Belal graduated in 2007 with his passion for film editing and his infamous big hair intact.
During his time at A&D, Belal had always been drawn to time-based work. His piece Fetch, created in After Effects, was one of the first to air on PLAY TV. (And it's still one of our favorites, see below.)
Now, he's got a thriving career as a colorist in Seattle.
A colorist? True, it wasn't on his list when contemplating career options.
a colorist is an artist who uses color or who is distinguished by the way in which s/he uses color. Video colorists such as Belal use digital technologies to adjust and correct the color of final edited films.
Belal's Transition: Making a Career in the Arts
So, here's the story of how Belal went from graduated senior to having his own thriving business in Seattle in just two short years.
Upon graduation Belal knew two things. One was that, though he called Lebanon his home, the United States was still the best place to jump start his career. The other was that the film and television industry was the place to start. He just didn't know where. Or how.
He eventually decided to relocate to Seattle, where the burgeoning indie film scene seemed just about the right size for an upstart like himself. "It's a little strange not to go to LA or New York if you know you want to work in film, but I also knew I wanted to move up quickly. I didn't want to work for a year in a post production house making dubs and serving coffee before they let me touch an editing machine."
Perhaps the most compelling thing about Seattle, though, was that Belal had a personal contact in the city. In Lebanon, "It's all about who you know and your connections. It's impossible to do anything if you don't know the right people."
His contact in Seattle was working on an indie feature film, Zombies of Mass Destruction, and was willing to take a chance on him. The position of Art Director was still open. He said to Belal "you have a degree in art, can you do it?"
Though his real ambitions lay in post production, it was true - he did have experience working with his hands and building things at A&D. Belal jumped at the chance.
The pay wasn't great, but by involving himself in intense conversations about the look and direction of the film, he quickly earned the trust of the filmmakers.
Belal eventually talked his way into doing the color correction for the film, an area he had been exploring since coming to Seattle. Belal saw that new color correction technologies were being released that made it possible for people like him to enter into the market and offer equivalent results for a lot less money. He had already spent a lot of time thinking about color for his senior project, Transciensia and felt confident he was up for the job.
"Color correction is big business. A normal hourly rate for Seattle (which is a small market, remember) is $450 per hour. I was able to do it for a lot less." Soon Belal found himself with a niche career in an area he hadn't, at first, considered. "Color on a feature film is a creative act. You use color to tell a story, to set the mood of a scene, to make a certain character trait come alive. The films are transformed through the process of color correction."
To find work, Belal made it his mission to become best friends with every cinematographer in town. They would be his way into the field. At a party at the Seattle International Film Festival he was introduced to a popular local cinematographer who later become one of his main advocates, requesting Belal for his own films and also giving out his name frequently in referrals.
One job led to another. Belal was passionate about color and the role he could play in making each film the best it could be. Indie filmmakers loved his zeal and were eager to save money on this expensive but crucial part of post production. Bigger and better jobs started to roll in.
Now he has five feature films under his belt and Zombies of Mass Destruction has just been picked up by Lionsgate Afterdark. He is now working on a film starring Chris Kattan that is in competition at the Hollywood Film Festival.
In talking about his success, more than anything he emphasizes his ability to network. "My resumé never got me a job. The question people want to know is: "Do I like you?" and "Can you do it?" It's ALL about who you know. And if you do a good job, one thing leads to another."
So Belal's advice is to take John Luther (A&D's career counselor) and his networking opportunities seriously. And, use the connections you have. "Having anyone who cares about you at all will go a long way in the business."
He pauses, "Did I talk your ear off? I love this business so I could talk about it all day."
Find our more about Belal and his color correction projects at: http://www.belalhibri.com.