Over the next four weeks Edmonton Made will profile each member of the selection committee for Gifted, the Edmonton Made gift guide. The six-person panel, in consultation with Edmonton Made, will choose the products that will appear in the 2018 edition of Edmonton Made’s signature catalogue. Find out more about the selection process here.
Omar Mouallem was headed to Lebanon when war broke over the country.
Disillusioned by the Vancouver film industry, the aspiring screenwriter planned to purchase a one-way ticket to his parents’ homeland after a quick layover in Edmonton to visit family.
“I wasn’t really going anywhere and needed some direction,” the High Prairie native says. “So what do you do when you need direction? You travel.”
But the conflict made it unsafe to do so. Determined to make the most of his time in Edmonton, Mouallem began pitching local publications, having turned to film and music reviews as a creative outlet while still on the West Coast.
“I went [to school] to write movies and two years later I found myself doing production stuff — editing and directing. I wasn’t writing,” he explains. “So, I started writing these magazine stories on the side.”
He was picked up by Vue Weekly, and eventually landed a job at Avenue Edmonton in 2008, first as an intern, then as an editor. Now a celebrated freelance writer, Mouallem has been published in Buzzfeed, NewYorker.com, WIRED, The Globe and Mail, The Walrus and RollingStone.com, to name a few.
“Being a freelancer in Alberta — a province that was sort of underestimated and painted with this broad stroke of being a blue-collar province or oil hub — really worked to my advantage” he says. “It meant that the real stories weren’t being told.”
Mouallem too shared these misconceptions. A small-town boy, he wanted nothing more than to escape the prairies, and his first year in Edmonton was spent trying to leave it.
Though still guilty of dropping the occasional “of all places” into his articles, Mouallem is happy to see the perception of Edmonton is shifting.
“It used to be that when there was success in Edmonton design it was seen as an anomaly,” he says. “Whereas now it’s like ‘Why not?’… There’s a great creative spirit here, and a great entrepreneurial spirit too. Of course it comes from Edmonton.”