Real stories inspire — Making it in the movies
It’s not easy to break into the film industry. But Razan has been pursuing her dream since she was nine, and now, after a series of film courses in Riyadh, Paris and London, her career is taking off.
- As a child Razan loved using her phone to make short films that made her friends and family laugh
- But when she told her teachers that she wanted to become a filmmaker they tried to put her off, telling her she could do better
- Now, after a series of filmmaking courses, she’s working as a director, and her films have won awards at international festivals
Real stories inspire
Mobile phones have set a generation of creators free — Razan is one of them. Ever since she was nine, she has used her phone to shoot and edit short videos.
“They were the kind of films that would go viral,” she says. “Funny, catchy and lighthearted. It’s what people enjoy the most.”
Her family took notice. Her brother Hamad gave her his camera to practice with. And her father even acted in her films.
Razan became set on a career in film and, most of all, she longed to be a director. She wanted to tell her own stories.
Illustration from Razan's story - Razan’s family supported her passion for creating films
Lack of support
But when she told her school teachers about her dreams of making movies, they weren’t so keen. They told her she was too smart to become a filmmaker and said she could do better.
Razan also knew that it was a tough industry to get into — even harder for a young woman.
And anyone who wants to be a director knows that opportunities are even more limited, with only one needed per film.
“It is difficult to direct and expect to make a living,” says Razan. “Especially as a beginner.”
Quote from Razan - "I like making people think in a different way, to put themselves in someone else’s shoes.”
Behind the scenes
Still Razan persevered, studying media in the day and creating films in her free time.
Then in 2018, at the age of 20, she was accepted onto a program run by the Saudi Film Council. She studied scriptwriting in Riyadh and was given the chance to go to Paris where she worked on four movies.
“I learnt the basics of filmmaking in Paris,” she says. “I got to work on multiple projects and take on different roles as a camera operator, producer, sound recordist, and assistant director.
At the beginning of your journey this is what helps you to learn and build up your knowledge.”
But her heart was set on becoming a director, and she got another lucky break that same year when she joined the Film Society at Ithra — the King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture founded by Aramco. The initiative provides tools and opportunities for local creatives to thrive in the film industry.
After joining the Ithra Film Society, Razan was invited to attend a two-week filmmaking course in London. Within a few days, she was booked and on her way to England.
This program was run in collaboration with the British Film Institute.
Razan joined a group of aspiring filmmakers tasked with making a film, supported by subject-matter experts brought in to guide them — including an editor of the Game of Thrones TV series.
Razan got the chance to direct the movie and the storyline was eerily prescient. Called A Breath, it tells the story of two people who are quarantined as the outside world experiences a plague.
“Now it feels as if we predicted Covid,” says Razan.
A Breath was nominated for best student film at the 2020 Saudi Film Festival, and was screened at the Red Sea Film Festival that same year.
“It was the first movie I did with Ithra, and my first experience of film festivals,” says Razan. “It felt surreal.”
Since then A Breath has also scooped two international awards, winning honorable mentions from the Florence Film Awards and the London International Monthly Film Festival.
Set for sucess
Building on that experience, Razan worked as a local assistant producer on Cherry, an American crime drama directed by Anthony and Joe Russo and released in 2021. She’s produced The Day I Lost Myself, a short film by director Rami Ali Alzayer which has been shown at festivals worldwide. And she is working on a feature film as a director herself.
“I like making people think in a different way, to put themselves in someone else’s shoes,” she says.
Razan is also proud to be part of a growing community of young women filmmakers in Saudi Arabia.
“To me, knowing that there are so many women in Saudi who are excited and ready to make films is one of the big blessings,” she says.
“As soon as I hear a woman’s name in the industry, I want to meet and work with her. We support and rely on each other to boost the film industry.”
She believes that if she can impact people with the films she makes, she will be able to turn her passion into a thriving career.
Illustration from Razan's story – Razan embarks on a future of telling cinematic stories that bring people closer together
This series celebrates some of the stories of the people from across the Kingdom whose lives have been transformed by projects that Aramco is proud to support. We brought their stories to life through illustrated tales, including Razan's story. Watch the preview below or follow the link for the full interactive version.