by Sherif Awad
I grew up in Vancouver, Canada. Like most kids who started performing at a young age, I put shows on for family members. I would do songs for my Italian great grandmother which my dad frequently directed and I would collaborate with my sister on skits. I then studied acting with several teachers in Vancouver. Early on, I was very particular about material I liked. I acted in local Vancouver theatre and also began to produce some of the theatre I performed in, including the critically acclaimed A LIE OF THE MIND and BEIRUT. I would say my early influences were mainly European actresses, especially French actresses like Isabelle Adjani and Juliette Binoche as I watched a ton of foreign films in my teens. I loved the sensibility of the directors and the grace and depth of the actresses.
-I personally don’t believe that you can really learn to be a “creator” or creative person. Although I believe classes can certainly help someone access being more creative, and help them tap into creative instincts. However, all the classes in the world won’t give you talent. Some may disagree but honestly, I feel it’s something that people are born with. Most really creative people are driven to express themselves. Some would say they don’t have a choice.
-I moved to L.A. in my twenties. After a couple of months of auditions, I landed a starring role in an indie action film called DEADLY RANSOM. This allowed me to join SAG and the film has continued to play all over the world. I worked in a number of indie films getting mostly “girlfriend” roles for several years. Although I did work in some interesting and rewarding plays , and I had the opportunity to work with some cool groups like The Actor’s Gang and WAL (Writer Actor Lab), where FIGHT CLUB and other well known projects were developed. My general dissatisfaction with the parts that were available to me at that time (and I believe this is an ongoing issue for many women in the film industry) led to writing and wanting to produce. I felt the need to have more creative control in the process. Often, I would get cast in a film and then I proactively brought in a distributor friend or another contributing element, and producers would ask me to stay involved as a producer. I have continued to pursue this part of the business as I feel more empowered doing it.
-In regard to your question about gender discrimination, I do believe that women deal with systemic gender discrimination in the film industry. I am passionate about generating awareness about this subject and with that goal in mind, I launched a feminist film festival with my friend last year called “City of Angels Women’s Film Festival.” The festival promotes women’s leadership in films, whether they are features, shorts or documentaries. It allows us to continue the discussion of the gender gap in Hollywood and around the world. Please feel free to read more about the festival at:
-I’m enormously grateful for being part of the Hollywood creative community. It is an amazing community with limitless talent and enormous opportunity, and the US continues to lead the world in filmmaking. Although, I will never stop appreciating international films, which have always been a source of inspiration for me. I was happy to see PARASITE win for Best Picture recently at the Academy Awards and make Oscar history. There are so many talented filmmakers around the globe. It is my hope to have the opportunity to work more internationally in the future.
-I would describe myself as a “passion project” person. I like to work on projects that appeal to my sense of social justice or unique projects that inspire me. The documentary I produced called “From the Midst of Pain” explores how creativity heals in the lives of women dealing with domestic violence, at risk teens and those dealing with disabilities. It has won several awards in the US and internationally and I’m very proud of it.
-To answer your question about my personal life, I married the greatest guy in the world who makes me laugh everyday. We share a passion for art and collecting and together we own an art acquisitions company. He’s also an actor and was a professional screenwriter in Hollywood for many years. He’s extremely supportive and empowering of me, and my endeavors. I think it’s easier to find a balance with someone who is also artistic and we look forward to collaborating on a project together in the near future.
-I’m currently enjoying the development of a couple of projects that are dear to me. I have a biopic that I’m producing with the writer of the project about the life of famed PSYCHO actor, Anthony Perkins. We’ve been getting some strong interest from some very prominent actors, which is exciting. I’m also working with a great group of producers from New York developing a film about a famous female serial killer from the East Coast. With the coronavirus pandemic, “City of Angels Women’s Film Festival” dates are up in the air as the entire world has been impacted. I pray that we never lose our collective appreciation for cinema, television and the visual arts in general. It is sad that theatres are teetering on extinction. Although Netflix is great, I will always enjoy the tradition of going to the movies and will happily spend my money to support it.
-Movies can inspire, inform and enlighten. When they are great, they are transformative. We all love movie heroes. However, I believe the real heroes and heroines in the world during this pandemic are the nurses, doctors and first responders, now and always.