December ‘16
Making Dreams A Reality

December ‘16
Studio Zat
Studio Zat


After years of prancing about from one institution to the other, locally and abroad, in a successful attempt to garner as much diverse expertise as they can, the founders of Studio ZAT, Shady Khalaf and Aya Al Abnoudy have finally planted their variegated prowess into one place; one studio that offers aspiring youth the prolific coaching that they need to act, produce, direct, and do much more. We had a chat with founder Shady Khalaf, who told us all about the journey to making studio ZAT happen.

How did the idea of studio ZAT come to life?

Any athlete who wants to master a sport must train weak muscles in order to be in perfect shape and reach his goals. Acting is the same; an actor must work on himself in order to overcome social barriers and personal insecurities. The idea of ZAT occurred to me upon taking various workshops in Egypt and abroad. My vision of ZAT was almost in its final shape when I took an acting course in New York through which I learnt that an actor must train his instruments day and night. It Is an endless journey of self-exploration. Initially, the whole concept was on my mind because just like other actors, I used to get nervous and self-conscious, which inevitably affected my performance. Thus, I realized that working on oneself is the key! Studio ZAT started with acting workshops only, but now it is a place where you learn the fundamentals of acting, film making, vocalization, theatre directing, acting for children, and much more.

How can studio ZAT help young actors-to-be with stage fright and shyness?

Stage fright and shyness are two factors that most actors have in common. Nevertheless, I do not think that you can completely overcome them. Thus, it is best if one is able to well-direct those feelings and turn them into something more honest and useful. In Studio ZAT, we teach students how to deal with such insecurities and how to learn more about oneself through them. We use the Misner technique; Sanford Misner believes that actors around the world have two main problems: The first is self-consciousness and the other is that actors do not truly listen to each other. Therefore, if a student learns how to really listen to his/her fellow actor, most of the tension would go away. Once actors stop denying their true emotions, whether they are positive or negative, they tend to let go of their weaknesses.

You give courses in various fields other than acting. Which is the most popular? Why do you think that’s so?

Acting is the most famous workshop that we offer, which is one that mainly focuses on the well-being and dealing with insecurities. Thus, it is a must for those who would like to pursue their profession in acting to keep their instrument active and to be ready whenever they are called for casting or a new role. 

What was the biggest obstacle in making studio ZAT happen?

Like any entrepreneur, I have faced many obstacles to make ZAT come to life. In ZAT we always find it a challenge to balance between quality and reasonable pricing. ZAT is one of the very few places in Egypt where you get taught by a big number of coaches from Egypt and abroad. This definitely takes a lot of patience and effort to be able to choose the best teachers for every workshop. Starting from scratch was the biggest challenge! It took me years of research and hard work to reach where we are now.

What is Sarah Warren’s role in the acting workshop? How has it helped to have a successful Canadian actress, writer, and director collaborate with studio ZAT?

Sarah Warren is also an acting coach in Metropolitan Film School where I originally met her. I went to study there two years ago and I was really interested in her method of training as she uses the Misner approach as well. Sarah was impressed to find a place like ZAT in the Arab world. She gave two intensive courses for camera workshops in ZAT, which are both considered one of ZAT’s biggest accomplishments. Sarah Warren is considered to be one of ZAT’s team and we are currently working together on new projects that will be announced soon.

How did you discover your passion for acting and what made you want to teach it?

I discovered my passion for acting when I stood on the university stage for the first time in the famous play “The Phantom of the Opera”. Only then did I realize that this is what I want to spend my whole life doing. I do not call myself a teacher, but a mere acting coach. Working as an actor with different directors, I realized that both of them speak to each other in different languages and that is what we in ZAT are trying to fix: To fill the gap between actors and directors. I believe that any good piece of work must not only have a good director but a good acting coach is also necessary.

Aya, is there a reason why you were driven to teaching children in particular?

As a child, I used to have issues in dealing with self-expression but when I grew older, I decided to take a stand and fight my insecurities. I had a journey of exploration for years; I took many workshops in Egypt and abroad. I learned how to face my fears, how to be brave, and many other personal qualities. I then decided that I want to see children happy! Kids that are not shy and are able to express themselves. They are very interesting to watch and to learn from. The children’s acting workshop is not only a class where you learn lines and stand in front of the camera, it also enables them to express themselves freely, stand strong in front of any crowd, and to work together as a team. I am currently pursuing a child and youth counselling diploma in Kent, England. I believe that this will help me understand more about the child’s psychology and will teach me how to deal with children. Eventually, the diploma will enable me to implement my theoretical studies into our coming children’s workshop.

By Rania Ihab