Archive for March, 2011

March 27th 2011; week 120 of post-production

Sunday, March 27th, 2011

Filmwise: I am still waiting to hear back from the ADR studio regarding their availability for another dialogue re-recording day. I am hoping that this would take place in the next fortnight.
Our composer Natalie has been in touch; she’s away until next week. We are to meet on her return to talk film score. As I have related in the past, the music is pretty much scored and recorded for the whole film, however, in view of the changes I have brought to the edit over the past few months, Natalie needs to re-order the music pieces to fit into the new edit. I think she will need to write some new music for one or two things I have added to the original edit.

All good.
Tate Modern 27-3-2011

“I can ask my question!”
Over the past two weekends I have been making up for the very long time that has passed since my last visit to Tate Modern.

One of emails I received from fellow filmmakers last month had alerted me to the very academically titled series of exhibitions and film screens at Tate Modern: Mapping Subjectivity: Experimentation in Arab Cinema from The 1960s to Now.

Not a first date event, I fear :- )

Last weekend, I attended the screening of Al-Rajul al-Lathi Kan Yandhor Ila al-Nawafith / The Man Who Was Looking at The Windows (Dir. Merzak Allouache, Algeria 1986). This was an experimental film that, for me, struggled to move out of  the shadow of the director’s great work Omar Gatlato (Algeria 1977). The beauty of the film, however, is the manner in which the director documents Algerian society at the moment of the making of the film. The moment is particularly captivating as the country, that is studied by the filmmaker’s lens, is oblivious to the impending war, a few years after the film’s release.

War is present, at the level of the event as well as the level of the mind, memories and interactions of characters in Ghassan Salhab’s Ashbah Bayrut / Phantoms of Beirut (Lebanon, 1998), which screened this weekend at the museum. Again, the act of documenting the thoughts, point of view and the very existence of a nation at a particular moment in time is a hugely instructive and moving spectacle for the viewer to behold.
St Pauls and M Bridge 27-3-2011
During a short break following the screening, I crossed the Millennium bridge for a bite to devour – with the clocks moving forward, I’d lost the morning rituals time before leaving home to make it to today’s screening.

After the break, we watched Ghassan Salhab’s latest film “1958” (Lebanon, 2009). This was a particularly lucid and candid meditation on the relationship of the filmmaker with Lebanon, with Beirut, and with his parents. The manner in which his mother relates to us her relationship with her first born, the director, through his lens was very moving.
Tate Modern Q&A 27-3-2011
After the screening, the other three Lebanese directors who were still in town at the end of the film and exhibition series took part in a Q&A session that was enjoyable as much for the responses of the directors as it was for the quality of the questions posed by the audience.

Having found the questions and the answers to have failed to address an issue I’d encountered during the viewing of these films, I raised my hand.

“Yes, we have two final questions, before we wrap things up for the night.”

The chair of the Q&A session handed his microphone to the young man a couple of rows before me, while acknowledging me as being next in line.

Before I new it, I found another microphone placed in my hand by one of the assistants.

The young man began his question.

I cleared my throat, quietly. Drank a bit of water  – it wouldn’t do for one to have a dry mouth during the delivery of one’s question, you understand.

The young man was still asking his question.

I thought it best to take my coat off my lap and place it on the chair next to me.

The young man was still asking his question.

I mentally went through my question – it still made sense, the soon-to-be-directed-at-me-spotlight notwithstanding.

The young man finally finished his question.

I thought it prudent to move the book I had in my lap and place it on top of the coat on the seat next to me. While trying to balance the book on the coat on top of the chair, I placed the microphone on my lap. The book was about to slip onto the floor, but luckily I grabbed it.

The microphone fell on the floor and rolled noisily a few seats away.

Fortunately, the mic was not switched on and the panel were so busy trying to address all the points the young man had raised in his question that they didn’t notice the mic-falling-on-ground-and-rolling-a-few-seats-away incident.

The panel members were still answering the young man’s question.

Someone from security came in and had a quiet chat with the chair of the Q&A session.

The panel members stopped talking.

I cleared my throat, a bit noisily.

“And that brings our evening to end. Please join me in thanking….”

The microphone disappeared from my hand. The assistant had been lurking a seat behind me.

After the applause quietened down, I couldn’t resist saying, “and you missed out on my question!”

There was a good natured laugh among the panel and one or two of the audience.

As per usual after attending such a long screening and Q&A session, the little boys’ room was my first port of call.

As I was heading to the sink, one of the filmmakers on the panel came in…

“Is this is a good time for my question!”

One thing is for sure, he will never forget this film viewer :- )

Peace and love,


March 20th 2011; week 119 of post-production

Monday, March 21st, 2011

Filmwise: we have reached another milestone on the audio front; JD our sound designer texted me during the week the short and sweet news: “Foley complete.”

“Hoooray” was my reply :- )

My task for this coming week is to agree a couple of dates with the ADR studio, taking into account the availability of actors for a re-recording of dialogue session.  We really need to get the audio out of the way in the next four to six weeks.

I am going to hold back on any work on the audio files for the re-recorded dialogue until the ADR sessions are out of the way.

In view of logistics, I may end up re-recording the two or three words that one of the actors needs to ADR using my camera and microphone kit. Literally, all he needs to re-record are the words “are you ready?”. I think we can get away with my doing the job.

“It’s Hip Hop..”
With the working week having culminated with a seven-hour-translation-marathon that began at 2AM early Friday morning, straight after returning from work, and did not end until 10AM, followed by three hours of sleep before work, this weekend needed to be about recharging batteries and some me time, please :- )

On Saturday, I managed to fit in a couple of hours at my favourite cafe in West London – the romantic comedy script is beginning to take shape.

In the evening, met up with sayyid Kawa [plays the role of Tawfiq in our film], and Moreas [part of the on-set Mesocafé family] and another mutual friend at an evening in support of Palestine. The event was held at the student union of the LSE. The friend who’d originally invited me to the party had one look at my freshly ironed shirt beneath one of my better looking blazers and quipped, “It’s a Hip Hop concert, you know”. I was tempted to give a rendition of the “East  Side is Best” signature hand gesture – or was it West Side? -  that a former colleague had tried to teach me a few years ago, but thought against it :- )

I think I may have said this before.. driving through “old” London at night is truly breathtaking. Simply, majestic. In this instance, London was reflected on Moreas’s car windows while we were listening to the Jordanian singer Makadi Nahhas cover an old song from my country of birth. London was even more magnetic for it.

I leave you with “Chi Mali Wali / Now that I don’t have anyone…” by Makadi Nahhas.

Peace and love,


March 13th 2011; week 118 of post-production

Monday, March 14th, 2011

Filmwise: I have received some good tidings from our sound designer JD; the foley edit is only a week away from completion.
I need to get in touch with the four actors from whom I haven’t heard back regarding the ADR session which is provisionally set for early April.
The weeks are flying by and before long it will be summer. Need to get this feature ready for festival submissions by then.

“.. a tad optimistic”
Over the past fortnight, I have been transcribing film footage for a documentary directed by an acquaintance. When I was initially asked as to how long it would take me to put onto paper the contents of filmed interviews, I responded that with the blessing of touch-typing, I could translate and type the contents of tapes at the rate of two to three minutes per a minute of footage. I had imagined that the three hours or so of footage would take no more than three late evenings after work.

Twenty four hours of translating and touch-typing later, I now realize that I was a tad optimistic.

In fact, so concerned I was that I may be the cause for delaying the documentary’s editing process that I took this Friday off work to plough through these interviews.

Now, me being me, and going by what almost everyone who knows me would probably have noticed – an evening off work means one thing and one thing alone… the pictures baby :- )

So, rather than spend the entire “shift” that I’d taken off work on these translations, I found my hands reaching for the mouse, the cursor moving to the shut down symbol on the computer monitor, the trousers  replacing the tracksuit bottoms, the shoes and laces, and suddenly I was outside my local cinema; I could not help it; honest :- )
On Saturday, I did behave, and stayed in all day and well into the early hours typing and translating away.

On Sunday, I had prepared myself for a last push of five or six hours of keyboard, headphones and tired eyes. However, the longest piece in the remaining three items turned out to be entirely in English and would not, therefore, need to be translated.

I could go to the cinema again :- )

Talking of the movies, this week I watched Fair Game (Dir. Doug Liman, 2010); a particularly inspiring and moving addition to the films covering the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Anyone who has an opinion on the conflict should watch this film, and read Plan of Attack by Bob Woodward (one of the two journalists behind the Watergate exposé). Along with Green Zone (Dir. Paul Greengrass, 2010), I think Fair Game is a great contender for the position of this generation’s All The President’s Men (Dir. Alan J. Pakula, 1976).

Peace and love,


March 6th 2011; week 117 of post-production

Monday, March 7th, 2011

Filmwise: the ADR studio have kindly uploaded the audio files of the re-recorded dialogue onto their server. Now that I have looked at the amount of work it must have involved for them to upload the 100 plus files, and the time it will take me to save them on my system one by one, I think I should have accepted their offer of putting the files on a few DVDs instead. For next time.

This leads me to the next development: planning for the next ADR session. The studios informed me that the earliest they can have us back would be at the start of April. At the moment, I have received a provisional confirmation from two of the actors; four more to go.  Hopefully, we’ll be able to hold the next and final dialogue re-recording session in the first week of April.

Natalie Holt, our composer, has also been in touch. She expects to complete work on another feature in three weeks’ time. We are to meet at the last week in March to talk Mesocafé soundtrack adjustments and tweaks.

For my part, I will see if I can take on the role of “ADR Editor” – cut the new re-recorded bits of dialogue to fit into the locked picture. Hopefully, this won’t be too painful a process.

“Goose and Geese…”
Having recently returned bloodied and bruised from my latest foray into contemporary fiction – I was carried over along with the publicity wave for “Room” (By Emma Donoghue), only to find it to be wanting; it made me read pages looking for information as opposed to enjoying every sentence and anticipating the next paragraph and dreading having to leave a page that I’d grown so attached to, and going through the same roller-coaster on the next page – I felt the palate needed a tasting session with things refined. So, en route to work on Monday, I popped into the main local library in my part of town and typed in the search box, on the catalogue computer, Shakespeare.

I haven’t read The Merchant of Venice before, nor have I seen it on stage. I remember holding back on going to the pictures when Al Pacino appeared in the role of Shylock; I wanted to read or see the play in theatre before watching its screen adaptation.

Under the weight of screeching metal sounds, the at times not too graceful tremors of the floor beneath my feet and the usual dance of moving around a train carriage to allow people on and off, I listened intently for the voice of the bard.

Simply wonderful.

Not sure why, but as a teenager, still struggling with my English, I found myself chatting with a retired English gentleman on a Spring – or was it Autumn – day by the Serpentine in Hyde Park. I think I’d asked him for the name in English of the birds that were so elegantly moving across the pond. “Goose, and the plural is Geese”.

I wonder whether he suspected that I’d had some sort of a North African Arab connection, or that I’d had French education, but the conversation moved towards Shakespeare and the nuances in the language of the master. “It’s not possible to translate the beauty of Shakespeare; that’s why the French don’t get him!” – or something to that effect.

Rather than dismiss the conversation as small talk with a stranger, the idea of developing one’s English to that elevated height of being able to appreciate the verse of the great man…
A few years later, I had my first “live” experience of the Scottish play at the Open Air Theatre in Regents Park. Any hope that I’d had of being able to explain the play to the friend who was accompanying me was dashed away after the first encounter with the witches on stage.

I think I only began to develop the foundations for an ear for the bard after attending a few RSC productions during their era at the Barbican.

My daily commute to and from work appears to be an opportune juncture… In fact, the tube journey this Saturday to the West End to meet a friend for coffee was made positively serene as I was hearing in my head the voices of Portia, Bassanio and Launcelot Gobbo.

The meeting was with a filmmaker who’d completed his debut feature, had had the joy of watching the birth of his baby on the big screen at an international film festival, and was now adapting to the cold business approach of distributors.

I wished if I could spend more time at this, my favourite cafe in the West End. Alas, I had a few translation items to wade through for the remainder of the weekend.

I bid thee peace and love :- )