A distressed crisis negotiator is called upon to rescue a jumper off a ledge.
Interview with Writer/Director/Producer Ayman Samman
Congratulations! Why did you make your film?
I wanted to tell a story that featured Arab-American characters dealing with issues that are rarely discussed in our culture. I also wanted to show Middle Eastern characters in a non-stereotypical framing.
As an actor, I've been exposed to many Network TV scripts as well as major studio scripts that feature Middle Eastern characters. And although the representation of these characters has recently started to move away from the common terrorist stories to a more realistic approach, it still focuses on what's trending. Refugees, oppressed women, gas station clerks and dictators.
While these characters do exist and deserve a narrative, as an Arab American immigrant, I've met many Middle Eastern people in America who are more than your normal on-screen stereotypical characters. They are also doctors, lawyers, engineers, cops, inventors etc. They have similar struggles like anyone else. I wanted to show their struggles from the perspective of someone who belongs equally to two different cultures.
Jumper also reflects inclusivity and acceptance of all people in an all-around International team. We have an Egyptian-American female cast member and co-producer, Rasha Mohamed. Mico Saad, the co-star/producer is Egyptian-British. Our sound Recordist, Muhammad Sultan is African-American and our Director of Photography, Shakeel Bin Afzal is Pakistani. Our Editor/Co-Producer, Rick Weis is Irish-American and our Composer Chris Phillips is Greek-Canadian.
Imagine I’m a member of the audience. Why should I watch this film?
Most people have experienced a truly low moment in their lives. A moment where they felt rejected by society, their community, a lover, or possibly their own family, that it led them to reject themselves. I think anyone, regardless of their race or sexual orientation, can relate to that.
How do personal and universal themes work in your film?
On a personal level, Jumper tackles the topic of suicide. I personally contemplated suicide a couple of times in my life. Luckily, I didn’t follow through but I've always been intrigued by what drives a person to that decision as well as the method they choose to execute it.
Universally, I believe Jumper is ultimately about acceptance. Acceptance of oneself and others.
How have the script and film evolved over the course of their development?
The seed of the film came to me last August. I was stuck in heavy LA traffic and heard on the radio the news of a Jumper who was standing on the top of a downtown high rise and threatening to jump. I started to think about what could drive a person to not only decide to end his or her life but also do it in such a public manner?
The idea allowed me to revisit some dark moments of my life in a creative way.
A few months later, I was talking to a friend who loved the idea and encouraged me to write and create the film and he became the producer and actor. He also happened to be Middle Eastern and it was our first collaboration together. There has been something ethereal about the whole process of the making of Jumper and its journey so far.
What type of feedback have you received so far?
We've been getting amazing feedback! Being selected as a finalist at the prestigious American Pavilion in Cannes as well as the Short Film Corner has been a very encouraging step as we embark on our festival journey.
Jumper tackles topics that are still considered taboo in Middle Eastern cultures such as Suicide and LGBTQ issues. These issues are not openly discussed in our community. We've been told our film is compelling, moving and hopeful.
Has the feedback surprised or challenged your point of view?
The feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. We honestly didn't expect that when we were developing and shooting the film. We were mainly focused on honoring the story in the best way possible.
What are you looking to achieve by having your film more visible on www.wearemovingstories.com?
I really love the beautiful message that We Are Moving Stories is spreading. I am honored to be amongst some amazingly talented filmmakers on the website. I would love to expand Jumper's reach to as many people as possible as I believe films and stories can heal or serve as a catalyst in someone's healing.
As humans, when we see that there are others who face the same challenges we no longer feel alone.
Who do you need to come on board (producers, sales agents, buyers, distributors, film festival directors, journalists) to amplify this film’s message?
I need all of them! Producers to help us with upcoming projects. Sales agents/distributors/buyers to help expand Jumper's reach and Journalists to shed light on unique untold stories.
What type of impact and/or reception would you like this film to have?
We're starting the conversation on culturally taboo topics. The more conversations we can generate the less taboo these topics can become and the less isolated people will feel.
Would you like to add anything else?
I’d like to express my deepest gratitude to have been chosen as the vessel for birthing the story that is Jumper. I believe that stories choose us and in the process, we reconnect with parts in us that we neglected. We confront buried issues and bring them to the surface. I find it to be a therapeutic and healing process.
I’d like to thank my producing partner, Mico Saad for being a catalyst in the making of Jumper. He also poured his heart into his character and showed vulnerability that made for a memorable acting debut.
I love the collaboration that takes place after the story is written. I’ve been blessed by an amazing team that made up for what our budget lacked by wearing many hats. They believed in the message and each one of them is very passionate about the art of storytelling.
Rasha Mohamed, who aside from her terrific acting in the film, was not shy to pitch in wherever it was needed on set. And she continues to help in promoting the film and giving a voice to the voiceless in her own creations.
Rick Weis, who brought his unique vision to Jumper and shed lights on moments that were not on the page. He went above and beyond his role as an editor and created a superb aesthetic for the film on and off screen.
Chris Phillips, who managed to express the characters’ turmoil through his heartfelt music. I love the somber yet hopeful notes he precisely placed in the perfect moments.
Paul DeNigris, who volunteered his time to help us with his visual effects skills and saved us from a day of reshoots.
I really have been fortunate to have such an amazing team! Jumper helped me overcome my own fears and self-doubts. I learned that by immersing ourselves in serving the story, which is bigger than each of us individually we become a better version of ourselves.
I look forward to being a part of more compelling, inspiring, and life-transforming stories.
What other projects are the key creatives developing or working on now?
I am currently developing an Arab-American animated series, an action thriller feature film, and a Sci-Fi TV pilot.
Interview: April 2019
We Are Moving Stories embraces new voices in drama, documentary, animation, TV, web series, music video, women's films, LGBTQIA+, POC, First Nations, scifi, supernatural, horror, world cinema. If you have just made a film - we'd love to hear from you. Or if you know a filmmaker - can you recommend us? More info: Carmela
A distressed crisis negotiator is called upon to rescue a jumper off a ledge.
Director: Ayman Samman
Producer: Mico Saad
Writer: Ayman Samman
About the writer, director and producer:
As a fluent speaker of both English and Arabic, AYMAN SAMMAN is able to portray a vast range of characters. Ayman's first major film role was in the Clint Eastwood's Oscar-nominated blockbuster film American Sniper (2014) where he shared the memorable dinner scene with Bradley Cooper. He also had a small role in the Lifetime Movie Don't Look Back (2014) and the indie award-winning thriller God's Slave (2013). In addition to movie appearances, he made guest star appearances in television hits like Lopez (2016), Blindspot (2015), NCIS: Los Angeles (2015), Satisfaction (2015) and Pretty Little Liars (2014). In 2017, Ayman booked recurring appearances on Scandal, Madam Secretary and The Looming Tower, NICS: New Orleans. Ayman was born in Cairo, Egypt. After earning a degree in Egyptology and fronting one of the very first Heavy Metal bands in Egypt, he moved to Chicago and pursued a career in music. While in Chicago he fell in love with acting and studied and performed with Chicago's best. Currently living in Los Angeles as a full-time actor, writer and director.
MICO SAAD hails from Alexandria, Egypt. A dancer turned TV host with travel and food shows that aired in the UK and the Middle East. Mico moved to Hollywood to pursue filmmaking and Jumper is his debut narrative production.
Key cast: Ayman Samman, Mico Saad, Rasha Mohamed
Looking for: sales agents, journalists, film festival directors, buyers
Hashtags used: #JumperShortFilm #AmericanPavilion #Cannes #AymanSamman #Indiefilm
Where can I watch it next and in the coming month? American Pavilion in Cannes screening May 19 at 4:00 PM; Short Film Corner in Cannes screening May 22 at 12:00 AM.