This is the first installment in our new series "Gen: Change," in partnership with Youth Service America, featuring stories from the 25 most influential and powerful young people in the world.
It was on the beach, a couple streets away from our house, that my father and I would battle my everyday concerns about my life. I owe my personal drive to the thoughts we exchanged every weekend. He often told me, "Don't ever think you're not good enough. There are enough people out there that will try to hold you down, but the one person who will keep you down is you. Don't let the opinions of those around you determine the measure of your own success. If you're passionate about something, go for it." More importantly, my father taught me that applying my passion to my work had the power to really make a difference. There is nothing that I have taken more from my childhood than that.
Movies and technology have always been a source of fascination for me. Although I initially didn't understand how closely the two could complement each other, I saw each as a very powerful weapon for change -- movies with their ability to inspire through the content provided to the audience, and technology -- specifically software -- with the ability to create something from nothing. I began to create short films with my friends in college and wrote films that really had meaning and value to people; films that could move people. I began to really see an interesting response from my audience. Friends on social networks would comment saying that the work we created had moved them or made them look at something differently. When hearing or reading such comments, I felt something tingle in my chest. I created Mantis Films with the intention of creating films that would show the audience concepts, subject matter, and issues through a different light, a different angle, and a different color spectrum. It wasn't until I created the Egyptian Revolution shorts that I really felt the full force of my work.
Imagine sitting at a desk halfway across the world as you watch the streets that you used to play in as a child consumed by flames and tear gas, and the people who endured hardships without complaint being beaten in the streets when they finally raised their voices, by the same people who swore to protect them. What would you do? Would you try to get the word out to reach world leaders everywhere? Or would you turn off your TV and go to bed?
At the time, I did the only thing I knew how -- I made a short film with a message. The message was simple: "We are Egyptian. We are human. Let us be human. Let us be free." It wasn't about race, religion, or class. It was about being human. Something any person could relate to around the globe. I compiled a movie using news shots and first-person footage displaying the inhumane acts committed by a government on its people. Something the world hadn't seen before. It was a simple service and the least I could do for the country I love. But what I came to realize is that service is power.
The response was beyond anything I could have hoped for. I received thousands of comments and emails from people from all over the world, vouching their support for Egypt and its people. I received requests from big news channels and even requests to show my full video and interview me. The video was shared on Facebook alone more than 150,000 times. I received messages from Egyptians saying that after watching the short, they decided to change their minds about staying in the safety of their homes and instead take to the streets to stand for the rights all Egyptians deserved.
For the first time in my life, I saw Egyptian people no longer wanting to just survive, but live. I realized that one person can start a difference, but together we make it. The people, especially the youth, had made so much noise that world leaders everywhere were now condemning the tyrannical leader in power until he had no choice but to step down. I saw the power of film and technology and how they worked hand-in-hand to move millions and generate change. I saw hundreds more people begin to upload films around the same idea. People were now using social networks as more than just a tool to connect, but inspire and rally others to their cause. From the Libyan revolution to Wall Street all the way to the Kony 2012 video, I began to see videos calling for change.
I realized everything my father had said was correct. There was nothing more contagious than passion. If I could deliver a piece of advice through all this, it would be to stop trying to survive and start living. Do what you're passionate about and use that passion to inspire the world and to give others the opportunity to do the same. Dare to make a difference and leap into the unknown. And most importantly, believe in yourself and others. I believed for a minute that we could stop a 30-year reigning tyrant. I contributed with a video that went on to inspire millions during the revolutions. Who knows what other effect it may have had, but all it took was a minute of belief. That is the greatest service you could contribute.
Egyptian Revolution: Take What's Yours
Egyptian Revolution: The World Calls for Peace
Follow Tamer Shaaban on Twitter: www.twitter.com/@Tamer_Shaaban