Archive for August, 2010

August 29th 2010; week 90 of post-production

Monday, August 30th, 2010

Filmwise: I had a conversation with our new team member at the start of the week. I heard the voice-mail message just when I was about to leave for work on Monday afternoon. After completing a decent amount of work to justify rewarding myself with a bit of fresh air, I called and we agreed to meet on Friday to exchange disks and documents. By Thursday morning, with the pressures of trying to fit in a few hours of film work after the intense shifts at the office, I was pleased to receive a text saying, if you like, we can do this next week. Very grateful for the extra couple of days to fully prepare the files. I am, as we e-speak, in the process of putting together the required media.

Over the weekend, I was pleased to renew an annual ritual with my dear friends, Sayyid Wajdi and Sayyid Layth. For this is the month of Ramadan, and reconnecting with friends is at the heart of the experience.

The restaurant we chose is located in the section of the Edgware Road that has experienced a true transformation over the past ten to fifteen years. As anyone who knows the area would know, the parts of this main thoroughfare that stretch from Marble Arch through to the intersection with Sussex Gardens have a long history of being a high street for the locals, and a going-out destination for anyone seeking to learn about the Middle East via their taste buds and nostrils – falafel and shisha establishments jostle for space with grocery stores, estate agents, banks, one or two newsagents, providing all the components for making the area well and truly the Arab Quarter of London.

Over the years, the short distance that connects the section of the road on the other side of the intersection with Sussex Garden and up to the A40 Flyover has also become more predominantly part of the said quarter.  However, the real renaissance has taken place in that end of Edgware Road which begins tentatively opposite a huge police station on one side and a charming little tube station that serves the Bakerloo line on the other. In the 1980s and early 1990s, this chunk of the area used to have ambitions of rivalling Tottenham Court Road for electronics and Hi-Fi – remember them?

The social housing tower blocks that are in the area create a little island for the less – materially – well off on the edge of Little Venice, Maida Vale and St Johns Wood – neighbourhoods that are more associated with the better off. Not sure how the reasoning adds up: electronics retail and social housing resulted in this segment of the Edgware Road being markedly more quiet and less of a destination for going out.

In 1999, I remember driving through the area from a particularly gruelling day of filming the car show I mentioned a couple of weeks ago. It was past midnight and the Director of Photography and I were starving. There was nowhere open on this part of the road for us to grab a bite. We were too tired to drive back to the Marble Arch end.

Well, around that time, someone from my native land approached the Council and rented out a shop space here that I imagined is reserved for the newsagent-come-supermarket-come-off-licence-come-post-office hidden behind metal mesh and fish-eye corner mirrors.

Not only did the gentleman turn the place into a supermarket with wide open doors , but he stacked the shop-front with an abundance of fruit, vegetables, big bags of rice and boxes with flowery designs. The Middle East had arrived!

A while later, a restaurant opened next to him, and another across the street. More stores and cafes, and a bakery or two added that unquantifiable element that makes an area a destination for going out on a Friday night.

For me, this is the magic of London – a city that renews herself by embracing peoples and cultures from all over the world, and at some level, gets coloured by them and, crucially, they get coloured by her.

The moment we arrived, I noticed a vaguely familiar face. Yes, I am afraid it was one of those awkward situations where an old flame, whom one hasn’t seen in years and years, happens to be at the same place having a meal with their spouse. I thought of going up to them to say hello, but didn’t wish to intrude. They looked so happy together.

Peace and love,

Ja’far

August 22nd 2010; week 89 of post-production

Sunday, August 22nd, 2010

Filmwise: as per our agreed date, in the next couple of days I am looking forward to hearing from the new team member who joined the Mesos a fortnight ago.
Over this weekend, I have been able to spend more time working on the film, preparing the sound files for the next stage in the process.
Next week, I will spend as much time as I can before and after work on the film.

These hours will be in tandem with my routine over the past week – I would wake up around 13:00, shower, shave, spend an hour or so on the script job before rushing to work. In the small hours after midnight, I would get back home – eat, work on the script job until 06:30, and then go to bed.

Felt a real sense of achievement on Thursday morning when I sent the script through.

Leave Symmetry to the Cemetery:
The chaotic, social-life-free, work-work-work focused life I have been leading – and enjoying, I hasten to add – over the past few weeks have reminded me of a poem read by Edwin Morgan at the opening of the Scottish Parliament:
“Open the Doors
Open the doors! Light of the day, shine in; light of the mind, shine out!
We have a building which is more than a building. 
There is a commerce between inner and outer, 
between brightness and shadow, between the world and those who think about the world.

Is it not a mystery? The parts cohere, they come together 
like petals of a flower, yet they also send their tongues 
outward to feel and taste the teeming earth.
 Did you want classic columns and predictable pediments? A 
growl of old Gothic grandeur? A blissfully boring box? 
Not here, no thanks! No icon, no IKEA, no iceberg, but
curves and caverns, nooks and niches, huddles and
 heavens syncopations and surprises. Leave symmetry to the cemetery.”

Edwin Morgan, Scottish National Poet: 27 April 1920 – 19 August 2010

le ballon rouge

Finally, this week I managed to carve out the time for true bliss – watched Le Ballon Rouge / The Red Balloon (Dir. Albert Lamorisse, France 1956). A little boy finds a new friend which happens to be a cheeky, sweet and funny red balloon. Yet another reason to fall in love with cinema.
The very brief trailer for the film: http://www.imdb.com/video/screenplay/vi770180121/

Peace and love,
Ja’far

August 15th 2010; week 88 of post-production

Sunday, August 15th, 2010

Filmwise: Over the weekend, I finally had the space to work on preparing the sound files for the laying of dialogue tracks. Put simply, I need to develop the work I have already done on the reels by separating the tracks and allowing more space – handles – for editing and blending/mixing of different character tracks. Again, enjoyable but fiddly work.

The week off work was mainly dedicated to the script rewrite job I mentioned earlier.
On Thursday, I went to bed around 7AM after a long night writing and rewriting scenes in the script. Woke up around noon, and recommenced editing and rewriting all the way till 11AM the next morning.

Wishing not to loose the momentum on this final stretch of the script, I ignored the rebellion in my tummy. Think I went through all the junk food in the kitchen before sunrise.

Note to self: always replenish fridge before embarking on rewrite jobs.

Now that one’s studies are well and truly out of the way, I have been doing a bit of house cleaning. Buried beneath a pile of VHS and Beta SP tapes was my only surviving video tape of the car TV programme I directed exactly eleven years ago, in the summer of 1999.

Looking at the pilot for the motor-show, I feel a quiet sense of pride and gratitude for the opportunity to produce something with such production values and high quality presentation, locations.. and atrocious sound – yes, I am afraid the location sound was poorly recorded. The sound recordist and I didn’t communicate adequately before or during the shoot – I was wholly focused on producing, directing, finding locations, taking care of the small crew – a repeat, I am sure, of the experience of first time directors on self-funded projects the world over.

The lessons I learnt from this shoot turned out to be a great investment for Mesocafé. As those privy to pre-production would testify, I made extra certain that we hired the best sound kit we could possibly afford. The list of exceptional priorities on our film, including having a brilliant cast and crew, and a truly wonderful and resourceful production manager and supervisor, were also the result of the experience in making this TV pilot all those summers ago.
Test Drive DP and Focus Puller Beachy Head 1999
DoP and focus puller (image slightly distorted for privacy reasons)

Test Drive Crew and talent August 1999

Long suffering crew and talent (image distorted for privacy reasons)

Until next week,
Peace and love,
Ja’far

August 8th 2010; week 87 of post-production

Sunday, August 8th, 2010

Click to return to mesocafe.com

Our executive producer, Paul Hills, has come through for me yet again; he has recruited a new member to the Mesocafé family. Hopefully, by next week I will be able to share more details.

The changes in the edit of the film, brought about by the way the story at the heart of Mesocafé has evolved for me over the past four months – have meant that I could produce entirely new reels. Rather than have eight reels of film, I have been able to condense the locked picture into a more manageable and practical five reels.

Over the coming week, I will use the time off work –  I was planning to attend one of the summer film festivals – to do as much as I can to prepare the dialogue tracks of the new five reels.

With Mesocafé beginning to feel its way towards its birthday, I am beginning to contemplate 2011 as a filmmaker steering his first feature through festival screenings -hopefully – and distribution hurdles.

What rests beyond this feature is also beginning to take shape in my head:
There is the Cannes documentary – I’d like to complete the edit by the end of this year.
There is the romantic comedy feature which I am developing. Would like to pen the first draft by next autumn.
There is the romantic comedy short which I am beginning to write. Ideally, I’d like to go into production by the third anniversary of the start of filming on Mesocafé.

I think having these goals, and working towards them, is a great start. Should life happen and I am unable to achieve all or any of the list, I will feel consoled in the knowledge of having at least tried.

Speaking of goals, I haven’t been able to deliver the gown and funny cap news to my family. They are on holiday in Damascus, and seem to have their mobiles switched off  during the weekend. Will try again next week.

Peace and love,
Ja’far

August 1st 2010; week 86 of post-production

Sunday, August 1st, 2010

To return to Mesocafe.com click

Filmwise: met our executive producer Paul Hills over the weekend to discuss the latest developments on the audio front. We will communicate over the next week with a view to finding the best way to negotiate past the current hurdle en route to completing the film.

I am touched and humbled by Paul’s continued support and belief in me and in the film. Bless him.

The week began with a three-hour meeting with the producers of the script for the broadcaster I have mentioned over the past couple of weeks. The amount of work involved in this new piece is far more extensive, both at story and at character development levels. This will give me more space for creativity and for adding my touches to the story. Grateful for the faith the producers have placed in me.

Welling up:

Over the past couple of weeks, I have been reading “Mornings in Jenin” by Susan Abulhawa (Bloomsbury, 2010).

I came across the book during my very short stint moonlighting as a bookshop assistant last autumn.

In the staff room there was this pile of books.

“Help yourself; they are trade copies. Free of charge!”, said a supervisor.

Among travel guides and “gift books” – joke volumes and ghosted celebrity autobiographies – was this pre-publication copy of the novel.

I didn’t get to start reading the story until I had settled into my current job.

In a sentence, it is the story of Palestine told through the eyes of a little girl.

It should come with a warning, “not suitable for reading in public”; found myself having to stop reading on public transport, trying to hold back the tears.

Read it – in private:-)

“XyZ”:

Friday night, with my finish time at work showing a marked improvement, thought I could do my weekly grocery shopping at the super store close to where I live. It’s open through the night.

“Aah, fruit! need to stock up; have developed too intimate a relationship with the vending machine at work!”

“Oh, look, a real bargain!”

“OK, just this once; Carrot cake it is.”

“I feel a bit lighter; has something fallen off the basket?”

“Hold on a second! Is that Police Officer holding a rucksack that looks suspiciously like mine?!”

“Sorry, that’s mine!”

“What’s your name?”

“Ja’far”

“Where do you live?”

“XyZ”

“Mystery solved!”

I apologise to every member of the night shift staff I encounter for the inconvenience I’d caused them by leaving my bag behind by the cereals aisle.

Note to self – always remember to check that you have your bag with you.

Note to self, part II:  and clean your rucksack, in case you leave it behind again and people look through it. Must make a good impression:-)

Peace and love,

Ja’far

About

Sunday, August 1st, 2010

Greetings,

The blog will continue to chronicle my  journey in the company of our super 16mm feature film MESOCAFÉ as it makes its way towards completion and distribution.

Thank you for your continued support and belief in our project.

Peace and love,

Ja’far ‘Abd al-Hamid