Since he was just a teenager, New York Film Academy (NYFA) alumnus Fahad Olayan has had a solid plan for his life. Through hard work and determination, he has already achieved a lot of his dreams.
He began his acting career in his native country of Saudi Arabia with the sitcom “Tash Ma Tash” in 2013, before going on to book several more television shows. He found success in America when he was offered a role on National Geographic Channel’s “The Story of God with Morgan Freeman,” where he played King Hussain in the episode “Proof of God” in 2017. Olayan’s latest project, “The Truth,” has been raking up awards. And now, he’s taken the time to catch up with NYFA Correspondent Joelle Smith to discuss the role festivals play in the success of a film and what it was like to find most of his crew here at NYFA.
NYFA: When did you first know you were in love with acting?
Olayan: I started when I was 13 years old. I attended school for theater. I was the supporting character in many different roles. In 2007 I began applying for jobs at production companies as an actor. I remember one of the directors was impressed by my audition. From that audition, I managed to book more than 10 TV series. In 2011, I considered moving my career to LA to pursue my dream. I studied English for two years and then went to NYFA to study acting and filmmaking. Once I graduated I immediately planned on making a movie.
NYFA: What was your first performance?
Olayan: In 2007, I had the opportunity to work on a production for a big channel in Dubai. It’s called MBC. It is the biggest channel in the Middle East.
NYFA: How did you end up at NYFA?
Olayan: I wanted to learn how to perfect my acting skills and learn more about editing, writing, and filmmaking. It was great because it also gave me the opportunity to learn from professional people, who have been in the industry for a long time.
NYFA: What was your favorite part of the education experience? Did you have a favorite class? Which one?
Olayan: I got to collaborate with many new artists who are excited about making it in the industry. Each one had a fresh perspective on the craft. I also enjoyed the classes that were offered. My favorites were stunt training and sitcom. I also had the privilege of learning from Michael Zelniker. He is a mentor to me. He is an exceptionally talented individual and advisor at NYFA.
NYFA: Why is an intensive program vital to your development as an actor?
Olayan: It is vital because so much goes into acting. You take classes that help you learn about voice, movement, script analysis, observation, and how everything connects to each other. As an actor you need to learn about the different elements that go into the craft of acting. It broadens your horizons and makes you appreciate the art.
NYFA: Can you tell us a bit more about your project, “The Truth”?
Olayan: “The Truth” is an important project for me. It really touches home. I thought long and hard about this project for a few months because it has a very important message for the world: It focuses on racial profiling.
Once I was ready to work on the project I met Nicolas Jung, a unique and exceptionally talented person who helped with co-writing, was the assistant director, and was one of the main actors as well. I strongly believe that this film wouldn’t be what it is without him. His outstanding writing skills and authentic acting skills took this project to a whole new level. The other actor, Dave Belvederi, and the cinematographer, Joseph Hamilton, also contributed to the success of this project. It is important to be smart and to choose a good team to work with so that there is a good collaborative environment on set.
Once the project was completed, I submitted it to many different film festivals around the world. However, the most important festival that took notice of my film was in Saudi Arabia, where it won the award for best film out of hundreds of other projects.
The best part was that it was awarded and announced by the King of Saudi Arabia’s son, which was a huge privilege, and it went on national news.
NYFA: How did you prepare for this role?
Olayan: I poured myself into the character that I played. I made the circumstance real to me. There was a lot of stunt training involved and intense rehearsal to achieve my goal.
NYFA: Any chance for a sequel?
Olayan: Yes, there will be a second part, I will refrain from giving too much detail to leave everyone in suspense.
NYFA: What did you learn from making this film?
Olayan: I learned that making a movie is not just about the name or title, it is an art. A lot of passion, imagination, and commitment goes into it. The most important thing that I learned was how to communicate with the audience. Once you get that, there is a feeling of having reached a huge accomplishment.
NYFA: What’s up next for you?
Olayan: Nicolas and I have written and acted together in two short films. Our first film was “Losing Life,” which won over 10 awards across the globe. In addition to all that, we have currently written two feature films and will produce one in 2018. We are currently in the preproduction process with one of the scripts and the other is in rewrites. When I am not working on these projects I am finding other ways to get ahead in my career.
The New York Film Academy would like to thank Fahad Olayan for speaking with us about his work.