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.”

 


What Saudi citizens need to know to travel safely

What Saudi citizens need to know to travel safely
Travelers will not be allowed into airports or planes without showing their health statuses through the government-approved health app, Tawakkalna. (Supplied)
Updated 10 May 2021

What Saudi citizens need to know to travel safely

What Saudi citizens need to know to travel safely
  • COVID-19 insurance mandatory for those under the age of 18 wishing to travel

JEDDAH: With one week to go before international travel resumes, Saudis are being encouraged to cover all the necessary basics before leaving the country.

During a joint press conference on Sunday, the General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA) and the Council of Cooperative Health Insurance (CCHI) shared new instructions and updated travel insurance policies for all Saudis wishing to travel abroad following a previous announcement stating the four categories allowed.
Ibrahim Alrwosa, GACA official spokesman, outlined the new travel procedures for citizens, health protocols followed at airports, and the shipment, transport and reception of vaccines at the Kingdom’s airports.
“After a week, our airports will witness the resuming of flights for citizens starting 1 a.m. We call on everyone to thoroughly follow the set health precautions to achieve a completely safe trip,” said Alrwosa, adding that the authority will update its safety instructions to add COVID-19 health measures in a new leaflet.
Travelers will not be allowed into airports or planes without showing their health statuses 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.
Alrwosa stressed that travelers follow their country of destination’s health precautions to avoid any problems.

HIGHLIGHT

Travelers will not be allowed into airports or planes without showing their health statuses 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. 

Meanwhile, CCHI spokesman, Othman Al-Qasabi, revealed that the new insurance policy will include benefits that cover the risks of COVID-19 infection, and that it is mandatory for those under the age of 18 wishing to travel.
“This is in cooperation with the Saudi Central Bank. Persons vaccinated with two doses, first dose, and immune by recovery with the required timeline, will have the travel insurance available for them, but it has been made mandatory for those under the age of 18 to reduce the risks accompanied by the virus.”
The travel insurance, which is only valid for 30 days, will cover emergency medical expenses related to COVID-19 such as emergency rooms, urgent care and transportation. It also covers quarantine-related accommodation costs, medical evacuation and issues related to canceling flights due to COVID-19 conditions.
“These new benefits have been added to the already existing travel insurance benefits.”
The council revealed that a consortium of 12 companies has been approved for people to receive travel insurance from, with Tawuniya Insurance Company chosen to lead the alliance.


King Salman appoints Abanmi as governor of Zakat, Tax, and Customs Authority

King Salman appoints Abanmi as governor of Zakat, Tax, and Customs Authority
Updated 10 May 2021

King Salman appoints Abanmi as governor of Zakat, Tax, and Customs Authority

King Salman appoints Abanmi as governor of Zakat, Tax, and Customs Authority

RIYADH: King Salman has issued a royal order appointing Suhail bin Mohammed bin Abdulaziz Abanmi as governor of the Zakat, Tax, and Customs Authority, with the rank of minister, the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) announced on Saturday.

The new body is a merger of the former General Authority of Zakat and Tax (GAZT), which Abanmi headed since 2017, and the Saudi Customs, of which he was named acting governor since March.

Abanmi has worked as an executive in various private companies and government agencies, including as head of business development and manager of the Tadawulaty program, general supervisor of the Ministry of Commerce’s agency for internal trade, and member of the advisory committee for the Capital Market Authority.


Saudi crown prince allocates 20 million square meters for housing units north of Riyadh

Saudi crown prince allocates 20 million square meters for housing units north of Riyadh
Updated 10 May 2021

Saudi crown prince allocates 20 million square meters for housing units north of Riyadh

Saudi crown prince allocates 20 million square meters for housing units north of Riyadh
  • The additional lands will provide more than 53,000 various housing units
  • Riyadh aims to become one of the 10 largest economic cities in the world

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has directed the allocation of 20 million square meters for new residential land north of Riyadh.
The ownership will be transferred to the Ministry of Municipal, Rural Affairs and Housing, and is part of a drive to improve the housing sector and hep families, Saudi Press Agency reported.
The allocation aims to increase the residential area of ​​Al-Jawan suburb from 10 million square meters to 30 million square meters, and build up to 53,000 housing units through integrated projects, facilities and services in partnership with the private sector. This is on top of the 20,000 housing units that have already been announced.
Support for the housing sector has led to Saudi home ownership increasing from 47 percent to 60 percent in the last four years.
The Kingdom hope that figure will reach 70 percent under the Vision 2030 reform programs.
“The additional lands allocated to the housing sector north of Riyadh will provide more than 53,000 various housing units that real estate developers will work on, taking into account the quality of services that meet the aspirations of citizens,” the statement said.
The move is also in line with the city’s growth with the aim of becoming one of the 10 largest economic cities in the world and an increase in population from 15 to 20 million by 2030.
Minister of Municipal and Rural Affairs and Housing Majed Al-Hogail said the housing sector contributes more than SR115 billion ($30.6 million) to GDP and provides about 40,000 direct and indirect jobs.
Riyadh’s housing sector has witnessed rapid growth over the past two years.


UAE condemns Houthi drone targeting Saudi Arabia’s Khamis Mushait    

UAE condemns Houthi drone targeting Saudi Arabia’s Khamis Mushait    
Updated 10 May 2021

UAE condemns Houthi drone targeting Saudi Arabia’s Khamis Mushait    

UAE condemns Houthi drone targeting Saudi Arabia’s Khamis Mushait    

RIYADH: The UAE repeated its “strong condemnation and denunciation” of the Iran-backed Houthi militia launching drone attacks at innocent civilians in Saudi Arabia.

The comments come after the latest attempted attack on the Kingdom’s southern regions. The Arab coalition said on Sunday that an explosives-laden drones was intercepted after it was launched towards Khamis Mushait. 

The UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation said the latest drone attack showed Houthi's “blatant defiance of the safety of the international community and its disregard for all international laws.”

The UAE said it stands against any threat to Saudi Arabia’s security and stability.


Weather warnings issued across Saudi Arabia until Friday

Weather warnings issued across Saudi Arabia until Friday
Updated 10 May 2021

Weather warnings issued across Saudi Arabia until Friday

Weather warnings issued across Saudi Arabia until Friday
  • Civil defense warns of thunderstorms and risk of flooding in some areas

RIYADH: Weather warnings have been issued for several regions across Saudi Arabia from Monday until Friday, the Kingdom’s civil defense said on Sunday.
The authority warned of thunderstorms with moderate to heavy rain and brisk winds that may lead to torrential flows in Asir, Al-Baha, Jazan, Najran, and Makkah.
The regions of Madinah, Qassim, Hail, the Northern Borders Province, Al-Jawf, and Tabuk will be affected by moderate rain, while the Eastern Province will be affected by light to moderate rain.
The warnings were based on data from the National Center of Meteorology.
Lt. Col. Mohammed Al-Hammadi, civil defense spokesman, called on everyone to be wary of the potential dangers of severe weather conditions, to stay away from places that could flood, and to abide by the civil defense’s instructions and updates announced through media and social media outlets.