by Rosalie Kicks!
Old Sport at Moviejawn
Heidi Saman’s first feature length film Namour, is more than just an homage to Los Angeles; It is a personal story that many of us may find all too familiar. As Writer/Director, Heidi Saman puts it, “Namour is about the decisions we make when our responsibilities begin to weigh down our convictions -- and why life can feel like it's passing us by.”
Namour made its’ world premiere at the Los Angeles Film Festival this month and won the LA Muse section of the fest. The film centers around a Los Angeles valet driver who finds himself in a “post-college rut." “There have been stretches of time in my life that have felt like everything around me is moving along except for me, and I wanted to make a film about that feeling. People talk about your 20's as being a time full of possibilities, but I felt the complete opposite. I felt burdened by possibility and couldn't make any decisions. Cinematically, I thought this would be a wonderful and challenging thing to visualize,” says Heidi.
After graduating college Heidi always knew she wanted to be involved in the world of media making. “I had fallen in love with film after taking an Italian neorealism course, but didn't think I could make films” she states. Heidi had taken some filmmaking classes at the University of California San Diego and found professors to be encouraging, but instead she found herself gravitate towards journalism. “I moved to Cairo after I graduated from college and wrote for a human rights magazine. I loved the experience but realized how limited my audience was. First of all, I wrote in English and most Egyptians read in Arabic and all of my pieces were censored by the Egyptian government. I felt how limited my role was and wanted to find a medium that could work across language barriers and censorship, so I thought about filmmaking again” explains, Heidi.
After she moved back to the States, she decided to apply to journalism and film school; she wound up getting into both. She decided to enroll in film school and pursue writing & directing. She first started writing Namour in 2008, as a way to help understand the events that were happening around her. She wanted to make sense of how this was going to change what we presently thought of as the “American Dream” and how financial fear could lead people to do unexpected things. Heidi explains, “Coworkers were getting laid off, my neighbors were losing their homes and my peers were tightening their budgets, fearing it would get worse. People were afraid - but I noticed something else. The recession was changing how we thought about ourselves and about the futures we thought we would have.”
Most filmmakers will agree movie making is not for the fainthearted. Challenges abound. For Heidi, the road to making her film was even rockier. Namour stars an Arab-American actor and she found when trying to raise money most of the producers turned it down. “They didn’t think there was an audience for an independent film that features Arab-Americans. Some financiers told me that they couldn't back a film that had Arab-Americans as the leads because they weren't "likeable" enough for audiences,” explains Heidi.
Not only did the investors not want to back the film, they also insisted she make significant changes if she ever wanted someone to consider it. “These investors (several of whom were Arab) wanted me to reiterate and reinforce Arab stereotypes and story lines that were safe, "market-approved," and not at all connected to the story I wanted to tell” says, Heidi. Due to these sentiments, Heidi decided to fund the film with grants (Knight Foundation, the Panavision New Filmmaker Grant, Leeway Grant), a successful Kickstarter campaign, and a trio of investors.
“With every film I make, I realize that shooting is a combination of being in the moment and thinking ahead to all the possible permutations of a scene's emotional tenors and how each one can work in the editing process” says Heidi. Having an attitude like this prepared her for the obstacles that lied ahead. As she began production some of the locations fell thru. This forced her to re-write several scenes and find new locations that were within the budget’s needs. “It was so stressful at the time but I have to admit those scenes are better than what I originally wrote. That's happened to me a few times -- where the world of the film meets the world of reality -- and when I've stayed open to my creative resources, some cool things have happened. There's no question Namour is a better film because of those happy accidents,” explains Heidi.
Now that the film is complete, Heidi hopes to travel the festival circuit and eventually have her film end up on a video on demand platform. The goal is to have the film be accessible internationally, so that as many people as possible are able to view Namour.
We wish Heidi the best of luck with her film and can’t wait to watch it. In the meantime, keep up with Namour on the web here:
A Few of Heidi Saman’s Favorite Things:
Who is your favorite female filmmaker?
People cite Agnes Varda all the time, but there's a reason. Cleo from 5 to 7 is one of my favorite films and it becomes more meaningful to me as I get older. It has an energy to it that is so of the time it was made but the film is timeless as well. It's the perfect combination of the personal and the political, which is something I strive for in my work.
Where is your favorite theater to see a film?
When I'm back in my hometown, it's the movie theater where I worked (then called Cinemapolis, now called Cinema City). In Philadelphia, the Prince.
What's your concession of choice when watching a movie?
Sour Patch Kids.