OMAIMA AL KINDI –
From the outside, it looked like any other room in Nizwa College of Applied Sciences (NCAS). The room’s paint has been a few years old. It has been peeling on some parts and faded and peppered with dust on some other.
The noises coming from the inside are muffled. It was designed that way. It was a room for creativity and for students taking Mass Communication, it was a sanctuary that allows them to experiment on film production.
As a government institute for higher learning, NCAS in recent years has been producing independent filmmakers and journalists. Its Mass Communication programme aims to nurture students to become adept not only in digital media and journalism but moving pictures as well especially the technical aspect of film production.
This is a perfect space for female students in particular. As there are many challenges going outside not only because of the harsh weather and the hostile terrain, female students also have to face many societal constraints and space like NCAS studio allows them to be creative without having to worry about the many factors that constrain their movements.
The studio has all the basic amenities — several professional grade cameras, video monitors, studio lighting, a working sound stage and production control room with good recording capability, a green background and an ample space to set up props.
Operating under the supervision of Zahid Waheed, a broadcast media practitioner and instructor whose experience includes being a visual consultant with leading Indian media outlets, students of NCAS come and go in this room, every time leaving with them an experience that widens their perspective about film and media production.
In the past few years, the studio has been home to several student-produced films that won accolades and awards in national and international film festivals.
“Stigma” for example has taken home an award from the International Student Festival of Short Films held in Tunisia. Exploring the phenomenon of Trichotillomania, a type of impulse control disorder as the patient has an irresistible urge to pull out their hair usually from the scalp, Zahid worked with the students for months to bring the film to a professional level worthy of joining the competition.
Not only equipped with sound recording, mixing and audio production, it is also here that ideas were hatched and developed.
Students were freely encouraged to delve into several societal issues — from behavioural concepts like alcoholism and domestic violence even the pros and cons of drug abuse and mental health.
This hands-on approach gave way to film like ‘Journey begins here after’ which shows the repercussions of a stereotypically drunk and abusive father on his family and ‘Jannah’ which means Heaven which explored the struggles of orphaned children during war times.
Zahid has shared that the studio is “a space that instills confidence to students in their abilities.”
He shared that students are allowed to utilise the studio according to their needs but that they are not constricted in learning just from within. He said that students can go outside far from the university walls and learn from shooting on an actual breathing, living environment.
He pointed out that for example, some students had produced Al Bastah Majan, a corporate film that profiled a local café and giving viewers a different look and side of the Arabic coffee preparation.
In each of the student’s journey, Zahid is with them pointing and guiding them in the right direction. He also challenges them to look past things that confine them and encourage them to make sure that their work is at par with international standards.
A graduate of a prestigious school in Delhi and having trained in Singapore Film School, Zahid serves as a torchbearer who arms the students with knowledge about the different aspects of modern film and digital media production.
Ohood al Kindi, a fifth-year student at NCAS, shared that what she realised is that more than the academic exams, hands-on experience is very important to get the students past the paper aspect of learning.
“Having a teacher like Mr Zahid and a studio like NCAS expands our knowledge. Mr Zahid provides the right guidance for students to think outside of the box and prove to people that students in Oman are capable of accomplishing even more,” she said.
“I learnt from Mr Zahid more than what I was taught in papers. I can say now I understand digital media from an international perspective,” she added.