For some students, there is nothing greater than the feeling of accomplishment. The next best thing is getting appreciation for it. Students of the School of Audio Engineering (SAE) Institute celebrated their work with professors, family, friends as well as the public recently when their films were screened at Cinestar at the Mall of the Emirates in Dubai.
Happiness and pride
Entering the theatre, one couldn't help but feel the students' enthusiasm and energy. Their voices echoed with happiness and pride. After all, their films were going to be shown on the big screen where Hollywood films are usually shown.
Seated with their friends and families, the students waited anxiously for their films to start. They had worked on their projects for months and this was their chance to earn some stardom albeit at the local level.
Hadi Azer, a senior filmmaking student, got his brother and friends to star in his film Severity. The film tells the story of a man who is convicted for murdering his parents and who subsequently spends time in a mental hospital.
"This is an idea I have had in mind for years and I finally was able to translate it into a movie," he said. "It is amazing that my movie was screened here. It feels great. I don't know when my movies will be shown in a public cinema next," he said.
After graduation, Azer plans to open his own production company for music videos and TV commercials. "I have already started planning it and it will become more serious after I graduate," he said.
Leigh Peterson, a digital filmmaking student, produced Awake in Tomorrow, in which a man wakes up from a 20-year coma to find himself alone. He starts unveiling the past with the help of a book of newspaper clippings.
Peterson has started his own company with his friends and together they undertake freelance filmmaking work.
Films adapted from stories
The Banter File was among the opening films of the evening. Adapted from a short story by Justin Shaw, the film narrates the story of a 28-year-old man who faces problems related to his work and personal relationships and tries to resolve them.
Sam Johnston, a student behind the film, said: "We added the visual element to the film… . It is cool that the film is showing here. It feels great that we're done with all the courses and assignments."
As Notes caught up with Johnston, a student in the audience could be heard screaming: "Sam is a legend".
Johnston worked on audio editing while his two partners did video editing. "We worked on audio editing and video editing separately so the best part was when we combined the two elements and saw the movie," he said.
Aya Shahabat decided to go into animation because it's "fun and creative". Her first project was screened alongside the other films. "I have to admit working on my project was difficult because I joined SAE Institute right after I finished school and I felt like I didn't have any background in animation, but I'm very happy to see that my hard work was appreciated and was screened before the public here," she said.
Markus Rosentreter, head of the Film Department at SAE Institute, said he was proud of the students' work. "It's great for students to be able to show their work here after they have worked all year on their assignments… . The work is original and creative," he told Notes.
Opportunities in Dubai
From film festivals to academic sponsorships and public screenings, SAE Institute students feel there are many opportunities for student filmmakers in Dubai.
"There are always so many things taking place. There are chances for us to make film ads and to actually shoot films. Some of the courses focus on sound studies, production, script writing and story boarding — all needed in producing films," Leigh Peterson said.
Donna Don, a digital filmmaking student, worked in the industry before she decided to pursue further studies. "Dubai is a fast-growing industry and there are so many opportunities," she said. Donna worked on a documentary focusing on the lives of four expatriate women in Dubai.
"We made the film to correct the negative impression people have about living and working in the Middle East," she said.
Second-year filmmaking student Stephen Godenzie said: "Since I was six I wanted to become an actor but I also wanted to work behind the scenes. I came to Dubai and found it better than I expected as I get a lot of practical and hands-on experience here."
Giorgio Ungaria, director of the SAE Institute in Dubai, said that there is a growing interest in film in Dubai because of the clashing cultures that creates new ideas.
"Because of the interaction of cultures, there are so many untold stories to tell," he said. "In the future, there will be local movies and international movies. UAE national students have a lot of talent and they make brilliant films; they are just waiting for the chance to get exposed."
He said among the obstacles students might face is distribution of their work and the US entertainment model but that the new media gives them the chance to shine.
The industry is changing
"We try to teach our students to work together. The software today is much more affordable and easy to use," said Ungaria.
"The movie industry is changing because technology is changing. The MP3 file sharing destroyed the music industry … . This will happen with studios in Hollywood as the bandwidths grow bigger, films will get through in different ways, so companies will have to find new ways of making a profit," he said. "With the introduction of HD DVD, people are getting used to better quality and it becomes more difficult to copy films. The internet is a good place for independent movie-making."
SAE Institute offers courses including audio engineering, digital filmmaking, 3D animation and multimedia. It offers both one-year diploma and degree courses. Among the institute's future plans are introducing a high-end digital photography course and underwater cinematography. SAE Institute also plans to open branches in Beirut, Cairo, Istanbul, Moscow and Tokyo.