RIYADH: A few years ago, local fashion brand campaigns and designs were usually promoted by faceless or undifferentiated models on a plain white background and focused on clothing.
Obad Films wants to introduce the public to a range of clothing in a dynamic way through a story.
The company was co-founded by Saudi duo Faisal Shaath, 20, and Ahmed Obad, 22, who turned their passion for photography into reality.
Their goal was and remains to bring a fresh and youthful perspective to the Saudi film industry. The company has established itself in Riyadh’s media sector through unconventional video production methods, driven by a desire to be heard and seen by the older generation.
“We got tired of the way things are presented. It is always the same. If it’s a fashion brand, it’s always filmed in a parking lot, it’s always filmed in a desert,” Obad told Arab News. “What sets us apart is that we really go beyond what you see in the market. †
Although they called these locations generic, they still used the same sets for fashion brand Whyos’ video campaign. “We used a skate park, a parking lot and a desert. The way we showed them all together was very different because of the choice of music, the sequence and the story told through the video,” explains Obad.
The company counts among its customers brands and companies from different sectors. She collaborates with clothing and lifestyle brand Proud Angeles, streetwear and fashion retailer Urbn Lot, Saudi Arabia’s largest government-sponsored music festival, Soundstorm by MDLBEAST, AlMashtal Creative Space, Huawei and more.
We got tired of the way things are presented. It is always the same. If it’s a fashion brand, it’s always filmed in a parking lot, it’s always filmed in a desert. What sets us apart is that we really go beyond what you see in the market.
Ahmed Obad, co-founder of Obad Films
The goal is to make high-quality content accessible to growing companies and startups. “We work with clients who know their target audience and mission, but just need a visual boost to launch their business accurately and effectively,” Shaath told Arab News.
The duo founded the company to “bring the perspective of youth to the world” and to bridge generational gaps in Saudi society that can sometimes act as value barriers. “The focus of the youth is first and foremost eternal creativity, which means we always strive to bring new and non-old fashioned imagery to the local level and align everything primarily with the youth in terms of the market” Shaath said.
The term “youth” does not refer to a particular age group, but rather to a state of mind. “It goes beyond the youth. It’s for young people today, and as they grow up, to understand what really gives value to something in terms of creativity,” he added.
“Just because of the way we film, the effects we use, the feelings we convey in our videos, we are often asked the same question. People don’t believe it’s done locally. They ask, “Is it in Riyadh?” †
The country comes to life differently for their audience through their creative lens and youth-oriented vision.
The two directors are self-taught and have no academic training in film. Nor have they received any training on a particular method. Their knowledge of video production comes from their research, content analysis and audience response to their work. They feel it has given them the freedom to experiment and push the boundaries of what filmmaking means or what it might look like in a professional or business context.
After two years of developing their skills and shooting promotional content for car showrooms since inception, Obad Films has had a “breakthrough”. The skills and passion of young directors enable them to quickly switch to more creative industries in line with their vision, such as fashion and music.
Obad first acquired his editing skills by making edits from video games uploaded to YouTube, which gave him experience in the field. Shaath cultivated his creative vision by trying to develop and use his videography portfolio as a filmmaker and the modeling portfolios of his friends. “(Our style) has continued to evolve since then,” he said.
Shaath followed Obad’s editing projects and they met through a mutual friend at the international school that Obad attended. A month later, Obad Films was born in the Olaya district of Riyadh, when 14-year-old Shaath and 16-year-old Obad decided to fulfill their dream of buying a Nikon D750 borrowed from his father’s father’s photo shop ‘Obad six years ago.
The Saudi film community is capable of much more, they argue.
“They are limited to what they have studied and think that what they have studied is the right choice. Their creativity is limited to what they already did last year. It’s not developed or raised,” Obad said. “It’s not what you ate, it’s what you could eat. †
The company wants to tap into local talent instead of looking across borders for advice. “We can take all of that to the next level and be in that market so the customer doesn’t have to look outside (for expertise). We have that here,” Obad insisted. “If we start to create what the market has already created, we won’t really grow. We set expectations based on what we see outside the Kingdom. †
Their cameras make filmmaking an art that cannot be locked. The traditional rules that go with it are aligned with the artistic vision itself, not the conventional norms of what it should be.
While the sector was not so sensitive to differences a few years ago, the attitude is slowly changing. They remember the time when someone from a non-artistic background was interested in a certain publicity. “Eventually, they saw that gap between international and local film production narrow dramatically. It’s something people know, but the film industry isn’t letting it thrive locally. We break through the basics’, explains Shaath. “We are not tied to any particular standard. We always strive to go further. What’s the next step? How can we grow? How can we present something else? I’m not here to do what I did last year, I’m here to do what is to come later, in 2025, in 2030.”
Because Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman’s influence on the Saudi community is deeply rooted in helping develop the capabilities of young people, Obad Films is an example of how this concept is manifesting itself culturally within the Kingdom. The company offers a fresh look at how Saudi efforts were once showcased and what they could be.
But Obad Films is not the end of the road for its creators, and their ambitions are far from over. “We want to do more of what we’re doing now, but on a larger scale and with a bigger budget,” Shaath said.
While it is certainly at stake to expand their gear stash, they also plan to break all the rules. They want to become the high-end designers they know they can be. “Even if the framework is not right. Even if the color scheme isn’t right. It’s good,” Obad added.