A true artist at heart, Dawer Khan isnâ€™t just a videogragpher, but a storyteller. This young talent speaks to Mehek Raza Rizvi about his inspiration, switching degrees and drive
How did you enter the world of videography?
Homeschooling, a computer, a webcam and my dadâ€™s picture on the desktop was all I needed to find the inner director in me. As a homeschooled child I had ampleÂ time to experiment and channel my energy into what felt right to me. Growing up, I watched Dragon Ball Z and got fascinated by the â€˜quicker than lighteningâ€™ Goku. Using Goku, his friends and their adventures to protect Earth from villains as inspiration, I delved into the world of VFX. I learnt to create balls of lightening with my webcam footage. Believe me, those edited videos of me will threaten Gokuâ€™s existence.
Who were your earliest influences? Was there a love for the arts at home while you were growing up?
Well, I was mostly influenced by videography channels on YouTube like FilmRiot and Video Copilot; I also followed channels that were teaching video editing skills that are too expensive to learn in Pakistan. YouTube proved to be my knight in shining armour, by saving and nurturing my passion for videography, in a world that offers no free lunches.
As for a love for the arts at home, the answer truly depends on how you define art. Art is beauty to me and since my childhood, my mother taught me to look for beauty in every small thing. Therefore, for me, even the way my mother flips her rotis is pure art. Similarly, the way my younger brother smiles and oddly squints his eyes is art to me, as well as the way his pet hen twitches its neck every split second.
We hear you changed your degree from engineering to media studies. What made you change your mind and how supportive was your family?
â€œI am not who you think I am; I am not who I think I am; I am who I think you think I am â€ â€” these words by C.H.Cooley have had a profound impact on my life. I grew up thinking I needed to be a software engineer, because thatâ€™s what was ingrained in my head from the start.
However, once I started college, I realised that engineering is not my cup of tea. I also didnâ€™t want to be a corporate slave. If physical slavery is wrong, so is slavery of the spirit.
Once I was resolute, I switched to media studies. My family was quite supportive because they saw how passionate I was about charting my own path in life.
Tell us about your experience at NCA.
The first time I heard about NCA was when a neighbour told me I belonged there, as he watched me carefully paint eggs. When I decided to switch from engineering to media studies, that memory came back to me and I knew I wanted to go to NCA.
That institution has quite literally changed my life. Besides enhancing my directing skills, I delved into acting. My alma mater has constantly pushed me to challenge myself and get out of my comfort zone.
What would you say was your â€œbreakout moment?â€
Iâ€™d say it was when I got a call from SiddySays; they wanted me to work on a video and I consider that as the moment my career launched. I was introduced to the commercial market for the first time.
What was your first commercial project as a director like?
When I was nineteen, the CEO of a microfinance bank took a leap of faith by handing me a significant project for his firm. It was a short film that narrated the bankâ€™s successful journey.
I remember being very nervous as I had never seen (let alone signed) a contract or worked professionally before. I discussed my nerves with a mentor and he jokingly told me the worst case scenario would include me ending up behind bars for breach of contract (quite thrilling, no?).
However, I knew signing on for this project would be great exposure and open many doors for me.
When I asked the CEO why he put his trust in an amateur like me, he told me that he was one of the youngest CEOs of a microfinance bank and believed in the significance of trusting young talent.
Youâ€™ve spoken about the importance of marketing yourself and your work well. How do you go about it?
Marketing yourself requires confidence and standing your ground. It seems daunting and at times even annoying, but needs to be done if one wants to do well. As harsh as it may sound, I believe your skills and talent are useless if they fail to build a market for you. In todayâ€™s world of social media, you wonâ€™t be able to create demand for your work if youâ€™re unable to build trust amongst your audience through your personal brand.
When I was sixteen, I bought an antique camera from Landa Bazaar and ended up selling it for five times the original price. Therefore, to this day, Iâ€™m convinced that if one can successfully market the assets they possess, they can gain profit off something as â€œuselessâ€ as a rusty old camera.
As fresh, young talent, which are some unexplored areas in your field of work that youâ€™d want to explore more?
I believe Iâ€™ve just dipped my feet in a pond of the creative world. There is a sea of unexplored areas that Iâ€™ve yet to explore in my field of work.
Pakistan consists of such rich cultures and diverse communities that give rise to multiple unique stories that can be portrayed through short films, movies and documentaries. Also, I feel like these areas are not that prominent in our film industry, hence, Iâ€™m looking forward to working on these specific areas and challenge myself to showcase the true essence of Pakistani culture.
What sets you apart?
My work is what sets me apart. If one solely concentrates on the commercial aspects of a project, it kills the very spirit of oneâ€™s skills. I tend to take up projects that give me the liberty to portray stories in a way that is reflective of me and my aesthetic.
Tell us about the upcoming projects youâ€™re excited about.
Iâ€™ve always longed for telling a story and showcasing my art through short films. Therefore, the second university started I clutched onto the opportunity of directing a short film that Iâ€™m extremely excited about debuting. Moreover, there are a handful of projects in the pipeline for brands such as Mobilink, Toyota and Hush Puppies that Iâ€™m working on.