Adam Abd El Ghaffar is a writer, visual artist, and rising star-director in the industry. Born in 1985, the former creative director is most known for his short movie Shoka w Sekeena (Fork & Knife), which was selected and premiered at festivals around the world including The Gouna Film Festival in 2018, Middle East Now Film Festival in Italy, and the Malmo Arab Film Festival in Sweden. It won Best Script, Best Actress, and Best Director at the Elia Short Film Festival in Palestine.
The well-composed, multi-tasking force of nature that is Abd El Ghaffar is also most notable for creating, writing, and directing an episode of the Egyptian series, Nemra Etnein. It starred 18 of Egypt’s leading performers including Amina Khalil, Amr Youssef, Mona Zaki, Nelly Karim, Asser Yassin, Menna Shalaby, and Ahmed Malek.
Here’s what he had to say about his journey…
How were you able to grow as a director?
When I decided to direct, I only wanted to do Fork & Knife – I loved the story I wrote and didn’t want anyone to modify or alter it, so I learned enough to direct that one time; it was a personal test to see if I can continue to direct. After Fork & Knife, I realised I have this in me, and I can progress. The biggest challenge I faced in Nemra Etnein was being put in a project with some of the biggest names in the industry. This pushed me even further into studying the craft, learning new techniques, and preparing hard all the time.
Picture this: You’re sitting in front of a blank paper, and you’re getting inspired to write Nemra Etnein. What’s your vision going into it?
There’s actually a famous fear for a blank paper. It happens in drawing, and writing, and all that. But the most important rule in writing is to fix as you go, and ask yourself how you can make it better. It doesn’t have to be perfect after the first draft. It never is. You write the first draft, and it’s awful; you write a second draft, and it’s not so bad; you write a third, and it’s pretty good, then you work on it again, and it’s super. It’s a whole part of the process, and you get used to it the more you work.
When things go really well with an actor on set, how do you usually reward or respond to that as a director?
One of the scenes in Nemra Etnein had Eyad Nassar and Amina Khalil, and there was a very challenging scene for Eyad. We were filming for 28 hours straight, and we were all exhausted, but this scene was very important. I honestly didn’t expect Eyad to perform the part with such brilliance. I thought we would do two takes at least, but he nailed it on the first one. He seriously astonished me. When the scene was over, I had to get up and clap. I don’t think many actors expect to receive a round of applause on set, but it’s important to show appreciation when that sort of magic happens, and it’s the least I can do to let an actor know they’ve done an excellent job.
Let’s say you have to deal with an actor who’s got a bit of an ego. How are you able to approach that?
The relationship between an actor and director has to include manners. I can’t just tell an actor on set in front of everyone “Oh that was terrible, do it again”. That’s directing 101, your communication with an actor has to be in private, and it’s no one else’s business on set to know what an actor’s weakness or problem is. Worse comes to worst, I will take the actor to the side and discuss the matter, so as not to cause any embarrassment in public. I can’t imagine myself yelling and aggressing people on set. It’s not good for anyone.
What’s next for Adam Abd El Ghaffar?
I have a couple of projects that I’m looking forward to starting working on soon, with two production houses. One of which will be a thriller/suspense series, and that’s all that I can say for now! And, of course, every director’s dream is to create a full feature film, so I definitely look forward to that in the future.
Transcribed and translated by May Mansour.