Wassim Geagea: The biggest award you’ll ever get in this field and in your life is touching people’s hearts and leading them to change”

The biggest award you’ll ever get in this field and in your life is touching people’s hearts and leading them to change. I had the pleasure of interviewing Director Wassim Geagea. Wassim is a young Lebanese filmmaker who studied Cinema at the Faculty of Fine Arts at Lebanese University before pursuing a master’s degree in film […]

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The biggest award you’ll ever get in this field and in your life is touching people’s hearts and leading them to change.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Director Wassim Geagea.

Wassim is a young Lebanese filmmaker who studied Cinema at the Faculty of Fine Arts at Lebanese University before pursuing a master’s degree in film directing at St Joseph University in Beirut. His first short film My Grandfather’s Photo was screened in many film festivals and won the first prize in European films festival in Lebanon in 2012. Omé is his second short, which addresses his own personal experience with the death of his mother. Geagea is currently writing his first feature film Barka.

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 traditional Lebanese village called Barka. This village is very spacious and filled with greenery, the bigger the space the bigger the dreams because we as children were never limited so we had a very big imagination. Barka taught me how to be solid, strong, and committed.

Also, I lost my mother when I was 4 years old, this experience changed my view of life. It made me dig deeper into everything I go through because ever since this tragic experience I started having a lot of questions in my mind, which made my imagination even bigger.

Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?

The way I grew up as mentioned above and everything I went through were behind my passion to this career. The people of my village and all their stories made me want to tell a story behind the camera. When you grow up in a village, the things you see and hear are different than the city, far from technology and electronics, so these things made me want to tell a message specifically in this career path. All the stories I want to tell through my camera are about villagers because they might look simple but deep inside they have very touching stories that will be powerful on the big screen and that need to be delivered to the world.

Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

The most interesting story is turning my painful childhood memories into a movie (Omé) that won a lot of worldwide awards. My movie “Omé” talks about a child named Elias who was preparing to do his first communion but then suddenly his mother passes away. So he tries to blackmail Jesus for him to return his mother back from him. What’s interesting in all of this is that through my tragic personal experience that I turned into a movie, I was able to reach international festivals and win a lot of awards and make my dream come true.

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?

In every career, especially cinema, one has to face a lot of trouble and difficulties and from that a lot of mistakes can happen, most of which turn into funny set memories. The majority of the people I’ve worked with were not professional actors which caused a lot more trouble on set than if they were trained actors on screen. This can be a lot more work for the production team and is very time consuming. However, these people are usually a lot more themselves and down to earth and create funny situations just by the way they look and speak that leave us all laughing.

After each project, I promise myself that I don’t want to work with unprofessional actors anymore, but then when I see the result after editing, I change my mind again and work with these people once again.

The lesson learned is that even though these actors are unprofessional, they give a very powerful impact to the movie which make it more touching to the audience.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?

Previously, I didn’t like making short films but with time I realized that they are very interesting and powerful to make. For now, I’m preparing a new short film that will be shot in September. Also, in the meantime I’m writing my new feature film that talks about a story that happened in my native village BARKA.

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?

First of all, it is important to mention that cinema is the most suitable platform to rise and discuss important issues and taboos that cannot be usually discussed on TV or any place else due to the social restrictions present in our society, especially in the Arab world. It is important to have diversity represented in film and television because these two platforms give a huge impact on people’s mindset and way of living, which help them accept one another and understand that not everyone is the same in society. This also helps these others to feel that they belong to the society they live in like LGBT, race, religion… Cinema is an international platform that reaches everyone all over the world, which helps the audience to discover new cultures. If each director talks about his/her own culture then we will reach diversity in the entertainment industry once all these movies are presented together in international festivals.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

First of all, cinema is not just red carpets, prizes, and festivals. There is a huge procedure before reaching all of this like creating the idea, writing the script, reaching the perfect producer, collecting funds, and finding the most suitable cast. All of this is very hard and time consuming in order to reach success especially when you live in a country that its cinema is not supported and not even an industry.

Second of all, there is no such thing as full freedom for the filmmaker because there are a lot of things that need to be taken into consideration like the producer’s opinion and a lot of people’s point of view, like the investors, the editor, the DOP and all the team that you work with,,which limits the filmmaker’s main idea.

Third of all, a good movie cannot be reached internationally even though its idea is amazing and is directed properly. The success of a good movie also relies on good marketing skills in order for it to reach international festivals. So it’s not only about art it’s also about marketing which plays a major role in its success.

Fourth of all, sometimes you’ll have to make films, music videos, documentaries, and advertisements that might not reflect your own ideas in order to keep on working in this field and to gain money to live. So we have to put our artistic ideas aside sometimes so that we can accept this industry’s commercial side.

Finally, no matter how much people tell you that the moment you display your movie is breathtaking you wouldn’t feel this until you actually undergo this experience. All the hard work and stress you feel during the filmmaking process will all go away once you see the audience’s reaction and you will know that all your effort was worth it.

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

As mentioned above, filmmaking in a country like Lebanon is very hard and has a lot of obstacles because cinema is not an industry nor supported and because we are facing a lot of economic problems, which make you wonder how will your movie be reached internationally. But for me, none of these should be a reason not to follow your dream in this field. Even though its whole process is hard it is not impossible and you can reach the stars if you want to, no matter what.

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. 🙂

Lebanon and the Arab world has gone through a lot of revolutions and protests recently, in order to change the political social and religious system that has been ruling the country for a long time and in order to fight for their rights and receive their minimum needs. From this point I started asking myself how will we be able to change this country’s system if we can’t even change our own mindset and beliefs. For me, the revolution and the change starts from ourselves and from our homes in order to reach what we want on a bigger scale. People reach the decision of a revolution when they undergo drastic experiences like death,hunger,and poverty.

From this idea, I want to inspire in my movies every person deprived from their rights and to fight for children and women’s rights in order for them to raise their voices and reach what they want in the society they live in. Even though these movements are living under social pressure, they need fight this pressure to get their full rights and this is youth’s job today to do so.

The biggest award you’ll ever get in this field and in your life is touching people’s hearts and leading them to change.

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?

There are no specific people who I actually achieved success because of them. But I cannot forget my family and friends’ support all throughout the way, especially my mom who indirectly inspired me even though I do not know her very well. And of course my whole team in my movie “OMÉ” who put all their efforts in making this movie a success.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

I personally am not a big fan of quotes because I think everyone has his own experiences that should be inspired from. But there’s a movie that I learned from a lot and that I consider as my Bible, which is “Cinema Paradiso” by Giuseppe Tornatore specifically the discussion between Alfredo and Toto when Toto left his village for the first time in order to achieve his dream in filmmaking : “ Don’t come back. Don’t give in to nostalgia. Forget us all. Whatever you end up doing, love it ! “

This scene makes me cry every time I watch it because I can relate to my personal experience when I had to leave my village in order to pursue my dream in filmmaking.

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. 🙂

To be honest I don’t have someone specific in mind but I would love to sit and talk with Oprah Winfrey because she is such an inspiration in everything she does. The way she succeeded in her career ever since the first step up till now is empowering and inspirational. And all the push she gives to others from all over the world in order to achieve also touches me personally because this is something that reminds me of myself. She’s an example of success and that nothing is impossible even if we had a rough start.

How can our readers follow you online?

You can follow my Instagram account : Wassim Geagea

or like our Facebook page “ OMÈ- a short film by Wassim geagea”.

This was very meaningful, thank you so much! We wish you continued success!

Thank you very much for this interview.

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