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Granite Bay grad bringing actors’ lab to northern California

Los Angeles-based actor wants to build local talent
By: Sena Christian, Granite Bay View
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Ammar Ramzi committed a bit of a faux pas to earn his first acting gig in television.

Ramzi hadn't been asked to audition for the part. But he went anyway. He was green to the Hollywood scene and didn't know any better.

"If you're not called in, you're not supposed to show up," he said. "It's not a PC thing to do."

He was given a chance, so he read the two-line part and booked the job. In the end, the director cut his scene. The experience, though, showed him how to swallow disappointment and find motivation to persist.

Since moving to Los Angeles seven years ago, Ramzi has appeared on "Chuck," "The Good Wife" and "The OC," just to name a few of his television credits. He took one-line parts when offered and built a resume. In 2013, Ramzi can be seen in the movie "The Thunder Run," which stars Gerard Butler and Matthew McConaughey.

Ramzi knows firsthand the long and arduous road actors must take and wants to share the wealth of this knowledge through the Omniya Pictures Artists' Lab, which starts with an introductory class in Roseville on Oct. 13. Future classes will be held at a location in Granite Bay or Folsom.

"I'm in a place where I can be involved in pioneering new projects," Ramzi said.

Ramzi graduated from Granite Bay High School in 2001 and earned a degree from University of California, Davis. He co-founded Omniya Pictures in 2011, which focuses on film and television development.

The company helps get screenplays written and build relationships with investors. Omniya Pictures currently has five projects in development, including "Eel," a black-and-white psychological thriller, which Ramzi appears in and Loomis native James Kaelan directed.

"Both Ammar and I would've benefited tremendously from the knowledge of professional actors and filmmakers teaching courses in our area when we were in high school," Kaelan said. "Granite Bay has already produced a number of talents, and it's exciting to think Ammar could be developing new raw talent there."

Ramzi will fly up on a weekly basis to help run the artists' lab. Initial classes will be geared toward people interested in learning about on-camera acting.  

"It's kind of a muscle you build," he said. "It's about how to be honest and in the moment - that's really the key to good acting."

Kaelan, who graduated from Del Oro High School, said Ramzi is suited for teaching others the art of acting, as evidenced by the work he did on "Eel."

"Both his knowledge and ability as an actor are impeccable," Kaelan said. "He was not only a pleasure to work with, he was an inspiration. We were shooting on a very tight budget, and he was paid a pittance, but he came in so thoroughly prepared and knowledgeable about his character that he was able to roll with every punch I threw at him. And I threw many."

Students will learn audition techniques, and organizers will bring in experts to address topics such as directing, cinematography, editing, scene design and how to find investors.

"We want to empower the community to let them know they can make movies," Ramzi said.

He points to indie director Quentin Tarantino, who makes movies happen by himself instead of relying on big movie companies. Technology has improved so much that aspiring filmmakers can make their project using a $5,000 digital camera that shoots beautiful images.

No longer does a movie require millions of dollars or a huge corporation to back it, Ramzi said.

Filmmakers also don't need to reside in Los Angeles. A prime example: Tyler Perry who has a studio in Atlanta, and acts as the industry's largest employer of African American actors.

"Like-minded people come (to Los Angeles) but you don't have to be here to be successful," Ramzi said.

Sena Christian can be reached at senac@goldcountrymedia.com. Follow her on Twitter at SenaC_RsvPT.

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Omniya Pictures Artists' Lab

What: Introductory class taught by professional Los Angeles-based actors

When: 9 a.m. to noon Saturday, Oct. 13

Where: Room No. 1, Maidu Community Center, 1550 Maidu Drive in Roseville

Cost: $56

Info: Must be 13 years or older. To register, email opal@omniyapictures.com or visit www.omniyapictures.com.