Interview with Fadia Abboud: director's attachment on Here Come the Habibs!
Fadia Abboud is a filmmaker and cultural producer, combining community cultural development practices and digital media and has been the Co-Director of the Arab Film Festival Australia since 2007. Most recently she was successful in applying to be a Director's Attachment on the Jungle comedy series Here Come the Habibs!
To anyone who wants to direct, where should they begin?
I think there are lots of places where someone can start. You can do a course and there you get to meet people and work on their films - that’s really important - getting experience working on shoots and just watching a story come to life. But you can do all the courses you like then you have to actually make something, even if it's just you and your camera, make something and don’t be afraid of having something to say.
Tell us how you got started?
I went to UTS and completed a BA Communications Media Arts and Production and after the first year I went part time to work at a community arts organistion in Granville, ICE, facilitating film workshops for diverse communities in western Sydney. I really loved doing that, and it was an important training ground for me alongside university. I kept making films every couple of years, one was funded by Screen NSW Emerging Filmmakers Fund, others through Metro Screen and Parramatta Council. Eventually I went back to university and finished my degree and kept making work, with and without funding. Along the way I dabbled in video art for installations and performance, which I still like doing.
You’ve worked on a range of screen-based initiatives at Information and Cultural Exchange (ICE) for over ten years. How has this shaped your skills and approach to directing?
It drives me more to want to tell real stories – from people that you don’t normally see on our screens. On the one hand its kept me out of what some people consider ‘the film industry’ but on the other hand being involved with community arts has enabled me to learn so much about different ways of storytelling. Also, my work on the Arab Film Festival means that I watch hours and hours of films – some fabulous ones and others not so great – but that all assisted in my learning of what makes a great story and scene.
Tell us about your experience so far working on Here Come the Habibs!
It’s been totally amazing. I came on with Jungle from pre-production so I watched the script move through all the departments. I went to a lot of the meetings with art department, script, location recces, so I really got a sense of it eventually merging as one.
On set I was lucky to watch the Director Darren Ashton bring it all together and I learnt more about blocking and coverage for TV. Also watching performances change with different direction was really great.
Now in the edit I can see what things were important to spend time on while shooting and maybe others that weren’t. Its like three years of film school in 20 weeks.
You’ve also had a lot of experience using multimedia projects to empower refugee, migrant and non-English speaking background communities in Western Sydney. Has this experience helped you in working on Here Come the Habibs?
Most of my previous films and my work in Western Sydney involved people from non-English speaking backgrounds which is probably not by chance, it's what I’m interested in. I picked Here Come the Habibs! as my attachment project because it was about Arab Australians which I am myself, and I was excited about the story and wanted to see it made. So at the same time that I was learning about TV directing I was able to contribute to the cultural authenticity of the series, which was a bonus for me.
There was a very competitive process to apply for the director’s attachment, how did you make your application stand out?
I applied through Screen Australia’s Talent Escalator program and whatever difficulties I had with the submission, I was grateful to receive support from the team there to make it happen. It’s important to connect with the production company you want to work with - and in this instance I met with Chloe Rickard at Jungle before I put my application in and she gave me a letter of support.
I had previously been funded through Screen Australia for my web series I LUV U BUT, this plus other experience over the years helped with my eligibility, but also I think it was the right project to be attached to. Apart from that I had completed an unpaid attachment on another TV series so this just seemed like a natural progression.
How important do you think these opportunities are in helping to forge a career in the screen industry?
So very important! Being on a shoot and watching it all happen without the responsibility of it being your own project is one of the best ways you can learn. It has enriched my understanding of directing and has definitely contributed to my skills – it's also connected me with people in the industry I would not have normally met and that’s important too.
What’s next for you?
I’m still in the middle of the attachment – it was 20 weeks and I’m in week 11. After that I’ll continue to pursue my other projects. I think Here Come the Habibs! is part of the new movement in screening stories about diverse Australia and I hope to be writing and directing some of those stories for our screens as well.