Nayla Al Khaja is the first female film producer in the UAE. As the chief executive of D-SEVEN motion pictures, a marketing and design agency, she offers media campaigns and branding services. Last year, she won the award for best Emirati film at the Dubai International Film Festival.
Are you a spender or a saver?
I am a spender when I need to be and a saver where it's necessary. I do live life and do what makes me feel good. I also try to share whatever I have.
How would you describe your financial journey so far?
I started at the age of 23 with almost no experience and worked my way up. So far, I have met financial challenges with an open mind and tried to always have different plans as back-up. On the whole, the journey has been successful so far.
Did you make any mistakes along the way?
Of course. Due to lack of experience, or an impulsive decision and, moreover, due to my nature of taking risks, which I believe should be encouraged from time to time.
What is the most valuable financial lesson you've learnt?
I would say my greatest lesson is knowing how to spend during tough times and focusing on making a profit, rather than just focusing on saving what exists. I have also learnt the importance of listening to seniors in the field.
How do you raise the money to make your films?
If a topic is exciting, then my passion hits home with many partners and sponsors. For example, I just tied up with Canon Middle East to produce films for first-time filmmakers by using Canon's facilities and my company's production know-how. I raise money through a lot of research, facts and a successful portfolio. I also look at how relevant the film is to the person or company I am pitching to and what is a realistic number I can pitch at, so knowing who I am targeting and everything about them is key.
Why a partnership with Canon?
I believe that my relentless commitment to creativity and my passion for excellence and innovation in filmmaking were key factors that influenced Canon's decision to choose me as its brand ambassador. Canon and I share a common goal of supporting and empowering the region's young, talented filmmakers, all of whom have the potential to be on par with their peers globally if given the right encouragement, training and support.
Do you believe in planning for the future?
Yes, I do. But I also believe that one should be open to new possibilities along the way. I believe that if you have a goal or a vision, then no matter what road you take to reach it, make sure it's done with integrity and lots of passion and fun.
Is money important to you?
Money is just a means to get me somewhere, but it has never been attractive to me. For me, making films is everything. Films about the human state are of particular interest to me.
What is your idea of financial freedom?
I would say it is to be liberated from greed. It is a human tendency to make as much wealth as possible, often driven by greed, without realising that wealth cannot buy peace of mind.
What's your philosophy regarding money?
Create three sections: one for living, one for saving and one for giving. I believe that making money should not be the primary goal in life. Finances will take care of themself if we pursue excellence and do our jobs with utmost passion and commitment.
What do you enjoy spending money on?
On children, fitness and films.