Mohamed Saad Mansoor is on his way home from James Franco’s house. Yes, that James Franco.
“We were working from his house because the production office lost power,” Saad says, like this is no big deal. “We’re getting ready for a five-week film shoot down by the Mexican border. It’s a post-apocalyptic film that takes place in the future”
For the 2014 Full Sail Film grad, this current situation – prepping for a feature film shoot in Los Angeles with the movie’s very-well-known director – is a long way from his hometown of Mumbai, India, where his love for the film industry originated, but it’s exactly where he wants to be. And the path he took to get there is an inspiring one.
“I worked for four years in India as an assistant casting director,” says Saad. “I would audition talent all day and edit that at night, and the only time I worked with an actual film crew was in the office when they were deciding who to cast. When Eat, Pray, Love filmed in India, I got a chance to go on set, and the way the crew worked together and functioned was so fascinating to me. America had always been a dream for me, and I knew then that I desperately needed to get out of my comfort zone and try something new.”
Enter Full Sail: Saad knew firsthand that the film industry was tough to break into, and his goal in Full Sail’s Film program was to get practical, hands-on experience and make contacts that could help him get his break. That break came a few days before graduation, when his Career Development advisor sent him an email about a feature film that was filming in New Orleans and looking for an intern to assist the unit production manager.
“I knew there was no way I couldn’t take this,” Saad remembers, “so I told the hiring manager that I had everything figured out, including accommodations in New Orleans, and to please just hire me … but I had nothing. I didn’t know where I was going.”
Two days after graduation, Saad took a bus to New Orleans to work on the feature film Man Down. He lived in a hostel. He didn’t have any transportation, so at first, he walked four miles to the production office until a crewmember loaned him a bicycle. The film set was even farther from his hostel: He had to leave every morning at 3:30 a.m. to make it for his 5 a.m. call time. This sounds like a nightmare, right? But for Saad, it was incredible: “If it wasn’t for that project,” he says, “I would have no way been where I am right now.”
More work unfurled from there, based on the recommendations of his Man Down bosses, and in his first year post-Full Sail, Saad worked on projects in five different states, including a feature film in Philadelphia. He moved to L.A. after that (minus a three-month stint back in New Orleans working on AMC’s Into the Badlands), and now he’s getting ready to work as an assistant production coordinator on Future World, the aforementioned James Franco project.
“It’s all very connected, and people remember you if you work hard, be humble, never forget your roots, and no matter how hard it gets, suck it up and always have a smile on your face,” says Saad.
Saad’s goal is to continue to move up the production chain of command: from coordinator to supervisor, and, eventually, unit production manager. And while he still loves casting, he’s excited to have found his new home on a film set.
“A film set is the perfect definition of teamwork, because you have 250 professional brilliant minds working together to make something for the screen,” says Saad. “I love reading a script and then seeing what’s in my mind come to life. I love making movies.”