George Basha, a multifaceted artist from Parramatta, Western Sydney, has a remarkable journey reflecting his resilience and determination. Growing up on the challenging streets of western Sydney as the child of Lebanese migrants, George’s path to success was far from conventional.
In 1997, George received his big break in the world of acting when he portrayed ‘Kemel’ alongside the late Heath Ledger in the feature film ‘Blackrock,’ directed by Steve Vidler. However, despite this initial taste of the film industry, he encountered difficulties securing subsequent acting roles.
At the time, George’s agent conveyed the harsh reality that he faced hurdles in obtaining auditions due to his ethnicity. Refusing to be defined by these limitations, George decided to take matters into his own hands. He embarked on a journey as a writer, penning the feature film ‘The Combination.’ In George’s words, “It was my voice and the voice of western Sydney, which was never really told before.”
In addition to crafting the script, George took on the roles of co-producer and the lead character, ‘John.’ ‘The Combination’ made its cinematic debut in 2009, earning both robust box office receipts and favourable reviews. Esteemed movie critics Margaret Pomeranz and David Stratton rated the film an impressive four and a half stars out of five.
Despite its early success, ‘The Combination’ faced controversy when it was unexpectedly pulled from all Event Cinemas nationwide. The decision came after an altercation erupted during a Parramatta screening.
In 2014, George continued his creative journey by writing, producing, co-directing, and starring in his second feature film, ‘Convict,’ in which he portrayed ‘Ray.’ The movie achieved remarkable success on DVD and quickly sold out in retail outlets, particularly in Western Sydney. As a producer, George showcased his ability to secure funding for both of these projects outside the conventional funding structures, leading to profitable returns for each venture.
Fast forward to 2019, George once again demonstrated his versatile talents as he wrote, produced, and starred in ‘The Combination Redemption,’ a film that received theatrical distribution throughout Australia. David Stratton, once more impressed, awarded the film a rating of four stars out of five. As with his previous works, George independently secured funding for this project, highlighting his resourcefulness and commitment to storytelling.
In 2002, George took on an ambitious project, directing, writing, producing, and starring in the yet-to-be-released “Retreat,” an action-thriller. Myriad Pictures has since acquired the film, and is scheduled for release in 2023.
George Basha’s journey is a testament to his unwavering determination to tell compelling stories and break down barriers in the entertainment industry. His resilience and talent have not only brought his unique voice to the forefront but have also paved the way for future generations of storytellers.
FilmCentral Magazine recently caught up with George to discuss his journey in the industry, and here’s what went down:
Could you please tell our readers a brief background about yourself and how you started in the industry?
I grew up in a very rough and tough western Sydney suburb called Guildford. I come from a big family that consists of five brothers and one sister, and we were always so competitive in sports when we played against one another. We grew up with not much. My father worked long hours just to make ends meet, and my mother was one tough lady who was always tough on us, especially me, as I was the eldest. All that combined is what prepared me to tackle the film industry, my father’s hard work and the competition, which I loved that came from sports and always wanting to win no matter what. I had always had a love for American cinema and filmmaking, and I loved actors like Sylvester Stallone and Denzel Washington and have always wanted to be an actor. It wasn’t till I was In my early twenties that I decided to really give acting a go and started acting classes in 1996. By 1997, I landed my first-ever acting role in a film called Blackrock alongside some great Australian talent, which included the late Heath Ledger, David Field, John Howard, and Geoff Morrell, to name a few.
What is the most difficult part of your artistic process?
I would have to say, as a director, there are a few things. First, you need to get your casting right because I truly believe every actor in the film, no matter how big or small a role, maybe they are all equally important to the project. Then you have the artistic choice you make as in how you want the audience to feel as they watch the film, which will dictate how you want to shoot the movie. Then you have the edit and the music, which is just as important as your other artistic decisions because the edit and music will just amplify the emotions you want the audience to experience.
Do you try more to be original or to deliver to viewers what they want?
Both. You always want to be original and add your own flavour to your films. You also have to deliver a film that the viewers want. It’s entertainment, and whenever I make a film it is important that I make it for an audience. Some filmmakers prefer making films for festivals and winning awards. I’m about making films for an audience; without an audience, to me, that’s a failure. So as a filmmaker, I always want to deliver what viewers want.
If you could tell your younger self anything, what would it be?
Follow your heart and get in the industry straight after school. Believe in yourself and your ability.
Where do you draw your inspiration from for your stories?
The first few film scripts I wrote were written about some of my real-life experiences and, most importantly, from the heart. My inspiration comes from many places real-life stories or from other films I have seen over the years. I will always write from the heart, even if it is fictional. What I mean by that is as long as you believe and love a story you want to tell. Then you tell it and really believe in it.
What was an early experience where you learned that films had power?
In 2009 when I made The Combination it really opened my eyes to the power of film. The amount of messages and fans telling me the effect the film had on them blew me away. Even today, people still talk to me about the film and how it made them feel.
Can you tell us more about your latest project?
Hostile Forces is my new film which I directed, wrote, produced, and starred in. I play a retired soldier who takes his family on a quiet vacation into the Australian bush, which takes a deadly turn when they accidentally stumble across some mysterious bags, forcing the father to rely on his old military skills to protect his family from a team of trained killers.
Hostile Forces has just been released to the North American market by our international sales agent, Myriad Pictures, and distributor, Saban Films. The film has also been distributed in Australia & New Zealand by Pinnacle Films. The film will hit digital streaming in the coming weeks in Australia.
What is the best advice you have ever been given?
Nothing is ever given to you. You have to take it.
What advice would you give to a newbie writer who wants to make it in the industry?
Write something that is special to you or is passionate about, and do not listen to anyone but yourself as to what you really want to make. The industry is very opinionated, and there is no wrong or right.
What are your future plans?
I am looking at shooting a new feature next year titled Caught Up which will take me back to the streets of western Sydney. I’m also currently working on a TV series with David Field, which is still in the early stages.