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Sharif Salama is pursuing his passion: working in the film industry. He credits Harford Community College with helping to prepare him for this exciting field, and he was recently back on campus practicing his craft, filming a public service announcement for the Harford County Department of Community Services.
An HCC alumnus, Sharif earned an A.A. in both tracks of Mass Communications, Production & Announcing and Sales & Marketing, as well as an A.A. in Business. After graduation, he attended Stevenson University for a semester.
He is currently the key assistant location manager on a Warner Bros./Melissa McCarthy film called Superintelligence. They are in prep and will start principal photography on July 13. He recently moved to Georgia and is in the GA Teamster Union local 728.
Sharif formerly served as the key production assistant on Showtime’s Ray Donovan. He was a co-producer and production manager on a short film directed by Robin Wright (House of Cards, Wonder Woman) that was recently screened at the Cannes Film Festival. In addition, he is part owner in the Harford County-based film and entertainment company Suited Four.
When one of Suited Four’s clients who worked Craft Services on House of Cards needed help and no one in the union was available, she reached out to Sharif. On a film set, catered breakfasts and lunches are provided, and in between, Craft Service offers coffee, pastries, fruit, sandwiches and more. After working in that area, Sharif joined IATSE 487 Union as a craft service assistant. “Almost immediately, I went to work on Season 2 of HBO’s Veep, and then was called into a full-time position on Season 2 of House of Cards. As my goal is to become a producer, food service was not my ideal position. It was, however, an opportunity to work on a studio picture – at the time, one of the highest budgeted series to date.”
After serving in Craft Services for three years, Sharif got a new job. He transitioned into the Locations Department on House of Cards which acts as the liaison between the company and any on-location sets. “On other productions, I’ve worked as a set production assistant. I also have independently produced and directed local commercials, corporate videos, and short films.” Recently, he was a producer/production manager for a short film called The Dark of Night, which was directed by Robin Wright.
He says his courses and instructors at HCC prepared him for his future. HCC Professor of Mass Communications Wayne Hepler was instrumental in teaching him professionalism, the business, and the technical side. Hepler gave him two pieces of advice that he always keeps in the back of his mind: “Don’t give up. And, be careful how you treat people on the way to the top because they’ll be the same people you run into on the way back down.” Sharif said, “Wayne Hepler is still to this day a mentor to me and someone I am lucky to have been taught by.” Jenny Shepard, former HCC Assistant Professor of Mass Communications, helped him tap into his creative side by encouraging students to think out of the box to portray emotions and thoughts visually.
While a student at Harford, he was surprised by the amount of hands-on training he received and the talent he observed among his fellow students. “My peers were very creative and talented, which forced me to keep my game up and challenge myself. I still to this day have some very great personal and working relationships with a lot of my classmates. At the end of the day, this business is all about collaboration with other talented people.” He added, “Harford County does really house some extremely creative people.”
“HCC was a huge part of my growth and I’d shout it from the rooftops.” Sharif said even all these years later there are partnership opportunities to help the community. “You guys rock!”
Sharif says learning from failure, both his and those around him, has contributed to his success. “With every small success, there is a path of failures that leads to it. I’ve learned to evaluate my failures and try to learn from every mistake . . . I think that’s really what experience is, failing along the way enough that you know how to navigate through decisions wisely.”
He strongly encourages students to consider HCC when they are choosing a college. Sharif says that HCC provides a great environment. “It’s a great place to acclimate yourself to college and figure out what you want to do. You can spend a portion of the cost for the same transferrable credits. Then, if like me, you fall in love with something more, you have the flexibility to change your focus without losing 50K a semester.” Sharif chose HCC for price and proximity to home. “I self-financed college, so it was nice to actually afford a semester.” He said he wished he had known that he would quit Stevenson after only one semester before he took out a loan to help pay for classes there.
Although he has very limited free time, Sharif believes in giving back to the community. A few years ago, he started a youth program called RYME (Reaching Youth thru Media and Entertainment), which was a partnership with the Boys and Girls Clubs. The organization raised funds and installed recording studios in the Edgewood and Aberdeen branches. He enjoyed teaching disadvantaged youth the ins and outs of music recording, hoping to help his students to be the next group of up-and-comers in the entertainment industry.
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