as well as precautionary measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Unannounced inspections of the private sector institutions will continue throughout the Kingdom, it added


Saudi education portal among global top 4, says UNESCO official

Saudi education portal among global top 4, says UNESCO official
Saudi Education Minister Dr. Hamad bin Mohammed Al-Asheikh held a meeting with UNESCO’s top official Stefania Giannini in Italy on Tuesday. (SPA)
Updated 23 June 2021

Saudi education portal among global top 4, says UNESCO official

Saudi education portal among global top 4, says UNESCO official
  • The UNESCO official said the Kingdom’s success in introducing distance learning in a short time has propelled it into a leadership role in this field

RIYADH: UNESCO’s assistant director general for education on Tuesday lauded Saudi Arabia for promptly switching over to online learning methods in the wake of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.
During a meeting with Saudi Education Minister Dr. Hamad bin Mohammed Al-Asheikh on the sidelines of the G20 education ministers’ meeting in Catania in Italy, Stefania Giannini said the Kingdom has achieved great success in e-learning and distance education during the pandemic.
She praised the swiftness of the Saudi authorities in switching over to online learning without compromising on the quality of education.
The UNESCO official said the Kingdom’s success in introducing distance learning in a short time has propelled it into a leadership role in this field. Giannini said the Madarasti online learning platform introduced by the Kingdom is among the top four global models.

FASTFACT

The Madarasti platform provides students with virtual classes, homework assignments, and delivery tools and is used in conjunction with the iEN YouTube channel and the iEN national education portal.

The fully interactive platform was developed as a response to the coronavirus pandemic, which shut down schools across the Kingdom. It is designed so that students can log in and attend their lessons digitally, interact with their teachers and track their progress.
It provides students with virtual classes, homework assignments, and delivery tools and is used in conjunction with the iEN YouTube channel and the iEN national education portal.
School leaders consistently monitor the educational process via Madrasati, prepare class schedules, communicate with absent students, and provide technical support for students and their parents.


Summer vacations: Insurance providers step up to cover travel risks

Summer vacations: Insurance providers step up to cover travel risks
Saudis will not be allowed to enter airports or board aircraft without showing their health status through the Tawakkalna app. (AN photos by Huda Bashatah)
Updated 23 June 2021

Summer vacations: Insurance providers step up to cover travel risks

Summer vacations: Insurance providers step up to cover travel risks
  • Countries are demanding travelers have travel insurance in order to lift the financial burden of medical bills in case of emergencies
  • ‘A traveler is exposed to losses such as quarantine and treatment costs of COVID-19, cancellation of a flight or shortening its duration or missing flights, or loss of luggage or delay of luggage. The policy includes coverage of emergency medical expenses

RIYADH: With summer vacations underway and more countries easing restrictions on international travelers, health risks from COVID-19 remain a source of concern.
Citizens are being encouraged to follow health precautions before departure to ensure a safe trip, while health insurance is also an entry requirement for some countries.
Pre-flight tests are required and more countries are demanding travelers to their countries have travel insurance in order to lift the financial burden of medical bills in case of emergencies. Others require visitors to buy healthcare policies from their destination’s government.
For travelers under 18, health insurance that covers COVID-19 infection is mandatory. The 12 accredited health insurance service providers are following the guidelines.
In a joint press conference with the Saudi General Authority of Civil Aviation last month, Council of Cooperative Health Insurance (CCHI) spokesman Othman Al-Qasabi said that a new insurance policy in conjunction with the Saudi Central Bank (SAMA) will include benefits that cover the risks of COVID-19 infection.
The policy is mandatory for those under 18 planning to travel.
Talal Albotty, regional director of the Central Region at Salama Insurance Co, told Arab News that the central bank initiative in collaboration with the CCHI aims to distribute risks and losses if these occur.
Comprehensive coverage is included for travelers on international flights against all risks related to travel outside Saudi Arabia, he said.
“A traveler is exposed to losses such as quarantine and treatment costs of COVID-19, cancellation of a flight or shortening its duration or missing flights, or loss of luggage or delay of luggage. The policy includes coverage of emergency medical expenses, personal accidents, or transportation of a deceased from or to Saudi Arabia and liability toward others as per the conditions and exceptions delineated in the unified insurance policy,” he said.
Albotty said the cost of an insurance policy does not exceed SR375 ($100) a month. However, if more services are added, these will be calculated proportionately as per the duration of the policy.
The policy is for people vaccinated against COVID-19 and is required for anyone under 18 traveling outside Saudi Arabia since they are not required to take a vaccine under global protocols, he said.
Husain Quhal, a senior executive with a leading insurance company, told Arab News: “The Saudi Central Bank has launched a campaign to educate people on the importance of travel insurance covering COVID-19 risks as well as reducing costs of traveling abroad.”
Feroz Khan, vice president of sales in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain for Webbeds, a leading accommodation supplier to the travel industry, told Arab News: “Resumption of flights in May, opening of borders, and relaxation in travel and quarantine protocols have all resulted in positive travel sentiments.”
Webbeds is in touch with its partner company in the Kingdom and will make this travel insurance available for travel agents to book online shortly, he said.
Saudis travelers will not be allowed to enter airports or board aircraft without showing their health status through the government-approved health app, Tawakkalna.
Travelers who have received two vaccine doses, those who have completed two weeks since receiving the first jab, those who are immune by recovery no more than six months since infection and children under the age of 18 who have travel insurance obtained in cooperation with the Saudi Central Bank will be the only groups allowed to cross international borders.


Who’s Who: Dr. Suzan Mohammed Al-Yahya, director general of Saudi Arabia’s Royal Institute of Traditional Arts

Who’s Who: Dr. Suzan Mohammed Al-Yahya, director general of Saudi Arabia’s Royal Institute of Traditional Arts
Updated 22 June 2021

Who’s Who: Dr. Suzan Mohammed Al-Yahya, director general of Saudi Arabia’s Royal Institute of Traditional Arts

Who’s Who: Dr. Suzan Mohammed Al-Yahya, director general of Saudi Arabia’s Royal Institute of Traditional Arts

Dr. Suzan Mohammed Al-Yahya has been appointed director general of Saudi Arabia’s Royal Institute of Traditional Arts.

Al-Yahya will be responsible for managing the institute, implementing its strategic directions and developing traditional arts in line with the institute’s vision.

She is one of the top academics in the field of art and design, having worked as a faculty member at Princess Nourah Bint Abdul Rahman University.

She also worked as a consultant, and was a member of advisory committees at the university and other organizations.

Al-Yahya obtained a master’s degree in art education and a Ph.D. in educational technology, as well as a Ph.D. in educational policies and leadership at the University of Northern Colorado, US.

She has authored research papers in various fields and participated in several scientific conferences.

The institute will launch its first training courses in September aimed at enriching traditional arts, training specialized national cadres, raising the level of public awareness, and preserving tangible and intangible cultural heritage.

The Royal Institute of Traditional Arts is one the initiatives of the Quality of Life Program, part of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 reform plan.

The Ministry of Culture aims to develop the local cultural sector through education and knowledge. The institute will provide advanced educational programs to prepare young Saudis to help the Kingdom develop its cultural sector along modern lines.