Global Culture Series: Yasser Al-Naemi

A Qatari native, Yassar is one of the leading figures within his country, transforming film and photography. He divides his time behind the lenses of world broadcasting and film introduction, in addition to managing Celeritas Studios. Moreover, he is a member of Mavericks365, the fastest growing business networking expansion in Qatar.

At heart, Yassar is a comedic foodie with a desire for knowledge. His articulate expression for cinematography is what sets himself apart. His voice is his drive to set the global community straight when it comes to devaluing the people who make magic happen.

How did Celeritas Studios come about?

I wanted to tell stories my way. I just wanted to cut the middleman and produce under my label. Eventually, It evolved into working with lenses. I got so deep into that that I wanted to start putting them together. My best friend will be designing the housing of the lens while I'm developing the physics of it. Once we get them manufactured, I will be assembling them.

Are you the first Qatari in creating customizable lenses for film production?

Actually, we make our line. I did have a conversation with a film a producer here, and two of his productions are going to Netflix. One being called Medinah, a miniseries, featured at Comic-Con in 2017. I was a writer for that as well. Moreover, the producer and creator wanted personalized lenses for their next project, so that's what I'm working on now. The rest of the production is a line of lenses that we are selling. It will be the first product of its kind assembled and made in Qatar.

We don't have a film industry here, yet, we are creating one. Medinah is one of two significant productions here. Celeritas Studios is going to be the source of equipment that will be available, to support the backbone of the industry. That's a beneficial stepping stone.

Even without an industry, does Qatar have an advantage on the cinema scene compared to other countries?

Yes. What we have accomplished with both productions was supported by the government. The set for Medinah was about the size of the stadium, the site of the 2008 Asia Games. We got that hanger, and we have sets as studios for rent. Also, we have been able to make commercials. Currently, we have a lot of support from the government for World Cup promotions.

Can you explain the negative attention that trigged during The Oscars earlier this year?

On February 11, the President of The Academy announced that the presentations for cinematography, editing, and makeup were not to be broadcasted live. They wanted to pick and choose the "best" speeches and air them on another date. Naturally, that pissed everyone off. Del-Toro summed it up well: I would not presume to suggest what categories should occur during commercials on Oscars night. But please: Cinematography & Editing are at the very heart of our craft. They are not inherited from a theatrical or literary tradition: they are cinema itself.

There was a petition made by the people at the AIC; which propelled a quick turnaround. It's a moment of recognition, and they were trying to deny them that opportunity. That was the main reason why everyone was pissed. [As cinematographers, editors, makeup artists] we are invisible to the public and this is the only time when we have the chance to have our names announced on stage. Even being nominated, that's no small feat. That's only 1% of us in representation.

What inspired you to pursue this industry?

My dad worked in the Ministry of Media. He got the chance to watch films and censor them. Whenever he found one appropriate for his children, he would bring it home, and my sister and I would watch them. Back then, that was a privilege because going to rent a movie wasn't the norm. My first filming opportunity was in 2008 at the Doha Tribeca Film festival, the first film festival here. I volunteered to time-lapsed the stage next to the Museum of Islamic Arts. Through that, my friend, Ben Robinson, made the connection to the crew for the Medinah project. Nine years later, I attended a class at the Global Cinematography Insitute in Los Angeles; which was started by Yuri Neman and Vilmos Zigmond of ASC. Recently I had the honor of critiquing film production at the Virginia Commonwealth University here in Doha.

When you think of art, what comes to mind?

The visual arts are the primary source of inspiration. These are the guys that have been studying light for the longest time. You can look at a painting that was made over a hundred years ago to see this. A film called Mr. Turner is the best representation of this. Through his paintings, he captured light in the softest tonality. Every shot was like one of his paintings. That's what a cinematographer should do.