Archive for November, 2010

November 28th 2010; week 103 of post-production

Monday, November 29th, 2010

Filmwise: Over the next few days, I should receive the edited, and preliminary mixed, audio of the film from JD. I am looking forward to having a long session of listening and enjoying the cleaned dialogue, laid tracks for atmos and for special sound effects.

As per JD’s request, I have written to the studio in Hammersmith where we recorded some of the ADR in the spring of 2009; we need to go back to the original studio recorded tracks. The gentleman in charge of the studio wrote back warning me to be prepared for hours and hours of audio files.

Recommended by London Cabbies…
Monday midday, I was rushing through the streets around Liverpool street station that turn into freezing wind corridors in winter; I had a meeting at my place of work. As luck would have it, the management-speak was in short supply on this occasion and proceedings were wound down after a mere quarter of an hour  from my arrival.
Minutes later, I was on my way to Brick Lane. Needed some breakfast, as I’d had to abandon my morning ritual in order to make the appointment.
Bagel bake November 2010
The first time I heard of this bagel establishment was through one of those awful TV shows they used to have late at night on ITV – think it was Thames TV then -  in the late 1980s. There was that abomination “Get Stuffed” – long before Jamie and Nigella decided to “sort out” the cooking phobia of the younger generation. One of these late night shows was a programme that attempted what seemed to be the closest one can think of to “sightseeing for the locals”.

The Beigel Bake was recommended by London Cabbies; I know better than to argue!

As per usual, on this visit, I over did the eating at the bakery and the buying of provisions for the rest of the day :- )

On Wednesday, I heard the truly joyous news that two of my good friends will have the world premiere of their respective feature films screen at the Dubai International Film Festival – “Majid”, by Nassim Abassi, and “Leaving Baghdad”, by Koutaiba al-Janabi.

After more than a year since last seeing him on stage at a theatre off the Kings Road, I had the pleasure of meeting Andy Lucas in Camden Town. “It’s my office,” he said as he walked me through the crowded and good humoured place. After updating Andy on the progress of Mesocafé (he plays the role of a senior politician in our film), I sought his advice for my next project. Being a soon-to-be-feature film director, I am keen to hear the wise words of those who have been through the long-distance journey of feature films.

As ever, Andy’s advice and suggestions are invaluable.

Speaking of my next project, I am pleased to say that I have actually started penning the script – a stage that I have been putting off and delaying in order to immerse myself as much as possible in the lives and histories of my new characters.

This will be a romantic comedy.

Peace and love,

Ja’far

November 21st 2010; week 102 of post-production

Monday, November 22nd, 2010

Filmwise: On Thursday afternoon, I collected the Foley files from the studio in Soho.
Spent the greater part of Saturday night working on the image files that I’d promised to deliver to JD along with the foley – I had spotted a couple of cuts which needed the moving of a few frames.

With picture files safely deposited on an external hard drive in my rucksack, and the notes on the changes and the map and directions to JD’s place printed on a couple of A4 documents, it was time to go to bed. However, the 07:30 wake-up time being  only a couple of hours away, I didn’t I feel I could trust myself not to turn off the alarm in an auto-unconscious mode. Solution: placed the alarm a couple of feet away from the bed, wrapped the duvet around me, and rested my head against the back of my mini armchair.
St Pancras 21-11-10

In a semi-conscious state, I made my way to Kings Cross St Pancrass on Sunday morning. By the time I made it to the platform, there was less than a minute left before the train’s departure time, and with this being “a first five carriages only” train, I found myself rushing to get to one of the least busy cars. The moment the guard sounded his whistle, I jumped aboard from the nearest door. The first available seat happened to be opposite my friend, and our executive producer, Paul Hills. We shook hands and offered one another the front cover of the respective books we’d brought for the journey. He was reading Stendhal; I had the latest offering from Sebastian Faulkes.

The 40-minute journey flew by, and we were so immersed in film and life talk that Paul suddenly looked up and said, this is us. We’d reached our stop.

Fortified with coffee on the go, a couple of sandwiches and some cup cakes that the young lady at the local bakery near the station chose for us, we walked through the crisp autumnal morning to JD’s place.

JD has done a stellar job.

I am to supply him with a few more sound files which he needs for a couple of scenes. He pointed out a scene where ADR of one character may be necessary.

What remains on the audio front:
- JD and I agreeing to lock the sound design stage.
- Natalie, our composer, supplying me with an updated version of the music she wrote and recorded for our film – she will be able to start work on film from December 12.
- Sound mix – this depends on the deal we can get with a studio, and how busy they are over the next couple of months.

Once we complete the sound, we will need to online the picture, grade it, and output to a screening format.

On the way to JD’s, Paul cautioned me that it took him to get his current project from the stage where Mesocafé is to the final completed, festival screening ready feature, a whole year.

Fortunately, we both agreed that our film won’t necessarily take that long.

Paul had to leave an hour earlier than me; I had the pleasure of meeting JD’s family.
Hertfordshire 21-11-10
On the way back to the station, I reflected on the Zen attitude I seem to be acquiring over the pace of post-production. Perhaps, this is the sort of patience and conditioning – of which I still need more – that is at the heart of the difference between steering a short and a feature through post-production! Who knows!

A good week.

Peace and love,

Ja’far

November 14th 2010; week 101 of post-production

Monday, November 15th, 2010

Filmwise: Our sound designer, JD, has been in touch with a couple of queries on studio-recorded audio for the film. I found and emailed these to him at the start of the week.

I am heading to JD’s next weekend to view the image with audio that he’s cut and designed for the film. Looking forward to it.

Tonight, I met one of our two leads, Daphne Alexander, for coffee close to Goodge Street. It was only after we said our goodbyes that I realized that our first meeting was exactly two years ago this week. Very pleased to have had the opportunity to relate to Daphne the full picture of our film’s post-production odyssey.

Ever since the shoot, I have followed Daphne’s work with interest. I was tempted to whisper to the stranger sitting nearby at my local cinema, “I know this young lady!”, when she appeared on the screen in Roman Polanski’s The Ghost Writer (2009).

A rodent, a rucksack, and a Eureka moment…

Saturday:

Rushing past little heaps of empty fruit and vegetable boxes that had been readied by Westminster City Council refuse collection teams for the rubbish lorry that was making its way slowly through the empty Church Street market, I wasn’t sure if there was a point to get to the Cockpit Theatre so late after the show’s 19:00 start time. A dear friend from my previous place of employment had kindly recommended “Tales from the Harrow Road”, a play set in one of London’s cosmopolitan neighbourhoods. In fact, I had received a couple of emails from other good friends, speaking highly of the production. It would’ve been a shame not to see the show.

With the play having already commenced by the time I arrived at the box office, I simply handed my debit card to the gentleman manning the booth, expecting to be given the ticket I’d booked over the phone. I didn’t think much of his request that I sign the credit card payment slip – didn’t know they still used these in this digital age.

It was only when I settled quietly into my seat at the edge of the small horse-shoe stage that I realized there had been a mistake and the box office chap had charged me again for the ticket. “This better be a good play, now that I’ve paid twice for it!”

Once I’d raised my head from the card payment slip, I realized that the double payment was most likely to be rewarded with a great piece of theatre. Playing one of the lead roles was Badria Tamimi, to whom Houda Echouafni had introduced me a few days before filming of Mesocafé. Houda, who plays the role of Suad in our film, later put me in touch with Badria. She kindly agreed to come on board to play the role of the mother of the lead character in our film.

I had seen Badria in “Syriana” (Dir. Stephen Gaghan, 2005), but it was a truly touching experience to watch her on the stage playing with such sincerity and lucidity the role of a mother trying to shield her daughter from her harrowing past – this was a master class in playing a dramatic scene with a fine balance between allowing the audience to peer beyond the defences of the character while avoiding the potential of slipping into melodrama or soap opera.

After the show, it was lovely to meet Kawa Rasul (plays the role of Tawfiq in our film), and Cheanir Jaff, a member of the wider Mesocafé family.

The highlight of the after show drinks was meeting Badria.

A short Bakerloo Line journey later, I was ploughing through the unusually cold November night towards a cinema in the West End – needed to see a movie on the big screen.

The only yet-to-start film was Skyline (Dirs. Colin and Greg Struse, 2010).

As the full extent of the folly of designating one of my only two free evenings to this bad excuse for a pop corn flick began to dawn on me, I couldn’t help but divert my eyes and mind away from the screen towards the walls and carpet of the auditorium.

Out of the blue, a mouse strolled past a few seats away. It certainly was a cineaste type of rodent – it headed straight away from the screen. No doubt, it will be warning its friends against the picture in Screen Number One!

The first thought that came to me was to collect my rucksack from under my seat. Checked to make certain no uninvited visitor had crawled into this Ali Baba cave of bread crumbs, chocolate fragments and bits and pieces of paper.

With the rucksack safely in my lap, my feet raised slightly from the floor and my eyes scanning the carpet for any more mini-discerning film viewers – I found myself blessed with a Eureka moment for my next feature film.

Not bad for one of my two evenings off work!

Peace and love,

Ja’far

November 7th 2010; week 100 of post-production

Monday, November 8th, 2010

Filmwise: received great tidings from our sound designer JD:

Dialogue Edit : Completed.
Atmos: Should be done by start of week.
Spots, sfx etc : These still have to be done, but are next on the list.

So overjoyed and elated I felt with JD’s remarkable feat that I threw caution to the wind and went about moving my DVD collection from behind my Circa-1993-TV-set, where I could hardly reach most of them, to a set of shelves on the stairs. Quite an achievement, considering I’ve been meaning to shift said DVDs to this very set of shelves for the best part of the past five years!

“Only Foreigners!”
With this stage of Mesocafé’s journey being in the safe hands of JD, over the week I have been retracing my steps in editing the Cannes documentary that I spoke of back in March this year. While re-viewing sections of the footage that need to be edited for the avant-titre segment of the documentary, I came across an interview with a Cannes local:
“What do you do during the Festival?”
“We go on holidays! It’s impossible to stay during the festival; it’s full of foreigners!”

I’d like to think he thought of me as a local of North African origins:-)

Finally, allow me to share with you a short documentary made by Nimer Rashed, the award-winning director of “Baghdad Express” (UK 2008). I attended the screening of Baghdad Express at the East End Film Festival last year, and was delighted to hear of another film by the director.

“From There to Here” is a sweet and touching documentary by a son about his immigrant father.

Peace and love,
Ja’far

October 31st 2010; week 99 of post-production

Monday, November 1st, 2010

Filmwise: the shot lists for reels two and three have been logged and sent through to JD, our sound designer. I will complete the list for reel four in in the early hours of Monday.

On Friday, I received the superb news from JD that he’s ticked off the dialogue edit for reels one and five.

Tangible movement on the project.

Asparagus…

With the nature of shift work, and my own disposition for morning – wake up – rituals of the perfect coffee in the company of an article from the arts pages to gently encourage the wheels to make those first unsure turns, all my “going out” occasions are compressed into the weekend. One’s fortunate to be able to accommodate said rituals.

This weekend, there was the little matter of making certain that there was no film of interest at my local multiplex left un-viewed.

That turned out to be a relatively easy ask – “The Kids Are All Right” (Dir. Lisa Cholodenko, 2010) was the only picture I wanted to see.

Was really touched by the vulnerability the filmmaker and her cast brought to the characters. The performances and the way they were created and captured on film made me feel like I was partaking in the many discussions, mouth-watering dinners, halting breakfast conversations at the kitchen table, and almost tasted the green pepper the Mark Ruffalo character breaks in half and shares with his biological daughter.

Was affected so much by the film, in fact, that I found myself heading to the supermarket straight after the screening. Lamb steak and asparagus, baby : -) (needed to find the recipe on Youtube).

On Sunday, having spent the greater part of the day logging shots from reel four, it was time to head for tea at the home of one of my mentors. Our acquaintance stretches back to the end of the 1980s. Originally, I had met him through my family, and later bumped into him at the Arab Quarter, Edgware Road. At the time, I was studying for my A Levels, and living at a student hostel in the area.

Our friendship would develop, and he would become a real father figure for me here in London; I was made to feel like a member of the family.

Life, as it has a habit of doing, happened, and we lost contact for over a decade.

The two-hour chat over mint tea was far too short.

At London Bridge station, I met sayyid Kawa Rasul (plays the role of Tawfiq in our film). We made our way towards Bermondsey Square where the award winning debut feature film of a dear friend and a compatriot was screening.

I first heard of Haider Rashid when I saw his short film “Haphazardly” (UK, 2007) on the highly respected and widely viewed website www.atomfilm.com.

In May 2008, at Cannes, I bumped into his father, sayyid Irfan Rashid, a dear friend and a well-known broadcaster and journalist. Haider was there too.

“How’s your feature film coming along?”, was the first question I asked Haider. I had read about it online, and was hoping to get the latest news from the director.

“I am editing.”

A year rolls by, and I bump into Haider close to Tottenham Court Road in the autumn of 2009.

“How’s your film coming along?”

“I think, we’re there. We’re working on the colour grade.”

I was so pleased.

“How’s your film coming along?”

“I think it’s almost there,” I said, and living to realize that completing one edit of a feature film is not always the end of the editing process, less the end of post-production.

After touring international festivals in Dubai, Seoul and Milan, and picking awards and critical acclaim, Haider’s feature film “Tangled Up in Blue” (UK, 2009) had its UK premiere at the Shortwave Cinema in Bermondsey.


Tangled Up in Blue Director and leads 31-10-10Leads, Zoe Rigby and Ian Attfield, with the director, Haider Rashid

I saw shades of Cassavetes, Ramin Bahrani in “Man Push Cart” (USA, 2005), and Erick Zonca in “La Vie Revee des Anges” / The Dream Life of Angels (France, 1998).

It is a film that gives the actor infinite space to inhabit the scene, to stay in character and to bring their own life experiences to the story-telling journey with the audience.

As I told Haider at the end of the screening, I can’t wait to see his next film. To have made a debut feature with this degree of bravery as a director, and at such a young age, I see many great cinematic moments coming from sayyid Haider.

Peace and love,

Ja’far