By Maysam Ali, Notes Staff Reporter – Students, faculty members and administrative officials from film institutes based in the UAE set up booths during the Dubai International Film Festival as part of a one-day Student Media Trade Fair.
The New York Film Academy Acting and Film School Abu Dhabi, the Dubai-based School of Audio Engineering, Dubai Women’s College and Murdoch University were among the institutes presenting their courses and services, in addition to information on upcoming workshops for people in the film industry.
New York Film Academy, Abu Dhabi
The New York Film Academy offers short, intensive workshops as well as one-year programmes and two-year associate degrees in film-making, acting and finance.
It currently has a student strength of 80 with branches in Los Angeles, New York and, as of last year, Abu Dhabi.
Simon Hunter, president of the academy in Abu Dhabi, said students in the region have much to look forward to.
“We prepare student to create a new industry,” he told Notes. He explained that the norm for film-makers is to start making films with a limited budget, show them at festivals, get selected by new producers and start growing as funding for the film grows.
“This is a well-known path that students take and can choose to take to grow,” he said.
“Our focus is to get students to find their own voice and to create films at a cost-effective budget, involve them in festivals and bring production back to this region,” he said.
“Film festivals are to be commended because they are attracting a great level of interest; they can attract such high-quality talent,” he said.
Asked if students in the UAE are interested in the field, he said: “I have been inspired by the number of Emirati students in this field. The films they are making are beautiful. They make films about their lives, which is extremely important. They build on the idea of story-telling… . The best stories to tell are the ones that are most personal; they are frightening for the students but they make great stories,” he said.
Speaking of the future, he said: “I am excited and passionate and would love to see great stories told from the region… . Students are now globally savvy and they have an understanding of the global film industry. They have been exposed to Egyptian, Hollywood and Bollywood films, all of which makes for a great film-maker. Let’s tell a story that’s unique to the Arab region,” he said.
Students manning the various booths spoke to visitors about their training and film-making experience.
Shane De Almeida, a first-year directing student at the New York Film Academy Film School Abu Dhabi, said he chose directing because of his passion for film-making. “The program at the academy is hands-on and more practical than theoretical.”
His friend, Rami Deeb, said: “In the three months since my joining, I have been working on film-making, and training on what we will have to do in the future.”
‘Find your voice’
By Maysam Ali, Notes Staff Reporter – Students interested in film-making interacted with experts, learnt about current trends in the industry and got information about film academies and training workshops at the recent Dubai International Film Festival.
A panel discussion also brought together film-makers who shared their experiences with students. The panel included Maysoon Pachachi, Iraqi film-maker, Nandita Das, Indian actress, James Hindman, actor and director, and Greg Shapiro, producer.
Filming in Iraq
Pachachi, along with London-based Iraqi film-maker Qasim Abed, set up the Independent Film and Television College in Baghdad in 2004. She spoke about the difficulties the training centre faces trying to train students amidst a raging war that threatens to wreck homes and tear families apart.
“Making films in Iraq is a kind of resistance against the war and the current situation,” she said.
James Hindman said that a great producer is a good list-maker who selects the material for a film and knows it well, picks a team, recognises the story, understands the narrative and has a vision and a great camera.
“A good producer doesn’t care about himself or herself, but rather puts everyone else in the spotlight. He or she makes actors feel special and acts as part of the audience,” he said.
Nandita Das highlighted how her lack of ambition to become an actress worked to her advantage as it gave her the freedom and strength to refuse many offers.
She had several tips for aspiring actors.
“If you want to be an actor, find your own space and voice and negotiate through that. You will find new ways of expressing yourself, even more when you start watching yourself in the movies,” she said.
Directing with vision
Greg Shapiro shared his views on the role of a director. “The film is a director’s medium so when choosing jobs, I look for a director with a vision and I hand the movie to him/her,” he said.
Echoing the views of the other speakers, Hindman said: “There’s a great role for film education in the region. There is vocational training related to skills and building the infrastructure; academic training provides knowledge on art history, the politics and context in which cinema exists and professional training.”
The audience included students from many schools and universities such as the English College, Cambridge International School, Dubai Women’s College and Zayed University. They had many questions for the experts.
Sepehr Olfatmamanesh, a grade 11 student at the Cambridge International School (CIS), said he was eager to hear from the experts about training opportunities. “They can advise us on which schools to go to,” he said.
Josh Jennings, a grade 12 student from CIS, who aspires to major in film studies or drama, said: “I’m not sure if I want to major in modern drama or film but both would make me happy.”
CIS students have film studies and information communications technology (ICT) as part of their academic course. The first part involves study and making short films whereas the latter course focuses on post-production, said Ania Sikora, head of ICT at the school.
Hysun Ismael, a media student from Middlesex University Dubai, was interested in learning about the professional viewpoint of media representatives. He and fellow student Riaz Naqui agreed that Dubai is a new market for the media but that it has a promising future.
Amnah Al Hosani, another media student from Middlesex University, said she attended the event primarily because of her interest in the field of broadcasting and public relations.
“I want to have an idea about what’s happening, to see the movies, learn about different backgrounds and ideas,” she said.