Your new movie Jumper
- in a few words, what is it about?
follows a distressed crisis negotiator who
attempts to rescue--off the ledge--a young man who questions his sexual
What were your
sources of inspiration when writing Jumper?
seed of the film came to me last August. I was stuck in heavy LA traffic
and heard on the radio the news of a jumper who was standing on the top of
a downtown high rise and threatening to jump. I started to think about
what could drive a person to not only decide to end his or her life
but also do it in such a public manner?
what extent can you actually identify with your lead Jack, and sympathize
with the issues M.J. is dealing with?
idea of Jumper
allowed me to revisit some dark moments of my life in a
creative way. On a personal level, identifying with Jack, most people
have experienced a truly low moment in their lives. A moment where they
felt rejected by society, their community, a lover, or possibly their own
family, that it led them to rejecting themselves. Jumper
tackles the topic
of suicide. I personally contemplated suicide a couple of times in my
life. Luckily, I didn’t follow through but I've always been intrigued by
what drives a person to that decision as well as the method they choose to
for M.J., I believe he is ultimately seeking acceptance. Acceptance of
oneself and others. In a way, they are both seeking the same thing for
largely filmed on a rooftop - what were the challenges there, from both a
logistical and creative point of view?
main priority was to ensure safety of the cast and crew, so they are free
to optimally perform.
creative challenge was choosing angles that convey the height as well as
the isolation of the characters both internally and externally. Luckily
our director of photography, Shakeek Bin Afzal, is athletic and limber
and, through various yoga positions, was able to contort to accommodate
various tricky shots.
What can you tell
us about your directorial approach to your story at hand?
wanted to tell a story that featured Middle Eastern characters dealing
with issues that are rarely discussed in our culture. I also wanted to
show these characters in a non stereotypical framing.
general theme of how most humans suffer in silence while projecting a
different emotion externally. Everyone you meet could possibly have a
volcano brewing inside them and you wouldn't have the least inclination
until they reach their eruption point. In which case it may be too late.
character in the film initially appears in isolation until they are forced
to interact with one another. And eventually feeling accepted by the
also play the lead in Jumper
- so what did you draw upon to bring your character to life, and have you
written Jack with yourself in mind from the get-go?
I mentioned earlier, I drew from dark moments of my life and infused in
Jack's character. I am an internal person in real life and I used that
with Jack as well. I did write Jack with myself in mind. As a positive and
optimistic person, I wanted to leave Jack with a hopeful open ending. I
believe that life is ultimately about choices and we can always make new
ones that would change our course for the better.
talk about the rest of your cast, and why exactly these people?
Saad, who plays M.J. and is my producing partner was a a catalyst in the
making of Jumper. He pushed for the creation of the project as well as
connected me with our DP, Shakeel, whom he worked with for several years
prior. He also poured his heart into his character and showed
vulnerability that made for a memorable acting debut. I was impressed by
his dedication and hard work in preparation for the character.
Mohamed, who plays Jack's boss, Nola Rimes, and is a co-producer on the
project, connected with me several months earlier as she was seeking
advice from like minded Middle Eastern Hollywood actors. I was impressed
by her ideas and work ethic. She's also a strong screenwriter in her own
rights. So, she immediately came to mind when I was casting the role. I
knew she can convey the strength and empathy of Nola. She also didn't shy
away from helping in various capacities during and after the production.
am very grateful for them both to have chosen to be part of Jumper.
can you tell us about the shoot as such, and the on-set atmosphere?
was really amazing. Since we are an indie production, everyone helped in
various capacities which stretched our budget 10 fold. I generally love to
create a collaborative environment where the main objective is to tell a
great story in the best way we can. All ideas and contributions from cast
and crew are welcome.
from the heavy topic of the story, we had a great time during the shoot.
There was a lot of laughter and high fives and a general sense of pride
that we are making something out of nothing.
$64-question of course, where can your movie be seen?
just started our festival run and we are grateful that the first time Jumper
will be seen publicly will be at The American Pavilion Emerging
Filmmaker Showcase in Cannes as well as the Short Film Corner.
May 19th 4 p.m. - The American
Pavilion Emerging Filmmaker Showcase
May 22nd 12 p.m.- Marché Du
Film – Palais G
we get into more festivals there will be more screenings in the near
future and we'd be happy to share those as they come.
you can tell us about audience and critical reception of Jumper
feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. We honestly didn't expect that
when we were developing and shooting the film. We were mainly focused on
honoring the story the best way possible.
Skerbelis, director of The American Pavilion Emerging Filmmaker Showcase
said, "Jumper is selected for the
American Pavilion Emerging
Filmmaker Showcase because of its timely subject matter, wonderful
characters and unflinching looks at suicide and the “Q” in LGBTQ.”
Any future projects you'd like to share?
are currently in post production of two comedy shorts, Receive and The
Pitch. I am also developing a dark comedy thriller feature film as well as
a couple of TV pilots.
far as I know, you entered the filmworld as an actor - so what got you
into acting in the first place, and did you receive any formal training on
a teenager, my dream was to become a rockstar. I fronted a couple of heavy
metal bands in Egypt before moving to the States to pursue that dream.
Then I sort of fell into acting by doing a small role in a short film
which ignited my love for the craft. I lived in Chicago at the time and
pursued acting full force by taking classes, doing theater and improv.
I moved to LA to pursue acting full time. I've been very fortunate as I
have worked with many of my idols, such as Clint Eastwood, Bradley Cooper,
Jeff Daniels and many more. It's been an amazing journey.
How would you describe yourself as an
actor, and some of your techniques to bring your characters to life?
me, acting is the culmination of everything I've done in my life so far.
My life in Egypt, being a tour guide there, playing in heavy metal bands,
working in corporate America, doing standup comedy, writing, editing,
directing, it all feeds into my acting.
these experiences come through here and there in every character I play. I
play myself in the situation of the story.
you also picked up writing, producing and directing - what prompted that
always been a writer, I just never claimed it until several years ago.
When I was in elementary school in Cairo, I participated in a short story
competition and won first place and was given the prize at a big reception
by Susan Mubarak, Egypt's first lady at the time. Also, writing lyrics and
poetry during my band days helped my word economy when writing dialogue.
I love acting, I love creating and I don't want to stand still in between
acting work. That's why I started creating my own content. To provide
opportunities for myself and others.
What can you tell us about your filmwork prior to Jumper,
in whatever position?
an actor, I have appeared in American Sniper and several indie features
and shorts as well as many primetime TV dramas, such as NCIS: New
The Looming Tower, Scandal, Madam Secretary and several others.
first produced script was Toppled -
https://youtu.be/M4Eu0_SGTeU - which
was directed and co-produced by my talented friend Paul DeNigris who also
helped us with some visual effects for Jumper.
also wrote, produced and directed many sketch comedy videos and some
commercials for a YouTube channel I used to manage.
was my directorial debut, followed by Receive and The Pitch which I write
Filmmakers, actors, whoever else
who inspire you?
Feeling lucky ?
any of my partnershops yourself
for more, better results ?
The links below
will take you
that inspire me, Steven Soderbergh as he is constantly renewing and
challenging himself to not fall in a status quo. Also, Quentin Tarantino
for his rebellious and authentic voice.
Woody Harrelson who's simple approach to complex characters is always
the late Ronnie James Dio was the catalyst of me becoming a rock singer. I
am also inspired by the brilliance of the legendary George Carlin who's
command of the language was poetically impeccable.
Your favourite movies?
one? The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.
and of course, films you really deplore?
the amount of work and energy put into making a film, I can always find
something to appreciate in a movie. Even if it's simply what not to do.
But I really think we need to slow down on sequels and try try to create
new stories with new heroes.
movie's website, Facebook, whatever else?
can learn all things Jumper
or here: https://aymanation.com/
you're dying to mention and I have merely forgotten to ask?
you have a story that you believe in, don't wait till someone hands you an
opportunity. Take it upon yourself to tell that story because it chose you
and no one else can tell it through your unique filter.
for the interview!
All movie stills
and behind-the-scene shots by Shakeel Bin Afzal.