Talal Al-Muhanna - BA (Hons) Filmmaking 2006
Talal Al-Muhanna - BA (Hons) Filmmaking 2006
Talal Al-Muhanna gained his BA (Hons) Film & Moving Image Production in 2006 and completed his MA in the same subject in 2008. Born in Kuwait he later grew up in the United States and England, where he trained as an actor and dancer at Elmhurst Ballet School - eventually working in the performing arts field for several years. After leaving that field, he studied filmmaking at the Northern Film School in Leeds - which continues to impact his career in various ways.
Talal explains how his first forays into filmmaking were influenced by his former creative practice: “My first love in filmmaking was editing. Because of my experiences with dance, I found a natural ally in cutting and melding moving images. Choreography and editing are twin forms in my view. In fact, while at Leeds Beckett, I directed and produced four dance documentaries - shot in USA, China, India and - for my MA thesis - a multi-camera shoot of a gala performance at Sadler’s Wells Theatre in London.
“Following a decade of filmmaking, I recently returned to working in the performing arts, taking on the role of Senior Producer at Sheikh Jaber Al-Ahmad Cultural Centre in Kuwait City. As part of this work, I was able to use my filmmaking skills gained at Leeds Beckett to produce a promo for one of our biggest shows “Black & White”.
“After visiting a number of different schools throughout the UK, I settled on Leeds. Partly for the quality of the production facilities, partly for the reasonable cost of living and partly for the genuine interest shown in my application by the interviewing tutor. I was eager to participate in a hands-on production course that would take me through the A-Z of filmmaking, as I had already studied and read up on film theory prior to enrolling.
“The training on the BA course covered different aspects of film production that I was less familiar with practically speaking – such as production workflows and sound recording. While on the MA, the accessibility of tutors for one-to-one dialogue was very helpful and a great support to me. The health & safety instruction provided on the course really shaped my understanding as a producer, about how to work properly with a film crew on sets as well as locations and in unusual circumstances.
“Collaborating with fellow students brought new insights related to art direction and dramatic writing. Surrounded by so many other budding filmmakers meant there was always a lot of energy and enthusiasm to get ambitious things done.
After graduating from the MA course, Talal returned to Kuwait where he set up his company Linked Productions and produced work for Kuwait Television. Over the next decade he gained skills in fundraising for film, networked extensively at film festivals in the region, and learned the ropes of international co-producing.
Talal explains: “I’ve now produced more than a dozen films, a number of which won awards, including Best in Journalism at BBC Arabic Film Festival in 2018. I’m grateful that many of the films produced were recognized critically like this. However, being a producer inherently means taking a lot of risk so it’s really not for everyone. But I’m fortunate that income from local and regional broadcasters in Kuwait and the MENA region allowed me to take more risks on the part of my company than I might have otherwise been willing to consider.
“Lately, I’ve been working on a fiction film directed by London-based filmmaker Maysoon Pachachi - probably one of the biggest film projects I’ve gotten into. It’s a collaboration with companies in France and Germany that was supported by British Film Institute - an extremely challenging film to pull off creatively, practically and financially.
“I’ve always felt that aside from being a travel writer, what better way is there to journey afar, meet new people and experience alternate realities than to make a film? I’ve always been immersed in environments hosting a multiplicity of languages, so I’ve always been open to working creatively in different countries.
The creative process of filmmaking is definitely exciting, even if chaotic at times – and it allows you to learn a lot about the world up close. A globally active producer has to take into account everything from seasonal weather patterns and local politics to vaccination requirements and cultural sensitivities. All of these production aspects got tested to the hilt on the BFI-supported film I worked on in Kurdistan and Iraq in 2019. For that shoot, a former tutor of mine was Head of Production and that really helped keep things in perspective as there was so much to accomplish with relatively little time and money. In short, despite all the difficulties, if you’re strongly goal-oriented and willing to do whatever it takes to see things through to the end, it’s very rewarding to see your finished film on a big or small screen.”
Photo credit: Akbar Goli