As one of three daughters of renowned cartoonist Stavro Jabra, it was inevitable to be thoroughly exposed to drawing, designing, and art in one form or another. Growing up surrounded by the design crowd and celebrities alike, Pamela Jabra’s father had covered important events, such as the Cannes Festivals, exposing his three daughters to an exciting world of both art and glamour. At a very young age, Pamela knew she wanted to either delve into directing or producing; it was also foreseeable for her siblings to enter a similar line of work – Ornella, a TV commercial producer, and Priscilla, a television producer.
Whether you know Pamela from her hit television show on LBC, Ahla Jalseh, or from her program on MTV that keeps everyone moving on a Saturday night, Ahla El Awkat, it is unquestionable that she was meant to be a producer. Always focusing on the smallest of details to bring all of her projects together, she has managed to carve an amazing career out for herself along with the perfect balance of family and motherhood along the way. Pamela sat down with the Fit’n Style team to talk about her career, being a mom, and the television production business.
How did you head down the road of producing? Where did you study your craft?
I studied at Alba and graduated in 1998. In 1997, as a part of my studies, I had to create a short film. I covered the Cannes Film Festival since I was already acquainted with it for so many years. No one could believe that my project was actually an amateur production. I headed straight for the Red Carpet and spoke with the stars, filming it all along the way. I really made an impression at that time and it was an amazing experience, eventually leading me down the path I have chosen.
As a student still, I eventually went into commercials; my work was focused on all the relevant details…. When I finally graduated from university, I had already become an assistant director and worked as a freelancer. I received many offers to work as an assistant because I became known for my attention to great detail. I am a perfectionist! I learned a great deal from the directors I worked with at this point of my career. I thought I might head into cinema production; however my work focused on TV commercials for some time.
When was that special moment that turned your career on the right path?
In 2001, an opportunity came to me – an offer to be a producer of a women’s show on MBC through Signature Productions. Till that point, I had not considered entering that area; but this was a great opportunity. I am a workaholic, so this would definitely be something that would take up my time. I took on the project with super success! I worked with them for 5 years as head of the TV department. Then life took a bit of a turn when I became a mom.
How did motherhood affect your career?
This was a new stage in my life, a time of great happiness! I made the decision to leave the business, as an employee, for about a year. Work wise, I just focused on being a freelancer, which was in 2006. I loved my time at home just focusing on being a mother. No one could believe I would ever consider halting my work and staying at home. However, I always had ideas floating around in my mind and was developing TV concepts. At the same time, I worked as an anchor for a movies magazine at Al Sumariya TV. This was my third experience as an anchor as I started at TeleLiban and CVN.
When did you finally decide to go back to work full time?
A year later, I decided to head back to work full time, only to discover I was pregnant with my second baby! At this point, my decision had been made to head back into the workforce. I was approached to work on a movie sponsored by Pepsi called Sea of Stars with Carol Samaha, Haifa Wehbe, Wael Kfoury, and many others. I was thrilled. I worked on everything involved with pre-production to the first day of shooting. It was an amazing experience. Then I had to travel to the States to deliver my second baby.
So how did you come up with your television show concepts here in Lebanon?
A few years ago, I met up with Tony Baroud who wanted to brainstorm. We discussed and went over tons of ideas for at least a couple of months. This is how we came up with the concept for Ahla Jelse - which has reached beyond its 100th episode already on LBC. This program was my new baby – again, all of the smallest of details my doing. All along, I also had the intention to start up my own company – something I procrastinated with since now I had a third baby (her children are now 8, 6, and 2) and was always waiting for the perfect time to start it up. Let’s face it, there is never the “perfect” time. You have to create the “perfect” moment!
Do you have your very own production company today?
Yes! It was then that I made my dream come true; I started my own company – Level 1 Productions - which focuses on TV and series’ production, along with a media consultancy arm – with partner Samer El Hachem who has a broad experience in the media field. Of course I focus on everything involved in the production process while he handles the commercial side. As partners, we make the perfect mix. Our first project was Ahla El Awkat, an entertaiment show produced for CBC (Egypt) and MTV (Lebanon).
How would you describe the work and family balance?
It is so important to have a really good balance between family life and work. I want to do it all! The great part about my job is that a lot of the production process takes place at night when the kids are generally sleeping. I love life, I love being a mom, I love cooking and entertaining… and of course I love to create! I need it all. It gets difficult when it comes to traveling, but anything is possible with effort. When I am out of town, I get on Skype with my kids, for example. Even if I am in a meeting, I always excuse myself at their bed time – no matter what – and say a prayer with them, putting them down to sleep.
Do you have any new project ideas in mind?
Yes, for sure. I am working on many concepts for Ramadan and post Ramadan. In addition, I am developing a local format that will make a big difference compared to the ones currently available on the market.
Do you find it advantageous being a woman in the productions business?
To be honest, I never really thought about that. Yes, it could be a bit of a challenge sometimes when working in some Arab countries. Often, I notice when my partner and I are making a deal, and it comes to the final deal making point, the client will shift all their attention to my male partner – haha – but I have never felt this here in Lebanon.
What would you say is the most difficult part of your job?
First, is to analyze what the market needs at a specific time period, which is such an important aspect of the entire process, and many actually neglect. Once that is determined, you need to sell your project to the right client. Then, it becomes crucial to put the right team in place to implement the project – especially coordinating the director, the host, etc.
How big is the competition?
Competition is everywhere. As a freelancer, I didn’t detect it as much. However, being on my own is a whole other situation. When I started Level 1 Productions it was like being in a pool of sharks, but then again, that is the nature of the business. It makes you motivated and pushes you to fight for what you want with the most determination. I am here to stay and absolutely love everything that I do. It all comes from the heart!