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Students raise $80K to kick-start TV pilot


Celebrations began as the dreams of producing a TV series inched toward reality late Saturday night for Ahmad Saadaldin and his friends.

The Salahadin Project’s Kickstarter fundraising page displayed a pledged total of $84,107 at the time of print. The group had reached their goal three days in advance, right in time for the Islamic holiday, Eid al-Adha.

“We are so excited and grateful that we were able to reach our goal. It is the best Eid gift ever,” Ahmad Saadaldin, the executive director and lead actor in the planned series said.

Saadaldin and Homam Zituni, seniors majoring in mass communications, spent the last couple of months actively fundraising for a prospective TV series, called “Salahadin.”

The series will retell the life of the famous Islamic crusader Salahadin Ayoubi, better known as Saladin, they said.

Salahadin is most famous for his takeover of Jerusalem in 1187, including the fierce battle with Richard the Lionheart, who led the Third Crusade.

The TV series, however, will aim to elaborate on Salahadin’s personal life, including his youth and rise to power.

It will begin production for its pilot episode, hoping to gain attention from TV networks across America.

“We were inspired to do a TV series because of series like the “Omar” series on MBC (Middle East Broadcasting Center) and “Vikings” on the History Channel. We want to do a series in English on the life of Salahadin Ayoubi, because he is noted as one of the most chivalrous men in history,” Zituni, the communications director for “Salahadin,” said.

Zituni said when they realized that many students around campus did not have the financial capability to contribute large donations, he and Saadaldin began trying to get donations from a wider support base.

The pair spent countless hours advertising through social media websites, both foreign and domestic.

“We got support globally,” Zituni said. “But the overwhelming support is from American Muslims.”

The support for the production of this series has come from various countries, such as Nigeria, Bosnia, Canada, Bangladesh, Pakistan, the United Kingdom and many others.

They said they spent much of their time fundraising within the local Muslim communities.

The project also got shared over Facebook extensively, receiving more than 23,000 likes.

Now that fundraising is complete, Zituni said the next step forward is creating a 25-minute pilot episode. Once that is finished, the team of USF students will share the episode with TV networks and channels across America, in hopes to receive backing.

Saadaldin said he knows the process will be lengthy and will require lots of commitment.

“It is going to take a lot of hard work and effort by a dedicated group of people. It is going to be a long and difficult journey, but it will definitely be worth it.”

The production process will be split into three phases: pre-production, production and post-production.

“$80,000 was enough to kick start our project and get the ball rolling, but it is definitely not enough to complete the entire thing,” Saadaldin said. “We plan on continuing to raise money down the road as we work toward completion.”

Even with the two-minute trailer, the Salahadin Project has gained attention.

“Once we finish (the pilot episode), we will pitch it (to TV networks). Many people in the profession have been impressed (with the trailer), like the president of the Gasparilla Film Festival, Joe Restaino,” Zituni said.

The goal of the series is more than just highlighting the life of the Islamic crusader, Zituni said.

“Currently, there are a lot of misconceptions about Islam in America and this has led to a growing Islamophobia movement,” Zituni said. “We hope that this TV series will accurately portray Islamic history and Muslims, while being informative and entertaining. Although the show will focus on the life of a Muslim leader, we hope the show will resonate with people of other faiths as well. It is our hope that this series will be informative, fun and exciting for all viewers in America.”