Conventional wisdom in public relations has it that of all the tools at the disposal of organizations or groups, having a cause championed in a movie is the most effective.
Although academics debate just how powerful film media influence over our lives is, anecdotal evidence supports the contention that the influence is enormous, especially in shaping first impressions on an issue.
For example, according to the Los Angeles Times a local plumbing company received over 70 calls from families trying to save their gold fish after children flushed them down the toilet subsequent to watching the movie "Finding Nemo". Those who are old enough might remember the huge increase in interest in martial arts and Buddhism across North America after the launch of the television series "Kung Fu" in the mid 1970's.
In North America, this fact was not lost on corporations who routinely embed advertisements in movies. Readers might recall that "E.T." could not do without his Reeces Pieces, Superman regularly ate Kellogg brand of Corn Flakes for breakfast, and Windex had an overwhelming number of uses in the movie "My Big Fat Greek Wedding".
Effective communications of the Islamic world view and ethics by Muslims is not only essential, it is a divine commandment. Allah says in the Qur'an (16:125) "Invite (all) to the Way of thy Lord with wisdom and beautiful preaching..." which instructs us to seek quality in both the content of our message as well as its delivery.
The last few years have ushered in an encouraging wave of new Muslim media artists. One such person is Dr. Gemal Seede, an Information Technology executive turned filmmaker.
Dr. Seede is working on a bold Sci-Fi film project called the "Alliance". The film is as ambitious as any other blockbuster Sci-Fi.
We interviewed Dr. Seede at his home in Southern California.
|Alliance: Inside space craft hanger bay|
What is your role in Alliance?
I'm the Executive Producer. Basically, that's like the CEO of the movie. I make major decisions; hire the Director, the Producer, etc. But mostly, I make sure we have the funding to complete our work.
I visited your Alliance movie web site and saw the trailer . It seems you've made quite a bit of progress. What is the premise behind the movie?
In "Alliance", 24th century Earth has come under attack by a shadowy alien race called the Kytaan. In the midst of this terrible conflict, an archeologist named Jenna Yameen finds a mystical artifact in the Arabian Desert. When she deciphers celestial coordinates on this artifact, she is sent across the galaxy with a heroic Bedouin captain who helps her find the faith she needs to save Earth, and herself.
If you haven't guessed yet, Alliance is a science-fiction movie (laugh).
So Alliance is set in the future.
This part of the story is very interesting. One of the things we find out in the movie is that the events of the future are rooted in something that happened in the past. So actually, the movie is set both in the future and the past.
From your website, it seems that there are more than one episode. How many episodes are there in Alliance?
"Alliance" is really a trilogy. We're actively working on the second episode, but we've sketched out a detailed template for a prequel and a sequel.
When will "Alliance" play in movie theatres?
Right now we are working on a short version of the movie, which InshaAllah, should play in film festivals this year. We are also in the process of seeking investment for a feature length version, so the timing of its distribution will depend on how quickly we raise capital.
|Alliance: Demolecularizing for transport|
What was your motivation behind making this type of film?
There are many motivations, but the primary one is to foster racial, ethnic and religious tolerance.
What is the central theme of the movie?
The major theme is that spiritual growth is necessary for human success. That is a universal theme and one that all audiences can gain from.
Yes, but why a sci-fi?
I wanted people to look optimistically to the future and be inspired to be forward thinking. A lot of films are set in the past or present. Some are set in the future. But few show how the past affects the future. We all need to learn from the lessons of the past, but that's not enough. We also need to be more innovative in solving the world's problems and our own. If you read Muslim history, you find that the Prophet Muhammad and his sahaba (companions) were very innovative. So I thought that a sci-fi could better accomplish that by presenting a vision of what is possible.
So would it be fair to say that you decided to produce "Alliance" to promote tolerance and innovative thinking?
Yes. That's right. In the short version of the movie, we're also trying to show case the quality of work that members from our community can attain.
What are you doing to ensure the quality of "Alliance"?
We shot our footage on High Definition cameras. It's the same type of camera that George Lucas used for the last release of Star Wars. Also, we are using the state of the art tools for the special effects. And we used great costumes and props, which dramatically increased the production value of the film. We cast very talented actors and actresses. And the script has gone through numerous revisions and improvements. In short, we're doing everything we can.
Alliance: Bedouin helps Alien navigate through dessert.
How are you funding this film? From where/whom would you like to see these funds come from?
For the short film I am using my own resources to fund this project. For the full feature we're hoping to start raising capital form domestic and overseas sources. This is an exciting business venture and we will be looking for business partners, not donors.
Why is that?
Because we have many ideas for future movies and television production and we want to be able to reinvest the profits from one project into the next. And we want business partners who will work with us on a long term objective.
What was your biggest accomplishment in the film and what hurdles did you successfully jump over to get what you wanted?
The biggest accomplishment was creating and defining the story. It's quite ambitious to try to tell an epic story in a short film format.
The biggest hurdle has been financing. It's taken longer to complete given both our high standards and our relatively modest means. I think most Muslim with the means to invest have become gun-shy regarding investments right now.
What is your advice to Muslims thinking about going into the film industry? What's it like working as a Muslim in Hollywood?
Our community has a lot of needs, but no one project can do every thing. I say pick a single issue that motivates you and focus on it. Don't be tempted to address all issues in one project.
When you start a project like this, you may be surprised at how many people will help you. We've had a lot of people working on this project without compensation, giving their services without charge. It's really a blessing.
Thank you Dr. Seede for your time and we wish you success on this project.
Mumin Pictures is open to investment inquiries regarding the feature length version of Alliance. If you're interested in learning more email [email protected]
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