I am Walid. You’re my guest. Now we’re friends and yes the white patch on my head is real.
I grew up taking a ton of pictures at family parties and loving it. Years earlier, my uncle gave us a busted Polaroid and that was my first experience with a camera. I recall taking images of everything, even to the point of exhausting those around me.
Imagery amazed me and I would try to see it different than most. I would point something out and hear “you’re weird”. It’s funny, what classified me as an odd child, now pays the bills and intermittently celebrated.
Speaking of money, we didn’t have it just like most in my neighborhood. I had a friend in high school that had cable TV. I thought she was riiiiiiich! Other kids had drug hook-ups, I had MTV hook-ups and Chantel was my dealer.
Every Friday she’d get a VHS tape and instructions to record 6 hours of MTV on EP format (that’s the low quality, long format on VHS tapes). Chantel would start the recording process and then go to bed. MTV played YO! MTV RAPS and HEADBANGER’S BALL during those late hours but I didn’t care. God help Chantel if she forgot my tape on Monday. I would call her from a pay phone to bring my tape, and she’d always whisper “I can’t get calls at home Walid!”. I did not care. I wanted my tape!
When she did bring them, I would study the tapes late after everyone slept. I would stare in amazement and dream that one day I’d work with some of my favorite artists. I would play tapes over and over until I learned the movements, the lights, and even memorized names of producers and crew on productions. I awoke at random hours to watch music shows on regular TV and record what I could. It never grew tired. When I pressed the RECORD button, the machine would make a loud gear-shifting sound (80’s model VCR) so I tried to cover it up with a loud cough. My parents weren’t stupid, they knew little Walid was conspiring in the other room at freakish hours. Sometimes I thought they slept better, because my 2 siblings would give them the “normal child with the normal lives”.
The rest? The rest is years of hard work. The rest means reading on artists that I admired, going to the library and book stores to catch up on magazines. The rest means driving 54 miles each way to internships in bumper to bumper traffic, in an 11 year old car. The rest means asking, asking, and asking everyone I met, how they did it. This led to working with the most amazing people in this industry. Fate and hard work brought me to artists like Madonna who I had the privilege of watching from within her circle. I watched the best do what they do and I learned from them. Being the best means you surround yourself with other “bests” in each respective industry, so you watch them too and continue to grow.
From Madonna, I nearly stalked Jonas Akerlund. “Jonas, why did you use the —- camera?” … or “Jonas, why did you shoot in 24p?” … or “Jonas, why can’t you just hire me for the project and I can help YOU”. The poor man let me film Madonna on stage in Anaheim. See I was from Anaheim, I grew up there and I told people in high school that I’d work for her one day (and Michael Moore & Bill Clinton). Jonas was a director hero of mine so you could imagine the excitement when Jonas called me up and asked me to film Madonna for him. He was in Stockholm and would miss the Anaheim show. I jumped at the chance to film for my favorite music video director with his personal camera, on stage in Anaheim (in front of my family, friends, and a few high school classmates I ran into), and of course the woman on stage was … Madonna. That was my first time filming someone (professionally) and it was the best of the best.
Soon after I worked many production jobs. I watched, I read, I messed around with ideas and they started to make sense. On sets I walked around trying to look busy and avoid the grunt work; and I could spend more time watching the directors do their thing. It’s amazing how busy you look when walking across set with a stack of papers. NO ONE BOTHER’S YOU! When jobs didn’t come, I’d make up my own jobs (explained in a future blog). Fast forward again and here I am… I have done some amazing jobs so far, and always with the help of someone.
I never lost my love for imagery. I only want to do it more and create more. I’ve been lucky, very lucky. This is my blog about what I do, and where I want to go. I hope it inspires you to reach for your dreams also.
I never forgot those that helped me or at least turned a blind eye to what I was doing, perhaps they too, did what they had to do. If you have questions, leave a comment. I am always happy to help.
Come back for more…