With our Film Festival around the corner NOFS decided to speak to a mentee about the importance of our programs and film festival opportunities. We caught up with Ahmed Siddiqui, an Emerging Voices filmmaker who has used our program to the fullest potential.
Ahmed is from New Orleans, but calls Lafayette and the Acadiana home. Since his start in our **Emerging Voices Program he’s had access to the tools and networks needed to pursue his love of film + building the film community here in Louisiana.**
How did you get into Emerging Voices?
I was recommended to the Emerging Voices program by my friend Marisa Collins. She is a big supporter on what we’re doing in Acadiana for the film community and urged me to submit an application last year.
What projects have you been doing while in the program?
I have recently completed my first short film, I’m currently working on a documentary about the visa process for immigrants, and prepping to shoot my first feature next year. I am also running a non-profit called bckstry (backstory) that provides mentorship and job training to aspiring filmmakers while supporting local artists. We have grown exponentially over the last year and it has been greatly due to the support from our friends at NOVAC, Darcy McKinnon, Jillian Hall and Chloe Wallace of Emerging Voices (EV). They’ve provided a support network for local artists with hands on training to emerging filmmakers. It all has been an extremely gratifying this year, and there was a lot of the inner workings hashed out during my time at the festival portion of EV.
How has your filmmaking evolved since beginning the program?
My film making has grown by being able to take a step out of tunnel vision mode. I think many times as artists we are trying to achieve the artistic dream without realizing the business aspect of the industry. My mentor, Stephanie Allain, provided me with amazing insight on my portfolio of work and what I should do next in order to expand my career. I have been concentrating on intimate, smaller projects that, though they have cultural impact, the reality is that it may be for a niche indie market. She looked at my work and suggested expanding my projects to a few wider demographic projects, in order to be a more appealing asset for the industry. What I’ve discovered as an artist that there is nothing wrong to do “one for them, then one for you.” Since my time with EV, my screenwriting portfolio has grown by four scripts, two commercial, two indie focused.
What was last years NOFF like while being a part of the program? What did you do during the festival?
Last year’s experience with NOFF was, to put it simply, busy. The program was scheduled to allow us maximum face time with important people. If we weren’t in meetings with our mentors, we were at workshops hearing and speaking with fellow filmmakers and growing our education or networking. Though I didn’t get a chance to see as many films as I had wanted to, the number of meetings and opportunities presented through the EV were unbelievable.
How has the program helped you with being a filmmaker here in Louisiana.
The program has allowed me to reach the right people and begin a concrete path to making more projects. I feel like a lot of us are trying to figure out who we’re going to get to L.A. and the EV program, for me, has helped me have a direct connection to someone who is working in the industry. It has given a contact that I can call upon when I’m ready to bring my career to the next level. Similarly, for my organization, it has helped us bring a level of clout, for lack of a better term, and attention to what we are achieving in Acadiana. Through and through, the EV program has jettisoned my career more than I could have ever imagined. Two years ago I was an artist trying to figure out if I should give up on my dreams of being a filmmaker, and now, thanks to EV, my career is thriving, I’m meeting the right people, and getting closer to getting my foot into the industry.
Ahmed is one of many filmmakers NOFS assists within the local community. Our Emerging Voices Program aims to expose local filmmakers to a networks within the film world and give them the tools to advance in the industry. Now, in it’s 26th year, the program continues to be well received and expose local stories to the world. The New Orleans Film Society not only encourages local filmmakers to take advantage of our opportunities, but also reaches out for local engagement.