Life In The Fast Lane

We quizzed lawyer, film producer, talent manager and all-round busy guy, Waleed Maisery, to find out what he’s currently working on and learn the secret of balancing several successful careers – a hint, it’s not just coffee.

You’re Yemeni-British, with much of your creative work being in London, what’s the Qatar connection and what brought you to the country?
I am indeed. Born in Aden and moved to London when I was eight due to the civil war that happened in 1994. What made me come here [to Qatar] was totally unrelated to the creative industry but rather securing a legal position in one of the biggest energy companies in the world. I was previously working in Yemen from 2008 to 2013 and when the security situation got worse, I decided to make a choice to leave till things got better. Eleven years later, and I am still here!

You have been a lawyer for 15 years, how did you go from this to film production? Are you still working as a lawyer and, if yes, how do you find the time for your multiple roles?
It’s actually just over 16 years and writing that down on paper makes me feel old. I still work as a senior legal counsel and will probably do so for a while. My early retirement plan before getting to 40 may just have to be extended.
The interest in the film industry actually came from me watching the film Boiling Point on a flight. That film kept my attention from start to finish, which made me curious to know who produced it. I sat and watched all the credits and actually reached out to the team and congratulated them on such an amazing film.
The question of time is a great one and if anyone knows me well enough, they will say that I am always doing a thousand things at once. Not sure if it’s ADHD or the inability to sit back and do nothing. I truly believe that time (and health) are the most precious things in this world which cannot be bought or compensated for. We are all living on this earth for a limited time only and I want to make the most of mine. I always used to say I will sleep enough once I’m dead.

Your film Gassed Up took the Best Audience Award at the prestigious London Film Festival. How did you become involved with this project and what does the role of producer entail?
My involvement in Gassed Up was not planned. As I mentioned earlier, the same producers for Boiling Point were producing Gassed Up. We had remained in touch after my initial contact and the opportunity was given to me to be an executive producer. A few weeks earlier, I had invested in an old friend of mine in his music career and became his independent label as well as his manager. So, when I read the treatment for Gassed Up and saw the cast and crew attached, I couldn’t say no. Plus my gut felt that this would open up doors in the entertainment industry and allow for other opportunities in both the music and film industry. Producing I would say is trying to make the impossible possible. Nothing ever goes to plan on a set and that’s exactly how I got Kier his first acting role on the film Gassed Up. We needed a rap artist for a battle scene on the day of the shoot otherwise we would have had to delay it. I got him in an uber, sent him photos of the actors he would be battling and he literally wrote his bars in the taxi on his way to the set.

You currently have several other projects in various stages of production – what can you tell us about those?
I’ll try to summarise each one in a few sentences without giving away too much.
Edgware Road – A feature film about gentrification where the local people fight against a system that wants them out. We are currently at the end of pre-production and we have everything set and ready to start filming. Script, locations, filming schedule, crew attached including actors and the final step needed now is full financing.
Naz – This is a biopic feature of the boxing legend Prince Naseem and is currently at the stage of attaching a director to the film. The script is complete. Hiddaya – Based on the true story of an Imam who was addicted to opiods without even knowing till he ran out of his medicine. It’s a story of faith and how he manages to get his life back together by going to the most extreme measures.
The Ride – A short film about three Yemeni boys on a mission to watch a football match but who get side tracked with one disappointment after another.

What’s been your favourite thing to work on so far and why?
That’s a hard question. Not sure I can actually choose one thing only. Producing music videos and trying new things like AI was an experience and fun at the same time. Attending major events with my MCs really takes me out of my comfort zone and has actually been somewhat refreshing. As a film producer, I would say Edgware Road, only because I have been involved on this project from day one and seeing how much we have accomplished and how far we’ve come only pushes me more. The more challenging the better!

As well as law and film production, you also engage in artist management. How do you juggle all your different roles to ensure everything gets your full attention?
Lots of coffee! I think people always say that time is short but if you actually manage to have a system in place, you can do a lot in 24 hours. I work on all my projects throughout the day juggling from one thing to the next without even realising. I have most of my meetings while driving and even during a haircut. There is no real excuse and time is plenty if managed right. I have however sacrificed my health a little and that’s something I am aware of and trying to fix. Hiring a PA is definitely something I am considering.

And, on a more personal note, what do you do in your spare time, if you ever get any?
Spare Time? I don’t even know what that is! When time permits, and travelling isn’t an option, I try to fit in spa days from time to time as that helps me reset and start the next day fresh. Although film production and managing artists take up most of my spare time, I still manage to do other things. I am actually writing a book about my life which I intend to release and then turn into a limited series one day. Other than that, I really enjoy spending time with the family and my two girls. ✤