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Friday, December 18, 2009

Ummah Films Transition

Bismillah ar-Rahmaan ar-Raheem,

Back in Early 2006, we started Ummah Films with the hope of making films for the Ummah. The story goes back when I returned from an interview for the Mecca to Medina game and was inspired to start a film company. I contact Mahdi and a few other brothers and pitched them the idea about making a film company. Everyone got excited so I bought all the equipment with my own money, and then handed the equipment to some local brothers to make a film. Unfortunately, after a month, they only had about 8 seconds of footage. I then decided to try to make my own film but I soon realized that it required much more than just inspiration. So with no cameraman, no editor, no director, I basically sat in my chair and voiced my thoughts about issues I felt were being addressed at Jummah. One video let to another then to another....and soon the video blogs became popular. I do not take credit for them since the success is not in my hands but rather in the hands of my creator.

As popular as the films have become, this wasn't Ummah Films. Our initial conversations with the people I called about starting this project was never about video blogs but the blogging was just something to do while everyone else figured out the actual film part. Unfortunately, all of us came to the same conclusion that film making required a certain skill set. Also, after having discussions, we realized that we all different goals (i.e. some of us were trying to reach the Muslim audience while others wanted to reach a broader audience). Thus Ummah Films was on hold and we ended up making no films. Mahdi and I tried making some sample clips and again, we realized that to make something professional it required a team of professionals. We made some practice clips but again, the more we played around with the equipment, the more we realized how complex the world of filmmaking was. In addition, we all had different views. Thus, Mahdi and I, ended up making our own video blogs with issues we each thought were important while the other film bros went on to do their own thing. All of us, for one reason or another, went our own direction and Ummah Films started feeling more like a dream than a reality.

I moved on to do standup and making games while the other brothers started doing their own thing. Then one day at one of my standup gigs, I was approached by a brother about making an actual film. He offered to handle the project on his own and bring volunteers so I handed the equipment over to them and they ended up making Ummah Films first film, Tomorrow Never Comes. I contacted some of the founders of Umamh Films if they wanted to help them with their project but just like me, they were occupied with others things. I can not any credit for the success for that film because I wasn't really involved. The only thing I did was play an extra and that was only because they were short one person (that task could have been done by anyone). Now with over 100k views on YouTube, it looks like their shoestring budget ($700) was well received ($700).

I hope another group of volunteers will come around to make our next film inshAllah. Again, as much as I would like to see positive films out there, I have little or nothing to contribute because I just don't have the background. I realized this a while ago and that have thus moved on to other things (Kalimaat, standup, other projects, etc...) and have left the filming to those who went to school for it.

Although I was one of the people who started Ummah Films, that is where my line of the credit stops. Since TNC, there hasn't been any film projects. This makes it even more clear to me that it will be to Ummah Films best interest to hand over the funds that I have raised to a professional. I have been in talks with the director of TNC to be the new Amir and take over all Ummah Films film projects from now on as I have officially stepped down. Unlike the rest of us, he went to USC film school and has a portfolio of films MashAllah. He was a student when he made TNC and since he has graduated, he has increased experience and knowledge of film. Although I did all the dvd sales and almost all the shirt sales, I never put the money in my own pocket. Ummah Films was never a business for me. I have donated the money I raised to him so he can make the next thought-provoking Ummah Films project. I am happy that I was one of those that were there since Day 1, but it has become time to pass on the torch to those who have the experience and knowledge to make to make the future films. JazakAllah Khair for everyone's support and I would like to especially thank everyone else who was there from Day 1.
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