Image via Emirates

APEX Insight: What happens when airline staff by day become film crew by night.

From amateur shutterbugs who maintain collections of window-seat snapshots in their smartphone photo galleries to hardcore plane paparazzi who pack gear for trips to planespotting meccas around the world – it’s hardly a secret that aviation enthusiasts are prone to dabble in photography. So when Emirates airline employee and photography buff Ronald Awa founded the Emirates Group Photography Club in 2008, it wasn’t difficult to find coworkers who were interested in becoming members.

As enthusiasm for the club grew and high-quality digital cameras became easier to come by, the idea to organize the Emirates Short Film Festival quickly took off. “I asked my fellow filmmaking enthusiasts to have our own film festival open to all employees, relatives and friends to participate in with no registration fees,” says Awa, who works in Group Medical Training for the airline when he’s not coordinating club meetings and festivals. By the time the club launched in 2013, they’d received more than 50 submissions from around the world, including Kenya, India, the United Kingdom and the United States.

“I asked my fellow filmmaking enthusiasts to have our own film festival open to all employees, relatives and friends.” – Ronald Awa, Emirates

The decision to put the “short” in the Emirates Short Film Festival wasn’t by accident. “We all have our own day jobs,” Awa says. The difficult task of finding time to shoot outside of busy days in the office, cockpit and cabin factored into this year’s theme: CineEmirates10, or “Perfect 10.” In other words, films submitted should not exceed 10 minutes or 10 cast members. And to win top honors at the festival, which took place on January 26, films must aim for 10 out of 10 in terms of production, social relevance and content.

Emirates is not the first airline to celebrate the affinity between aviation and movies with its own film festival – Air Canada celebrated its 10th annual enRoute Film Festival in 2016, and SWISS held its second Flying Film Festival last year. But Emirates is the first to focus on work created by employees. And with 102,669 team members from 160 different countries, the diversity of themes and perspectives is expansive, ranging from travel narratives to philosophical explorations.

Submissions to the Emirates Short Film Festival don’t currently screen on board, but Awa thinks there’s potential that some of the films may be coming soon to an Emirates airline flight near you.

“Crew Cuts”  was originally published in the 8.1 February/March issue of APEX Experience magazine.

Katie is a writer for APEX Media, based in Toronto, Ontario.