Rola Nashef, internationally acclaimed filmmaker, offered an interactive lecture at Ponyride in Corktown on Nov. 19.

The Business of Art, sponsored by Wayne State’s College of Fine, Performing and Communication Arts, is a program designed to explore ways of turning passion into profit.

Tara Ellis, a WSU masters student in design, said the event is a great opportunity for artists.

“[The program is about] making the leap from artist to entrepreneur,” said event coordinator Rhonda Welsh.

During Nashef’s presentation, she spoke about her experience writing, producing and directing the film “Detroit Unleaded,” which won the Grolsch Film Works Discovery Award at the 2012 Toronto International Film Festival.

What began as an idea she had at a gas station in 2003, inspired her to make the short film, which eventually became a feature film nine years later.

“[Filmmaking is] learning how to do something new and then executing [it],” Nashef said. “Make as many shorts as possible before making a feature.”

Though Nashef noted the valuable experience gained while making short films, she said they’re a great fundraising tool as well. Short films can premiere at a festival and then be picked up by a large company and made into a feature.

“If you’re not ready to ask for money — your script isn’t ready,” Nashef said. “The script gives you the green light to start asking for money.” 

Nashef emphasized the importance of networking. She said her family was invaluable during her filmmaking process. Nashef’s cousin, Leon Toome, helped her with the legalities of involving investors and starting her production company, Gas Afterhours Productions.

Being Lebanese American, she wrote to many famous Arab American actors asking for support — which she received. Nashef even received help from the Sundance Screenwriters Lab of Jordan, concerned with media portrayals of Arab’s that often lead to negative, ignorant generalizations.

In addition to networking with others, Nashef emphasized the importance of believing in yourself and knowing the worth of your art.

“Shameless self-promotion — I hate that term. We live in a world where we need art for marketing, but aside from that, it has no value,” Nashef said. “It’s OK to place value on your work because if you don’t who will?” 

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