Dana Abraham went from being an actor wanting to be a film/tv star to co-owning a company that has employed over 500 people till date. The beginning of Dana’s journey was difficult. He was abandoned by his father and raised by his sisters and single mother. After a life-changing meeting with Qamar Qureshi in 2018, Dana founded Red Hill Entertainment (RHE) with him. Since then, they have produced three films in 18-months, and onboarded five more partners – Jay Wilgar, Peter Hwang, Andrew Buck, Jazz Brar, Rouzbeh Heydari. With several projects set for upcoming years and millions of dollars in investments, RHE is poised to become a premiere production companies in Canada.
Before becoming an actor, you were an elite level boxer who was reluctant to pursue a career in the entertainment industry. What prompted the change of heart?
I had always dreamt of boxing (and even playing football) professionally. However, a fateful event in my life led to me take a trip to Cairo, Egypt early in the January of 2015. On that trip, I got to experience the world differently. Witnessing a war-torn country being re-built, and seeing children in Mansheya Nasir, popularly known as Garbage City, and citizens taking refuge in Al-Qarafah – City of the Dead, changed my perception.
I realised that I wanted more; I wanted to follow my dreams, and pursue what my heart desired and what society tells you is impossible: to be an actor. I had more opportunities than those kids in Egypt, and even my own country in Bangladesh, simply for the reasons that my mother was an artist and she sacrificed her own endeavors for ours and settled in Canada. Thus, I was going to do it for everyone who didn’t have the same opportunities as myself.
Starting off as an actor, you have ventured into multiple other roles, including a writer and a producer. In your opinion, which role allows you to best express yourself?
They’re all wonderfully balanced in various ways, and all have their own challenges and adversities. Being a producer has allowed me to understand film production at a higher level. Furthermore, it has helped me to have more control over my career, provide opportunities, boost an economy and also to create and tell meaningful stories. Writing has allowed me to express myself with the stories that I wish to tell and then of course, acting enables me to portray the characters I’ve created that reflect deeply a part of who I am.
Thus, each role allows me to express myself differently; producing allows me to be self-sufficient, economically efficient, strategic; writing allows me to express stories that mean a lot to me deeply at its core; and acting allows me to be a creative, to look at story differently than a writer (even for my own scripts), and create a believable character the audience can root for, cry for, and feel for.
Truthfully, though, I love acting immensely, and look forward to working on projects wherein, I am only a performer.
As a Bangladeshi-Canadian, how much do you identify with the deshi diaspora? Do you feel connected to our culture and country despite having grown up abroad?
I am deeply proud of being a Bangladeshi-Canadian. My goal is to continue to climb the ranks as a filmmaker, and utilize the platform that I am creating to help provide opportunities in my home nation of Bangladesh. As my mother always encouraged us to speak the language, I am immensely proud to say that I can speak Bangla fluently.
Moreover, our Head of Project Development, Tila Datta is a Bengali-Canadian female based in Vancouver who has helped greatly to package our latest film, A Hundred Lies, a recently finished production. Thus we
BEING ABLE TO BRING ALL THE PEOPLE TOGETHER FROM DIFFERENT WALKS OF LIFE TO CREATE A PROJECT, GIVES ME THE HIGHEST SENSE OF PRIDE
plan to provide more and more opportunities to our own people, whether in Canada, Bangladesh or any other country.
In a short period, you have amassed an impressive portfolio. Is there a single piece of work you are most proud of?
Honestly, I continue to find pride in every project. Each one brings a new and varied sense of accomplishment. We are continuously learning, growing, making mistakes, rectifying the errors and building. However, I believe the most amount of pride comes from the team I have put together. We are only as great as the company we keep, and I couldn’t have executed my accomplishments without the aid, support and resources each teammate brings to the projects, in addition to the support from my mother, sisters, family and of course, the community.
Each member of the team plays a massive role, from our production coordinator to our executive team in marketing, to story development and of course, our investors – all of them are extremely necessary components for my personal dreams to materialise. We’ve been through hell and high-water together and I am nothing without them. Being able to bring all the people together from different walks of life to create a project, gives me the highest sense of pride.
How do you envision your career five years down the line?
I foresee the growth of RHE to be substantial, wherein we are competing for the highest accolades amongst the best of the best in film production, such as the Bron’s, eOne’s (Canada), etc. and creating international films that are allowing us to keep with Red Hill Entertainment’s slogan – Tell the Untold Stories. Moreover,we envision continued growth in creating jobs, opportunities and working towards becoming a prominent studio.
In addition to that, I’d like to be recognized as a prolific filmmaker & actor. I will compete at the highest levels and use my platform to continue to inspire, empower, and support my countrymen, both in Bangladesh and Canada alike.
Soon I will also be launching my rum company, which I have named Bay of Bengal, because I’m a child of Bangladesh and I want the whole world to know it.
Photographs: Courtesy of Dana Abraham