I started in an agency called DMB&B that later became Darcy. I was there for a summer job working in the art department in my first year of university. I was more like a runner, a helping hand. It was supposed to be a summer job, yet ended for me being there for two years as a graphic designer. I learned a lot there. For two more years to follow I did some freelance work as a graphic designer mainly for diving centers and hotels in Sinai, and on the side I did my dive master. After I graduated contacted many agencies yet with no luck, and the one place I really wanted to work at I was afraid to contact as not to lose my chance with them later on, if you know what I mean. But finally I did and after several interviews I joined my dream agency Leo Burnett as an art director. To tell you the truth I had no clue about anything back then and I still believe that I was extremely lucky that I managed to somewhat fool them into hiring me. I knew that the only way to stay was to work really hard and learn as much as possible, so I did.
For 5 years I learned and developed a lot by working on very interesting accounts such as P&G, MobiNil, Heinz, Beity to name a few, some campaigns were awarded in the local and international scene. I was offered to be transferred to Leo Burnett’s
What steps did you take to reach your goals and be able to find the right track?
Who said I reached my goals yet I still have a long way to go. But if I reached anything in your opinion I would say that the steps are putting yourself a goal, work real hard while trying to have fun and leave the rest to God.
Having a large title at one of the best advertising agencies and being in charge of many of the accounts most would kill for, we know you left that behind and began your own business. Tell us more about this daring step?
Well, it is not as it sounds like when I left the agency you are talking about I had no plan as to begin my own thing. It was simply not the right place for me and I was not right for them. We worked in different ways we were simply not on the same wave length. It was a bit of a bad relation where no one was to be blamed. For me in such a competitive and stressful industry the only way to come up with good ideas and work can only happen if you are having fun and enjoying the atmosphere you are in, after all it is a fun job.
So I quit went home and gave my mind a break not knowing what my next move would be. And then it hit me that this might be the time to do what I always wanted to do, it was the time to take a bit of risk, so I went back to freelancing while trying to take bigger and more serious steps toward my real goal which is directing.
Is the advertising industry, surely a very competitive one, an easy ground for a one-man show?
Well what I offer as an individual is a bit different and new in concept because as a freelance creative you are not competing with anyone you work with the agencies by project, it is more like working for them but only for a short time. What’s really cool about that is that they usually call when they have an interesting project that they want to do something different with. So I get to work on very challenging and interesting briefs and not the day to day work. As for being a starting and aspiring director in this field is a bit difficult, at least in the beginning. People in our industry complain that there are only a few directors to choose from yet they are not willing to try someone new. Yet I have faith that it will kick start in the right time, I am very optimistic.
How do you view your future now since you are on your own?
Well I don’t know so far it is great fun, I won’t lie and tell you that I don’t get scared sometimes being a freelance and on my own it has both pros and cons. I enjoy being free and it would be very hard to go back to a regular job again. Of course you always have a financial risk and wonder of the ringing phone might be a new client or not. I take it project by project and leave the rest to God. I am trying to minimize my functions and concentrate more on my directing career, starting off with commercials and video clips and hopefully be able to finance a short film until I reach my goal in directing feature films. One step at a time is my motto and enjoy each step by making the best out of it. I do not want to be just a filmmaker I want to be a great one, one that tells stories that matter one that captures emotions.
What advice can you give to young creative minds today? What is the secret of success?
Well, I would say that I still need advice myself, but if there is anything it would be to keep their eyes and minds open and that there is no such thing as a bad idea, there is an idea in development. As for the “secret formula” it would be to have a goal, have a plan, work hard to achieve it in the way that suits you most, enjoy it and before all to know that you can only plan and work hard the rest is up to God.
Do you believe that creativity is fostered and developed in
Well to be honest … no! It is sad but I believe that our educational system lacks an educational system. Mind you putting the time and the effort to spot talents encourage it and develop it, they just do not think that it is of any value, but of course there are exceptions or at least I hope so. As for the workplace I think the situation is much better, there are to my knowledge a few places that do put some investment in their people not too many but they do exist I was personally lucky to work at one of the places that do that.
Name: Mohamed El Kalawi
Marital Status: married
School: DEO (
Awards: AUC Advertising Award for best outdoor
AAA silver award for a TIDE ad
Five 7+ awards (Leo Burnett internal award)