November 20th 2008; day 4 of 18 of filming

Day 4 of 18
On my way to location I bumped into Nasri Sayegh, who plays Yusif, deep in thought having dinner in a quiet corner of a fast food joint . With all that’s been going on with the production, the night-shoot and long hours, we haven’t had the chance to catch up and talk. We tend to wrap at six or seven in the morning. Then there is the mad rush to turn the cafe from its new/old incarnation as Mesocafe to the tranquil and easy ambiance of the French cafe. By the end of this last push, there isn’t much time or indeed energy left for talking.

The shoot went remarkably well tonight. We actually went through all the shots Mahmoud Chour, our 1st AD, had scheduled for us.

The characters are truly alive for me- Khalid Laith is making the character of Hisham well and truly his own; sit Ahlam Arab plays Zaynab the way I had imagined her; Kawa Rasul excells in the funny down-and-out Iraqi refugee; Zain al-Janabi is brilliant, effortlessly delivers the character of Masud, the Briton of Iraqi origins; Adam Dhrouge is a great “student of Arabic”; Aziz al-Na’ib is superb- he’s had to wait for a couple of nights before getting the opportunity to do his scenes. Alessio Valori, our DP, agrees that Aziz, with his gray hair and moustache, looks great on camera. Finally, Nasri Sayegh and Daphne Alexander are simply beyond my expectations- the chemistry between them is simply a joy to watch.

I was taking snaps of members of the crew- Dominique working with our makeup designer Tine seamlessly working with the cast, Kamal dressing and redressing the set, Valentina on costume, Axle on sound- love her work, Riyadh boom operating- he was roped into this by a dear friend, Sarah Amory, who on the night before the shoot asked if i was short of a crew member and Riyadh obliged us all at such short notice. I am touched by Alessio’s attention to detail, composition and providing great lighting within the limitations of the location. He is blessed with a camera team that is just brilliant- Kate, our focus puller, and Alice, our clapper/loader. Alessio is helped by the gaffer from Iberia- Jose. The shooting strategy we’ve adopted, shooting totally out of sequence and by table, as opposed to by scene, makes continuity even more essential to making a credible film. Amelie is an asset to the production, on an occasion or two corrected moi the writer- through the many rewrites of the script, it is inevitable that certain, minor [one hopes], inconsistencies begin to surface in terms of character entering and leaving scenes. Amelie has been instrumental in ironing out these inconsistencies.

Finally, Mahmoud and Alex Niakaris, our first and second ADs, are a brilliant team guiding the cast, crew and me through the shooting schedule and through the out-of-sequence jigsaw method of filming.

Taking these snaps, I was struck by how busy and engrossed every single person in the crew is during the shoot- the director seems to be the only person on set who doesn’t really have a kit, a tool, a stop-watch, a light-meter, a boom, a recording device, a clipboard, props etc. Yet, everyone on set looks to this person hogging the monitor for the final word on how things should be done- I am so moved and humbled by the respect and generosity with which every person on set treats me that I have to consciously stop myself from getting too emotional- oh for the stiff upper lip :- )

More tomorrow.

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