My UAE: Does Hollywood beckon for filmmaker Eman Talal Al Sayed?
Eman Talal Al Sayed has had an affinity for storywriting from the age of 15.
“Reading and writing were always my passion, though my writing journey really developed after joining a writing group at my university,” the Emirati filmmaker, now 21, says.
After graduating, she decided to turn these stories into scripts with the intent of making movies out of them. Her dream eventually came to fruition when she made her first film, The Choice, which made its world premiere at the Dubai International Film Festival in December.
Al Sayed received two awards at the festival, including the top prize – a Dh100,000 film grant – for Arab Film Studio Scriptwriting at the Muhr Awards for her script Blanket and Best Film for The Choice, part of the AFS Narrative competition. She was also nominated for the Muhr Emirati Short award for The Choice.
For Al Sayed, winning top prize in the scriptwriting competition was an immense experience.
“Being nominated for the Muhr Award was such a pleasure, especially because it was my first real film,” she says. “But winning the scriptwriting competition was overwhelming because it gave a chance to make my second film, and for that I feel so thankful and lucky.”
With the grant money, Al Sayed will now turn her screenplay Blanket into her second film.
“I am very excited about this,” she says. “I intend to continue to learn about all aspects of filmmaking and perfect my craft as a filmmaker.”
When it comes to scriptwriting, Al Sayed draws inspiration from events that have occurred in the UAE.
“I try to capture stories that happened here and communicate them in my scripts to deliver an idea or a message, or simply to tell a story of what happened,” she says.
For Al Sayed, the process of scriptwriting can be a long one that comes with its own set of difficulties and obstacles. She goes through a multi-step process when writing a script that includes brainstorming, cutting and adding scenes, constant revisiting and editing, and finally, asking friends and family for feedback.
Al Sayed says that it’s all about finding that balance of providing the audience with just the right amount of information, but that this can prove to be one of the most difficult tasks.
“You should never spoon-feed the audience the information nor should you be too vague that they don’t understand the story,” she says.
In a digitalised and politicised society, what role does Al Sayed feel film plays in the coming year?
“I think movies play a great role in influencing people and can even change the way people look at a certain problem,” she says.
In her films, Al Sayed explains, she tries to look at sometimes-taboo subjects – such as the empowerment of women within the Emirati community and other subjects that some people may be unwilling to talk about in Emirati culture.
Being a woman in the film industry remains relatively rare. A 2014 British study of 2,000 films found that only 10 per cent of the writers and only 5 per cent of the directors were women. But Al Sayed insists that gender, and how it relates to job opportunities within the regional industry, isn’t an issue.
“I think work opportunities are given equally to men and women,” she says. “However, the obstacles that women face remain in the cultural and traditional beliefs that the Emirati and Arab families have.”
Al Sayed says these difficulties include working closely with men, staying on set for 12 to 14 hours at a time, and having to postpone getting married because of the demands of the industry.
When it comes to advice to future generations of female filmmakers and scriptwriters, Al Sayed says that hard work is of the utmost importance. She also urges them to “be original, learn how to write your own material, and don’t ever take no for an answer”.
Coffee or tea?
I prefer juice.
What do you do to relax and unwind?
Listen to music or watch TV shows.
What’s your favourite film genre?
Romance, because everyone loves a good love story.
What’s your dream travel destination?
What is the one film that inspired you and why?
[The 2015 Turkish movie] Mustang, because it connected with me on so many levels – the writing, filming and events.
What’s your favourite movie from the past five years?
Again, Mustang, because it deals with women who don’t have a choice because of culture and traditions. I’m an activist when it comes to women’s rights.
If you could invite any person to dinner, who would it be?
If you could work with any actor/actress, who would you choose?
Beren Saat, because she was able to play the role of both the victim and villain in two different TV shows and nailed both roles.
What’s your favourite travel destination?
Georgia. It’s a very beautiful country.
Updated: January 10, 2017 04:00 AM