With award season upon us, we’re always excited to hear from our alumni around the world as they find success screening their work. New York Film Academy (NYFA) BFA Filmmaking graduates Talha (“B.”) Bin Abdulrahman and Maan Bin Abdulrahman have already seen their NYFA thesis film, The Scapegoat, celebrated at the Middle East’s leading film festival, the 14th Dubai International Film Festival. There, it was an official selection.
The short was an official selection at the following other festivals:
- The Irvine International Film Festival
- Orlando Film Festival
- San Antonio Film Festival
- Chandler Film Festival
The Scapegoat continues its momentum as an official selection at the second annual Young Saudi Film Festival, screening at NYFA Los Angeles Feb. 18.
Talha B. was able to take some time during his busy festival schedule to tell the NYFA Blog a bit more about his experience directing The Scapegoat.
NYFA: First, can you tell us a bit about your journey in filmmaking and what brought you to the New York Film Academy?
TBA: Let me just start this by saying that I feel incredibly fortunate to be a filmmaker. After graduating from high school almost nine years ago, I have gone through several academic paths before I found out that my real passion is filmmaking, which is how I ended up at NYFA — a decision that changed the course of my life, for the better.
NYFA: Why filmmaking? What inspires you most about the medium?
TBA: Ever since I was a kid, I was a big fan of watching and talking about films. I believe filmmaking is a format that contains a beautiful package of many different art forms, to tell stories that provoke emotional responses from viewers from all over the world. I always found that inspiring and compelling.
NYFA: Can you tell us more about your film The Scapegoat? What is the story, and what about the project grabbed you?
TBA: The Scapegoat is a 22-minute short I directed as my thesis project for the New York Film Academy’s BFA filmmaking program. The Scapegoat is about Paul Dugan, a former best-selling author who is in search of his next novel. Feeling the pressure to live up to his earlier success, he shelters himself in an isolated cabin in the woods to confront his internal demons.
Every creative person goes through some [form of] writer’s block, so the story was appealing to me, to represent that visually by telling this story. A creative mind can be its own worst critic, because it is continuously working — especially when there is too much pressure and a lot at stake.
To not do a project that deals with this topic would be madness.
NYFA: Were there any surprises or challenges along the way during production, and how did you adapt?
TBA: I’ve never directed a project that involved a single actor playing multiple roles all at once. In this case it was four distinct characters.
It was quite the brain teaser to think of all the factors in each scene we shot, from camera blocking to hair and makeup. It required an extra level of planning and coordination between every single person working on set.
I believe the biggest challenge I faced was when I learned that my actor’s body double refused to shave his facial hair to match the lead actor changing between character looks. Luckily enough, two talented performers stepped in to save the day.
The critical lesson overall for me was to believe in your crew, because it takes a village to make a film — no matter how big, or small.
NYFA: Congratulations on screening The Scapegoat at the Dubai International Film Festival! What was this experience like?
TBA: Thank you, it was a pleasant experience. My producer Maan B. attended on behalf of myself and the team. The film was positively received by the audience, which is something I was delighted to hear.
NYFA: What advice can you share with our students when it comes to applying to a major festival like the Dubai International Film Fest?
TBA: Just one piece of advice that one of my instructors had shared with me, which is to be one of the first people who apply to the festival. Sometimes it’s good to be early, for your film to be noticed.
NYFA: What is next for The Scapegoat?
TBA: More festivals will pick it up, hopefully.
NYFA: What’s next for you? Any upcoming projects you’d like to tell us about?
TBA: Excited about directing a feature with a working title of The Alien.
It is a stylized dramedy following the story of an unworldly immigrant who dares to go after his dream as an artist, despite the harsh reality he faces. It will be a collaboration with the same talented writers and producer behind The Scapegoat.
The New York Film Academy congratulates Talha, Maan and The Scapegoat team on their success! To see The Scapegoat (along with seven other excellent selections) at the Young Saudi Film Festival Sunday, Feb. 18, at 4 p.m., please RSVP here.