…Our maturity and awareness as Filmmakers and even as people is like a babe that we should take care of with love, and babies need the right time to become adults. So work patiently on your maturity and it will pay off over the coming years. It’s not only one good movie that will make someone’s career or signature: Let your journey as a student of life be the goal rather than the goal of money and fame. Another advice would be to surround yourself with mentors and/or a team who truly loves you and love only knows how to give and sacrifice for you, and let’s face it: every movie is an act of love and sacrifice.
As a part of our series about pop culture’s rising stars, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Richard El Asmar, a Canadian Christian Filmmaker with Lebanese origins. As a Filmmaker with around 15 years of experience, Richard believes that his heart’s experiences will end up somehow being projected in his movies…In the case of Utopic Strokes, the peace of Christ is the main experience that Richard is spontaneously sharing with the audience.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?
I grew up in a war-torn country in the Middle East called Lebanon; At a certain time of my childhood, hearing bombs falling nearby became so natural that I would enjoy the next day picking up what was left of cluster munition to make a collection out of them…
My first short fiction film was my 10 minutes diploma movie called “Lullaby” which took me 2 years of preparation, and which is the reason why I have the ability to do films in a spontaneous and improvised way nowadays.
Right after finishing this exhausting film experience and as I was attending a Jesuit lecture that approached mainly the human side of Jesus Christ, “I am not sure what happened there” but I lived in ecstasy for about 2 months and a half and I was in love with even the people who hated me; until I got out of this “paradise” — with new positive mindsets — for reasons I am still not sure of yet…
Following this experience, I had the need to travel the world and the job with Al Jazeera as a Video Editor in Qatar came on time to achieve that goal. During the 6 years in which I occupied this position, I have been to more than 19 destinations: Russia, Ukraine, Hungary, Libya, Dubai, Bahrain, Nepal, Thailand, Turkey, Sri Lanka, Greece, India, Mexico, etc…I somehow regret a bit not having filmed much of it but at the time, but I wanted to experience life without framing it.
I eventually immigrated to Montreal, Canada, and I’ve been working on launching my filmmaking career as a Christian Filmmaker since a few months ago…
Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?
As a teenager, I can safely say that I was a guitar player addict, playing over 10 hours/day; I knew that I had to follow an artistic career. Having watched lots of Hollywood movies, filmmaking seemed like the only choice I had. I took the decision to enter film school in a spontaneous way and it happened to be the right decision as step by step, my camera passion took over my music passion. Rest assured; I still play the guitar but not as much as before…
Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
I was dealing with physical pain for over a year and all over my body, for reasons I am not comfortable sharing for the time being. At a certain point, I’ve decided to go to church and pray for the people who caused me that pain. And as I was doing so, I asked for the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary and Saint Charbel: I asked them to take me to Jesus; and within around 15 minutes, the physical pain gradually went away. More important than this miracle — whether you choose to believe it or not — was the fact and I learned in my heart, to love my enemies. I also learned that the more you love, the more you see in-depth and sometimes I can only express what I see through the lens of my camera; Since Filmmaking is mainly a point of view, this miracle also enhanced my emerging career. Hence, I eventually chose the career of Christian Filmmaker.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I was still at University when I got hired as a live sound engineer for a theater play. At some point, I had to instantly press PLAY for the phone to ring so the story of the theater play can go on. As I was daydreaming as I still do sometimes, I suddenly woke up to the reality that there was a deep silence and the actors were standing still on the platform without actions or words. This is when I pushed PLAY and the story on stage went on. I can’t stop laughing when I think about the questions that went in the mind of the spectators after probably 10 seconds of nothing happening on stage while the actors looked confused and frustrated: as if life froze for no reason — Anyway, I’ve learned to stay focused on the present time during execution.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
Right now, I am in the process of finishing and marketing my second improvised documentary “Dis-Connection” which offers a more humane and efficient solution than psychiatric drugs for people who go through extreme mental health issues. This solution happens to be simply love and human relationships…I am also writing a book about how God has been working on me since childhood to eventually become Christ-Like for my salvation and the salvation of many around me…
We are very interested in diversity in the entertainment industry. Can you share three reasons with our readers about why you think it’s important to have diversity represented in film and television? How can that potentially affect our culture?
I personally know in my heart that there is only one truth called Jesus Christ: The truth of Love incarnate and that love was shared by God on the cross. And all I can do is preach or inform, and people are free to accept or reject the message. However, Love cannot exist without freedom of choice, same as it can’t exist without justice for example; it’s part of God’s personality to sanctify our freedom; and that’s the first reason why we should give room for diversity; out of respect for freedom of choice. The second reason is that before I gave my life to Christ around 3 years ago and even though I always had the Christian Faith however weak compared to nowadays, I was almost a different person. At times I believed in some atheistic values; at other times, my major interest was in the teachings of Osho, who for example denies the work of salvation that Jesus did on the cross. However, and if I didn’t experience all of those belief systems, I wouldn’t have grown more mature and eventually chose freely with all my heart to be a devout Christian; and I consider myself to be still at the beginning of a new life with Christ. So we should always leave the room for humans to grow more mature; from where diversity comes from. The third reason is that expressing ourselves freely as individuals and not as numbers, is most of the time therapy, especially through the medium of film; Obviously, our today’s world needs to heal. Deep in my heart, I know that everything that doesn’t come from the Love of God will, in the long term, at least, affect humanity negatively. But somehow, humanity needs to make mistakes to learn and eventually choose freely God and make Him the main priority. Until that time comes, humanity through diversity will have to go through a trial and error process because awareness and maturity cannot and should not be enforced on anyone.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
I haven’t much to regret about the past because every failure and mistake was an essential lesson for my growth and the best way to learn is trial and error through hard work. I also had great mentors who taught me a lot, so I can’t say I wasn’t well informed professionally but at times I was tenacious to do what’s in my mind. Sometimes I would be right and sometimes I won’t and I would learn in both cases. At the end of the day, even now and after over 10 years of experience, I am looking forward to making mistakes and learning from them and most importantly roll with the punches of life and Filmmaking.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
Simply said, if you don’t burn out, you don’t learn and grow when it comes to Filmmaking especially at the beginning; you have to love filmmaking and your audience that much; and as Martin Scorsese says: if you don’t get sick in your first movie, you probably won’t learn or something around that: “no pain no gain”. That being said, my first advice is this: our maturity and awareness as Filmmakers and even as people is like a babe that we should take care of with love, and babies need the right time to become adults. So work patiently on your maturity and it will pay off over the coming years. It’s not only one good movie that will make someone’s career or signature: Let your journey as a student of life be the goal rather than the goal of money and fame. Another advice would be to surround yourself with mentors and/or a team who truly loves you and love only knows how to give and sacrifice for you, and let’s face it: every movie is an act of love and sacrifice.
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
As Saint Charbel says, the only thing that passes from this world to eternity in heaven is Love (the love of God). Everything else ends with our “physical” death. He also says that if you end up standing up in front of God without Love in you, you will die of shame in front of the greatness of his love, and that is before worrying about your judgment, something that awaits every human being after death; death being nothing but a separation between the body and the spirit. As far as my research also tells me, our consciousness moves with us from this world to the next eternal one and we’re just passing by the earth. We’re not staying here forever. Earth is not our final destination. Therefore Love should be our biggest investment. So accept in your heart the love that God shared on the cross — because he loves us individually as much as he got humiliated and tortured on that cross — and pass that love to your fellow human being; which is the goal of Christianity: the salvation of humanity in this world and the next one through Love.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
As I already mentioned I had great mentors during university but there is one of them called Paul Mattar who really marked my heart and without whom’s advice and care for a while — when I was still a negative and immature person — I wouldn’t be the Filmmaker I am today: Of course life is a school until we move from this world to the next one, but Paul Mattar, for example, is the one who advised me to take the needed time to achieve my first short fiction movie “Lullaby”; and without that first movie, however dark it was, I wouldn’t have known how to make movies today. So I am grateful and thankful that Paul was part of my personal and professional growth when I unawarely needed it the most.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
There are many from the bible but this is one of my favorites: “In this world, you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” It makes me trust and hope in Love above anyone and anything else; and love is exactly what’s needed when we are in trouble, against what our normal reaction is which happens to be fear: Filmmaking and life is full of obstacles and we can only make it through them by keeping a loving and positive attitude that can only happen when we have faith/trust in Love.
Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
I would love to meet Mel Gibson because even though there is a big difference between us in terms of experience and expertise, we’re both preaching Christianity through films. Hopefully, he will read this interview 🙂
How can our readers follow you online?
This was very meaningful, thank you so much! We wish you continued success!