The 35mm dream
February 19 2014 10:02 PM

CHASING HIS DREAM: The lack of support for independent filmmakers in Qatar is an obstacle, according to Klim. Photo credit:

Alex Klim moved to Doha as a mobile portal specialist. Seemingly set for life, it is here — in places like Katara, Souq Waqif, Pearl-Qatar and Zikreet — that he found and realised his dream of becoming a filmmaker, writes Anand Holla


Five years back, Alex Klim moved to Doha from Vienna to pursue an exciting proposition in the telecommunications field. Like most Western expats in Qatar, the Austrian enjoyed a well-heeled lifestyle and comforts that could silence all complaints.

“Plush apartment in West Bay, an active social life — I had everything I could ask for,” he says, in a moment of deep contemplation, “But I wasn’t happy.”

A powerful Steve Jobs quote kept looping in Klim’s head: “I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: ‘If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?’ And whenever the answer has been ‘no’ for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.”

For far too many days, the answer Klim got from the mirror was a “no”.

“I realised it’s never too late to do what you want to do. Just because I was in the telecom industry for long didn’t mean I had to be in it forever,” he says.

A DSLR-filmmaker, cinematographer and producer who is now the go-to guy to shoot everything from TV commercials to training videos for top companies like Qatar Airways and Ooredoo, Klim’s is a classic follow-your-heart story.

“There’s always a chance to change,” the 35-year-old says, beaming.

Klim’s short film One Moment, recently won one platinum and two gold awards at the AVA Digital Awards in Dallas, Texas. But reaching out to his simmering passion for filmmaking didn’t happen overnight.

“I was eight when my father gifted me my first video camera. I was so fascinated by it that I would shoot everything I saw. Soon, my friends and I were making short films,” he recalls.

College, as it often does, pushed Klim’s movie-making instinct into the backburner. “I studied communications engineering. In early 2000, during the Internet boom, I developed educational and health websites with my friends. That’s where I first made my money from,” he says, smiling.

Klim eventually sold them off and stepped onto the Austrian telecom industry bandwagon as a consultant. “Back then, whenever I would go bungee-jumping or jet-skiing with my friends, I would shoot those trips, add some music and make fun clips,” he says.

In 2009, Klim moved to Qatar to join Qtel (now Ooredoo) as a mobile portal specialist. The beauty of places like Katara, Souq Waqif, Pearl Qatar and Zikreet, turned him into a wide-eyed kid. “And to share all that excitement took me back to where my heart originally belonged – filmmaking.”

Klim began shooting and editing three-minute clips that he would mail to his folks and friends back home. “They said they wanted to see more. Then it clicked: Ah, this is what I really want to do,” he laughs.

Next step was to buy a Canon 7D and walk around Souq Waqif capturing little slices of life, cut a two-and-a-half minute video of it to cool music and put it up on Vimeo. It was well-received.

But what would become a comprehensive showreel of Klim’s capabilities was his music video of Nina Heidenreich, the Principal Second Violinist at Qatar Philharmonic Orchestra. Klim wanted to break out of the overdone concert hall setting that most such videos stick to.

Shot in The Pearl, Katara’s Amphitheatre, the Inland Sea, and a Gondola in Villagio Mall, the video had a young girl getting attracted by a violin in a music store and falling into a dream, where she sees herself as an accomplished violinist; as Nina. “The encouraging response to that video made me believe I could do something bigger,” Klim says.

As an independent creative director who storyboards, shoots and directs, Klim began taking on corporate films, documentaries, concert recordings, and slogged like a maniac.

“I worked through all my weekends and vacations,” he says.

It’s been a year since Klim quit his steady job and plunged head first into the tricky waters of DSLR-filmmaking. “I work seven days a week with six hours of daily sleep. The last year has been tough, but worth it,” says Klim.

The lack of support for independent filmmakers in Qatar is an obstacle, Klim feels. “If you want to make your film here, it’s hard to get funding. So you earn your livelihood by doing clients’ projects – even if you must put up with the creative differences – and then use your savings to make your film.”

That’s how Klim made One Moment. Featuring a couple basking in love and sun on a day at the beach – which happens to be the shore at St. Regis Hotel, Doha – the two-and-a-half minute film ends tragically to convey the message of safe driving.

“I used soft music and a little cheesy treatment to put the viewer in a La-La land and BAM! A car rams into her and he loses her,” Klim says.

The idea struck Klim when he narrowly survived a car accident in Doha. “It made me realise the fragility of our lives. You never know what’s next,” he says. That also opened Klim up to the problem of speeding and rash driving.

“I love how calm and concerned Qatar’s people are. Back in Europe, everybody’s busy taking care of themselves. So if your trolley crosses another’s in a supermarket, yours might get hit and you won’t even get an apology. In Doha though, the other guy will let you pass first,” he says.

“That said, once people, of any nationality, here get inside their cars and find traffic, they get crazy. It’s horrible. We must respect others on the road,” Klim says. Hence the film ends with the message: Open your eyes. Reduce Speed. Show respect.

Living on the 22nd floor of a West Bay high-rise has helped Klim with his next project — The Doha Spiderman. It’s an action documentary that looks into a day in the life of a rope access technician, or a window cleaner.

“When I saw them cleaning glasses of my apartment from the outside using suction mounts, I was worried for them. I tracked them for a day and mounted GoPro cameras on their helmets,” he says.

It’s finding and telling such stories that has made Klim fall in love with Qatar. So much so that his first feature film, a Sci-Fi story, may be shot in the deserts here. “You must be realistic but you can’t stop dreaming. I dream of walking into the grand premiere of my movie. So let’s talk in five years, shall we?” he laughs.


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