In 2010 Samantha Hamadeh graduated from the One Year Acting Program at New York Film Academy. Her 3.9 GPA should have tipped everyone off that she was headed toward great things. In just a few years Hamadeh was on Comedy Central co-hosting one of their most popular shows. Hamadeh sat down with NYFA Correspondent Joelle Smith, to talk about where it all began and how NYFA helped her to get where she is now.
NYFA: When did you fall in love with acting?
Hamadeh: I was in 1st or 2nd grade. My friend and I used to hand out little notes to people in the class to come watch our plays on the playground. There was a tree ring made of cement. That was our stage.
NYFA: What were some challenges you faced in your craft before coming to NYFA?
Hamadeh: Although I’m a firm believer that people are born with a talent, I still thought that there was so much that I needed to learn about myself in order to be able to understand and portray different characters. Also, I took 3 years off from the theater because I was getting a degree at university. I was nervous about getting back into the world of acting.
NYFA:How did NYFA help you move through these challenges?
Hamadeh: I had some of the best teachers and mentors. From Kelly Hughes to Caitlin Muelder, Scott Ferrara, Valorie Hubbard, and Anthony Montes – they were all so supportive and truly believed in me. In class, I was able to work on my technique while also developing new skills.
NYFA: What is your best memory from NYFA?
Hamadeh: My dream of going to film school came true! The entire experience was life changing. I also got to meet some of the most amazing and talented students who I look up to, especially Eliza Delacourt and Maria Carvalho, who are now family to me. Some of the best years of my life were in Los Angeles, both on and off campus.
NYFA:Tell us about your show, “Ridiculousness Arabia.”
Hamadeh: Ridiculousness is an American comedy clip show, which presents viral videos. Comedy Central Arabia got the rights and I got to co-host the Arabic version – “Ridiculousness Arabia.”
NYFA: How did you become involved with the project?
Hamadeh: I work in marketing and was at a meeting with Comedy Central because they were looking to film their stand up comedy show at my brother’s venue, Stereo Arcade in Dubai. The CC team mentioned they were also working on Ridiculousness and I got excited because I love the US version. The producer asked if I was interested in co-hosting. Obviously, I said yes.
NYFA: What was your goal with the project?
Hamadeh: It was pure improv so we didn’t have much time to rehearse and we filmed two to three episodes a day over five to six days. My goal was to stay focused and enjoy filming every episode. There’s no character work. What you see on tv is who I am in person.
NYFA: What’s been the most rewarding part of being involved with “Ridiculousness Arabia?”
Hamadeh: Being part of a production like this was a dream come true! And I enjoyed every single minute of it because I got to work with really talented guys; Mohanad, the host and Khaled, the co-host.
NYFA: What advice do you have for an aspiring host?
Hamadeh: You’re going to hear a lot of no’s before you get a yes. It’s hard to be patient, I know, but when the right opportunity comes along you’re going to be happy that you were.
NYFA: Where and when can people watch your show?
Hamadeh: Every Sunday night on Comedy Central Arabia.
The New York Film Academy would like to thank Samantha Hamadeh for taking the time to speak with us.
The New York Film Academy has played an active role by offering workshops and training through a collaboration with the prestigious youth arts festival of Hakaya Misk, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. NYFA is presenting workshops and trainings on the topics of film production and screenwriting in collaboration with the Pre-Hakaya workshops.
According to Hakaya Misk’s official website, the festival is a cutting-edge Saudi Festival which focuses on incubating creative skills in the next generation through culturally and educationally conscious content creation: “The festival aims to motivate, teach, and inspire youth to express their ideas through writing stories, storytelling, painting, animation, production, and other forms of art.” Through local and international professional partnerships, the festival invites young people to participate in workshops, inspiring platforms, and exhibits, while building skills in storytelling through the visual arts. Events at Hakaya Misk are also offered for adults who are locally active in the creative fields.
As the Washington Post has reported, Saudi Arabia is developing a new generation of artists and opportunities within a burgeoning film industry, which includes aspiring filmmakers have studied at the New York Film Academy. NYFA MFA alumna Lamia al-Shwwier told the Washington Post, “We have so many incredible stories to tell, whether they are stories of success or challenge. Our society is rich in stories and ideas.”
At Hakaya Misk, NYFA alumni will be holding one-hour workshops daily, while NYFA representatives are present among the local production companies who also partner with Hakaya Misk. The festival has drawn hundreds of thousands of visitors through four sessions held in Riyadh, King Abdullah Economic City in Makkah, Dhahran in Eastern Province, and Abha in Aseer Province.
“New York Film Academy is honored to have partnered with Misk in the Pre-Hakaya workshops in Riyadh,” NYFA’s Dean of Enrollment Services Tami Alexander reported from the event. “We had the opportunity to teach over 40 men and women interested in developing their craft in either film production or screenwriting. Our NYFA instructors were thrilled with the students’ confidence, ability and pride in their craft, and the opportunity to experience local Saudi culture.”
Saudi director and New York Film Academy alumnus Aymen Khoja recently screened his soccer-themed film “Shoot” at the inaugural edition of the Arab Cinema Lab at DIFF. What makes the story unique is the fact that the main character is from Saudi Arabia. The privately-financed production is Saudi Arabia’s fourth-ever feature-length film.
Egyptian actor El-Masry, best known internationally for his roles in “Rosewater” and “The Night Manager,” stars as a young Saudi expat in Los Angeles with dreams of pursuing a soccer career in the city against the wishes of his traditional father. The film also includes actors Patrick Fabian, Ayman Samman and US soccer star Bryan Jordan.
“I’ve always loved soccer, and we all know there aren’t many movies that focus on soccer,” said Khoja. “So, I decided to challenge myself and write one, and I told myself it had to be low budget.”
“As we all know movies can bring the world together, so I was really encouraged to write the story and pushed myself to make it happen,” added Khoja. “We don’t typically see a lot of movies that speak to Arabs in America.”
The New York Film Academy Los Angeles alumnus wrote, produced and directed the film under the auspices of his Santa Monica and Jeddah-based Khoja Bros label.
“NYFA provided me with a lot of knowledge,” said Khoja. “Not only how to direct a movie, but also how to write, how to produce, and how to use all the other elements: music, sound, color, production design, etc. NYFA has great staff. Without their help I wouldn’t be able to make the movie.”
Khoja is now developing a second film that will also marry both US and Arab cultures — a thriller about the kidnapping of a young Saudi student by a ruthless gangster.
“We need more Saudi filmmakers to make feature films,” says Khoja. “They need to be brave to make the decision and have the commitment. I care about telling stories and helping in developing our cinema industry.”
His aims for “Shoot” to have a limited theatrical release worldwide before online streaming platforms and TV.
Coming off of her documentary short film, “Historic Jeddah,” which screened at the International Film Festival Manhattan in 2015, One Year Filmmaking Conservatory Program and the Eight-week Filmmaking Workshop alumna Jameelah Rose Lineses directed a sequel documentary called “Our Journey to Hijaz.” The short film features never-before-seen footage depicting life in Saudi Arabia before the oil boom. It includes reenactments of how people used to live and features a Saudi traditional wedding and a sword dance.
“My inspiration in making both films ‘Historic Jeddah’ and ‘Our Journey to Hijaz’ was my mother,” said Lineses. “She was the one who motivated me to create films about Saudi Arabia’s history and cultural heritage. There are no films showcasing Saudi Arabia’s history and cultural heritage that have been recognized in any international film festival. There are so many stories to tell relating to Saudi Arabia’s history — stories that are not yet known to the rest of the world and that only a handful of people really know.”
Lineses’ sequel has been recognized by several film festivals thus far, including:
Film Festival Director Award for BEST STUDENT FILM International Film Festival Manhattan 2013 New York City, New York, U.S.A
Ani Ng Dangal Presidential Awardee for Cinema 6th ANI NG DANGAL/Harvest of Honors 2014 National Commission for Culture and the Arts Manila, Philippines
Most Popular IFFM Film Promo for “Historic Jeddah” (Saudi Arabia) International Film Festival Manhattan 2015 New York City, New York, U.S.A
Honorable Mention for “Our Journey to Hijaz” (Saudi Arabia) International Film Festival Manhattan 2016 New York City, New York, U.S.A
Lineses says that although she’s been living in Saudi Arabia for her entire life, there are still many things she doesn’t know about her country’s history and cultural heritage.
“It was only early last year when I started to learn about it on my own by attending cultural events and tours,” said Lineses. “I also discovered that my mother’s first sponsor — when she came to Saudi Arabia — was a member of the Naseef family.”
Naseef is one of the most prominent families in Saudi Arabia, and their ancestral house, Bayt Naseef, is now a museum, which is highlighted in her documentary.
“As a pioneer, I hope that I am able to contribute to Saudi Arabia’s promising future in the field of cinema,” Lineses says. “I also hope that I am able to give rise to aspiring Saudi filmmakers to do the impossible, break stereotypes, and to not shy away from adversities.”
She also hopes her documentaries will show that it is possible to make a film about Saudi Arabia and still uphold the country’s code of conduct.
Lineses is now working on another documentary, “Third Culture Kids of Saudi Arabia,” about the people born, raised and currently living in Saudi Arabia. “This film will tackle our everyday lives and show how we assimilate into society,” says Lineses.
AlArabiya, the largest and most respected Middle Eastern news outlet, has given a huge boost to the social media efforts of a group of New York Film Academy students who have teamed up to create the thought-provoking web series, Sargo. Within one week of airing on YouTube, the series trailer reached over 100,000 views and interest continues to grow.
Filmmaker Aymen Khoja (May ’14 MFA Feature Track Filmmaker) has written and directed the web series about a young Saudi guy who is kidnapped by two dim but dangerous men. The audience must ponder: ‘Will he be able to find his way to freedom or arrive home in a box?’
The series tackles relevant topics such as U.S. and Arab racial bias and racial profiling.
Khoja, in development at NYFA for his first feature film, Shoot, has assembled a team of currently enrolled NYFA students for the series. Working both behind the scenes and in front of the camera, NYFA students are:
We’re proud to announce that one of our former students, Jameelah Rose del Prado Lineses will be screening her documentary short film Historic Jeddah at the International Film Festival Manhattan 2015 in New York City. Jameelah attended both the One Year Filmmaking Conservatory Program and the Eight-week Filmmaking Workshop at the New York Film Academy. Her documentary, Historic Jeddah is the one and only film coming from Saudi Arabia that is included in this year’s official selections. The film festival will run from October 22nd to the 25th. Jameelah’s film will be screened at the Producers Club (358 West 44th Street New York, NY 10036) on Saturday, October 24, 2015 from 5:50pm-8:10pm.
Jameelah’s selection has already garnered her some notable press, including features in the Saudi Gazette and Arab News—the two leading English newspapers in Saudi Arabia—as well as Malayalam News, a sister newspaper of Arab News.
Before her upcoming screening this Saturday, Jameelah was gracious enough to answer some questions about her documentary and her future in filmmaking.
Can you tell us what this documentary is about?
Historic Jeddah is a multi-part documentary short film that showcases some of Saudi Arabia’s rich cultural heritage such as the Dondurma, Rawashin, Rubat, and more. A multi-part documentary film that will surely give the audience a detailed insight of Saudi Arabia’s Historic Jeddah – A World Heritage Site. A film that will represent one of Saudi Arabia’s rich cultural history.
What do you hope to achieve with this documentary?
Without a doubt, Saudi Arabia is the world’s most conservative country. It is also a country that doesn’t offer tourist visas. Therefore, only a handful of people know what it really feels like to be in Saudi Arabia and the things that it has to offer to the world aside from petroleum/gas and oil. With the help of this multi-part documentary film, people will get to see a different side of Saudi Arabia, and that is its cultural heritage. It will give the audience a new perspective of the whole country and its citizens, especially to those who have never been to the country.
I believe that this documentary film will contribute to Saudi Arabia’s tourism in the near future. This country has so much to offer but it is not widely known to the rest of the world.
Why did you choose Old Jeddah as your setting?
I was browsing through Facebook and I saw this group called Arabian Jewel. They are organizing a tour to Old Balad because there was an ongoing festival. It was held earlier this year on January 2015. I was intrigued by it. I discussed it with my mother and we ended up going on the tour. My mother was my inspiration when I made the film. In fact, she was the one who told me that I should film the tour and bring a spare camera with me. She told me that I could turn it into a film someday, which I actually ended up doing. This film is entirely shot using a camera-phone (Samsung Note 3 and iPhone 5s) and a digital compact/point and shoot camera (Nikon Coolpix).
What initially made you pursue a career in filmmaking? How did you start?
I have always loved watching movies and TV series since I was very young. As I grew older, I began to critique various films. Gradually, my interest in watching films evolved into something more in depth, and that is to study the art of filmmaking. Since I was in 5th grade of elementary school, I have dreamed of becoming a successful film director. Until the day I graduated from high school, my ambition did not change.
My greatest influence on wanting to pursue a degree in the motion picture of arts is the East Asian cinema, with great focus on South Korean and Japanese television series and music videos.
I am a huge fan of Rush Hour movies starring Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker. Jackie Chan is one of my all-time favorite action stars alongside Jet Li. It has been one of my dreams to be able to work with them on a project. I have watched almost all of their films. I also love the Harry Potter movies.
Would you say your studies at NYFA were useful in terms of making Historic Jeddah?
Yes, of course! I still remember during my studies in the filmmaking conservatory program, we had documentary elective classes from our directing instructor, Tassos Rigopoulos. Although it was just an elective, I was always present in that class. I am glad that we had documentary elective classes in NYFA. I have learned so much in a short period of time.
At the New York Film Academy, we write, direct, edit, produce and shoot our own films. I was able to apply the skills I learned from NYFA in making Historic Jeddah because it is a film I shot, directed, edited and produced by myself. I have also applied those skills on my other projects here in Jeddah since almost all of it are a “one-woman show.”
Would you recommend NYFA to other students interested in pursuing the arts?
Absolutely! I have been promoting NYFA in my own way ever since it became my dream school back in 2008 (I was an incoming 2nd year high school student during that time) and even before NYFA had information sessions in Saudi Arabia. I can safely say that I was one of the first few people, if not the first, to ever inquire about filmmaking programs at NYFA, back in 2008. Also, I still wear my NYFA gear often (caps, t-shirts, bags, summer/winter jacket and hoodies). This is one of the ways I promote the school in Jeddah. In fact, recommending NYFA has already become a habit of mine after I graduated and became an alumni.
I highly recommend the New York Film Academy for anyone interested in pursuing the arts, especially for aspiring filmmakers and actors/actresses. I believe that NYFA was the best place for me to hone my skills in filmmaking and learn many more things that can contribute to my career someday. And based on my experience studying there, I can say it is worth it. Not only the instructors teach us how to operate different kinds of cameras (from film to digital), they also teach as the etiquette in working in the industry. Before I forget to mention, our instructors also taught us all the roles and functions of other crew positions, as well.
I believe that NYFA has excellent faculty members because they make sure their students do not fall behind classes. They are also very knowledgeable and experienced. In addition to that, the counselors and NYFA staff are very attentive to the needs of the students.
What is your goal as a filmmaker?
My goal is to become a prominent figure in the motion picture of arts. I hope to become a multi-award-winning, multi-lingual, and world-renowned filmmaker in the future. I wish to win an Oscar for Best Director and for my film to win as well. I would also like to be listed in the Guinness Book of Records as the youngest director of my generation—if there’s such an award. I became a filmmaker at the age of 18 — the youngest of my class during the Eight-week filmmaking program at NYFA.
Given the chance, I would like to become a pioneer in educating young and aspiring filmmakers here without breaking the code of conduct of Saudi Arabia. At the moment, there are only a handful of filmmakers from Saudi Arabia, especially female filmmakers like me.
Are you currently working on anything else?
Yes, I am currently working on 3 documentary films. One of the films is about the Expats of Jeddah. This is actually a continuation of my semester film during my filmmaking conservatory studies at NYFA. For this film, I interviewed additional people of different nationalities. The film will be about their lives in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia — from their first impressions, things they like/dislike about the country, culture differences, advices to incoming expats, etc.
We wish the best of luck to this very ambitious filmmaker, especially on her upcoming festival screening. For tickets to the screening of Historic Jeddah, please CLICK HERE.
Like the city where it was founded, the New York Film Academy has become a melting pot of many locations, ethnicities and cultures, proudly welcoming students from all over the globe. In recent years, we’ve accepted more and more degree program students from Saudi Arabia in the fields of filmmaking, acting, cinematography and photography.
The New York Film Academy is listed as a recommended school by the Saudi Arabian Ministry of Higher Education and is considered the best hands-on film school in the world by many of today’s top filmmakers. NYFA is honored to be the school of choice for many Hollywood filmmakers, actors, and figures from the entertainment world that have sent a son, daughter or a family member to study with us. They include Steven Spielberg, Martin Scorsese, Robert Downey Jr., Warren Beatty and Al Pacino, among many others.
The Academy is also known for hosting one of the most exclusive Guest Speaker Series in the world, which has delivered guest lectures from industry elites such as Al Pacino, Ron Howard, and Saudi Arabian-born producer, Mohammed Al Turki.
To continue its blossoming relationship with Saudi Arabia and its people, NYFA’s Dean of Enrollment Services, Tami Alexander, often holds workshops, auditions, portfolio reviews and information sessions in Riyadh and Jeddah. “I cannot believe the level of talent every time I visit Saudi Arabia,” said Alexander. “We recognize the overwhelming enthusiasm for acting, filmmaking, and photography in Saudi Arabia, and we welcome students from all around the world.”
For more information about the New York Film Academy or its events in Saudi Arabia, please email Tami Alexander at firstname.lastname@example.org or call +1 (212) 674-4300.
Thank you to the following students whom contributed to this video: Aymen Khoja (studying MFA Filmmaking), Fahad Alharbi (studying BFA Acting for Film), Musab Alamri (studying MFA Filmmaking), Alaa Alrafaihi (studying MFA Photography), AJ Aljandal (studying BFA Filmmaking), Maan Binabdulrahman (studying BFA Filmmaking), Thamer Bagbi (studying BFA Animation), Abdullah Bamjabor (studying BFA Filmmaking), Mohammed Alhiniah (studying BFA Filmmaking), Maram Al Joaser (studying MFA Cinematography).
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.
This past February, New York Film Academy graduate, Jameelah Rose del Prado Lineses was honored at the 6th Ani Ng Dangal (Presidential Award) at the Resorts World Manila. Her film, Will You Marry Me?, was her quarter film during her filmmaking conservatory studies at NYFA. The short film contains no dialogue and literally follows a girl who is walking around on an ordinary day while someone follows a few steps back. What begins with a tone of mystery eventually turns into an unexpected twist and an overall change in mood.
“Creating a film takes a lot of effort and perseverance on our part, as filmmakers,” says Jameelah. “It doesn’t matter if it’s a blockbuster-Hollywood-type of movie, an indie film, or a simple short film. We are taught in the classroom that once you start making films, you are already a filmmaker.”
After graduating from New York Film Academy’s Filmmaking Conservatory Program two years ago, Jameelah applied for the OPT (Optional Practical Training). From there, she was able to work with a few production internships and volunteer programs such as the International Film Festival Manhattan (IFFM). She was a Technical Director (Video and Photo Team), Official Photographer and Videographer, Operations and Coordinator. Following the internship, she worked with the Kababayan media.
After that, Jameelah returned to Jeddah with her family and worked for Silvergrey Pictures and Sound: one of the largest production companies in Saudi Arabia. Silvergrey hired and assigned her to work on STV1 and 2 (Saudi TV1 and 2) Saudi Cultural Commercial, which was a collaboration project with the French crew from an affiliated company in Paris.
Jameelah also worked as a Line Producer under Speedtrack (one of the sister companies of Silvergrey Pictures and Sound). It should be noted that Jameelah is one of only a few female filmmakers coming from Saudi Arabia.
She is currently communicating with production companies in Jeddah to coordinate a film collaboration project with the International Film Festival Manhattan where Jameelah had previously been awarded the Film Festival Director Award for Best Student Film. This brand new event would be the first film festival of its kind that would take place in the Kingdom.
The New York Film Academy is listed as a recommended school by the Saudi Arabian Ministry of Higher Education and it’s not surprise that we currently have students from Saudi Arabia. We had a chance to speak to some of students to get their thoughts on the New York Film Academy. See what they had to say!