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A Boost for Pakistan’s Creative Economy

Sophia Khan meets the founders of the newly established Karachi Film School.
Updated 02 May, 2024 04:14pm

Nestled in the sprawling expanse of Korangi lies the newly inaugurated Karachi Film School (KFS), located within the premises of Studio 146. KFS is the passion project of Founder Asad ul Haq and Project Director Mansoor Karim Shaikh.

Starting an institution is no easy feat, especially in Pakistan, where individuals are unlikely to receive funding or support from the government. Despite the challenges, establishing a film school in Pakistan has been veteran filmmaker Asad ul Haq’s primary goal for many years.

“There is an obvious gap in Pakistan when it comes to a formal education in film, and what better way to give back to the younger generation than by starting a school?”

Haq is not wrong. Pakistan, a country with a burgeoning interest in content creation, advertising and traditional filmmaking, lacks a singular institution dedicated to these disciplines. Haq and Shaikh were able to gauge an interest in this field from the young attendees of filmmaking workshops held at District 19, Haq’s other initiative. This prompted them to brainstorm the viability of establishing a film school in conjunction with Studio 146, a creative project and film equipment rental space.

The decision to situate KFS within Studio 146 was to foster a symbiotic relationship between education and application that would benefit both the students and studio staff.

“We really want to emphasise learning on the studio floor,” quips Zara Zaidi, Program Director.

Haq and Shaikh also envision opportunities through which students will be able to shadow film professionals during shoots or as part of internships post-graduation, helping them learn on their feet since a large portion of filmmaking knowledge is gleaned through practical scenarios.

According to a UNESCO report, Pakistan’s creative economy is experiencing unprecedented success, growing from $60 million in 2004 to $437 million in 2013. Young people, in particular, are eager to work in roles that integrate the internet and various methods of content creation. Additionally, attitudes towards creative careers are shifting. Young individuals are choosing to work in fields that interest and fuel them rather than following the conventional paths their families prefer they adhere to. As a result, creative professions are becoming increasingly feasible and lucrative for Pakistan’s youth due to a surge in demand. Haq and Shaikh accentuate the importance of specialised institutions for students interested in pursuing non-traditional academic and career paths.

“Someone has to cater to these young people and inspire them to pursue a field they enjoy and can eventually make a career out of.”

At the moment, KFS is offering four-year-long diplomas in filmmaking, directing, cinematography and screen acting. The four main diplomas employ a module system that allows students to sample various aspects of filmmaking while focusing on a specialised trajectory. Modules progress from introductory to advanced seminars and include classes like art direction, camera techniques, post-production, colour theory, script analysis and scene study. Each module’s completion results in an assignment and the diplomas culminate in a final project, allowing students to build a comprehensive portfolio by the time they graduate.

Students enrolled in the diploma programmes will also have access to the workshops and master classes offered at KFS and they can even select them as electives. These short-term programmes are aimed at accommodating people who cannot commit to a long-term course but are still interested in pursuing new information. Cinematography students, for instance, will be able to diversify their learning by attending an acting workshop, which is not included in their diploma but is still useful to them in the long run; it helps them understand the subtleties of expression and how they can be best captured.

The programmes at KFS are open to students over the age of 18 and the only criteria for admission are talent and genuine interest. “If a student is willing to improve what they already know while learning new skills, they have a good shot,” according to Shaikh, who has an extensive background in advertising. Due to the self-funded nature of the project, there are limited scholarship opportunities available at the moment, but interested candidates are encouraged to apply regardless.

“Not every student who graduates is going to become a director,” says Haq, “and that is what we want. We want our students to also occupy other professional roles within the filmmaking industry.”

As the film and creative content industries in Pakistan flourish, the demand for assistant directors, line producers, cinematographers, production designers, sound designers, lighting designers and video editors is bound to escalate.

The founders’ guiding philosophy revolves around equipping all students with the capability to create at a professional level. They acknowledge that traditional filmmaking is often viewed as exclusive and restrictive because most people do not have access to equipment and specialised knowledge. “Our students will learn how to use professional equipment and will be loaned cameras for assignments, but what we really want is for them to incorporate mediums they have access to already, like smartphones.” They hope that once students possess the necessary skills, they will be able to create a plethora of content, from short films, music videos and advertisements, to TikToks, YouTube videos and podcasts. All graduating students will have the opportunity to intern with leading production and media houses that KFS has established partnerships with.

In establishing KFS, the founders aspire to nurture the next generation of professionals in the film industry by providing them with an education and skills that will allow for seamless integration into their field of work. “I want the graduates to be so well-equipped that I will be clamouring to hire them on the spot because I don’t want to share them with anyone else,” says Haq.