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How Ayman Tamano is breathing life into Saudi’s film industry

 

Published in Gulf News on Sep 25th, 2019, Sadiya A Nadeem, Special to Gulf News

Saudi-born filmmaker is the director of the country’s first horror film ‘Madayen’

Jeddah-based filmmaker Ayman Tamano is brimming with creativity and brings scripts to life using his imagination.

“Filmmaking is an art, a technique that facilitates storytelling,” he tells Gulf News tabloid!.

Tamano is the director of Saudi Arabia’s first horror film, the award-winning ‘Madayen’. He has also had the privilege to work with ace Hollywood directors Eddie Barbini, Billy Spargue Jr and Lia Carney, and prominent Emirati filmmaker Nayla Al Khaja.

Tamano, a third-culture child who was born and bred in Saudi Arabia, could have easily gone back home to the Philippines or moved to another country to make films where there is an established industry, but the ambitious director chose to stay back and contribute to the kingdom’s developing film industry.

“Hollywood director Eddie Barbini once told me that Saudi Arabia’s film industry is ‘essentially Hollywood in the 1950’s.’ There is a landscape of opportunities here. There are so many people to be met and voices to be heard in Saudi Arabia,” said Tamano, who enjoys working on feature films and documentaries.

Speaking about the challenges of being a filmmaker, Tamano says: “Filmmaking is a very expensive profession as each project is almost like a start-up business, and like my mother says ‘it’s a rich man’s hobby.’ But I took this career path out of passion, not security. When I imagine myself doing anything else, I get terrified.”

“When I was working with my producer Hakeem Jomah on ‘Madayen’, most of the investors told us that the product we have doesn’t hold enough value. However, six awards and international screenings later, they’re calling us back asking if we have anything in the works that needs funding. I believe if you have a good plan, a great team, a creative vision and technical skills, you can ace it,” he added.

Ayman Tamano (3)-1569404195338

Filmmaking came naturally to Tamano. As a teenager, Tamano and his friends would make videos of them skateboarding, and would later add tricks, music and sound effects to it. Tamano even passed his high school based on a project that required him to create a short film. As he grew older, he hung around his sister’s friends, recording them and then editing the footage late at night, “creating teaser trailers out of basically nothing and making a scenario out of them. I’ve always had this fascination about placing characters in situations and then working on a storyline on how to get them out of it.”

Largely a self-taught filmmaker, Tamano picked up technical tips and tricks from his father, photographer Helmy Al Saggaf, and other local directors and producers. While working in a wood shop, Tamano took up a part-time job as a photographer’s assistant and from there he got to know cinematographers who were looking for runners and set assistants. “I remember going to the set with the intention of learning every single aspect of what they do,” he said.

 

Eventually, Tamano made a short video for a competition held by the Saudi Film Association. His video bagged the second position, and he received a call from a producer of a record label company.

“One day they were filming a music video for Qusai, a Saudi rap artist who co-owned the company, and while they were waiting for an American film director to arrive on set, I grabbed my Canon 5D along with a set of prime lenses and started filming. I edited overnight and submitted it to Qusai’s manager the following day,” he said. Tamano’s video was chosen as the official music video, and it was played on MBC and screened at the German Consulate. “I remember feeling ecstatic about seeing it on television.”

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