I’m not gonna lie. I moved out to Hollywood 14 years ago because my ego told me to. Selling phone systems to corporate America in the great state of Ohio wasn’t enough. Don’t get me wrong. I didn't do it because I had a big ego. I just wanted to look back before I die and say, “I made movies for a living.”
I was born in Jordan to a family of pilots. Immigrated to the US at age 13, where suburban loneliness in Columbus, Ohio developed my love for writing and cinema. Spielberg, Chaplin, Hitchcock and Zemeckis became my best friends. Then I studied Business at Ohio State University and found myself doing well working in the tech sector for five years until I had that awakening that screamed “YOU CAN DO ANYTHING YOU WANT! WHAT'S STOPPING YOU FROM GOING FOR YOUR DREAM?”
So, in 2003 I moved to Los Angeles with my dogs, Cello and Oboe, and started all over from scratch. I made friends in coffee shops and directed one short film a month for two years until I got accepted at the American Film Institute where I received my MFA in Directing. But that was just the beginning. I used those two years while learning from my teachers and peers to write, produce and direct what would become my first feature film: Captain Abu Raed. The story of an old Jordanian airport janitor who inspires dreams in the kids in his poor neighborhood, the film went on to win the World Cinema Audience Award at the Sundance Film Festival along with 27 festivals and became Jordan’s first Oscar entry. It didn't get the final nomination, which was disappointing, but I did win the $100,000 prize at the Heartland Film Festival, got myself out of debt, and married the muse of my dreams, Claire Naber. So this film changed my life, no doubt about it.
Consequently, in 2011 I directed the first Arabic language film for a Hollywood studio, Walt Disney’s soccer drama/comedy, The United. We filmed in Jordan with a cast of kids from Egypt and across the Middle East… just as the revolution broke out. It felt like we pulled off a miracle. The next year, because I love Chaplin and Russian literature, I combined them to make Strangely In Love, my Los Angeles set comedy adaptation of Dostoevsky’s White Knights. I got to work with Amanda Plummer (Pulp Fiction).
In my newest film, The Rendezvous, I directed Stana Katic (Castle) and Raza Jaffrey (Homeland) in a caper adventure that travels from LA to the deserts of Jordan and Dubai, paying homage to Hitchcock and Spielberg, despite the indie budget. It will be out this November across all platforms.
After losing my wife to cancer in 2015, I decided to take a break and write a book of short stories, Heroes & Idiots. We’ll get it published when it’s ready. I’ve also been directing more commercials and have written a TV show about grief, with a humorous spin. So that’s what I’m working on now, along with producing our animated film, Hump, which I wrote with my bud, Matt Antonelli, and will be directed by Pixar veteran, Rob Gibbs. So, through the ups and the downs, the journey continues. It’s been a roller coaster ride, but this is life. I feel blessed to work in a field where I get to express myself and share stories through a visual medium.