It was a normal day of work ,I went to Cilantro in order to get my morning coffee which I can’t live without .as I was getting in the coffee house I saw an ad. On the board saying” casting call” so I looked closer, I figured out that some one is making an independent movie and is hosting an audition for anyone interested, for me It was the first time to know that we have such things in Egypt so I decided to go and meet the guy behind this who happened to be the writer, the director and the producer of this movie.
Kasem kharsa a very friendly guy in his late 20s with a bachelor of mechanical engineering Georgia tech. as well as a masters degree in manufacturing engineering from the university of Kentucky .” my interest in filmmaking started when I was 18 after watching tarantino’s pulp fiction , I read his bio ,intrigued by the fact that he educated himself through his passion as a moviegoer “ said kasem ,in the same year he read Robert Rodriguez “rebel without a crew ” that inspired him a lot “At that age though I was on the engineering track and didn’t have the discipline or courage to pursue my true passion ” he added .
When he was 21 he wrote a 4 page story where a father attempts to burry his newborn daughter, received a positive feed back from his friends who also wanted to know what occurred before and after this event that could justify infanticide, later he used this scene as a seed for what later on turned to be a short story called I dreamt of an empire for five years he was haunted by the story, couldn’t forget the characters and events he had created, but constantly rewriting the story
“For some reason, I thought it was supposed to be a novel .it was only recently that I realized it is such a visually strong story that needs to be told on the screen” said kasem.
He left his position as an engineer because it was the right time to leave the company which gave him more time to prepare for an exhibit he was scheduled to have in Alexandria in march 2006 of his mixed media work that he spent about a year putting together while working full time as an engineer after he had a good response at the exhibit and he considered staying in Egypt for a bit longer “with the savings I had ,I began to think seriously about my life goals ,my interest in film making was rekindled and I decided that I wouldn’t leave Egypt until I complete my film” said kasem.
A film school in the us costs roughly $100,000 and four years of life that he thought he would rather spend the time and money on actually making films,”the most important thing I learned in engineering school is how to learn” said kassem ” as engineers we are taught to break large problems in to smaller parts, how to gather information from different sources, how to learn new technical language as quickly as possible and most importantly, how to guess” he added.
He believes that the technical aspects of filmmaking can be learned through hands-on tinkering and lots of questions, regarding the internet as a free library of information where one can find discussion boards, articles, reviews and even short films to study.
In Egypt he thought the most difficult thing will be renting the equipment and that actors will be lining up for a chance to star in an independent movie but the exact opposite has happened, the equipments was readily available but he is struggling to find the right actors. “the good thing I realized early on that making an independent film doesn’t mean you should do every thing on your own, I ve recruited the help of a casting director, Natalie hanak, who seems to be very gifted at finding actors “ said kasem.
He believes that to make a movie in Egypt one must nurture and grow the network of people he knows so that he can be informed on any work shops or projects happening in Egypt “I see way too many people waiting for the perfect chance to land in their laps ,you have to create your own opportunities ” said kasem.
“I want to share my fascination with the small things in life and how ,if we put a spot light on them for a moment ,they look very beautiful .I also want my films to inspire others to make their own movies and tell their unique stories” said kassem
Kasem kharsa recommends for any one who is interested in filmmaking to ask about work shops at SEMAT and C.I.C .
I would like to thank kassem kharsa for his time and cooperation wishing him the best in his upcoming movie “I dreamt of an empire”
Published in Manifesto magazine September 2006 as part of a series of articles I wrote there in 2006-7