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Life & Work with Adham Elnashai

Today we’d like to introduce you to Adham Elnashai.

Hi Adham, can you start by introducing yourself? We’d love to learn more about how you got to where you are today?
Hey! I’m an Egyptian filmmaker, born in London, raised in Cairo. Attended the French Jesuite school, finishing up my last two years in the American International School in Egypt. I then moved out to Pennsylvania to receive my bachelor’s at Penn State. Ten days past my graduation, I moved to LA. Chasing the dream, I started working on TV shows, commercials and music videos, where I discovered my love for cinematography and lighting.

In 2021, a fellow Penn Stater recommended I send my application to be part of Frieze LA’s film fellowship. I wrote a story about a young Egyptian woman who struggles with maintaining the facade of the lifestyles her conservative father dictates versus the ones she desires to explore upon moving to California. It’s a story about cultural conflicts, and parents holding so tight onto their traditions. I received the Frieze LA Audience Award for the film.

Would you say it’s been a smooth road, and if not what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced along the way?
The road hasn’t been smooth, but that’s the cost of doing what you love. Working in this industry, you’re constantly hustling and trying to find all the hidden opportunities. I, along with everyone I work with, work difficult, long days. The biggest challenge I could think of is facing the intimidating world of freelance, because I never know when/where I’ll be working, how much I’ll be making, whether I could afford rent for the following month or not. I am constantly contacting people looking for work, sifting through websites trying to find gigs and expanding my network. Thankfully I have my family to back up my love for film, especially my older brother, Shadie, the most knowledgeable filmmaker I know. He’s been a huge support throughout my career.

Thanks for sharing that. So, maybe next you can tell us a bit more about your work?
As a director of photography I oversee lighting, framing and camera movement. Lighting is one of my passions, I am always eager to manipulate the mood/theme by lighting my subjects in accordance to the narrative. I’m constantly studying lighting setups done by cinematographers I appreciate. I have become so obsessed with it that throughout my day to day I find myself looking for the best lighting around me and/or how to improve it.

I’m most proud of my recent award from Frieze LA, received for my film “Rahma”. A film I shot and directed in December 2021.

What sets me from others is my multicultural background and middle eastern upbringing. My goal is to keep shooting stories that bring that cross-culture to the screen. I am often known as The Egyptian, on set. That makes me proud of myself, knowing that I am one of very few Egyptians in the industry.

What do you like and dislike about the city?
The city of Los Angeles is filled with artistic communities with diversities spanning from aesthetics, backgrounds and philosophies. A place of artistic freedom and affluence, with a rich niche for everyone. Los Angeles’ art feels more emotionally-driven, less focused on perceived societal expectations, and encourages the individual to articulate what is meaningful to them. And that’s where I feel at home.

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