Waqar Ahmed, Assistant Director and Floor Runner

Waqar Ahmed, Assistant Director and Floor Runner

What was your path into film and TV?

I started my career from Pakistan Broadcasting House – Karachi, also known as Radio Pakistan, Karachi Centre, as a student writer and broadcaster in 1997. Alongside, I joined a theatre and then in 2003, I started working on television dramas. In 2010, I moved to the UK and completed my undergrad filmmaking degree from the Northern film school Leeds. With the help of Screenskills and Screen Yorkshire, I landed my first job on a British film as a trainee AD in 2019.

What are some recent projects that you've worked on in Yorkshire?

I worked on The Duke, wore a few hats on Ali and Ava and was there on Jayne Mansfield 66/67.

Tell us about any particular highlights and any notable challenges that you have overcome during your career in the industry?

The highlights have been many and so have the challenges. In terms of highlights the start of my career is one of the highlights. Pakistan is almost three and a half times bigger than the UK and back in the days there was only one radio channel and I was there, working as a student writer and broadcaster.

I see my undergrad filmmaking degree from Leeds as an achievement too. It was a dream to learn and study filmmaking in the very land it was born, I now take pride in saying that I have done it. Even better, my graduation film ‘Curtains’ was nominated for Royal television society’s student award for Yorkshire region in 2017–18. So got a bit of a recognition on top as a bonus.

By now I have experience of four different mediums and five different film industries.

In terms of challenges: when I moved to the UK, I didn’t know anyone. We all know that the doors to this industry open from inside only. So, I struggled for a long time to get in and get a job in the British film or TV industry, nine years to be precise.

Eventually, on a fine evening, I met Richard Knight from Screen Yorkshire in Mentoring Roadshow organised by ScreenSkills in Leeds. A month later I found myself working on a British film.

What do you love about working in Yorkshire?

Any place is as good as the people living there, Yorkshire is no different. People here are friendly, accommodating and welcoming. They are very supportive towards any healthy activity including filmmaking.

Yorkshire provides the freedom to pull that last-minute change of plan without any hassle. Towns and cities are well connected and in absence of crazy traffic, commuting from one location to another is less time consuming. The depth of field which we get here through a tiny kitchen window even in an urban setting is really hard to match elsewhere. Yorkshire is easy on eyes, ears and pockets. Its cost effective to make films here.

So, what’s not to love about Yorkshire? It’s beautiful, tasteful and diverse, not just places but people and food too. From the times of Roman empire to modern Britain, Yorkshire has got it all covered.

Do you have any advice for people starting out in the industry generally or your department in particular?

Be willing to help people make films. Make friends, a lot of them. Be open to learn and unlearn and learn again. Be thick skinned, understand that you will get rejected much more than you will get hired.

Know the answer of your ‘Why’. Why do you want to do it? Why did you choose this profession? Why are you here? This will help you in the downtimes. This will help you when you’ll be struggling and questioning your career choices. This won’t let you give up.

So, know the answer to your ‘Why’, it’s important, it’ll help and just hang in there, eventually it all pays off. Oh, and if you are in the ADs’ department, do it all with a smile, people should get a sense of calm and control in your presence.

How do you think the production landscape has changed in the region over the past 5 years?

Nothing much has changed Yorkshire was beautiful, it’s still beautiful. People were talented, they are still talented. What’s changed is the perception of the decision makers in London. They have realised that they can no longer ignore the talent, the beauty and what’s on offer in Yorkshire. Slowly and gradually this area has gained the attention of channels, productions houses and filmmakers and more and more are coming to Yorkshire for their production needs. This has seen an influx of investment in arts and entertainment sector and we are seeing more studios, production houses and post houses emerging on the scene. More jobs are on offer, local crew are getting busier and I think this is just the beginning, it will get busier.

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  • olivia-thomas-crop

    Olivia Thomas, Film Office Co-ordinator

    Olivia is the first point of call for Screen Yorkshire's Film Office. She advises on filming enquiries, including locations, crew, facilities and permitting and also maintains our film locations and crew and facilities databases.