5:00 With Ahmad Al Morsy

Ahmad Al Morsy, director of photography based in Cairo, Egypt 
Ahmad Al Morsy
Ahmad Al Morsy

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DS: What kind of work are you doing at the moment?

Morsy: I do a lot of TVCs, this is my main thing because I am a bit picky about movies. I don’t do normal commercial movies, I try to choose movies with good scripts and production. I do a film every two years and the rest of the time I do a lot of commercials.

DS: Do you want to get more into movies?

Yes, this is my passion. I love movies but I am not interested in very commercial movies. They would make me feel like I am burning my energy in something not worthwhile. The last movie I worked on is in theatres now, and I am very happy with it. It’s called Al Asleyeen (The Originals) by director Marwan Hamed. It’s the second movie we’ve done together after The Blue Elephant. I like working with Marwan and Ahmed Mourad, the scriptwriter and novelist. The film is mainly about being watched. Everybody is watching each other and spying on each other, aided by technology such as smartphones, and we are extremely exposed, but not in a political way.

DS: Did Al Asleyeen involve some interesting camera work?

It was quite challenging in that I wanted to mix a lot of formats to get the feeling that the people are using different tools to spy. I mixed everything; the main camera for the movie was an Arri Alexa and we mixed it with small cameras like the Sony A7S and GoPros and even iPhones. It was interesting to mix all of this together.

DS: What interesting TVCs have you worked on lately, and what do you like about TVCs?

Let me think, one of the big projects I worked last year was a commercial for Vodafone 4G service. That was interesting with a lot of celebrities. I also like working on car adverts. TV commercials are a good chance to gain a lot of experience. Often, I will use commercial work as a testbed for techniques I want to use in feature films. Commercials are a good school for DoPs to learn and gain experience. They’re very short so you deal with a lot of ideas and people all the time, so you gain a lot of knowledge.

DS: Are there many good DoPs in Egypt?

There are plenty of good DoPs and every year we get more talented DoPs on the market. The problem is we don’t have enough movies; the movies are shrinking and the so are the budgets due to economic problems and the strength of the dollar, which increases budgets. Piracy is affecting the market big time. Egypt is still the Hollywood of the Middle East but we are not in a great period for movies at the moment.

DS: What do you think the government could do to help?

They should do more to fight piracy and invest more money in supporting the cinema in all ways. To shoot in any place owned by the government costs a lot of money. It’s not easy, I believe they should support the film industry more.

DS: How is the state of ad market in Egypt?

In Egypt it is good and improving. We have a lot of work because we are a big country with a big population, so we consume a lot of goods and services. Our market has a lot of money and we also do a lot of TVCs for the Gulf area and the Levant. I’ve worked in Lebanon, Jordan, Morocco and the Gulf.

DS: Where did you study films?

I went to the Higher Institute of Cinema in Egypt, the same as most Egyptian filmmakers. But when I started to work I felt there was a gap between us and US movies and so I went to the US and took some workshops at the International Film & Television Workshop in Rockport, Maine, to see why there is this big gap. We are not far behind the US, but they tend to have more discipline; they are more organised and work more on pre-production, so I try to do all of this in my work here.

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