11 April 2022

Ismail’s Journey: Earl’s Court Youth Club to London Film Academy

When you read about what famous actors get up to in glossy magazines, or when you sit down and watch the films they appear in, you rarely think of the journey they took to get there. Film stars tend to exist in our psyche as finished products, accustomed only to the glamorous lifestyles they live.

But we shouldn’t forget their journeys either. Many took a long, hard road, and instead of simply peering into the goldfish bowl once fame has been achieved, let’s start at the beginning of that road. Ismail’s journey has just begun, but it’s a story worth telling.

Better a late start than never, Ismail Wasfi was not a 21st century Daniel Radcliffe or Haley Joel Osment. You won’t have seen his infant face in anything as you did Macaulay Culkin or Drew Barrymore. He didn’t immediately know that he wanted to be an actor.

It was only when he was in Sixth Form College at Chelsea Academy, thinking of
business plans to get rich quickly, that a friend told him to audition for the high school
play. With nothing to lose, Ismail went for the audition and was surprised to be given a
speaking part. Perhaps even more surprisingly, he’d been bitten by the acting bug.

“Slowly, I developed this kind of passion,” Ismail says. “I never really thought that I’d get into it, but on the day of the high school play, after the performance I just remember feeling an adrenaline rush from being on stage.”

“And then when I got home, I remember just being in awe and crying a lot and I knew that was what I wanted to do. It kind of hit me that there was something bigger than materialistic things, and it just made me so happy.”

So, you decide that you want to be an actor. It’s not an uncommon thing to want to become. Whether you’re doing Chekhov at the Old Vic, or you’re an extra in The Fast and The Furious XVII, it’s a way of life that will envelop and submerge you. But how on earth do you get started?


Earl’s Court Youth Club to London Film Academy

Fortunately, Ismail had his local Youth Club to turn to. He asked them if they could point him in the right direction – any direction. Another slice of luck was to come Ismail’s way. The timeless Dame Diana Rigg happened to run the committee at Earls Court Youth Club, and Ismail got to sit down with her and pick her brains for advice.

“She sat down with me and we spoke for a couple of hours,” he says. “I was asking a lot of questions about what she went through and Ismail’s Journey: her perspective of the film industry as a whole. That was the first time I’d ever sat down with an actual actress, and it was she that convinced me to join an acting Saturday School.”


Getting a scholarship

So much of Ismail’s journey is based on humility, and seizing opportunities when they
come his way.

Anna MacDonald and Daisy Gili, co-founders of the London film academy, met Ismail through the Earls Court Youth Club too. Daisy suggested attending a course that they were running, and while Ismail wouldn’t be able to fully participate, he could gain vital experience just by sitting and watching.

“Although I felt left out at the end, when I was just sitting there whilst everyone was getting their certificates, it was still a really amazing experience” Ismail continues. “Plus, after that, I think she saw that I was serious about wanting to act. So she then gave me a course in collaboration with the BFI.”


Do you want something enough?

What’s fascinating about Ismail is the dichotomy between humility and determination he possesses. The humility to never turn an opportunity down, however small the door may seem, but the tenacity he shows to follow his dreams. Ismail recounts a story about how, upon receiving the bursary, his family told him that he didn’t look very happy.

“Even when my family saw me, they said that I didn’t look pleased,” he says. “But I know I have this - I like to call it stubbornness. I know that has a negative connotation, but I have this stubbornness inside me where I tell myself I’m still not where I want to be. I know I’m still young, but it drives me on.”

It would be naïve to suggest that Ismail’s journey is finished. He’s only just begun, and
hopefully his road will take him to old age via a long and successful career on stage and
television. If he can continue to harness his “stubbornness” in order to progress, we really do have a local star in the making.

Even at the tender age of 20, to have chatted with Dame Diana Rigg, Nickolas Grace, and Callum Turner over coffee is not a bad start. Most of all, Ismail is true to himself, and historically, that goes a long way in the acting world. It was The Bard who penned it: “This above all, to thine own self be true”.

ECDC are the principal sponsor of Earl’s Court Film Festival and fund Earls Court Youth Club.