Often creative individuals are afraid to take the necessary steps toward becoming a working artist, especially those who have found a comfortable life in another professional industry. One of our newest students put fear aside and decided to pursue his passion for acting. As a doctor in Saudi Arabia, Abdulhakeem Jomah still felt that something was missing in his life. After learning about a friend who had taken up filmmaking at New York Film Academy and another in the producing program, Jomah became more and more interested in our hands-on programs. Ultimately, his decision was to enroll into NYFA’s MFA Acting for Film Program in Los Angeles — stark contrast from being a doctor. We decided to have a brief chat with the new student, as perhaps his story could pave ways for others looking to break into a creative pursuit.
What ultimately made you decide to go from being a doctor to pursuing acting at the New York Film Academy?
I’ve always been into acting as more of a hobby — coming from a militarily academic family very much eliminates an academic pursuit of the arts right off the bat.
I suppose my tipping point was when a group of amateur actors, led by an ambitious director, took a pretty daring chance (considering the highly traditional playing field) in staging an all English, localized adaptation of One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest. In which I would play the lead, McMurphy.
It was a hectic eight months of rehearsal at one of the local college auditoriums where we were meant to stage it. And not three weeks before opening night we were shut down by the government.
We were in shambles for a good while, but a private benefactor took up our cause. He gave us his estate to use for our play.
And for one night, we did two shows, to two explosive standing ovations. The energy was electric. The aftermath very positive, and the pleads for more thrummed through the following year.
Seeing that energy, that positivity, the fruits of our near nine month struggle come to fruition, we weren’t paid, we did it because we loved it and it was ALL worth it, and I’d do it again, a million times over.
That, is what made me realize that this is what I needed to do.
Have you acted in anything prior to the play: professional or otherwise?
Aside from the play I mentioned earlier, nothing professional.
Abdullah Kurashi, the aforementioned production student, and I have done a lot of shorts together back in Saudi. Ranging from Joker impersonation videos for local competitions, to completely random, often psychotic shorts. Only because we loved doing it.
Is there an actor who inspires you?
I can mention oldies all day, but there are actors that have a deep, personal methodology that I respect and one day hope to attain that discipline.
Christian Bale, is at the top of that list. His methodology is absurdly dedicated and there’s nothing I didn’t love him in.
Jake Gyllenhaal was the star of the first movie I ever called my favorite (Donnie Darko), and has ridiculously come into his own recently with Nightcrawler and Prisoners.
But most recently, Oscar Isaac has really won me ove with Inside Llewyn Davis, and Ex Machina — he’s just a cool guy.
What do you hope to achieve with your training at NYFA?
I’ve no illusions of living the American dream and making millions. I have a genuine, embedded love for the craft. If it were about the money, doctors make tons of it. I’d stick with that and call it a day.
There are artists in the Middle East that CAN’T go public with their art out of fear or scrutiny, it’s a taboo. And I want to change that. We can only perform after jumping through a million and one hoops, and even then with restriction.
If nothing else, I’m hoping this move will inspire my fellow artists in the trenches and foxholes to come out and show the world what we have, and perhaps in doing that, shed light and awareness on all other issues that, if addressed and abolished, could better our home.
And I’d love to say I was at the vanguard of that movement.