Mesbah Uddin

Georgetown is not really known for producing filmmakers. However Mesbah Uddin is trying to change that. Mesbah wrote, directed, and is an executive producer on the upcoming film 11:59. This coming of age film chronicles the story of Sidney Phillips as he faces his chronic procrastination and mental health issues. We spoke with Mesbah to learn more about the filmmaking process and also what is up next for him. 

Name: Mesbah Uddin

School/Grade: SFS 2015

Major: Culture and Politics

Hometown: Chittagong, Bangladesh; Brooklyn, NY

What is the inspiration behind the film 11:59? What do you hope people get out of the film?

The inspiration behind the film is the procrastination that I and many other college students struggle with on a daily basis. Procrastination is justifiably used to describe situations when we waste time online and put off our assignments. However, we also use it to describe situations when we are unable to focus on the tasks ahead of us due to anxiety and fear. The misuse of this word is sometimes deliberate - we don't want to confront our personal/mental health issues that lead to anxiety, much less talk about them with friends and strangers. My goal with this film is to show a character who suffers and battles with both these forms procrastination in the hopes that people on campus would talk more about this issue. So for the procrastinators, I hope they relate with the protagonist and are inspired to seek help from friends, professors, and mentors to handle their stress. For the rest, I hope they are inspired to make themselves more available for their friends.

How has the process of making the film been for you?

It's been an incredibly gratifying experience. It's not often that you get an opportunity to tell a story that matters to you while also pursuing your dream (of becoming a filmmaker). I'm grateful for the support I have had for this film so far - words of encouragement from friends, the dedication and time of all the collaborators, and the incredible amount of support from my professors (in the forms of generous extensions and occasional cameos). This is not to say that I haven't had countless sleepless nights or haven't struggled to stay on track, but that's occupational hazard. When you're trying to tell a story that's very close to your heart, you take one step forward and two steps backwards because you're worried. Worried that you're not doing a good enough job. You look at, say, a transition between two scenes and you ask yourself, "could there be a better way to move between the settings?" And then you proceed to waste a whole lot of time in finding that "better" way. You finally find it and realize that you don't instinctually like it as much as the previous transition, so you scratch it altogether. This process is nonstop and it means that I have been working on writing this story since November last year and I'm still changing things every day (often quite drastically). But to go back to the initial point, how many people are given the time and resource to immerse themselves fully in the pursuit of their dreams? Not a lot. That thought makes me appreciate even the most stressful parts of this process.

Have you always been interested in filmmaking?

I have not always been interested in making films. In fact, the interest sprung up quite recently. About two years ago - second semester during sophomore year - one of my best friends asked me to help him with his student documentary. I started off by helping him with whatever he needed, but my rising interest in the creative process and my friend's generosity meant that I became the co-director of the documentary by the end of it. Both of us were newbies so we had to spent an awful amount of time sitting through tutorials on using editing softwares. All in all, I spent over 200 hours that semester in training and completing the film. This was all for a project that was not part of any class or one that I was getting paid for. The epiphany came and the courage soon followed and three semesters later, here I am talking about an upcoming student film of mine.

What do you like most about creating a film?

What I love about filmmaking the most is that it allows you to work on many different art forms at once. If you're writing and directing a film, you're exercising the literary part of yourself through the screenplay, the performative self through managing the actors, the musician in you while working with the composer and curator, and the photography part of your soul with the cinematographer. If you're also producing the film on top of writing and directing it, it means that you also get a chance to be an entrepreneur and figure out how to raise funds and negotiate the creative control that outside parties have on your film. There is a thousand different tasks that come with making a film and I love that. The constant shifting of focus keeps me interested.

What do you like least?

What I like least about this process is deadlines. The film needs to be released on a certain day, I get that and am absolutely committed to fulfilling that goal. But I get annoyed by all the other little deadlines in between - get the screenplay to the actors by this date, order the posters by that date, meet with someone to book the premiere location three days from now - whoof, give me a break! Not to say I ignore these things, but it doesn't mean I enjoy them either. Only if I had unlimited time to finish a film...

Do you have an idea for what your next film will be?

No idea what the next film will be about. I have a notepad with usually 8-12 ideas for films ready to go but it takes me a while to decide which one would be next. After finishing a project, I take some time off to recharge and reflect and during this period I think about what is appropriate to do next given the stage of my life I'm in. Freshman Again was chosen because it felt like a funny, not-so-serious story to kick off my learning process. Likable Matters was chosen because I had a hilarious conversation about Facebook with a friend that was too good to be left alone. And 11:59 was selected as a reflection piece for my journey over the last four years. Maybe the next film will be about a filmmaker and his uncontrollable joy at being interviewed for the very first time, titled "Momma I Made It." We'll see.

11:59 premieres on April 11th. If you are interested in seeing the film you find more information on their Facebook page. You can reserve tickets for the premiere on their Eventbrite page