The Experiences of One Filmmaker After Architecture School: An Interview with Omar Kakar

By Cathryn Ziefle

Woodbury University’s School of Architecture in San Diego is a small branch campus serving 100 undergraduate students, 25 graduate students, and five full time faculty. It offers a five year B.Arch and three professional graduate degrees. The library boasts a collection of 5,000 monographs, 30 periodicals, iPads, flipcams, a GoPro, and more. In 2011, the library created a film-editing station that consisted of a 27” iMac and Final Cut Pro, professional film editing software. The only problem was no one really knew how to use it. Until one dynamic student, Omar Kakar, made it his mission. He quickly became our local film guru and his world opened up to opportunities that would have otherwise not been available to him. Kakar graduated in May 2013 but remains an alumnus dedicated to the library. Below is an interview with him about the impact the library and the film-editing station had on his studies and career thus far.

Omar Kakar, Woodbury University Alumni
Omar Kakar, Woodbury University Alumnus

What has life been like after architecture school?

Very busy actually, with the exception of taking a month off to travel parts of Eastern Europe, most of the summer has been dedicated to personal projects like finessing a short film and developing a design submission for an architecture competition in Italy.

What are your plans in the future?

Become a film director… then become an architect, design and build a meaningful project, then make a film about that building and the experience.  Brad Pitt or George Clooney can play my character.

What do you like best about the library at Woodbury University San Diego?

Besides the air conditioning, it is my escape from studio. I need to marinate with my own thoughts before I can begin a design project. My peers tend to jump right into it, constructing and drawing objects without a significant origin of purpose, doing just for the sake of doing. The library gets me away from that environment and provides me with the quiet meditative state of mind that I need before I inject myself back into the chaos.

How did you use the WUSD library while in architecture school?

“Use” would be putting it lightly; I was practically living in the library. Architecture books are very hard to find and are very expensive, so I made sure to always keep my nose in a book or periodical. At the same time I’ve spent many countless hours in the library’s edit bay creating short films.

Has your use of the WUSD library changed since graduation?

Yes, because I no longer attend as a student my use to the library has been restricted.  However the faculty and administration have worked with me to allow me access.

Do you think the WUSD library could do anything to better serve alumni?

Perhaps portfolios that people can check out? Just thinking that maybe alumni and current students can find themselves working on a project because of how someone came in looking for person of particular skill set and found them through the library’s collection of portfolios.

Why do you think it is important for architecture schools to incorporate filmmaking into their curriculum?

Filmmakers use architecture all the time in film and they use it very well. Without having to say anything they can inform the audience through the story of moving images, the location, space, time, and even the mood with the architecture. But on the flip side, architects and architecture students use film very poorly. A “fly through” is not effective filmmaking; it’s too cold, lacks a narrative, and your audience has nothing to relate to. Except if you’re a bird.

Why do you think it is important for architecture libraries to have information on film and/or film equipment?

To me film is the superior medium of information technology in our current state in time. If you can’t actually see a place (or building) in person, then film is the next closest information tool that can give you that experience. Students can learn through film, it’s so simple, you learn by just watching.

Has your experience with filmmaking benefited you after graduation?

Yes, I’ve received offers, such as to create commercials for small startup clothing lines, as well as interest from other architects to film short documentaries on their projects. It is bitter sweet though; I do not have a camera of my own, a bit ironic… “a filmmaker without a camera?” Through the library and the help of a good friend I have been borrowing equipment. I’ve always loved film and as of recent film has returned the favor. I love architecture as well, but she shows me no love. She won’t even return my calls. I may have to leave architecture for film.

As an alumnus, if you could give one suggestion to architecture librarians what would it be?

Architecture school is notorious for its all-nighters and studio deadlines, if the day comes when you encounter a sleep deprived, half living individual that did not just come from a critique, then they’re not an architecture student. They’re a zombie, run for your life!

Pythia (2013), Thesis Degree Project

Step-Back Moment (2012), Short Film

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