We’re always proud when an Arab makes it in Hollywood, and Motaz Nabulsi، the young Arab producer has achieved much to make us proud. His first independent movie, Sunlight Jr., starring Naomi Watts and Matt Dillon was recently released in select theatres and on iTunes. He also achieved much success with the movie, 2 Guns, with some of the biggest names in the movie industry such as Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg. Looking forward, the upcoming release of Lone Survivor, also starring Mark Wahlberg, is expected to have a big impact on audiences. eniGma’s Lina Ashour talks to this Jordanian talent about his journey to Hollywood.
How did you get into the movie business and was this something you always wanted to do?
My initial interest in film was inspired by my father. He produced a film when I was young and spoke about how much he enjoyed filmmaking as well as the many challenges that he encountered. Despite his love for films, he advised me to pursue a less risky career, which led me to study business, but I eventually started to work in film. A big break for me was my volunteer work with the Tribeca Film Festival. It was an inspiring experience that led me to study at the New York Film Academy. Along the way, I met some amazing people and developed a strong network that really helped me throughout this journey.
Tell us about your background and how it has affected you.
Being from Jordan has affected me in many ways. Conflicts and everyday life in the Middle East produce amazing stories that interest me and deepen my understanding of the human experience. My culture also influenced my decision to become a producer, whose task is more community-oriented rather than an individualistic job. Producers help members of the community of actors, writers, and so on, who all become a part of a film.
Spending years in the United States during my Boston college days also influenced me in terms of learning from diverse people. I feel that diversity, not just exposure to it but its embracement as well, aids in creativity and in developing critical thinking skills that have been very beneficial in my life. I also love to share my culture with other people and show them how beautiful our region is.
A lot of people don’t understand what a producer’s job entails. How would you describe your position in the movie making process?
Producers have to start with a great script or a project. Once there is a project or script, the producer hires the team to work on the film and we also have to raise funds for the making of the film. Other decisions that the producer makes include finding the right distributors and of course, selling the film. Overall the executive producer packages a film from script to screen, handling the business, legal and financial aspects of movie making.
What has been your favourite experience in the movie business?
I find it hard to name only one favourite experience in the film business. I love the entire process of making a film, the excitement I feel when I know I am reading a great script, when the right actors have agreed to sign on, and when the funding for the film has come through. The final film is also exciting, watching scenes that I have been on set for, listening to audience comments once the film ends, and of course, reading positive reviews about the film.
Who are the people that impacted you most in your line of work?
My father was a large inspiration in my life. My family and friends also inspired me by encouraging me to get into such a challenging industry. Other people who have had a large impact on me include the people I have worked with. I believe that each person who works on a film is vital to its success.
What lessons did you learn from working on 2 Guns?
Lessons that I have learned from 2 Guns include being patient, honest, and being on top of everything. I also learned about staying on budget, being aware of costs, trusting your co-workers, and taking advantage of your connections. I learned that you have to believe in yourself and your instincts throughout the process.
Were you intimidated at any point by the size of the project and the big names involved?
I think that the nature of the business overall is intimidating. The size of the project and the big names involved were not necessarily intimidating since producers can feel intimidated with smaller projects that involve an unknown cast.
What are your biggest career aspirations?
Like many, I would love to win an Oscar. However, the most important part of this business for me is to learn the industry. I also want to make films that inspire people and in particular, people from the Middle East. I hope that my work inspires people from the Arab world to pursue their dreams. I would like to bridge the gap between the East and West and to work with the many talented people in the Middle East who have so much to offer to this global industry.
What is the next step for you and what are your plans for the future?
My next steps include looking for more great scripts or projects. This business is complex, dynamic, and changing rapidly, and this is challenging in terms of making plans. Still, my goals include making great films that have universal appeal and are simply based on excellent stories that I feel need to be told.