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Friday, September 21, 2007

Ummah Films is g-r-o-w-i-n-g Alhamdulillah

Bismillah ar-Rahmaan ar-Raheem,

Its amazing how one idea has grown. Its like planting a seed and then coming back a year later and seeing a tree with fruits on it. Alhamdulillah.

In early 2006, all we had was a simple blog with about 20 visitors per day and now now we have nearly 1000 unique visitors per day and over 4000 people subscribed to the blog. The Reminder videos started off on just Youtube but Alhamdulillah they are on over 20 websites and even broadcast on TV in the both the Middle East and Africa on a weekly basis. Late last year, we decided to upgrade the site and add a website (with the creative skills of Iman Studios) and Alhamdulillah it really helped give UF a more professional look.

The word about the Reminder videos were quickly spread by word of mouth (JazakAllah Khair to all the viewers for telling friends and family) and we went from thousands to millions Alhamdulillah. Many volunteers started translating the Reminder videos and today you can watch the translated videos on the web as well. Recently, we released the Reminder series on DVD which can be found in our store and even on Amazon.

The whole UF thing started off with just two people and now we have more people working on various future projects. Mahdi is working on his first film Going Up North, Yusuf is trying to put a team together to do Tomorrow Never Comes, and Belal is going to be spearheading the new Muslim Poetry Slam idea inshAllah. As for myself, I find it harder and harder to do Season 3 because I keep traveling to different events. I really like the Poetry Slam idea and I hope it takes off InshAllah.

The problem with all these projects is funding. There are so many costs involved with marketing and keeping up Ummah Films that we don't really have much for funding projects. I think one thing that makes UF unique is the way its structured. Since each project is independent from each other, each producer gathers their own funding for their project. As long as they follow the UF guidelines, they can launch their movie under UF. Those guidelines are basically there to ensure that we keep things halal as we have seen many filmmakers compromise for the sake of art and we don't want to follow into that trap.

To film the reminder videos, I had to actually buy the camera, lights, etc with my own personal savings...and believe me its not cheap. So to raise money, I use to sell wristbands and shirts to pay off expenses. The problem is that all items require money too so you find yourself in more debt lol but its ok because its fisibilillah so Alhamdulillah, I don't see the money as wasted. Some items like software can get really expensive. For example, Final Cut Studio retails for nearly $1500 and even though I found it at a discounted price, it was still expensive. We are trying to doing everything legit so I put aside money for taxes and all other business expenses as well.

Until now, we still have yet to pay off our expenses which makes it tough to move onto other projects. Anyways, the doors are UF are open and this is why people have joined. Each producer has rights to print UF shirts, sell UF items, and keep the profits from themselves so they can fund their project. The popularity of UF makes it easier to sell the shirts for the producer. On the plus side, UF has built a big audience so new film makers have the opportunity to springboard their films using publicity that UF has gained which is the biggest advantage of working with Ummah Films. Many great films may go under the radar because there wasn't a platform to launch it on or an audience to see it. Ummah Films provides that audience.

The forums will be launched this Sunday InshAllah and we hope this will open the doors for talented Muslims to collaborate and work together.
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At September 21, 2007 2:01 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is there any other possible way, that you could get more funding for ummah films?

At September 21, 2007 2:21 PM, Blogger Baba Ali said...

Since each project is independent from one another, I'm hoping to work on the Poetry Slam idea with Belal InshAllah. As in regards of funding for that project, the ideas that I have in mind are:

* Getting a sponsor(s) to sponsor the event

* Ticket Sales from the actual event

* Filming it professionally and selling it on DVD

* Distribution rights for various channels to broadcast it


Of course, these ideas work only generate money at the event or after the event is over. So, just like the Reminder videos, I think I may need to loan some of my own personal funds to it and hope that we at least break even so I can get my funds back.

The whole goal is to work on projects that will make a positive impact. I really think the poetry thing can do it. That is why I'm considering doing a Season 3 and getting sponsors to sponsor each episode so I can put that money towards funding this project but that is going to require a LOT of work and the only easy part is talking about it.

Anyways, everything is in the hands of Allah (swt). If things work out, then Alhamdulillah. If things don't work out then Alhamdulillah. We just put our trust in Him and ask for whatever is khair for us.

At September 21, 2007 6:41 PM, Blogger Br. Khidr said...

salaam aleikum,

you need to consider incorporating yourself as a non-profit and then taking donations openly -- either publicly on the site (via Paypal) or from Muslim owned businesses (you can even show a balance sheet on the blog of all your income taken in and expenses). Otherwise it simply becomes a mad race every time to secure funding which takes time away from actually engaging in the creative process.

salaam aleikum,

At September 25, 2007 7:04 AM, Blogger Afni said...

Assalamualaikum from Singapore,

I was recommended by a good friend to your site and now I am hook! It is truly wonderful that your reminders are light hearted but straightforward at the same time.

Keep on keeping on;)


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