December 6th 2008; day 18 plus 1 of filming

Hello friends,
The day began with a mad dash across West London to the house in Knightsbridge. With the team aware of the paramount necessity to get into the can those scenes that are essential for imparting the story, everyone was fully charged and ready to go. While waiting for me to arrive to open the door, Kate, Alessio and Alice had begun emptying the van. Alessio had warned me a couple of days earlier that in order for us to return the kit to the various suppliers, we needed to reload the van in an organized and safe manner. By starting the process of emptying and reloading the van, Kate, Alessio and Alice had provided us with an extra hour of shooting time at the end of the day. Grazie mille.

Mahmoud had created a solid schedule for the day: shoot day-time car scenes, head back to base, for Andy to get changed, more car scenes; change cars and film Bisan picking up Yusif from Ziyad’s office, then film them driving around town; in the time between changing cars, Mahmoud had scheduled the filming of the protest scenes where Yusif first notices Bisan. The day would end with more night car scenes, before heading back to the house in Knightsbridge to film the Robert North interview of Yusif.

We pretty much followed the schedule, though instead of filming the protest scenes while the small car was being rigged, we simply filmed the protest as a PoV from the small car. This allowed me to throw in a couple of shots of Bisan driving Yusif around town during the day. I was quite stressed, as we only had five hours of daylight to shoot all these different settings. This was the extra shooting day which had added to the already ballooning budget.

3.30PM
Back at the house for lunch. I missed out on the Pizza :- ) so resorted to what any self-respecting Londoner would do when faced with a plate-full of Kebabs, leftover from the day before, and a basket of Croissants- made Kebab-Croissants sandwich…wasn’t that bad, actually.

5PM
In the back of a Peugeot 207, holding a copy of the script, a boom mic for Axle on one side of Alessio and camera, while Kate was on the other. Axle was quashed, literally, in the small space behind the backseat which passes for a boot. Daphne was driving while Nasri was doing his utmost, and succeeding, to relax her- Daphne was driving a manual car in the middle of the London Saturday evening traffic with a film camera a few inches away from the back of her head, worried about Axle in the back, feeling the discontent of the five drivers aboard with her driving, and making sure that her high-heels didn’t cause her to accelerate or stop too rapidly- simply brilliant.

After a couple of takes, Nasri and she did really well to capture the whole scene of Bisan driving Yusif back to the hotel, him thanking her, her kissing him on the cheek, him getting out of the car, looking at her through the windscreen, and her driving off. Great.

Kawa drove ahead and guided us through the Paddington area to the A40; once we got on the motorway, we began filming Bisan and Yusif’s journey to the airport. Originally, I had planned to film this sequence on the actual route to the airport. On Friday night, however, I was with Kawa on the drive to our Labs in Soho. In order to avoid town traffic, Kawa had taken the A40 route. I loved the total darkness on the motorway interspersed with the red back lights of passing cars.

After a short pit stop where everyone was supplied with water, grapes and icecream- including Axle in the back:- ) – I jumped behind the wheel on the drive back to Knightsbridge. I hadn’t driven since the summer of 1999 when I was driving the production van during the making of a 16mm car-show pilot. Sitting behind the wheel, changing gears and driving through parts of town that one only sees as a driver [the motorway, the flyovers and the view]- I realized how much I missed having my own car in London. Both Daphne and I think we may get a Smart or some other small town car. On the way back we managed to get a quick shot of al-Saqi bookshop at night.

Back at the house in Knightsbridge, Daniel had turned the TV room into an office for the journalist Robert North [played by Julian Boote].
We began filming the scene, and after a fruitful and constructive discussion with Amelie, our continuity and script supervisor, we managed to find a way to fill the gap between the end of the interview and the TV interview that we would later see on TV sets all over town. Thank you Amelie.
Houda, Andy, Julian and Nasri raised an important point over the question and answer exchange between Robert North and Yusif. Suddenly found myself dictating to Nasri the text of a reply to a question Robert North would ask him. Lots of fun.

The owner of the house arrived back from holiday during the final take of the interview. I can only begin to imagine the shock and concern that she must have felt seeing this huge amount of film gear strewn all over her beautifully decorated living room, her exquisitely Andalusia-inspired landing and her kitchen. The lady was the epitome of grace and charm; after the initial shock, she was fine with us. Alif shukur madam.
10:30PM

When the last take of the last shot was completed, Julian asked me to call it: “This is the end of the Mesocafe shoot”. A quiet round of applause from the crew.

Before heading home, Julian gave me the great news: after a three-week campaign on our behalf, Julian had succeeded where I had failed: he convinced the notoriously pedantic IMDB board to add our film to the database- we now are… IMDBable:-)

I will start a weekly update of Mesocafe’s post-production journey.

Salam and peace Habibis [Daniel's plural for Habibi- the Arabic for my beloved and also friend- depending on context]

Ja’far

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