dubai
Posts

  • New York Film Academy Alum Uzair Merchant is Best Indie Director at Los Angeles Film Awards

    Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmail

    In the middle of a the entertainment industry’s award season, it’s easy to see how a prestigious award can mean more than its weight in glitter or gold. Winning an award is a remarkably exciting way for artists to share their stories and receive recognition for a job well done, and we are proud to congratulate one such New York Film Academy alum.

    New York Film Academy (NYFA) filmmaking graduate Uzair Merchant has been busy since completing his filmmaking workshop at NYFA New York City. With production credits with the BBC, Marvel Studios, Universal Pictures, Paramount Pictures, and more, the triple-degree black belt has also launched his own award-winning production company, and recently snagged the competitive Best Indie Filmmaker Award from the Los Angeles Film Awards.

    The NYFA Blog had a chance to sit down and catch up with the award-winning filmmaker and production designer to hear more about his film “Chasing Lines,” what inspires him, and what’s next.

    NYFA: First, can you tell us a little bit about yourself and what brought you to the New York Film Academy?

    UM: I’m an Indian filmmaker who grew up in Dubai. My background is in production and set design, which I studied at Nottingham Trent University in England. However that was always a path for me wanting to make films: understanding the creative side. Some of the greatest filmmakers like Sir Ridley Scott and Alfred Hitchcock were part of art departments before making it as mainstream filmmakers. It’s the one side of film that has retained its roots in cinema, with the process just using different tools now.

    Learning to make films in New York [at the New York Film Academy] was a dream though, especially with the alumni list of NYFA. It’s in the heart of it all! Could you believe telling a kid in dubai in the ‘90s, “You can make films in new york at the film academy”? It was literally a dream.

    NYFA: Do you have any favorite NYFA moments or classes from your time studying with us?

    UM: Lots of moments! Every day was a moment of its own, but learning the traditional ways of film, actually spooling it in, the process of measuring everything — it was amazing.

    Most of all, it was the people around me. I made some of the best friends there who were all amazing in their own way, and learning off of each other was amazing. I’m sure we’ll make more films together.

    NYFA: Why did you choose filmmaking? And what inspires you most as a filmmaker?

    UM: The freedom of telling a story. Film to me is the best medium that you can use to connect with an audience, and immerse them into any world you create. Suddenly you have this power of speaking through the voice of another artist, along with the whole crew, all working towards that moment, that one amazing moment.

    I like waking up knowing that morning I can be living in a world of the 10th century or 100 years in the future for the next few weeks or days or months. It’s exciting.

    Social realism inspires me the most. I like observing life around me, especially when I’m traveling. Then, “Life imitates art, far more than art imitates life.” (Oscar Wilde)

    NYFA: Can you tell us a bit about your process in creating “Chasing Lines,” and what motivated you to bring this project to life?

    UM: “Chasing Lines” is a sequel to a short film I made eight years back, “In Between Lines,” which was about comparing roads to people. Hopefully eight years from now, I’d like to make “Beyond Lines” — and then it will be an overall 15 minute trilogy made over 16 years.

    The first film, “In Between Lines,” was about figuring out the paths of life and comparing roads to people. “Chasing Lines” is about realizing the chase of life, but trying to understand the why. It’s a dialogue with the earth. Hopefully “Beyond Lines” will be about .. who knows? I’ve always been obsessed with that question of purpose of life and how connected we are in such a weird magical network of a universe.

    On the technical side of “Chasing Lines,” I wanted to explore. You see how the smartphone has kind of taken over everything, and if that is the future in some weird way I wanted to explore it, so the whole thing — even the voice-over — is recorded on the iPhone. The poster image is also taken on the iPhone.

    It was challenging, especially doing the long time-lapse shots that lasted 20-30 minutes each. Fun, though.

    NYFA: “Chasing Lines” just won Best Indie Filmmaker at the Los Angeles Film Awards. Congratulations! For our students, do you have any advice on what you learned through the process?

    UM: Thank you so much!

    Honestly my advice to NYFA students is to make the films they want to make. On the process, I don’t think anyone should let things change or shape their film. It’s good to get inspired through different things, but there isn’t really one set way I think…

    Maybe that’s the best advice: get inspired.  

    NYFA: Would you say your time at NYFA was at all useful in terms of the work you are doing now?

    UM: Oh, for sure: NYFA teaches you fundamentals you are expected to know and understand in the professional world. Simple things, but important — like basic rules of filmmaking and understanding the whole process from start to end.

    NYFA: What’s next for you? Any upcoming screenings or new projects you’d like to tell us about?

    UM: There are things in the pipeline, mainly my feature that I’ve been working on for about eight years as well, called “Elixir Of Life.” I’d hope to get that kicked off soon…

    I also do production design for a theme park in Dubai called Global Village, and we design and build pavilions for each country. It’s pretty cool, like a massive standing film set for six months. That’s the first part of my year coming up and even though it’s so wild and crazy with the scale of it all, it’s fun — and you learn a lot very fast. You have to. Plus, I get to work with my parents on it! We each have our areas on the project and its all connected and feeds into the bigger picture.

    NYFA: Anything I missed that you’d like to speak on?

    UM: I have my own production company called B Kreativ Productions, based out of Dubai and recently Vancouver too. We are a multi-award-winning production company and it’s something I’d like to grow over time by adding creative value by exploring and merging with new talent and work. My relationship with NYFA and my university Nottingham Trent gives us the opportunity to grow, and we are lucky to have that!

    The New York Film Academy would like to thank Uzair Merchant for sharing a part of his story with our community, and congratulate all our alums who are working hard to shape the industry for the better.

    Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmail
  • Harper’s Bazaar Profiles New York Film Academy Alum Khadijah Kudsi

    Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmail
    Khadijah Kudsi

    Copyright © Harper’s Bazaar Arabia 2017

    With the 14th Annual Dubai International Film Festival coming to a close this December, Harper’s Bazaar Arabia profiled six pioneering female filmmakers from the Middle East, including New York Film Academy (NYFA) alum Khadijah Kudsi. The in-depth piece about the six directors not only celebrates their hard work and achievements, but highlights the cultural shift taking place in the 21st Century Middle East, and subsequent progress women have made in playing a larger role in society—including the arts.

    NYFA alum Khadijah Kudsi grew up in Saudi Arabia and was always artistic and interested in storytelling. She told Harper’s Bazaar, “I went to New York Film Academy in Abu Dhabi in 2014. I only meant to go for four weeks, but that turned into eight, which led into a year and then into a whole career. I did a diploma in filmmaking and then I started working on short films and writing.”

    After graduating from the Academy, Kudsi quickly found work for a Chinese television channel. As her career has progressed, Kudsi likes to focus on stories from Abu Dhabi and the Middle East, including one film that’s premiered at the Cannes Film Festival and another currently in production focusing on Dana Al Ali—the first Emirati woman to climb Mt. Everest.

    Kudsi continued, “I think it’s important to have ties to this region and highlight positive stories coming out of it. But it’s not always easy—the funding is hard. As is finding the right producer and managing your time being a mother and a working woman.”

    Festivals in the Middle East have grown in importance as more and more voices from the region are making themselves heard. The Dubai International Film Festival (DIFF) first launched in 2004 with 76 films and 13,000 attendees. During its initial six-day run, acting legend Omar Sharif was presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award. The festival has steadily grown since then, with over 60,000 admissions to its 2016 event. This year marked the 14th Annual Dubai International Film Festival and presented Lifetime Achievement Awards to Irrfan Khan and Sir Patrick Stewart.

    As the region modernizes and women are being given more and more freedom, their roles in society are becoming more prominent as well. For Middle Eastern women working in the arts, that uphill struggle feels all the more real, considering the industry has been historically unequal not just in the region but around the world. Kudsi told Harper’s Bazaar, “I have four children, whereas most of the crew you work with on set are single or have no kids. They don’t understand when you say you need to wrap by a certain time because I need to go see my kids.”

    The New York Film Academy strives to give filmmakers and artists of all kinds a voice, and prides itself on its diverse student body. By learning and working hands-on together, students find their differences are a strength—learning and sharing experiences not just from the school but from one another. If you’re interested in filmmaking or the visual arts, you can find more information about NYFA’s programs here.

    NYFA has committed itself to giving aspiring storytellers in the Middle East an education they can build their careers on. The New York Film Academy is thrilled to see Khadijah Kudsi recognized for her inspiring work and career, and looks forward to the stories she will tell in the years to come. “I love the rawness in the stories here,” professed Kudsi, “and we have so much to talk about.”

    Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmail
  • Former Summer Camp Student Produces Award-Winning Videos

    Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmail

    Often times kids discover their life’s passion at an early age. Such has been the case for Charlie Cracknell, who says he knew he wanted to be a professional filmmaker since he was nine years old when he made his first film.

    The former New York Film Academy Los Angeles Summer Camp student, born in England and raised in Dubai for 14 years, has been actively pursuing the life of a filmmaker; and has the awards to prove it.

    charlie cracknell

    In the last four years, Charlie has entered the Dubai 48 Hour Film Project where he has had to write the script and original music, cast, direct, film and edit a movie in 48 hours. In 2011, Charlie’s film Alone was voted Top 10 in Dubai and he won the award for Best Use of Character. In 2012, his entry Dish of the Day made it into the finals and was voted the Favorite Film of the Screening Night and won the Grand Audience Award and the Award for Most Promising Filmmaker. In 2013 Dish of the Day also earned him a nomination for Best Young Filmmaker at the Murdoch Film Festival in Dubai.

    In 2013 Charlie entered the 48 Hour Eco Film Project with his film Enviro-Man which won the award for Best Youth Film and screened at the 2013 Youth Eco Summit in Sydney, Australia. Enviro-Man then went on to win Best Junior Film at the 2014 THIMUN Qatar Film Festival. This film was also an official selection for the 2014 International Student Film Festival, Hollywood.

    In 2014 Charlie produced a short commercial for a local ice cream company ‘Desert Chill’ which was very well received. Later, he submitted a film to the Sydney Parramatta SciFi Film festival in Australia. Doubles was a finalist and received a nomination for Best Special Effects.

    Charlie then went on to enter the 2014 Dubai 48 Hour Film Project and his film Mission HXK was awarded prizes for Best Use of Prop, Best Costume, Best Writer, Best Director and Best Film runner up.

    Charlie’s most recent film, an advocacy short film on the dangers of texting and driving entitled Safe Driving Saves Lives had been nominated for Best Picture and Best Editing awards at the 2015 THIMUN Qatar Film Festival in April where he took home the Best Editing Prize. Safe Driving Saves Lives later went on to win the award for Best Public Announcement in the 2015 International Student Film Festival Hollywood.

    Charlie was featured as a “Dubai Home Grown Hero” in Dubai What’s On/Good Magazine and also in the Khaleej Times. That same year he also attended a Digital Filmmaking summer program at New York Film Academy where he was able to film on the famous Universal Studios backlot.

    “NYFA not only taught me more about the technical aspects of filmmaking but the whole process of production as well,” said Cracknell.

    In March 2016 after many requests for another Road Safety film, Charlie created Click, which was well received and endorsed by Road Safety UAE and later by VOX cinemas who are currently showing it in their 180 screens across the UAE, Oman and Lebanon for 2 months.

    Charlie plans to continue making films while he completes his schooling and then further develop his skills at a university in the United States, and NYFA is certainly on his radar.

    Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmail

    May 20, 2016 • Filmmaking, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 4941

  • NYFA Seeds in Abu Dhabi Blossom at Dubai International Film Festival

    Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmail

    The New York Film Academy’s Emirati students have reached the highest number of films accepted into the prestigious Dubai International Film Festival 2015.

    More than 10 as crew members with 5 directors and actors had their 5 films into the official selection MUHR EMIRATI this year.

    All of them have completed their study at the New York Film Academy in Abu Dhabi and had the opportunity to learn in the most hands-on program in the world, with the great faculty coming from Los Angeles and New York carrying an international experience in the film industry.

    We encourage you all to attend and watch their films at the festival. The films’ briefs are below:

    ZINZANA – Feature film directed by Majid Al Ansari: Trapped in a prison cell (“Zinzana”) in a remote police station, a man named Talal is tortured by visions of his beloved ex-wife and son as he waits to hear his fate. When officer Daban from a neighboring town stops by, Talal watches as the friendly visit suddenly turns into a bloodbath. Being behind bars is now the least of Talal’s problems, as he is forced to play a madman’s game to save his family’s lives.

    ABDULLAH – Feature film directed by Humaid Al Suwaidi, Cast: Fatima AlTae: The film tells the story of an Emirati boy (Abdullah) who develops a fascination with music from an early age but struggles to hide that over the years from his very conservative family where many things are “haram.”


    GOING TO HEAVEN – Feature film directed by Saeed Salmeen: From Abu Dhabi to Fujairah, young Sultan sets off on an extraordinary journey as he seeks out his grandmother. Sultan, who has dreamt of the warmth of her love, is determined to reunite with an absent grandmother so that he can escape the bitterness of life. Accompanied by his friend, Sultan’s trip will unravel surprises and exuberant emotions.

    BESHKARA – Directed by Abdulrahman Al Madani, thesis film: telling a story of the caretaker of a cantankerous, dependent Emirati grandmother must return to the Philippines, once she finds out that her daughter is terminally ill. However, the grandmother refuses to let her travel because a deep reason we discover at the end of the film.

    THE MAN WHO MET THE ANGEL Directed by Tariq Al Kazim, Cast: Assem Kroma: Between reality and imagination, truth and lies, certainty and delusion, Daniel will have to prove to others that he has met an angel.

    We wish them best of luck in the competition, and hope you will have the opportunity to watching them all!

    Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmail

    December 10, 2015 • Abu Dhabi, Filmmaking, Student & Alumni Spotlights • Views: 5853