After 10 years of being an English teacher, Hady Elcott decided he was ready to jump into the world of freelance. A prominent filmmaker and photographer, Hady has worked on numerous Bahrain-based projects that played key-roles into shaping the successful filmmaker that he is today. We spoke with Hady to learn more about his story as well as his inspirations and the survival tools needed to make it as a freelancer in Bahrain.
From Teacher to Filmmaker
When I was just a little boy, my dad and I would always go to the movie theatre and watch a collection of different movies like Red Eye and Fight Club. But there was one particular movie that, moved me in a way that no other motion-picture ever had. That movie was Leon The Professional.
I remember feeling completely inspired and irrevocably changed as a person. That was the day I fell head over heels for cinema. It was immediately after that, that my eyes started seeing the world with a different lens.
Ever since then, I started making up stories in my head and acting them out using inanimate objects. There were multiple occasions when I would use simple things such as a pen and a ruler, or a pencil coupled with my shoe-shaped-pencil-case and essentially play with them just like I would play with action figures. It was like my brain was an overstaying guest in the world of pure imagination!
But growing up, I had never given the thought of being a professional filmmaker any serious weight, especially since my father was only willing to pay for me to go to business school here in Bahrain.
While I was in school though, I started teaching English to kids on the side as a means for extra cash. I eventually completed four years of teaching by the time I finished school. “Hm.” I thought. “I was good at this. Might as well continue teaching!”
Five years down the line, my teaching job became tedious. It simply wasn’t driving me anymore. I had already been posting YouTube videos at the time, shot and edited with my iPhone, talking about different health and fitness topics. But after that fifth year, I decided I wanted to take my filmmaking career seriously.
And over the course of four years, I ventured out on my own, built a good case of clients while working full-time as a teacher before finally making the leap. It’s already been ten years of teaching, so It was time for a change.
There are many creative individuals that I look up to when it comes to filmmaking and photography.
One film director is Paul Thomas Anderson, who makes incredible films that portray deep character development, especially the vulnerable traits. The second director is Quentin Tarantino. Quentin didn’t even finish high school, but he was very familiar with the well-known movies. As an avid film enthusiast, he worked in a video store for years before he became the famous director that he is today. It was during his time there, that his first script was conceived and then later produced. He gives me hope that passion, perseverance and a little bit of luck will get you to do the things that your heart truly desires.
As for photographers, I can easily say that Platon has heavily influenced me in my photography journey. His confidence and the depths of his pictures have made me more of a courageous photographer.
Von Wong, another photographer, is very artistic. Not to mention, Annie Leibovitz, who is an incredible photographer who has captured some of the best pop-culture photos of our time.
Then we have smaller photographers and filmmakers that have also inspired me into creating. I think the smaller ones have had more of an impact in terms of practicality and creation. They’re the ones who inspired me to actually innovate.
Teaching VS Filmmaking
Transitioning from a full-time job to freelancing has definitely had its ups and downs, its similarities and its differences.
What I’ve come to notice when it comes to the similarities is that in both professions, it’s all about connection. I connect with people. I have them feeling engaged and connected. Only this time, when it comes to filmmaking, I get to tap into my own creativity and express myself a little more freely. I’m drawn to character development. Drama and comedy mainly. When combining drama and comedy, to me you get art. But my main work comes from corporate projects which pay the bills but still keeps me doing what I love.
The choice between becoming a paid employee vs a freelancer will always be accompanied by the mix of the pros and cons. And to all the aspiring individuals looking for meaningful work in Bahrain, I say this:
To each their own. Not everyone is built for freelance work/entrepreneurship and not everyone is built to be an employee. I believe you should really know yourself, dip your toes in both. Do what you can. Do what you can’t. Try both, try it all. Especially when you’re young. You have nothing to lose. Gain all kinds of experiences and do all kinds of jobs, because that’s the only way you’ll really know what you are meant to do.
Measuring Your Worth As A Freelancer
You’re going to have to go through a little bit of an underpaid time. Not necessarily, but you’re going to have to start somewhere. The best thing you can do in my opinion is to start working for free (even intern at the company you most admire to gain valuable experience) and to build your portfolio. And eventually, after your experiences and from knowing the market price, you’ll be able to put a price on your services because you’ll have a better feel to it and know your worth.
It’s not easy as I still struggle with that myself. But I have come a long way, and I’m sure with your persistence you can too. It’s about exposure, experience, but most importantly, it’s about confidence. Once you find your voice, you’ll know what to say “No.” or “Yes.” to. It’ll be like a sixth sense.
The key is being so good; they can’t reject you. Or being so good, that everyone wants to work with you. That’s where the big bucks really come in. Until then, it’s practice practice practice, exposure exposure exposure, build build build. Just don’t forget to smile, have fun and be great to people.
That’s how you get repeat work.
Stigmas Around Freelancing In Bahrain
With anything that’s not the norm, or the safest most basic route to making a living, there’s bound to be some stigmas around it. Opinions like, “Freelancing is only for the unemployed.” or “One can’t have a stable job since it doesn’t pay like a regular 9-5 job.”
And I get it. These are reasonable concerns. But I say follow your heart, create your own market, market yourself incredibly well, collaborate and don’t take this beautiful life for granted. We are here for a limited time only and so I kindly ask you to do what you love and make a living out of it. Start small, and build from there. But just start. Your future self will thank you for it.