Lights ... camera ... action! Meet rising star Saudi filmmaker Yaser Hammad

Lights ... camera ... action! Meet rising star Saudi filmmaker Yaser Hammad
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Lights ... camera ... action! Meet rising star Saudi filmmaker Yaser Hammad
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Lights ... camera ... action! Meet rising star Saudi filmmaker Yaser Hammad
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Lights ... camera ... action! Meet rising star Saudi filmmaker Yaser Hammad
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Lights ... camera ... action! Meet rising star Saudi filmmaker Yaser Hammad
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Lights ... camera ... action! Meet rising star Saudi filmmaker Yaser Hammad
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Lights ... camera ... action! Meet rising star Saudi filmmaker Yaser Hammad
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Lights ... camera ... action! Meet rising star Saudi filmmaker Yaser Hammad
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Lights ... camera ... action! Meet rising star Saudi filmmaker Yaser Hammad
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Updated 29 July 2015

Lights ... camera ... action! Meet rising star Saudi filmmaker Yaser Hammad

Lights ... camera ... action! Meet rising star Saudi filmmaker Yaser Hammad

Whether concrete or abstract, the subject matter of an artwork must be expressed with form — a set of conventions of patterned relationships used to perceive, evaluate, and define an artwork. There are so many forms of self expression, it’s not possible to define which is the best and which isn’t. There are no limits to one’s ability to self express and portray their feelings the best way they could. There are different types of literature such as poetry, novels, short stories along with their genres, photography, abstract art, calligraphy, calligraffiti, music, painting, film and so much more. It all starts with a passion for something specific that soon grows to a vision of the future self, mix in ambition and you’ve got yourself a clear view of what you want to be. It’s how a young independent film maker named Yaser Hammad came to be who he is today.
A young man in his early 20’s doing what he’s always dreamt of doing while learning the how-tos of the trait from scratch and in hopes of continuing this passion. It’s an endless learning cycle but it’s a passion he’s able to put in perspective after experiencing different challenges before heading to the United States to pursue his BA at the New York Film Academy in LA, California. Arab News was able to meet young Yaser, who shared his story with our readers:

Who is Yaser Hammad and how did you come to be what you are today?
Yaser Hammad is a simple Jeddawi guy who loves film making. It all started when I was in the 6th grade where I played a small part in the school play and realized I was in another world where I can act and become someone else. It fascinated me to the level where I decided then and there that I wanted to grow up and be an actor. With time I realized that becoming an actor is a much more difficult job to have, especially in Saudi Arabia, so my vision shifted to film making. Yousif Shahine once said, “I can become a director so I can give myself a bigger role in acting.”

What was your trigger point that changed your perspective?
After graduating from high school, I tried finding a job in any film production company, I was either rejected or passed on. At the time I would open up the website of New York Film Academy every single day and just look at the site, I didn’t know how to apply or do anything. I went to the United States for a year, I couldn’t find myself there so I moved to a university in Dubai. I enrolled in a major that had to do with film production but it was much more journalism than film making. I returned to Jeddah in the summer after that and I was able to get an internship in a small film studio, I did everything from handling the camera, lighting, sweeping floors, I did it all! I was very excited throughout the whole experience and I was learning. Then one day, a fellow film maker in the studio informed me that the scholarship program enlisted the NY Film Academy in one of the universities allowed to enroll in. I went ahead and applied and got my chance finally. It was through that internship that I was able to go ahead and move forward with my plan. It’s a life changer.
Given the ups and downs that you went through before enrolling in the NY Film Academy, what pushed you to keep at it and not give up on your dream?
I saw the final picture, I believed in myself. You know how in some movies, the starting scene would be a hovered view of the city from one side to the other and ending in the sea for example before the characters appear, I wanted to be one of those film makers that would do the same with Jeddah, I want to show the mountains from the East, head down to the favorite landmarks and end with the Red Sea before I move to another scene. It takes your breath away and film makers here aren’t being that creative to take advantage of it.

What was it like going to your first day of classes?
It was a totally exciting day! My first class was screen writing and I thought it was going to be the most difficult class I’d ever take, the teacher was hated by so many but as it turned out he was one of my favorites. He pushed me, taught me how to pour out my feelings, emotions, anxieties, experiences, anger, pain and so much more got me to realize I had issues that turned into words on paper. I thought by training myself, I’d be expressing more emotion, but on the contrary, I’d still have so much bottled up preventing me from creating more innovative ideas. With time I realized that this blockade I was suffering from was due to a fear of exposure, I found that no one really knows that these are actual personal feelings, they just believe it’s a brilliant idea from my imagination. The process then became easier and I have a wild imagination, I can see the whole movie in my head from start to finish. Time helped with the growth of my imagination.

Are there external factors that help you throughout the filming process and make things work the way you want it to be?
It’s funny how some events help complete an idea when you least expect it. On my latest project “Parallel Strings,” I was literally stuck on the last page of the script and I wasn’t able to finish it the way I wanted to. I went to Friday prayers and coincidentally the Imam was giving a sermon on Musa (peace be upon him) and the story of the Pharaoh, that sermon bridged the gap for me when I least expected. I just have to keep my eyes open.
Since enrolling in the New York Film Academy School for Arts, young Yaser has worked on many projects, some as a requirement for his classes and other personal projects which he claims he isn’t proud of due to them being in their trial phases. Ironically these “failed” projects were a learning platform for the budding young film maker and a push to prepare better scripts, organize, correct timing, coordinated staff… etc. His two bigger projects from the bunch are “Leila.” The second is “Parallel Strings,” his movies are a mix of messages, parodies, feelings and goals the film maker wants to relay to the audience, that all starts with a brilliant script.

Are you an emotional person?
Yes, very much so. It all began with the passing of my mother after high school and between graduating high school and starting at the NYFA, people thought that I was a failure, someone who doesn’t have a goal in life. That put me down because I’m not like that, I was merely trying to find myself. Regardless, these two years taught me so many life lessons. I took these lessons and channeled my emotions to create film through sincere scripts.

Do your emotions play a role in your script writing?
Of course! The direction the script goes is directed by the state of emotion I’m in at the time of writing, mad, sad, happy, focused, lost… you name it. I feel thus I write, sincerely.

Who is your role model?
The late Egyptian director Yousef Chahine. The idea of portraying yourself without any boundaries or care for judgments in your films and the portrayal of emotions in it is what I find in me as well.

You have a clear love for Egypt in your films and script writing, whether it be the theme or language or even chosen literature and poetry from known Egyptian artists. How so?
I grew up watching old Egyptian movies, we’re talking on a daily basis. One of our childhood games was my brothers playing trivia with me, asking me about certain quotes and I’d tell from which movie it was, it was always me against them and I’d always win. After moving to the States, I realized how much I appreciated Egyptian movies and how much my love grew for them from a young age. I am very much influenced by the Egyptians, even the characters’ names are linked to Egypt. In the early years of Egyptian cinema, there was a lot of respect for musicians, composers, writers and all the contributors in the film because they gave it all they got each and every time.

You’ve been studying the art of film making, from lights and cameras to adjusting the correct camera angles. Looking at some of the amateurs who don’t have film making as a background, if you had to critique three things that you’ve noticed in their work, what would they be?
Script, script, script. Lights and cameras aren’t important if you don’t have a powerful script, even if the idea is great with a poor script, the whole project is useless. Second would be the lack of preproduction, there’s poor organization and lack of coordination. Third would the idea that experience in the local TV/film industry makes the person feel like they’ve accomplished so much in a place where film making is misunderstood and have no proper knowledge of. This is especially true because the only way they’re going all big is because they’ve only worked in singular form, they’ve never worked under a well-known director or producer to learn the traits of the film industry. They need to get out of their comfort zones and learn the proper way.

Do you see yourself doing this for the rest of your life?
Yes. The feeling you get when your film is on screen for hundreds to see and appreciate the beautiful art work that I’ve created is something that can’t be described in words. That’s how I felt with the screening of “Leila.” The world of cinema is beautiful, grand, sophisticated and I wouldn’t want to do anything else. There are no limits to a dream, as long as you keep chasing it and accept the challenges that come your way, nothing is impossible.

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