Award-winning Egyptian filmmaker Ahmad Al Morsy advises young filmmakers to "start now" and "don't wait."
Al Morsy, who works primarily as a director of photography, has partnered with many of the big names in the Egyptian production industry, including Daoud Abdel Sayyed, Marwan Hamed, Asmaa El Bakry, Kamla Abou Zekry, Hadi El Bagoury, Mohamed Yassine, Yousry Nasrallah, and Sherif Arafa.
Having worked in some 50 films and over 1,000 ads, his career, which spans more than 20 years, gives him a solid insider's perspective on how the film industry has developed and continues to develop in Egypt and the region.
We talked with Al Morsy about his film experience, how he sees the industry developing in the Arab world, and his most recent project, Al Asleyeen.
What initially got you interested in working in film? What or who inspired you?
It’s the ability of creation, being innovative and it’s about how you can tell the stories you want to tell by the way you want to use, and the shape you are imagining. You create your own imagined world.
The ability of creation and being innovative is very essential. I’m inspired by the good films that I watch and affect me. I got inspiration from many DOPs in the world, most importantly Tarek Al Telmesany, who inspired me in my early career.
What are some of your proudest achievements thus far?
I’m proud of any film I work on. I’m selective, I carefully choose the films I work in, and I always try to choose the topic that is exciting and provoking - a topic that is not simple or shallow.
Most recently, I’m very proud of all the films I worked on, and those films received wide acclaim from audiences and figures who work in the film industry, in addition to winning several awards from many film festivals. All the recent films I took part in, received awards.
What are your goals for the future?
I want to work on a bigger number of movies. I want to expand my expertise outside the Egyptian market and work abroad, either on the international or the Arab world scale. I want to combine ... other cultures and different points of view ... and see new places to shoot.
One of my goals in the future is to work in international films, as I’ve already done that in several ads. I've worked all over the Arab world.
How do you see the Egyptian and Arab film industry right now? Is it developing in a positive way?
I see that there are a number of good new films that are full of new experiences and I’m excited for them. However, I [also] see the weak productions nowadays. And I hope that we produce more and more films to generate stronger competition, and more cultural [productions].
I think we need more support for our countries' film industries, [we need] to invest in it. Foreign countries who invest in filmmaking, they make a profit from it. They spend a lot of money, to gain more from it in the end.
I hope that [Arab] governments spend more money to support the film industry, to adopt it and take it seriously. That will benefit the film industry as we have a lot of great talents, but the [opportunities] are very few.
What are some of your favorite films?
I can’t pick one movie. There are a lot of good movies that are well-made and make you imagine and introduce a new topic ... exciting films that make you think and ask questions. My favorite movie is [one] I can live in. I don’t like to watch the same movie many times. But I like to watch a lot of different movies.
What about favorite directors?
I love to follow all good filmmakers who make good movies, such as Wes Anderson, Christopher Nolan, Scorsese, Kubrick, Tarantino, David Fincher, David Lynch, Asghar Farhadi and others. [It's] a long list!
Tell us about your most recent project, what's it about? What does it mean to you?
It was Al Asleyeen. It took a long time to shoot this movie due to some challenges we faced in production. I was excited because the story itself was not that easy or clear. It also has visual challenges that made me study very hard before shooting.
After releasing the movie, it had different reviews from the audience. People are discussing [it], which I like the most. I’m very glad [about] the result and the visual effects that are introduced in it. I consider it a successful step in my career.
What would you say to young Arabs who want to make it in the film industry? What advice or words of wisdom would you give?
I would say, start now! Don’t say that you’ll wait for the right chance to begin. The most important thing is the start itself.
You have to gain experience to [reach] a high quality ... and experience comes [from] practicing and working. You can just start with a short film, or whatever, but the most important thing is to begin working on your project, writing it, imagining it.
My advice is to trust your inner sense. Don’t try to make excuses for your feelings. Just do things the way you feel them. Don’t imitate other works, or make excuses.
Go for it ... the way you [feel] it!