An Unexpected Journey: How An Engineering Student Became a Filmaker

In what ways are electrical engineering and cinema connected? How do you combine creativity and learning? Are there possibilities for a student to earn money with a hobby?

 Adilet Abish, a 4th-year electrical engineering student of Nazarbayev University’s School of Engineering and Digital Science, was able to successfully connect his studies and cinematic hobby in such a way to produce a tangible income.

 In 2018, his short film “Zhel” won in the “Best feature film” category at the Annual Award of the Film Critics of KazNUA (Kazakh National University of Arts) “KinostArt-2018”. A year earlier he won the “NU Annual Film Fest 2017”.

 You can watch Adilet’s works here 

 Adilet’s hobby first began in 2012, when he was at school and he saved up money for a smartphone with a good camera. Seeing Adilet’s success his family wanted to support him, so his father bought a semi-professional camera for the family, and his sister lent him a laptop for editing materials.

 – Adilet, in your previous interview you spoke about your hobby, could you tell us where you are now, at what point of your life? What have you achieved in the past two years?

Now I’m in the business of filming and organizing filming, sometimes producing. During the summer I shot three documentaries, two of which have already been released. Another big documentary is being prepared in partnership with an online magazine. For the past year, I have been working on various contracts.

Many changes have occurred over the course of these two years, I am a bit self-critical when I look at my earliest work.  It is a bit hard because when I watch the kind of videos filmed at that time, they seem a bit terrible 🙂 I believe that if there is such a feeling, it means that we are growing, and we are moving in the right direction.

I already have a certain contingent of loyal customers such as BI group, Unicef,, Oftum and so on.

–  Currently, you are a fourth-year student of electrical and computer engineering, how did end up here? How did you prepare for the entrance exams? Which high school did you graduate from? Who influenced the choice of university?

I was an “A and A+” student at school and I was a fast learner. I studied at Gymnasium №159 named after Y. Altynsarin in Almaty. In general, I was diligently preparing for Unified National Testing (UNT) to take the gold medal, which everyone dreamed of. A month before the entrance exams to NU, my friend suggested preparing for Nazarbayev University exams, at that time we knew only physics and mathematics, and had never even heard of critical thinking. Therefore, we just learned the terms of physics and mathematics in English and passed this exam, it was called SET.

When I received a letter from NU about my admission, I was told that I could skip the UNT, and just go to NU. However, my parents did not allow me to do so, because as Kazakhs say “uyat bolady” which means that it would be a shame. So I passed UNT, received the medal, which is now collecting dust at home, and on which I earned good money on the “korimdiks”, you know when relatives give money, a Kazakh tradition.

In fact, I did not plan to go anywhere but Almaty. It was my sister’s idea to join NU, she studied on the Bolashak program and told me that studying away from home would be better and more interesting, and it would prepare me for future independent adult life. That is how I came here from Almaty. I was the only one from my school who moved somewhere, so I was the only one who came here.

– Tell us about – that Adilet – the one who had just graduated from high school and about his decisions?

Adilet of 4 years ago is a man who lived according to the rules, who had a plan for each year at university, and for after university, and knew where he would work after graduation. But it just does not happen that way in life, everything happens unexpectedly.  If someone offered me a way to go back to that time, I would still probably make the same decisions and live exactly the same way, because those four years were wonderful and I am glad about how it all worked out.

– What benefits do you get from studying at NU?

I have met wonderful people and have developed the ability to think critically. People at NU are competitive and ambitious. Many of them will achieve something, no matter in what the field they study.

– How do you still manage to combine study and hobby?

Sleep less 🙂

I have good friends who help me with my studies. I also have friends who help me with my work. This year, I have slightly expanded my team, now I am delegating tasks. Time management is probably the most important thing for freelancing, especially if you are a student.

 -Tell us about your family and traditions?

We are an ordinary Kazakh family, with the usual Kazakh traditions, we try to gather together every week if everyone is in one city. I have two wonderful sisters who taught me to be free and versatile. They attended all the parents’ meetings at my school and guided me through life. My sister gave me the first laptop that I used for editing videos, and she had to take out a loan to buy it.  This laptop is still alive  and with me. My parents are also wonderful, I do not remember a single day that I wanted for anything, I grew up in wealth, unlike my older sisters, who had a harder time than me growing up.

– You actively participate in NU student life, and in the life of our country, can you please share about it?

I believe that I have some kind of civic duty as well as a desire to help people. I try to answer this calling through my works.  Right after the explosion in the city of Arys, I reported ­from the scene and showed everything as it was, without hiding anything. People should know about the suffering of others when it is happening. It was scary to be there. It was like being in Syria.

The last film about cattle breeding was also about the lives of our people. We have to develop, keep up with the times.

– Where do you find sources of inspiration? Who inspires you?

People who are passionate about an idea and who can energize those around them, these people inspire me.

  • Details of Nazarbayev University’s admissions and academic programs can be found here.

It is noteworthy that jn October 26, 2019, Nazarbayev University hosted the sixth annual short film competition “Annual Student Film Festival 2019”. The event was organized by the “Youth Parliament – Astana” student club of Nazarbayev University.  At the event, awards were presented for the winners in eight nomination categories.   Six young and talented directors competed to win “The Best Film”, the main award of the night.