Not Your Average Filmmakers

It was an early morning when I received a facetime call from Sara. Although this wasn’t unusual at all, this phone call would be the start of an incredible journey. I laid in the bed of my new Brooklyn apartment, six hours behind the time of Sara who was in her apartment in Barcelona, Spain. Although it was early for me, my sleepiness immediately went away once she asked me to be apart of something special.

Fashion designer, friend of mine, sister to Sara and overall badass, Maroa would be launching her new fashion collection “Desert Tribe” in the Spring. But here’s the kicker, she wanted Leonis Productions to produce the film and I was asked to co-direct the campaign with Sara! I didn’t hesitate to accept, in fact I immediately said yes! It was a no brainer because it meant that I would be working alongside one of my closest friends.


You may know her as Sara Louise Mahgoub, founder of Leonis Productions; but for me she is my partner in crime. You may be asking yourself, how do two filmmakers from opposite sides of the world come together to form the perfect storm. Don’t be perplexed, the answer is quite simple: film school! I met Sara while studying abroad in Paris during my time at university. It is an understatement to say that we became friends instantly. Not too far into our studies at Eicar it became pretty clear that we would make a great team.


What I love is that neither of us are conventional filmmakers, which is what makes us all the more unique in our approach. With such a cut throat industry, it’s imperative that you find people along the way that you can harmonize with and I’ve found that in Sara. Not only do we have a great rapport, we have so much to express to the world and so we empower and encourage one another in doing so.


Fast forward two years since we last saw each other, the perfect opportunity arises for us to meet and work together again. Our last collaboration was on a documentary together entitled “A Mi Manera” in which we shot in a little less than a week in Oslo. Following the success of that shoot, I knew this would also be a breeze. Even as a small team, we managed to create an environment in which our models would feel comfortable to express their inner animal. We wanted to maintain and highlight the collection and Maroa’s vision of freedom and inner tribal spirit.


We had the perfect setting, Yucca Valley – a desert land in California which evoked the epitome of freedom and nature. We rose with the sunrise to capture the beautiful gradients of the sky awakening. Our goal was to capture the essence of the desert and all the nuances that come with it. Although you won’t be able to tell from the final product, the desert was quite cold in March! Cold weather would make any film shoot a nightmare but instead we used the wind to our advantage. It pushed us to work with the light and work super efficiently as to not waste time and freeze our butts off!


Reflecting on the shoot, perhaps the reason Sara and I work so well together is because we complement one another so perfectly. Our differences in approach add a variety of ideas and produces the perfect creative environment for a shoot. For instance, my specialty is set design as I am a more visual person rather than technical. However, where I lack in verbal direction, Sara excels in by being able to express our vision to our crew and the models. We are able to divide and conquer the work which allows us to cover all components of a shoot.


As a team, we were more than equipped to handle any issues that arose like the violent desert wind or constantly stepping on the prickly and painful pieces of raw cacti! There were plenty of memorable moments and I can say for the both of us this collection is truly something special. Not only am I proud of the work we put into this shoot, I am also enamoured with the new collection “Desert Tribe” by Maroa coming soon. I am super grateful to be apart of the magic that we in Leonis Productions created in Yucca Valley and can’t wait for you to finally see it.


Leonis Article by: Brittani Cunningham

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