Archive for the ‘Mesocafé filming’ Category

November 18th 2008; day 2 of 18 of filming

Tuesday, August 23rd, 2011

By the time the 1st AD Mahmoud called it a wrap for day one, exhaustion and two days of running around without much sleep had really caught up with me. Instead of taking out my Oyster card at the tube station, I took out my house keys:-)
had more than nine hours of sleep- I am sure there is a law somewhere against first-time feature directors getting such copious amounts of rest…

Woke-up and crisis- the cafe-owner had arrived at 8:00am a few minutes after we had left the location to finally realise how generous and infinitely helpful she had been to allow us film at her location- lighting gear, stands, electricity cables, flags, reflector boards- large ones, were piled into the basement area leaving very little space for the six-month pregnant young lady to move or indeed to reach the small cooking area in the back. The main fridge where she stores the cafe’s food, we had managed to leave off- possibly ruining the food. The final straw was her having to explain to her customers, accustomed to light French dishes, that she had not changed her menu overnight to include Iraqi delicacies- Dolma, Kubbah, Kebab, Ghouzi with a bit of Torshi- we had left the Mesocafe Menu unwiped on the blackboard behind the counter.

Our production manager, Arij, had received the call from the cafe. She had done her utmost to keep calm under the strain of exhaustion, to the point of not being able to keep her eyes open, while taking a thorough pounding from the cafe owner, who was within her rights to expect the basement area to be left in a condition that would allow her to cook and prepare food for the cafe upstairs. Not only did Arij not go back to bed after the telephone conversation, she marshaled all her Iraqi woman’s strength of will and called a couple of very dear friends and asked them to help her rearrange the film gear at the cafe basement to allow more space for the cafe staff. I can only begin to imagine how incredibly trying a task it must have been for our Arij to move this large number of heavy items after already putting in more than 30 hours of non-stop work.

With the help of the wonderful brother and sister team, Hayder and Shaimaa, Arij had managed to salvage the situation. Thanks to Arij and the great help of Hayder and Shaimaa we were able to continue filming at the cafe. The cafe owner would have been within her rights to kick us out.

Daphne Alexander, who plays Bisan, has been asking me for a chat regarding her characters journey. I have been so engrossed in MCU, MS and CU jargon that I have forgotten about the all important artist who has to carry the film in front of the camera. Amongst the crates and poles of film gear in the basement, next to shelves of food ingredients, we finally had the chance to talk for a few minutes about the character and how the shots we are filming tonight will fit into the greater character and story arc.

We have yet to see any rushes.

Hopefully, all the different shots will cut well with one another- Amelie, our brilliant and patient script supervisor has been instrumental in guiding us through this jigsaw- we have divided the cafe into locations- character X’s table, character Y’s table etc. Then we would shoot everything that takes place at character x table, before moving to character y table- making sure that they both cut well is the key.

We had on set with us, Houda Echaoufni. Like Nasri Sayegh, in the role of Yusif, sit Ahlam Arab, in the role of sit Zaynag, sayyid Aziz al-Na’ib, in the role of Hussayn, and the DP Alessio Valori, Houda has been encouraging me through the two years of preparations for the shoot. Was really pleased that Houda was able to do her single scene at the cafe, and still get the chance to have a few days off before we begin filming again with her next week.

This time, i took out the Oyster card at the tube station:-)


November 17th 2008; day 1 of 18 of the shoot of S16mm feature

Tuesday, August 23rd, 2011

Day 1 of 18
Woke up after two hours of sleep- having completed all the equipment, film stock, insurance, van-hire etc. deals that we needed to have in place before we begin the shoot, I had one final part of the process still incomplete- hadn’t yet agreed a deal with a film lab. The lab I normally use for 16mm negative development and TK’ing didn’t offer me a particularly enticing deal. I struck the deal with a small lab that have gone out of their way to offer me the best possible deal and the most efficient workflow- we are getting sync sound rushes- brilliant.

A few other issues began to arise during the day, issues that were easy to fix, but took me closer and closer to the location call-time of 5pm. Held a meeting with Mahmoud Chour, our 1st AD, at the location at 2:30. Went through the scenes we’re shooting tonight. Daniel, our production designer, has been a true magician pulling out of his carefree-wild hair the paintings, photos, table covers, trays of Arabic sweets, jars of Murabba [jam], book covers, posters, Turkish coffee makers, an Oud, many shishahs etc. etc. it’s endless- people kept coming up to me and saying how beautiful and Middle Eastern [not always synonymous:-) ] the cafe looked.

Finished the meetings at the cafe at 4.50pm. Needed to head home and sort out a few final contracts. As I descended the stairs into the circle line platform in Notting Hill Gate station I heard from an adjoining corridor painful cries and shrieks from what I thought was a woman. It seemed as if she was being hurt by someone. My film script in hand I couldn’t stand there and just listen to what I began to imagine to be a man repeatedly attacking a woman. I started walking towards the corridor determined to do all to stop this man from hurting the woman- kept telling myself, the film doesn’t matter, what matters is you remember this moment and think, “I helped a fellow human being in the face of a brute”…when i finally got there, it turned out to be a nine or ten year old boy having a thorough cry against the wall of the corridor- his father trying to console him about something… was relieved that no heroics were needed:-)
Was running so late to get to set that Mahmoud texted me: “Are you coming?”. I replied: “can I ask a friend?”.

Got to the cafe. All the actors were there, the crew was in place- Arij, our production manager, was overseeing the delivery of the food, of all sorts of things to the location; the actors were moving from costume to makeup and then conducted upstairs for a quick rehearsal with me, before rehearsing for the camera and then Mahmoud Chour said: “Waiting on sound, waiting on camera, waiting on makeup, run sound, slate in please, roll camera” Alessio Valori, our DP, whispered: “running”. Silence…. My heart was throbbing, my stomach stuck to my spine, butterflies danced in my eyes… “action”….

more tomorrow