Panthers of ISKL #78 – The Aspiring Filmmaker

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Panthers of ISKL Zuhayr

This week, we met up with alumni student Zuhayr Zahris (’21), who graduated in May this year, having joined ISKL when he was in Grade 4!

Zuhayr also happens to have been under the Life-Centered Education (LCE) program at ISKL, which provides additional services to meet the needs of students who have more significant intellectual, learning, or developmental differences. He recently worked as an intern in ISKL’s Advancement Department, fulfilling roles related to photography and videography, which has led him to aspire to work in the filmmaking industry!

Here is his story.

“ISKL is such a great school, and I have learned so much over the years. I was fortunate to be part of the Life-Centered Education (LCE) program during my time in High School (HS) which helps students with what they need, whether in academics or other areas of the school.

‘The LCE is an excellent program, and I had a lot of fun. Every classmate I met was great, and we were interactive with one another. The teachers were very supportive, and I recommend this program to anyone who wants extra help, especially homework. With the help of the LCE teachers, I could complete all my homework in school and have enough free time at home.

‘The program also helped me a lot when I struggled with some subjects like Spanish, Math, and Science. Science was my biggest struggle throughout HS, and LCE was just an extra few hours of study that cleared so many things up for me. Without it, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have the grades or knowledge I have today.”

Memories at ISKL

Zuhayr's GAP Experiences“I have so many favorite moments, but I would say the Global Action Program (GAP) trips stand out as we got to travel out of the country. We also didn’t use phones, which is so refreshing not having any access to technology. It made me feel so much more independent. In total, I went on three GAP trips in Thailand, Vietnam, and Indonesia, and for most of them, we were helping communities and schools by painting their walls, and in another, I cleaned and fed elephants and other animals. However, what I most enjoyed was when we went souvenir shopping – it was so relaxing because we could have a night off to walk around and sightsee.

‘Another thing I appreciate about ISKL that I never got in previous schools was computers. I got so excited when I received my first computer because I didn’t have to share it with anyone. I relied on the family computer or books in previous schools, but my laptop helped me expand my learning and be more independent. It was great to have such a high-tech device in my hands, and it sure is one of the top memorable moments in my life so far!

‘I was also part of the international non-governmental organization MERCY Malaysia in Grade 10 and 11, where refugees would visit us, and we got to mingle with them. Another favorite club I joined was the Rock Climbing Club, which was thrilling and fun being up high on a wall.

‘One thing I remember fondly about ISKL is that the faculty is much more relaxed than I thought it would be. I’ve been at other schools where teachers are more strict, whereas, in ISKL, they are strict only when we misbehave. Sometimes the teachers will call you out and ask you to take a walk which is different from other schools I’ve been at where teachers would punish you for misbehaving. I also like that the teachers at ISKL can cover a lot of material within a class period. Although I had trouble keeping up In my Science and Spanish classes, I found them balanced and informative. Cooking classes were enjoyable too.”

Interning with the Advancement Department

Internship at ISKL“I think ISKL does cover most or all of the categories anyone would want to do in their career, and they do an excellent job in arranging internships at school that give students exposure to the working world.

‘In my last semester of HS, I took up my first ever internship experience with the Advancement Team. Besides the fact that I was graduating soon and needed more things in my portfolio, I knew it would be a great exposure to get a small taste of working and having a job. Danial Marzuki, ISKL’s Videographer and Photographer, was a great teacher to me.

‘Through the internship, I learned many skills and technicalities of photography and videography and how to use different editing software like After Effects which helped improve my animation skills. Outside of the Advancement department, Jonathan Nelson, HS English faculty, also taught me skills essential for pursuing a career in film. For instance, he taught me about camera techniques, such as all the shots and angles (high shot, low shot, long shot, etc.) and how to write a good story for creating a film.

‘Although interning while still in school added some workload to my daily routine, it was work that I didn’t mind doing as I enjoyed the tasks I had. My job scope included video editing, photography, videography, and creating animations, which I enjoy and interest me. When you do work, it has to be something you like; otherwise, why would you work on something that you do not enjoy?”

Passions and interests

“I used to like architecture and building design. I remember seeing the Burj Khalifa in Dubai and being in awe of its beauty. I even wanted to be a pilot at one time because we were on the plane to Dubai, thinking I should fly a plane. But ultimately, it is the entertainment industry that I am still so into.

‘I have had a massive passion for filmmaking and animation since eight years ago, thanks to watching movies! The Transformers movie franchise has inspired me to get into video editing, and the Marvel action-superhero movies got me into videography and animation.

In terms of filmmaking, Michael Bay is one person who inspires me – he’s so good at the sci-fi genre. I also look up to Christopher Nolan, who is excellent at making movies related to time. The directors who have created all the Marvel movies are people who inspire me – the cinematography in those movies thrills and excites me!”

The Future

“Since graduating from ISKL, I have been working on my portfolio as I plan to apply to a few universities offering film and animation courses. I want to apply to the One Academy (Malaysia), Gnomon (USA), and DigiPen (Singapore) as I’m focusing on schools closer to home. I want to live independently without being too far from my family.

‘I am also deciding what course to take, whether it would be visual effects (VFX), digital animation, or even video editing. If I pursue video editing, I want to be hired by companies that produce documentaries like National Geographic or significant movie companies. If I take up 3D animation, I hope to work on animated movies at Marvel, Disney, or Pixar.”

What does ‘Be All You Are’ mean to you?

“It means always think about yourself and not be pressured by society or anyone who tries to tell you otherwise. Essentially, it means not to be someone else.”

Do you know a student, faculty, staff, or alumni with a story to tell? Nominate them to be featured in our Panthers of ISKL stories by sending in your submissions here.

To find out more inspiring stories of our community read about Aayush V., the Carnatic violinist, and Matilde A., our intellectual alum!