Khaled El Halafawy may have started his creative career at the bottom, but due to his talent and hardwork, it has only gone up since he quit his job as an accountant and began working with films. After gaining experience as an assistant director, Khaled is now a successful director most recently known for his hits Kedbet Koul Yom and Zana’et Settat.
1. How did your job as an assistant director build you into the director that you are today?
When you gradually make your way from assistant director to main director for 15 years, you’re exposed to all the aspects of the job, the problems, and all types of directors. Fifteen years is a long time. I think after such a long time, a person learns a lot. Someone can have good vision but hasn’t gone through the troubles and everyday troubleshooting of the practice, so wouldn’t be able to expect where the problem would come from and how to avoid it. In my 15 years, I don’t think there’s a problem with this job that I haven’t encountered so the solution is stored in my head for the future.
2. How do you consider your style to be different from other directors in your own eyes?
There are no two directors who have the same style; it’s kind of like handwriting. I wouldn’t say I have a specific style; it really depends on the scenario or scene at hand. There is no specific process or formula for me when it comes to directing, I just read the screenplay and I imagine what the style would be.
3. Why did you decide to focus on the topic of marriage and relationships in “Kedbet Koul Yom”?
Ever since the first time I read the screenplay, I really connected to it and decided to hold onto it. It’s because it’s talking about something that everyone can relate to. Even those who haven’t gotten married can hear about it or fear it. Those who are on the verge of marriage or thinking of one day getting married would be interested to see these examples of people going through the same thing.
4. Is there a certain message you were trying to deliver through the movie?
I’m not the type that likes to say that a certain movie has a certain message. I like to keep it open to interpretation. One person can see or learn something and another person can learn something completely different. If someone can come out of the movie with a certain message or lesson then that’s great. The first movie was more like an entertaining comedy to make people laugh. Yes, we can say the message was “el kedb maloosh reglein” but that wasn’t the main aim of the movie. As for the second movie, the obvious and eternal question it was asking was “is marriage good or bad and should we get married or not?” There were several examples of different couples and every couple ended up with a resolution different from the other. So the obvious message of the movie is it’s either you take the good with the bad and don’t complain or don’t take it at all. And if there’s another message it’s not to rush! Don’t get married just for the sake of marriage. If you can’t find someone who makes you happy, then it’s better not to get married at all.
5. Have you considered going into acting like your father?
No, I am not an actor. I did actually do a scene in “Kedbet Koul Yom” but it was more like an on-the spot thing to save a situation, not because I want to pursue acting or anything like that. It’s not one of my ambitions; I only did it a couple of times to save a situation or to save money when I was working as an assistant.
6. Are you considering going into television?
I have indeed worked in television a lot when I was an assistant director and I have directed a television series in Dubai, which was my first production. It all depends on the screenplay; if I like it, I will go for it. It’s not about whether it’s for a television series or a movie or even for the radio.
7. Since your first two movies were comedy, would you consider directing other genres?
I would very much like that! I don’t want to be seen as the guy who only directs comedies and only be limited to that genre. Honestly though it depends on the screenplay. If it’s a different genre and it attracts my attention I will go for it, and if it’s once again comedy but I like it then I will go for it. I’ve been getting mostly screenplays for comedies, which is unfortunate. I think it’s because of the producers; they get worried to take a risk with me in other genres since they saw that I succeeded in comedy but I think that this way of thinking is wrong. Maybe if I try a different type, they will get pleasantly surprised, so I hope I get this opportunity soon!
8. Who’s one director that you’ve worked with that influenced you the most? And why?
That’s a very difficult question as I’ve worked with many directors that have strongly influenced me, especially considering that each director has his own style so they affected me in different ways. One who is very close to my heart and is a very good friend of mine is Ahmed El Gindy.
9. What is one piece of advice you have for younger generations who want to go into the same field?
If you’re passionate about film, go to the Arts Institute and study it. Even though I didn’t do this and I can’t tell them how good it is academically, but you will definitely come out of it with a lot of connections and your name will become known, which is really major for this field. My problem in the beginning when I first started out is that no one knew me. When I found an opportunity with someone I stayed with him or her for years and years because it was hard for me to find alternative opportunities. It took a while for people to hear about me, and I was stuck with the same one or two circles for 5 to 7 years unable to became more connected and more renowned. Also, read a lot and watch a lot. Watch the good and the bad to learn what you should do and also what you shouldn’t do.