by Sherif Awad
-I was born and raised in Cyprus where music and storytelling have been part of my life for as long as I can remember. As the youngest of three children, who also loved music and narrative, it wasn’t surprising I too became a bookworm and started experimenting with writing and composing from very early. I went on to study music at King’s College London, in a joined course with the Royal Academy of Music, and then continued with an MA and PhD in Music at City University London.
-Upon my return to Cyprus, I was asked to collaborate as a writer/composer for a short animation project and to compose music for a documentary feature for the national television. After that, one project led to another. Four years later, I found myself in Monaco, receiving an Award for Best Soundtrack at the Angel Film Awards 2008. Attending this festival and building new collaborations with people from all over the world, was what eventually led me to devote my life to film and theatre.
- As a child, I adored Gene Kelly and Jerry Lewis, and in my teens I looked up to Vangelis, who was big at the time, and to Zbigniew Preisner’s work, particularly in Kieslowski’s movies. An icon when it came to classical music was pianist Sviatoslav Richter.
-Studying was invaluable in developing critical thinking, broadening my scope, learning to really listen, observe and appreciate, and getting work done within specific timeframes. Still, I would say that getting my hands on projects was another valuable series of lessons. There are things you can only learn by getting involved with a team, handling clients, trial and error. And I think that, ultimately, finding your voice happens once you have mastered the technical part (the box), so that it all happens almost instinctively and without force (outside the box).
- Stardom was never a concern of mine – if it were, I’d have chosen a different, less low-key career path than writing and composing. I enjoy the fact that I can lead a normal life, making a comfortable living by doing what I love, collaborating with professionals from all over the world and having the advantage to select who I want to work with. The respect and recognition of my peers is quite important, but the biggest joy of all is to watch people being moved by something I’ve created. Reaching out and connecting with others is the highest reward, sharing and shedding light on aspects of our common human experience.
-While, according to Stephen Follows, only 4,6 % of film composers are female, I wouldn’t say that gender is an obstacle – or at least, I don’t believe I have experienced that. On the contrary, some directors seek that “female touch” that could make their work stand out. In truth, the main issue film composers are faced with, irrespective of gender, is that high-budget productions, more often than not, refer to the same dozen well-known older composers out there, rarely giving a chance to other professionals with incredible skill and dedication.
-While the industry in Cyprus is inevitably small, and budgets are usually limited, I’d say that more and more productions, in theatre, film and music, are of high standards and merit. As a developing country, local artists are often entitled to training and funding opportunities by the European Union and other organizations, which means they are offered an advantage, if they know how to make the most of it. Recently, tax incentives for film production were also set in place, in order to attract foreign productions, and that calls for locals to upgrade their services and skill sets. If handled correctly, in a few years, Cyprus could follow the example of Malta and become a popular destination for several international productions.
-If the project is feasible in terms of timeframe, budget and requirements, then the two most important factors are that the work speaks to me, and the rapport with the team. While I could still deliver, I prefer to work with love. So, if I feel it won’t work, I’ll probably decline.
-To be honest, I enjoy what I do so much, that it inevitably takes up most of my time, and most of my friends are colleagues. Even when not working, I can’t imagine anything better than spending time with people who share common interests, or catching a movie, or a play. One could say that’s also work, to which I respond, my work is my leisure.
-In terms of film-making, at the moment I am in the process of making a feature-film documentary THE STRAY STORY: A DOGUMENTARY in order to raise awareness on the stray problem and its solutions, while reflecting on society’s consumerism and lack of empathy. You can find out more on www.thestraystory.com and on www.facebook.com/thestraystory. Additionally, I am co-writing a feature screenplay with award-winning director, Maria Lafi. In terms of theatre, I’m currently composing music for Cordelia Lynn’s stage play “One for sorrow”, directed by Maria Iole Karolidou, while in spring 2020 I’ll be composer-in-residence at the Theatre Organization of Cyprus’ Apothikes.