In Conversation with Abdullah Waseem | Billboard Pakistan
Abdullah Waseem is an emerging, talented director and a filmmaker who is making his mark by working with renowned brands locally.
Abdullah Waseem lives in Lahore but works in Karachi, mostly. He loves music and also plays different percussion instruments. He has performed at multiple International and National Gigs, both solo and collaborations.
As a filmmaker, Abdullah takes a keen interest in watching movies. From his work experience, you can tell that he loves traveling around, especially to the northern areas of Pakistan. He likes to stay fit but is also a foodie, so he maintains a good workout routine. He actively plays football.
- How did you enter the field of filmmaking? Did you always dream of becoming a filmmaker since childhood?
Ans: My father was a film producer back in the 80s when Lollywood made good movies. So, I grew up learning the basics of filmmaking and always had the germs of a filmmaker in me. When I was in high school, my elder brother Aqdas Waseem started his journey as an actor, which inspired me. Going to his sets, watching how things really work, got my attention and it was then that I decided, I want to be a filmmaker. So, I did my bachelor’s in film from NCA. Got a chance to pursue a scholarship in film from UT Austin USA, where the teachers like Matthew McConaughey and
Nancy Schiesari inspired me beyond limits. I believe I was meant to be a filmmaker, every step that I took, lead me right where I am today.
- How did you land your first gig and how did you feel about accomplishing that milestone?
Ans: At first, I started assisting in directing TVC’s while I was in college and made short films that won awards internationally, including “Raat,” which was inspired by Banksy. But the real joy, after assisting nearly 300 commercials including a feature film in 4 years, was when I got the chance to work as a second unit director with my Ustad and Mentor Ahsan Rahim in Coca Cola anthem project. I can’t thank him enough for the opportunity. It gave me confidence leading up to my first commercial project for UBL as a director. After that, I did many projects as a director. But I believe this is just a start; there are yet many milestones to achieve and many hurdles to cross.
- What’s your thought process behind every piece of work? From where do you start and put everything together?
Ans: Whenever I get a new project, I think about how it relates to me realistically, especially since the audience is always looking for characters and stories they can relate to. This makes it easier to work out all the details. Then I bring in a whole team to work out the boards and the tiny details that I could have missed. It’s all about teamwork. A good team can take you all the way.
- Can you tell me more about your recent or upcoming project?
Ans: Recently, I have been very active and occupied, as I was doing back to back projects. I did a TVC for ‘ME body spray,’ then an HBL project, for which I had to travel to 8 different cities for shooing. Just a few days ago, I did a TVC for ‘Easypaisa’ produced by Bionic films for cricket, for which again, I had to travel to 7 cities. It was really close to my heart as it speaks about unity and Pakistan. In upcoming projects, I’m really excited about one that I did for Pepsi. I can’t wait for it to air as I’m sure everyone will enjoy it.
- Since you’ve worked on many projects till now, which project allowed you to experience a steep learning curve?
Ans: Every project teaches you something new every time. But two projects that held significant importance to me, which allowed me to experience a steep learning curve. One was the ‘Coca Cola Anthem’ project in which my mentor/Ustad Ahsan Rahim allowed me to learn more about working on set because I was appointed as a second unit director. I took a huge team and traveled to 4 different cities to shoot. It was a massive project, a lot of pressure, and no room for error. It was a brand-new learning experience of managing a team and getting it right in the first go. The second project was my first directorial project. I was now the captain of the ship, everyone was looking up to me. So, I had to overcome any challenge and execute the project smoothly. This taught me a lot, as well.
- What is your greatest achievement to date?
Ans: I believe it’s too early to declare my achievement. I’m barely 26 years old, quite a young filmmaker, I’d say. There are yet many things to achieve. But when I look back to ever since I started working, I feel happy and content that every project I have done so far came out beautiful, whether it was a short film, assisting in a feature film, or my directorial project.
Consistency, consistency, and consistency is the key. Never be afraid of trying or getting out of the comfort zone.
- How would you describe your style of work?
Ans: I’m still exploring my style of work. But with that being said, I love to keep diversity in my work, keeping a realistic approach and making it believable and aesthetically intriguing and pleasing for the audience.
- If you are given an opportunity to shoot a biopic, who would you choose, and why?
Ans: I would love to make a biopic on Banksy, the inspiring street artist. His work reveals the truth even though it’s on the corner of a street. He is daring and his work is for the public not for the museum. I’d like to understand the approach and thought process of his creative mind and portray that for the world to see.
- How do you think the pandemic affected your work and the overall market?
Ans: Pandemic affected the entire world’s economy, including film and TV. My projects were confirmed, many things were settled, but then this sudden lockdown halted all the work. It took some time to figure out a way out, but soon many doors opened again, and opportunities came knocking. So, I believe what happened, happened for a reason. Nevertheless, the market is still struggling to get back up the way it used to be.
- Do you have any advice for young filmmakers out there?
Ans: Consistency, consistency, and consistency is the key. Never be afraid of trying or getting out of the comfort zone. It might be tough to begin, but if you look long term, this is the only way. Never stop trying, never give up.
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In Conversation with Hamza Khan Baande