Interview with Yesser Laham (@yesseroninsta)

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Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path? 

I’ve always been fond of movies and the world of cinema and TV, ever since I was little. At the age of 8, I remember vividly wanting to be an actor and imitating actors from movies and TV shows. It developed a strong strive in me to want to entertain and perform for the public. I got to do a couple of school plays when I was in elementary school. The general reception was great, and people came up to me afterward and told me that my performances struck them as natural and believable and that I should consider doing it more often, which encouraged me to actually want to pursue acting professionally.

 With where I grew up though, the UAE, there wasn’t much I could’ve done then with my liking to wanting to be an actor. I ditched the idea altogether for a while, while I still kept that desire in me throughout the years, which only evolved into me writing stories too. I focused on getting my education and finished high school.

 And because film-related studies weren’t available at the time, I had to find an alternative that was at least somewhat close. So I went ahead and studied art, as I come from a family of artists; and drawing was something I really enjoyed and was pretty good at. I majored in graphics design to be specific. Not too long after I graduated and got my bachelor’s degree, I heard of the “New York Film Academy”. I went to check out their campus in Abu Dhabi, which is the capital city of the UAE, and that’s when I knew instantly that I wanted to enroll, and my family was very supportive.

To me, it was another form of expressing art; the art of cinema and telling stories. I completed my first year there. I then transferred to Los Angeles to complete my program, where I earned my master’s degree in filmmaking. In the process, I got to learn all aspects of making a film, from writing to being part of the crew on my peers’ films, acting for one another, and directing of course. I learned what the term “wearing many hats” really meant. 

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started doing this? 

The most interesting story would probably be just casually running into celebrities as I’m out and about and then getting to know how they’re like in person. 

In 2016, when I was still going to film school, I met a friend named Clive Pearse. He was walking his dogs in the Toluca Lake/ Burbank area, and I was on a little walk taking a break from writing. We instantly clicked and started chatting away, as I petted his dogs. We talked a bit about the film industry in general, being a TV host himself, and then he’d told me he was on his way to go see one of his best friends, Linda Blair.

 I was taken aback, not knowing if I heard him right. He casually asked me if I wanted to tag along and say hi, and with no hesitation, I said yes. I was delighted to have met her in person, is a big fan of her classic The Exorcist, yet I did not want to fan out on her. She was very friendly and nice in person and we had a nice little conversation after he had introduced me saying that I was studying film.

 Months later, as I was working on my script “Landfill”, and I started looking for potential talents to cast for my film, I thought of her. As crazy and ambitious as it sounded, I thought I’d give it a shot anyway, that it wouldn’t hurt to ask. So I messaged my friend Clive asking him if there was a chance Linda would be interested in just reading my script and letting me know what she thinks. No pressure, and no expectations. I just had to put myself out there and ask. 

He did ask her, and while some were skeptical about the whole thing and didn’t necessarily believe it was something that was going to happen, she did give it a read. And the best was yet to come, she wrote back saying how impressed she was and how much she loved the script; saying there was so much promise and that it was unique and original. After a few text exchanges with Clive being the middleman, she eventually gave me a call and talked to me on the phone about it. As a nice gesture, I made a donation to her dog rescue campaign “The Linda Blair Worldheart Foundation”, and she really appreciated it.

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”? 

Persistence, perseverance, patience, a lot of hard work and never giving up. I say, whatever happens, just never give up or quit. I, for one, would rather try and fall and pick myself back up and try again, and maybe even fail after all than quitting halfway without knowing what the results might have been, had I gone full-on. Because things will most likely continue to get tougher and chances are you’re going to be going through roller coasters, both on emotional and professional levels. But that’s ok. Nobody said it was going to be easy. It’s the tough part that makes it great and worthwhile. If it was easy, everyone else would be doing it. Another important key for me is being enthusiastic and diligent about the work.

The film industry can be very competitive. You’re gonna meet a lot of nice, like-minded people, and some fake, not very nice people too. Don’t let that change you or rub off on you. You wanna show them what you’re made of and how different you are. You wanna be better than that. You wanna stay true to your real authentic self. 

Also, don’t let factors or concerns from the technical side of certain things in your story limit your creativity when you’re writing, knowing that you’re on a budget. I’ve had some people read my scripts and then ask me things like your script seems very ambitious, almost like a studio budgeted film with entire rooms turning into trash tunnels and other sophisticated visuals. How are you going to execute this and that? As much as thinking about stuff like that challenged me, and at times even scared me, as a writer I was focused on the creative, artistic side of things. I did not want to be hung up on how I was going to make a certain thing work or let it dictate or confine the extent of my thoughts as I wrote my story. 

That stuff was secondary to me. And while I picked my fellow filmmakers’ brains who had years of experience over me, I also had to learn to tune out the negative minds and naysayers. To me, their own experiences, when they couldn’t make it in the industry, had no bearing on me and my success. So you should never let them get to you, and keep doing your thing and believing in you. 

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story? 

First and foremost, I’m very grateful to my supportive family, specifically my mom. If it wasn’t for her and her endless support, I wouldn’t be where I am today doing what I love.

I’m also grateful to my writer friend, Tim Rasmussen, who’s been not only a great friend but more like a mentor too with years of experience in the industry over me. 

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world? 

I’ve been told that I’ve inspired people around me to pursue their dreams too just from watching me do it. A lot of friends and people I know told me they started writing and creating more, in hopes that they’d get to have the funding part sorted out and bring their stories to life. Things like that make me happy.

Do you have a favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share a story of how that was relevant to you in your life? 

Here are some of my favorite life lesson quotes that I can relate to: 

“Don’t beat yourself up for not knowing the answers. You don’t always have to know who you are. You don’t have to have the big picture, or know where you’re heading. Sometimes, it’s enough just to know what you’re going to do next.” ― Sophie Kinsella

 “I advise you to stop sharing your dreams with people who try to hold you back, even if they’re your parents. Because, if you’re the kind of person who senses there’s something out there for you beyond whatever it is you’re expected to do – if you want to be EXTRA-ordinary- you will not get there by hanging around a bunch of people who tell you you’re not extraordinary. Instead, you will probably become as ordinary as they expect you to be.” ― Kelly Cutrone

 “If plan A doesn’t work, the alphabet has 25 more letters – 204 if you’re in Japan.” ― Claire Cook 

“Every passing minute is another chance to turn it all around.” _ Cameron Crowe “Not all those who wander are lost.” ― J.R.R. Tolkien

 “Don’t tell me the sky’s the limit when there are footprints on the moon.” ― Paul Brandt 

“The magic of each day lives in the unknown. It’s waking up as one person, and accepting that when night falls, we maybe someone else entirely. So, when you ask what my story is, forgive me—-I’m not quite sure yet.” ― J. Raymond 

“People look for greatness only in the extraordinary and completely overlook the wonder of the ordinary.” ― Ann Tatlock 

“You are a divine being. You matter you count. You come from realms of unimaginable power and light, and you will return to those realms.” ― Terence McKenna

“The world is what YOU think of it, so think of it DIFFERENTLY and your life will change.” ― Paul Arden 

How can our readers follow you on social media? 

I’m under the same name on all social media, Yesser Laham. 

@Yesseroninsta is my Instagram.

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