We sat down with Ramy El Sokkary, content creator, writer, producer and owner of Rhyme Productions for his first appearance. We talk about his career, El Ferenga, the TV program that catapulted him to fame and his future endeavors. We get to know a little more about the man behind the funny and current cultural TV and online shows.
CTS: How did you start your career?
RS: I did not have a starting point. I didn’t really know what my talents were, what I was good at or if I was good at anything in particular. I started as a student at the Police Academy but with an inner voice that kept screaming, “I should be an actor, I should be a writer, I should be an artist” until I resigned from the Academy, a decision that really upset my family, especially my dad. My dad is a director named Abdel Aziz El Sokkary who had studied film in France and always pushed me to enroll in such a field but my stubbornness at that young age made me start at the Police Academy.
After resigning I took a French course at the French Cultural Center in Mounira where I participated in La Nuit de Molière’s festival in which anyone could present a play to the then director Madame Latifa Fahmy. I chose one of Molière’s plays to direct thinking that I was on the way to becoming a famous director. But in reality, a few minutes into the play Madame Latifa called me over saying, “Do you think that just because your dad is a director that means you have to be one too? What is that you are presenting?” and she was right, the play was unwatchable.
With my dad’s guidance I tweaked the play to Madame Latifa’s approval and ended up staying in theatre for a while until I decided on a career in journalism, at El Wafd newspaper in particular. And I did start there, I learned the craft and created hit pieces, it was then that I shifted to advertising. I went to Tarek Nour accompanied by my dad in 2005 and showed him my work as he agreed to let me work with him as a copywriter under probation for 3 months, a start of a life changing experience.
How did your experience lead you to being a producer?
My time at El Wafd and with Tarek Nour really shaped my personality and taught me a lot in both fields: journalism and advertising. Tarek Nour saw something in me so he started giving me different tasks and let me execute them on my own from start to finish until he opened the TV channel “El Kahera W El Nas” where I was appointed as head of content and head writer with Tarek’s guidance. And from there I truly understood and realized my potential and abilities in this field.
Then I was head of content at Nile Radio Productions then moved to Rotana, after that I created Rhyme Productions and started with El Ferenga which was my idea, I had a role in writing and everything to do with production so I had found the thing that would let me incorporate everything that I love to do.
How did the idea of El Ferenga come along?
Everything I see in life, everything I read and everything I interact with is artistic, journalistic material and is content that inspires and can be used. Since the creation of man, there has been only a few ideas and topics that just get reinvented and updated in time. It’s about what you choose to do with that idea and how to turn it into content that makes people engaged enough to watch.
I had come across an article in a foreign magazine about a man in Switzerland who was driving and missed his U-turn by 3 or 4 meters, so he drove in reverse to take it, and was immediately arrested and transferred to a psychiatric hospital as he was considered crazy. I thought to myself how the Swiss would feel if they came to Egypt where this happens all the time. From here came the idea of El Ferenga: to travel around the world and act in ways and use the mannerisms that are considered normal or typical in Egypt and see people’s reactions from different cultures.
We soon signed a contract with Shiko, Hisham and Fahmy and Al Nahar TV, and the El Ferenga journey began. It was the hardest yet funniest and most enjoyable experience I have had in my life. People might see El Ferenga and see laughter and travel, but in reality it was quite a challenging endeavor that we are proud of.
How many countries did you film in? And which country was the most fascinating?
We went to around 21 countries and actually filmed in 17 of them. Some countries we just passed through like France and Switzerland. El Ferenga was supposed to be open ended, to continue with seasons in Africa, the Americas and Asia but we couldn’t due to several obstacles.
We have seen many beautiful places, but I loved Slovenia. Actually when we were filming there the episode about “Baltaga” where Fahmy had to block this narrow street, this lady wanted to pass but he wouldn’t let her. Both Fahmy and the lady were not backing down, and she started demanding we stop shooting and turn off the cameras and open the street but to no avail. Shortly after we find the Slovenian police and horses coming our way to find out that this lady was their Minister of Higher Education.
I learned from each country a new value that is now engraved in me, it was truly an enriching experience and because we spent almost 3 years living together for this project we became a family.
What inspired you to start producing content solely for digital platforms?
When everyone else was focused on TV series two years ago, I started realizing that digital is the future so I started studying it. That study lead to a gentlemen’s agreement with Tamer El Saraf specialist and media beast at DMS Company one of Shewery’s companies, to come up with a plan to put content online and to generate revenue from it. We started with El Familia by Ahmed Amin with a strong writing team, and then to a season 2 of El Familia and a project with media company Tayara.
What new projects are you working on?
We are working on several commercials with our sister company Story Tellers, which handles the creative side of things, run by my brother Hashim El Sokkary and Akram (last name). Regarding content, we started creating collaborative projects with different media entities and professionals starting with Tayara and the show Msh Mosalsal Hend Sabri that aired during Ramadan and was a fruitful project that pushed us to expand.
Now we have a new digital project with Cairo West Publications called El Fasolya and El Maestro that we can’t reveal too much about since they are still a work in progress.
- Favorite series
Alf Leila W Leila
- Movie that inspired you
Esha3et Hob and Ragol Fakad 3aklo
- Celebrity or Star that you would like to work with
Dr. Yehia El Fakharany, and I would love to create digital content for Ahmed Helmy. Also Abla Kamel, Mona Zaki and Nelly Karim.