October 06, 2012 12:00 AM | by The Fustany Team
Getting to Know Ashraf Hamdi
Ashraf Hamdi, one of Egypt's young and outstanding talents in the film industry, and who recently joined Fustany as a Guest Writer. We love his shows and presence on TV, and couldn't wait to share his interview with all of our Readers.
How did you decide to become an actor?
Well I always did theatre in summer vacations, so after finishing Dentistry I realized that my life will remain tasteless if I had everything but still didn't do or achieve the one thing I’m passionate the most about, because films were always my passion since I was a kid. So I decided to take the risk and leave all what I studied behind and just start pursuing this dream although, even though I knew how difficult it was and especially because I was aiming to be an international actor.
I then started studying acting in London, did auditions here and there, and what helped the most is that I followed the “Matt Damon theory”. Basically this theory is to become an actor through wiring, so I started studying screen writing as well, and step by step I now consider myself blessed, so far after trying hard for 6 years I am one of the Arab actors who were lucky to have some international credits as well as decent projects made.
What's your favorite thing about writing?
It would be escaping to the world that you create. You see, most of the time I only write the movies that I create or play in, and it’s very rare that I would go for a specific writer. I did it only once with Ali F. Mostafa by writing the first draft of his upcoming film, but only because I liked the story he created and liked working with him.
It's just enjoyable to explore a character's world by yourself, and you know I usually don't write solutions or advice for people; I just lay down a study to a problem. Let's say a relationship case for example, and add a lot of personal experience in it and talk about it through story telling, since I couldn't do in real life due to circumstances etc. Then I create a world around it that I would think will entertain me if I was at the movies watching it and how this will reflect on viewers, because when you do something a bit personal you need to make sure it will be received positively by people or at least by the majority.
We know that you were also a TV presenter, talk to us about that experience...
It wasn't planned to be honest, I always wanted to be an actor and writer, presenting came by chance and it helped a lot actually. I remember after doing my first international experimental feature film "Wingrave", a magazine wrote about me, then I got offered to audition for presenting a live show on Otv before it started. I didn't feel it's what I wanted but I got convinced that this channel would be different in terms of not sticking to the normal, which actually was the case. So I got the job and started presenting in the morning show "Sabahak Sokkar Zyada" which was a massive hit and was loved by the whole Middle East as a one of a kind show, and it actually got me famous and introduced me well in the industry that I got my first roles in Tv series afterwards.
Then I represented one of the big shows on MBC “The People’s Quiz” with George Kardahy, Mona Zaki and Sara el Dandarawy as judges, and this one was a huge step for me as a presenter. Presenting live and recorded actually helped me a lot as an actor, because it enables you to improve your phonetics as well as strengthen your memory in regards to studying scripts and dialogues.
Where do you see the Middle Eastern cinema in 10 years?
Hmmm, well I really can't answer this, but when it comes to the people I know and those close to me as well as myself, I can tell you that it's improving because people like us from our generation are doing their best to shine and change it to the better. A lot of trials already took place and worked well, all we need is for the production and financiers to start believing in our vision. But I’m optimistic, because a few years ago there was nothing, then they started taking baby steps, and now the movement is increasing, so hopefully we can compete internationally soon.
What's a character you would love to play?
Actors usually don't look for a specific character, they always look for what's challenging for them. Playing something that needs studying and preparing is always satisfying for an actor, and not something that's easy for you which you'll find in your comfort zone, that wouldn’t be acting, it would be playing yourself, and aren’t we doing that everyday? Also a character that would express certain emotions that you failed or got shy to express in your normal life is an excellent challenge, because you'll need to get out of your skin and strip your emotions naked in front of the whole world.
If you were an actor in the Black and White era of the Egyptian cinema, who would it be?
Roshdy Abaza or Omar Sharif...
What's the most valuable advice someone has ever given to you?
"Money comes anyways, just do what you love and be honest towards it. Always be prepared and stop wasting time thinking, analyzing and criticizing".
Describe yourself in 3 words...
Blunt, persistent, loyal (to whatever : work, friends and family)
Who do you consider a role model?
Peter Griffin from Family guy! Kidding :)
I actually don't have a role model unfortunately, but I look up to certain people regarding their choices or their inspiring stories and achievements. So I would say Ryan Gosling and Ethan Hawk, I respect their choices a lot for juggling between indie and commercial films in a smart way, as well as Leonado Di Caprio of course.
Your favorite movies would be?
My list would be: Before Sunset & Before Sunrise, Atonement, Blue Valentine, Babel, Like Crazy, Inception, Last Night, Un Prophet, Romanzo Criminale ...and the list keeps going.
What are the biggest challenges you had to face in your career?
Everyday is a challenge in this field because it's all about sticking to your standards or sell yourself to the devil, as this is this only way to speed or slow down your way. The thing about this career that you would love and hate at the same time that the decision you'll take will either make you or break you, what I love about it is that it's your own decision at the end so it will be rewarding if you make it, otherwise you'll just have to live with what you sacrificed for it. Also watching and listening to destructive criticism is quite a challenge (and the internet helped in that big time), because depending on how you are and how you deal with it, it might destroy you or just make you tougher.
What advice would you give to a young up and coming actor or writer?
Well my personal advice is never let anyone break your dream or urge to succeed, patience and persistence is the key to achieving your dreams in such a field, just keep working and update your talent and keep your vision in front of your eyes because no hard work or talent goes unnoticed even if takes a long time. As for the biggest advice, be flexible and committed!
Three things you can't live without?
My phone, laptop and music
Two quotes hit my mind right away: "Only those who risk going too far , find out how far they can go. " from FRINGE, and the other one is " without love , there's nothing" from the PERFECT SENSE. I have other favorite quotes that I wrote on my upcoming scripts, but I’d prefer you see them on screen.