Archive for October, 2010

October 24th 2010; week 98 of post-production

Monday, October 25th, 2010

Filmwise: our sound designer, JD, emailed me on Friday with the happy news that he’s completed the first phase of dialogue editing for all five reels. There is more work to be done, as JD needs to go through the dialogue again, meticulously checking the original location sound for any takes that would improve the audio quality.

To help in this new stage of audio, I am to generate a new set of shot lists for each reel – similar to the one I created back in July 2009 (the peanuts and carrot cake days). As a consequence of the many changes that I have made to the edit since last year, I am unable to rely on that spreadsheet. Need to start again.

The good news – I only need to generate shot lists for the first four reels; reel five’s already done.

On Sunday morning – 3:30AM, to be precise, I completed the shot list for reel one. Three to go.

Mesocafé Foley session 18-10-10

Earlier in the week, I dropped by at the studios in Soho for the Foley session. The engineer, Foley artist and JD have done a superb job.

“Thank you for waiting for me!”

I have been an avid follower of the London Film Festival since the mid-90s. There have been years when I would attend several films within the first week of the festival, and – work and finances allowing – attend as many workshops and master classes as possible.

I remember how disconcerted and angry I felt in 2006 with my thesis, and the deadline of the submission of yet another rewrite, that I wasn’t able to use the ticket I’d bought for Indigenes / Days of Glory (Dir. Rachid Bouchareb, France 2006). As things turned out, I was able to watch the film on a big screen here in London; well worth the wait.

This year, I haven’t been able to attend any screenings at the festival. My shift hours limit me to weekend screenings, and over the weekend I generally have a long must-be-done-yesterday list on on my fridge door.

Earlier today, for some unfathomable reason, rather than head to my usual cafe in West London for a brief break from logging the shot lists and addressing a couple of admin issues with the film, I decided to hop on the train to Westminster.

Walking across Westminster Bridge, and seriously considering telling the group of people huddled around a chap playing Ball-Under-Cup game, “it’s a scam, if you’re not part of it, you may as well throw your banknotes into the Thames!”, I slowly made way through the crowded embankment, past London Eye, and under Hungerford Bridge, to the renovated entrance of the British Film Institute.

Wandering aimlessly in the foyer, considering available option – go to first available festival screening, check out the bookshop, or settle into a comfy seat at the cafe and spend sometime with the new characters in my new script.

“Why is this group of Festival staff gathered in the corner? Are they waiting for a famous director to arrive? ‘Oh, thank you for waiting for me, walking through the Sunday crowd on the Embankment is no easy feat!’

“No, I don’t think that would go down particularly well! You never know, they could save you from your present ‘any film, bookshop or cafe’ dilemma.”


‘Good evening’

‘Hello!’

‘Forgive my intrusion, but may I ask if there is a particular event at the festival you’re promoting?’

‘Yes, a master class by Olivier Assayas.’

‘Oh, yes.’ – fortunately, he turns out to be a director that anyone who’s visited the BFI/NFT would’ve heard of.

‘May I attend, please.’

‘Yes, here you go.’

It is only after I get the complimentary ticket from the three young ladies that I realize that only a few feet away, getting the ticket at the box office would have set me back several kopeks.

With a couple of minutes to spare before the 5PM start time, an official apologised for the delay – the director’s flight from LA had been delayed; he’d only just hopped into the car and was on his way.

Rather than head out of the auditorium for the 30-minute-wait, I opened my little notebook, and spent some time with my new characters. Sweet.

The interview with Monsieur Assayas was informative and enjoyable. Think, I would benefit from a second viewing; there was a festival team member filming the session.

Peace and love,

Ja’far

October 17 2010; week 97 of post-production

Sunday, October 17th, 2010

Filmwise: having posted reel five to JD, our sound designer, at the start of the week, I began to count the days to Friday.

In a long and narrow side street in Soho are the studios that I first visited back in July. Paul had arranged a meeting with the studio director at a small pub overlooking a fruit market. With Paul needing to head to the train station on a short trip out of town, David offered to show me around his studios. “This is our second Dolby Studio, and over at this smaller studio we do Foley work.”

Three months later, and I am making my way through the studio’s basement corridors to reach the Foley Studio. Having arrived at 11AM, the session was well underway. JD caught my reflection through the heavy sound proof glass and waved me in.

What never ceases to surprise me is the understated manner with which artists in the “behind-the-scenes” side of the filmmaking industry go about their work. Not that I was in company that didn’t have much to shout about – our foley artist has worked on such mega productions as one of the more better known film franchises made in this country, no less.

Having found a comfy seat for me in a warm corner of the studio, the session resumed. They were working on the first scene at the cafe. First, the footsteps of the male character Tawfiq were recorded – the foley artist put on a couple of men’s shoes that I imagine will be used for the rest of the film whenever this character walks in the film. She walked on a small section in the floor that is made of wood similar to the wooden floor at the cafe. Then, when Zaynab, the cafe owner, appears on screen carrying a plate of food to the table, the foley artist had a rapid change of shoes. These were ladies’, and with a small heal. Again, steps on the wooden floor. With the footsteps out of the way for this short segment of the scene, it was time for the rustling of the clothes of the characters on screen. The character of Masoud turns his head and body slightly to ask after the health of Tawfiq. The foley artist robbed a piece of cloth to mimick the sound of Masound’s jacket gently rubbing against the table. The same treatment was given to the clothes of Tawfiq and of Zaynab. The fourth character in the scene, Peter, is playing with a pen in his hand. The foley artist moved a pen between her fingers.

All of this covered no more than 60 seconds of screen time.

By the time we we took a break, they had completed the first reel.

For lunch, I followed JD to  an Italian sandwich bar off Goodge Street. The espresso was certainly worth the journey. The gardens in Soho Square served as location for our lunch. En route back to the studio, I pointed to JD the dubbing facility where I briefly worked ten years ago. “It also was a basement!”

After the break, the session resumed. Noticing how quiet I was, the foley artist asked, “is there anything you need?”

“I am happiness itself!”

By 3PM, I needed to rush to work, though me being me, I decided to walk, rather than jump on the tube.

Flow softly…

Thanks to the happy news coming from Camp Hope in Chile, and the nature of news content of interest to our clients, I have been able to finish work far earlier than normal. In fact, I was able to catch the last train back home on Thursday night, instead of taking the night bus.

Having recently finished reading my current book earlier in the week, I had little to do on the journey home. Avoiding eye contact with fellow passengers – that seems to be the rule on the tube, and trying hard to exorcise from my nostrils the revolting odour emanating from the fast food being consumed by a couple a few seats away, I looked up to the train’s heavens for an oasis of calm and serenity.

Poems on the Underground:

Poem on Underground Sweet Thames Flow Softly

Sweet Thames Flow Softly

Ewan MacColl

I met my girl at Woolwich Pier
Beneath a big crane standing
And oh, the love I felt for her
It passed all understanding
Took her sailing on the river,
Flow, sweet river, flow
London town was mine to give her,
Sweet Thames, flow softly
Made the Thames into a crown,
Flow, sweet river, flow
Made a brooch of Silvertown,
Sweet Thames, flow softly

At London Yard I held her hand
At Blackwall Point I faced her
At the Isle of Dogs I kissed her mouth
And tenderly embraced her
Heard the bells of Greenwich ringing,
Flow, sweet river, flow
All the time my heart was singing,
Sweet Thames, flow softly
Limehouse Reach I gave her there,
Flow, sweet river, flow
As a ribbon for her hair,
Sweet Thames, flow softly

From Shadwell dock to Nine Elms Reach
We cheek to cheek were dancing
Her necklace made of London Bridge
Her beauty was enhancing
Kissed her once again at Wapping,
Flow, sweet river, flow
After that there was no stopping,
Sweet Thames, flow softly
Richmond Park it was her ring,
Flow, sweet river, flow
I’d have given her anything,
Sweet Thames, flow softly

From Rotherhithe to Putney Bridge
My love I was declaring
And she, from Kew to Isleworth,
Her love for me was swearing.
Love had set my heart a-burning,
Flow, sweet river, flow
Never saw the tide was turning,
Sweet Thames, flow softly
Gave her Hampton Court to twist,
Flow, sweet river, flow
Into a bracelet for her wrist,
Sweet Thames, flow softly

But now alas the tide has changed
My love she has gone from me
And winter’s frost has touched my heart
And put a blight upon me
Creeping fog is on the river,
Flow, sweet river, flow
Sun and moon and stars gone with her,
Sweet Thames, flow softly
Swift the Thames runs to the sea,
Flow, sweet river, flow
Bearing ships and part of me,
Sweet Thames, flow softly

Peace and love,

Ja’far

October 10th 2010; week 96 of post-production

Monday, October 11th, 2010

Filmwise: I am putting the final touches to attaching the sound files for reel five, the last part of the film. Thanks to location sound reports that Axle posted me, our sound designer will be able to go about his work on this reel without the need for me to reconnect the original sound files to the image everytime we have a new cut in the reel. Due to reports missing for four days from the shoot – they went walkabout in the journey to the lab and back to me – I need to locate and marry the image with the sound for any shots in this reel that were captured during those four days. For all else, I am simply creating a list of slate and take, with a brief description, for the sound designer.

Much less work than the previous four reels.

“Maktoob!”

Leads with Paul 2 DSC_0013

Over the past three years, I have been following with a real sense of excitement the journey  from the pre-shoot stages, through to filming and the trials and tribulations of post-production, of a feature film helmed by a dear friend.

I came across the website of Do Elephants Pray? thanks to a post by actor/writer/producer Jonnie Hurn on Shooting People back in 2007 announcing the beginning of filming.

As our own film’s shoot date got nearer, I had an encounter at the Cannes Film Market that was, in Slumdog Millionaire speak, “written”. I was heading to the desks of one film company or another when I noticed someone go past whom I thought looked familiar.

‘Excuse me, are you Paul Hill?’, I said, hoping against hope that I hadn’t stopped a total stranger only to tell him that I mistook him for someone else.

‘Paul Hills, yes.’

Over the eight years or so that Mesocafé has been in my life, I have met a random representative sample of film professionals. One or two were business people first, and film people second or third. On the other hand, there have been few who have shown me nothing but genuine support and, more importantly, have become brothers and sisters to me.

On Saturday night, it was, therefore, a joy to be at the Apollo Cinema, Piccadilly, to watch Paul and the rest of the DEP family enjoy watching the result of a true labour of love finally screen to members of the public.

Loved the film.


DEP Raindance 3 DSC_0026

Felt quite privileged to be allowed to snap the cast and crew.

Earlier tonight, I was back at the Apollo theatre to watch the Closing Night Gala film of the Raindance Film Festival, Son of Babylon (Dir. Muhammed al-Darraji, Iraq/UK 2009).

As a member of the audience said to me after the screening, in parts, it is very harrowing to watch. Don’t think there were many dry eyes in the house.

Being the closing night of the festival, there was an opportunity to meet filmmakers whose projects had screened at the festival, though I need to qualify “meet”. You see, the truth is I am quite shy :- ) Not very good in these “networking events”.

After the screening, everyone poured into the tiny bar at the basement of the cinema. Not knowing anyone, I found myself seeking the quickest route through the crowd to the stairs and out to the street.

For some reason, rather than head straight to the tube station, I found myself “loitering” by the now dimly-lit entrance – the lights outside having been switched off after the start of the screening.

A more relaxed crowd started to gather around. Young men and women, festival volunteers and filmmakers taking a cigarette break. A couple of the young ladies who joined us as the group seemed to be on the verge of dispersing turned out to be the leads in a hot French feature film that has been touring festivals, including a special up-and-coming sidebar at Cannes, Pusan, and now Raindance. It was made for £100 – yes, one hundred pounds sterling. It’s called “Donoma”.

We decided to head back to the basement; it was getting a bit cold, and they’d smoked their cigarettes. Downstairs, I found myself having a lucid and real heart-to-heart about filmmaking and the ubiquitous existential questions in the life of an indie filmmaker with a gentleman from the industry.

On my way out, I said goodbye to the two French actresses and related to them how thanks to my “loitering” upstairs, I had met so many sweet and kindly people. ‘It was maktoob*‘, one of them said in her charming accent. ‘I learnt some Arabic when I lived in Morocco!’

*Arabic for “it’s written”.

Peace and love,

Ja’far

October 3rd 2010; week 95 of post-production

Monday, October 4th, 2010

Filmwise: I received an email from our sound designer inquiring after reel four. Having been unable to complete the reel last weekend, I didn’t get any space to make real headway during the week. I am pleased to say, reel 4 is now fully and totally ready to send over to our friend. All’s good.

One more reel to go.

The work I have been investing in these new reels, created over the summer, has allowed me to refine and add nuances at the storytelling level of the edit. Our editor has done a brilliant job. However, in view of the evolution that the film has undergone at the level of narrative, the changes that I have had to make to the edit have thrown up new issues and, crucially, some delicious opportunities. Where, for example, we couldn’t use part of a particular take because of continuity in the original cut, we’re now able to home in on one or two little gems and include them in this final cut now that changes in the edit have made that possible.

One example that I am particularly proud of is the dinner party scene. A male character is having dinner at the home of a female character. There is a moment when they have eye contact, which we the audience recognize to be especially loaded. In the original cut, we had to cut from this moment between the two to a wide shot of another character in the room speaking on the phone. Due to the evolution of the story, this telephone conversation is no longer needed. Therefore, while we can hear the character in the background speaking over the telephone, we are able to stay with the couple as they have that moment. The new cut shows the lovely mannerism of the female actor as she tempers the character’s interest in the male character with her character’s role as hostess. Really a joy to watch.

The new reels also need to have the music readjusted to cater for changes of the edit. I hope to hand Natalie Holt, our composer, four of the five reels at some point over the coming week.

In Search of Lost Time
On Saturday, I met a dear friend whom I hadn’t seen for more than a decade. The “Love From London” exhibition at the Getty Images Gallery was the venue for this long awaited meeting.

After my friend, and a friend of hers, commented on how handsome Al Pacino looked in a black and white photo from the early 1970s, and my mistaking Lawrence Olivier for Arthur Miller in a photograph with Marilyn Monroe – well, you don’t expect me to be focusing on anyone other than the lady :- ) – all three of us looked at one another and decided lunch was a far more pressing concern; we appeared to only have had a very light breakfast and it was already 2.30PM.

In such meetings, one tends to see in the appearance, eyes, body language of the other a reflection of the changes that one has undergone in the years intervening between this and the last meeting. Inevitably, the past permeates every aspect of the gathering. “What happened to so and so? Did she? How about him?”

All the while, what you’re really asking one another  is “how have you been? You look great. Can’t believe these years have flashed by so…”

After we said our farewells, promising to meet soon again, all too aware of the deluge of city life and humanity that is about to carry us into diverging streams, I walked through the back streets of Oxford Street, avoiding the Saturday surge of said humanity, towards Tottenham Court Road. Needed a geek fix.
Back to Future poster - Empire Leicester Square

With the needs of the machine in my life momentarily satisfied, I found my feet wandering towards Piccadilly. I had read about the re-release of “Back to the Future” (Dir. Robert Zemeckis, 1985) and toyed with the idea of watching it again.

Edited.

Peace and love,
Ja’far