Khurrum Mahmood, class of 2009

Asheville Film Festival

Asheville Film Festival

More good news about InSha Allah, the Accolade Award winning film film by last year’s Media Production graduate Khurrum Mahmood

“The film ‘Insha’Allah’ has been accepted into the prestigious Asheville Film Festival, and is up against the MFA and MA students from USC, Chapman, NYU, UCLA, and a few more top MA universities. I believe that my film is the only Student film at a BA level and from UK that has being put up against the MA and MFA students from the top film Universities in the USA. A true honour and privilege for me to just be nominated. (fingers crossed) it can win. The Awards are happening on the 15th of November.”

Khurrum Mahmood

Khurrum Mahmood

‘Get busy living, or get busy dying’ – The Shawshank Redemption (1994)

My fascination with film was triggered as a two-year-old, when I watched Walt Disney’s Pinocchio for the first time. I remember being totally mesmerized by the story and the escapism that the animated medium offered. I was so enthralled by it that I am told that I used to watch it several times a day. As I grew older, my interest developed from watching to creating these magical worlds.

Both my parents worked within media. My father was a successful BBC producer and my mother was a television presenter. I literally learnt to use a video camera and editing software before I could even read or write. When my friends used to invite me to play football, I was more interested in filming them, instead of joining in the game.

My first real experience of filmmaking was at a summer school when I was 12 years old. The opportunity gave me hands on experience of the production process. We were allowed to come up with the idea and were given a professional crew to film it. We chose to make a film about unsafe playgrounds for children in Birmingham, which was shown to the local M.P. As a result additional safety measures where introduced to make playgrounds safe for children. This showed me for the first time that through film one could make a difference. Since that moment making films is all I have wanted to do.

Being born British and with a South Asian heritage has allowed me to take the best values from each culture which I try to reflect in my work. The attacks on the World Trade Centre had a profound effect on me and shaped the way I viewed media and film. I started analyzing deeper into the portrayal of different races and the representation of the ‘Other’. As humans we are all inclined to good, however there is an undeniable attraction to evil. Its how we understand and distinguish between the two choices that create who we are. My ultimate vision is to create stories that examine human nature, disposition, struggle, reality and tell the truth.

At college and university I pursued a course in media production. I tried to come up with innovative, challenging, and adventurous projects, that would not only push myself to the limit but the educational institutions themselves. I never accepted the constraints of being a student filmmaker and strived to make projects that continuously pushed the envelope. Exposure to the Middle Eastern culture whilst on a trip to Amman in Jordan led me to do a documentary that challenged the Western media’s stereotypical view of that region. Similarly, a trip to Pakistan learning about the plight of migrant workers and the hardships they face led me to develop my final thesis film set in the slums of Karachi. The resulting film ‘Insha’Allah’ (With Gods Will) earned me a First Class Honours Degree and the Dean’s Corus link Award from the Lincoln School of Media. It has also won the ‘Best foreign language film’ and ‘Best Actor in a supporting role’ at the International Filmmaker Festival, has also received an Accolade Award, as well as a few more and has been screened at a variety of festival. It is currently under consideration for several others.

Having made films both documentary and fiction I am convinced that my strength lies in pursuing fiction filmmaking. Making a realistic drama about the poor in the Karachi slums appeals to me as would an avant-garde experimental piece or a big action movie. As of yet I do not wish to be limited by specific genres. What is important to me is the story that needs to be told.

As a viewer my interest in film is varied. I enjoy pure mainstream commercial films as much as more meaningful art house offerings. I admire those directors who continuously push the creative boundaries of the medium. Thus ‘Russian Ark’ by Alexander Sokurov, a feature shot entirely in one shot appeals to me as much as Danny Boyle’s ‘Slum Dog Millionaire.’

To be a successful filmmaker takes more than just creative talent or technical skills. I have been fortunate enough to be able to travel a great deal and explore other cultures and their visual arts. Immersing myself in other cultures allows me to bring a level of authenticity to my work, which goes beyond the superficial. Honesty is something that the audience expects from a film and I believe my realistic approach endeavors to deliver that. Working in alien cultures with different work ethics and practices also presents its own problems and I have learnt that being a diplomat becomes the most crucial skill required. Balancing creative needs with budgetary constraints is also something that I have had to learn very quickly particularly on foreign shoots.

I have been able to work with a number professional company’s outside College and University. One major project I was involved in was an Anti-Terror Campaign in Pakistan called ‘Yeh Hum Naheen’ (This is not us), which has been featured on several media outlets including Fox News, CNN and BBC. I am currently working with Leo Burnett a top advertising company, to direct adverts and music promos. I have just been given a place on the prestigious London Film Schools (LFS) MA Filmmaking course, to which I have accepted.

General Advice:

I believe in following your ambitions. I believe that there is no one in this world that can stop anyone from doing anything they desire. The only person, who can stop you, is indeed yourself.
• As filmmakers you have to understand what you are good at and what you are not good at. Don’t try and do everything yourself, try and build collaborations and work together to create a story that is unique and different.
Hard work and determination is always key. There will be a huge amount of knock backs, but, its what you learn from them that helps you become a better filmmaker. In fact if it runs smoothly, then something is wrong.
• Always believe in yourself, and your dreams. Have an ultimate but realistic goal in mind, and see what opportunities presents itself, to help you reach that goal. No one will get there immediately, its about gaining the experience and knowledge, to help you to one day be where you want to be.

Khurrum directs on location

Khurrum directs on location

More location stills.

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