Archive for the ‘Post-production’ Category

January 22nd 2012

Sunday, January 22nd, 2012

Mesocafé: The special visual effects files are almost ready for Daniel. Our planned meeting for Friday was postponed due to unforseen circumstances. The delay leaves me with more time to organise the different strands of footage that are needed to create the clips with green screen elements.

Cannes documentary: On Friday, spent a couple of hours reviewing the current cut. It looks good. There is still more work to be done.


Over the past couple of weeks there have been a few instances in my life that have involved bicycles.

Morning – Due to engineering work on the Tube, I had to use an alternative station to get to work. Crossing a bridge and marveling at the beauty of this crisp winter morning, I noticed a cyclist – middle-aged, jumper, jeans, utilitarian choice of bike and jacket – attempting to keep his balance while chatting on the phone. ‘She wants a baby! Yes! Well, we’re trying! I know…’

Noon – Hurrying to the supermarket, I couldn’t help overhearing a couple pondering the merits of crossing a foot bridge on their bikes. ‘It’s a challenge’, he told her. Without further ado, she zapped ahead of him onto the bridge. ‘Why is it such a challenge?’ I thought to myself.

It was seconds later that I realized the bridge is made of wooden planks that are separated by a gap at regular intervals. The moment I began to form a close-up in my mind’s eye of the wheel and the gap, the bike’s front partially sank through the gap. The woman was evidently hurt by the fall. I went over and suggested to the man to get his lady some ice from the nearby cafe. I hope she didn’t break anything.

Evening – Deciding to walk past the station immediately next to my place of work in the City, and heading to the stop that is about 15 minutes’ walk, I found myself drawn to an American-style bar overlooking a main thoroughfare. Standing across the road, and in the full knowledge that the lens would not be fast enough to capture any of the faces of the customers chatting inside, I reached for my camera. Being mildly annoyed with myself for not having a tripod with me, I waited for the traffic to subside. When there finally was a gap in the flow of vehicles, I steadied my hands, lined the shot, and the moment I pressed the button, a cyclist whooshed right past.

Looking at the resumed march of traffic, I thought of abandoning the whole enterprise. ‘The photo is ruined by the person on the bike.’ It was only when I reviewed the image that I realised that he/she had been either so quick, or had actually ducked so low, that they were out of frame.

Peace and love,


January 15th 2012

Monday, January 16th, 2012
  • Mesocafé: technical hitch delays online of special effects.
  • Cannes documentary: refining and addressing those parts of the cut that I have always known to be in need of more work.

Hard Drive..

On Friday morning, I was meant to receive Daniel at my place to go through the online version of the footage that he needs in order to generate a high resolution replacement for the special visual effects in our film. The night before, I thought I would have a look at the work I had done up to that point, preparing the said files.

Not only was the little work I had already done absent, but the whole of the external hard drive on which the high resolution rushes were saved would not be recognised by the computer. Worse still, when the machine finally admitted to being connected to the external hard drive, it simply called it “LaCie” – the make of the drive, as opposed to the name under which it had been formatted.


The fact that I do have an extra back-up copy of the rushes did not subside my sense of anxiety at experiencing first-hand what could have been a catastrophe – OK, I am labouring the point.

Later in the evening, the hard drive and the machine decided to make peace and recognise one another.

The episode threw my schedule off course, and despite my frenzied early morning attempts to complete the extraction of the relevant files, I had to text Daniel my apologies and asked that we postpone the session.

Hopefully, I should have everything ready by next weekend.

Peace and love,


January 8th 2012

Monday, January 9th, 2012


  • Continuing to liaise with film institutions and festivals.
  • Spending more time with the Cannes documentary – it is coming along nicely.
  • Daniel and I had a chat about the best route for onlining the special visual effects elements in the film. We are meeting at the end of the week.

Attempting to make sense of my system for archiving film-related paperwork earlier this week, I stumbled upon a file for a short film that I wanted to shoot several years ago. The DP, producer and I were well into pre-production, and we actually held two casting sessions. At the last minute, I decided to pull out, as yet another chapter rewrite on the thesis became necessary.

Looking at the notes I’d taken after meeting a couple of actors, I wish if I’d jotted down their full names; it would be lovely to see how everyone’s doing.

Peace and love,


January 1st 2012

Sunday, January 1st, 2012

Happy New Year.

For the last week of the year, I have been busy finishing off the treatment for my next feature film, as well as spending a bit of time with the Cannes documentary.

Over the next eight weeks, I would like to complete a re-write of the treatment for the feature, and get the Cannes documentary to a point where I can start looking into sound design and music score.

My immediate task is to sort out some film-related admin stuff and prepare for Daniel the shots that he will need for creating an online version of the special visual effects. Hopefully, I should have the clips ready for him by the end of next week.

We will then need to find a mutually suitable time to get the work done.

Aside from good health and happiness for my family and friends, including the extended Mesocafé family and readers of this blog, I also wish for the new year to bestow success and harmony on the Arab Spring as it struggles against the brutality of the regime in Syria and other parts of the Arab world.

Peace and love,


December 25th 2011

Sunday, December 25th, 2011

Season’s greetings.

On this day last year, I was in the company of a friend watching DVDs, eating Baklawa and drinking espresso, and talking all things film. But the topic that was foremost on both of our minds was Mesocafé – ‘will it ever be finished?’; ‘will it screen at an internationally respected film festival?’; ‘will I have the funds to complete those elements in post-production that need an upfront cash payment?’

The real question, which I didn’t dare say aloud – ‘is our film any good?’

In an interview, Kevin Smith once reflected on how uncertain, wary and anxious he’d been whilst attending his first film course, before Clerks, Sundance and Miramax. He relates the degree of existentialism and self-doubt he’d experienced in Vancouver, living as he was away from his family, friends and home town. “I wish if I could talk to that guy and say, ‘don’t worry, it will all be OK!’”, he says.

What I have learnt in these past three years is when working on your début feature film, you need infinite reserves of patience to see you through post-production. For it is at this stage that you are most at risk of losing sight of that magical moment when you fell in love with the idea of your script, long before the high-octane experience and the adrenaline rush of the shoot, and certainly before the down-to-earth-with-a-thud feeling of the edit suite and all the soul-destroying episodes of the after-shoot purgatory.

On the other hand, one’s first feature is a rite of passage..paying one’s dues.. or, as the John Malkovich character says in that font of wisdom that is Transformers 3 – ‘you need to do this job in order to get to the next!’

This year has turned out to be infinitely more rewarding than my tamed expectations of last year.

On the first day of the new year, I had the idea of dealing with an aspect of the film narrative that had previously seemed too complex to address in post-production. In the second month of the year, we had two very fruitful days of ADR with eight members of the cast.

The next few months of waiting for the studio to be available, as part of a deferred deal, although frustrating, helped me rethink even more aspects of the edit, in view of the changes I’d brought to the narrative. It was in late May when I had the inspiration of using the magically filmed and edited purse sequence at the start of Mesocafé to anchor the story at a particular date. This gave rise to the idea of doing away at the start of the movie with the foreboding dream-theme that usually accompanies the appearance of the purse in the story. The temporary replacement music I used for the intro, though quite suitable, prompted me to resort to the experience and creative ideas of my friend sayyid Mazin Jasim.

On the first day of June, I delivered to the Raindance Film Festival a copy of the new cut of Mesocafé, with the new intro and temporary music. Later in the summer, sayyid Mazin recorded the piece that I used in the final cut of the picture.

On the second day of July, I received the Raindance acceptance confirmation.

At times during the summer, it felt like an impossible undertaking to online the film, get the sound design completed, including the final element of ADR that had been missing for the previous 30 months, and grade the picture, while holding down a full-time job and carrying out freelance translation work. The extra work helped pay for the cash element of this final phase of the post.

When the day of the screening came around, the overwhelming majority of my friends who were there fully recognised the extent to which this world premiere of the film was a culmination of a whole life for this filmmaker.

The time I’d taken off work for all of the 12 days of the festival were also most beneficial for creating the main elements of the assembly edit of the Cannes documentary. As anyone who has a five-days-a-week job would know, it really is a challenge to get any real momentum going on a creative project over the weekend.

This foundation edit helped me develop the cut further until we reached a point at the end of November where something resembling a fine cut of the documentary now awaits further fine-tuning  and refinement over the coming weeks.

As for Mesocafé, I am getting in touch with film institutions and festivals with whom I’ve corresponded over the course of post-production. Hopefully, we will get more screenings in the new year. I also need to align my calendar with that of Daniel, so we can address the visual special effects that need to be reconfigured.

Looking beyond Mesocafé, I am finalising the first draft of the treatment of my next feature film. The first time I sat down and put the outline of the story to paper was in summer/autumn 2009. In the same way that the script of Mesocafé was mostly written at times when I felt I had reached the limit of my endurance with work on the thesis and so would reward myself by working on the script, so too the new treatment has been written mostly during those periods of unplanned hiatus in post-production.

With a feature completed and screened at an international film festival, a documentary well into its post, and the first draft of a feature treatment almost completed, I think this year has blessed me with so many positive responses to the questions that were whirling in my head around this time last December.

I wish if I could go back and tell the wary and confused Ja’far of three years of post-production that ‘it will all be OK!’

Let me leave you with this image of London Bridge taken earlier in the week.

London Bridge Dec2011

Peace and love,


December 18th 2011

Monday, December 19th, 2011


  • Mesocafé: Liaising with film institutions and helping publicise the project.
  • Cannes documentary: The quick peek I had last week has sparked a few new ideas for the edit. All good.
  • New Feature Film: Less progress was made on the treatment this week than I’d hoped, but the seasonal break over the coming week will, hopefully, allow me to complete the treatment.

Annual party..
The last time I attended a work-related seasonal gathering was more than ten years ago. The firm I was working for had merged with another and I made the effort to meet people from the new company.
This week, I donned my tweed jacket and braved the December early evening frost to attend the 1920s-themed event in East London.

By midnight, I had managed to chat longer to a couple of colleagues than the combined time we’d spent talking at work for the past six months. A great outcome from the evening.

Peace and love,

December 11th 2011

Monday, December 12th, 2011


  • Mesocafé: Liaising with film institutions.
  • Cannes documentary: After almost three weeks of a break from the edit, I could no longer stop myself having a quick peek at the cut. I am pleased with the progress I’ve made with this project. The break has allowed me the space to notice a few points that I will address once I complete the feature film treatment.
  • Feature film: I have 60 percent of the treatment down on paper. Working my way a few pages per a weekend.

Leaving Baghdad:
Last Saturday, I met up with the filmmaker Koutaiba al-Janabi in the West End. We hadn’t had the chance for a catch-up for a few weeks, with him having toured his feature film “Leaving Baghdad” at a few festivals in Europe and India.

During the conversation, I realised that the awards ceremony for the British Independent Film Awards was taking place the very next evening.

“Having looked at the films in your category, I would be very surprised if Leaving Baghdad did not walk away with the prize!”

I think sayyid Koutaiba put down my comments to my ubiquitous optimism.

On Sunday evening, straight after posting last week’s blog, I checked the BIFA website for news on the awards. No updates.

Before going to bed, I felt lucky and searched the net for the latest: Leaving Baghdad had won! (See final paragraph)
I texted sayyid Koutaiba, congratulating him.
“How did you know, my friend? I am still at the-after-ceremony party!”

Before the week was over, I penned a review for Leaving Baghdad on IMDB.

Peace and love,


December 4th 2011

Sunday, December 4th, 2011


  • Mesocafé: Liaising with a couple of film institutions.
  • Cannes documentary: Allowing project more space to mature.
  • New feature script: Working on the treatment. Past the halfway point.

“Interior designer..”
It was during the Raindance Film Festival in October that I first met an Italian working at a café in the West End. I had found this particular branch of a nationwide chain to be quite pleasant, overlooking a junction with huge floor to ceiling glass windows.

I had thanked the Italian for the great coffee. “What do you do, when not working here?”, I had ventured, hoping that this youth had more of a plan than I did when I was at that age.

“I am working towards becoming a designer.”

Noticing my over-the-top-I-have-a-feature-in-competition-at-an-international-film-festival happy demeanour, “How about you? What do you do when not having coffee here?”

I can’t recall if the Raindance catalogue was produced out of the Raindance filmmaker’s man-bag I was cradling in my lap, but we did talk film and festivals.

So, on Saturday afternoon I was back at the same café for a pit-stop en route to the pictures.

“Hello, you are that guy from Iraq!”
“Yes, and you are the interior designer from Italy!”
“Industrial designer from Italy..”

The Italian came to my mind when I watched Hugo (Dir. Martin Scorsese, 2011) at the movies later that evening, for design – production, interior, lighting, costume, even makeup – is at the heart of the glory of this picture.

Peace and love,

November 27th 2011

Monday, November 28th, 2011


  • Mesocafé: Liaising with film institutions.
  • Cannes documentary: Allowing the project to breathe a little before embarking on journey to picture lock.
  • New feature: Treatment is on way to completion.

“Rest upon the wind”
Another graduate of the nightshift team has sprinkled the London sky with star dust. Stephanie Ellyne, a dear friend and former colleague at the media monitoring agency, appeared in a prominent role in “Rest Upon the Wind”, a play about Khalil Gibran, written by the great Nadim Sawalha.

Having previously been to the Tristan Bates Theatre, close to Covent Garden, there was no need for my customary last minute mad search for the venue. I, therefore, found myself strolling around Soho, with 30 minutes to spare.

Dropped into a French patisserie and was greeted by a young lady evidently trying to take advantage of the absence of customers to break the back of the closing time cleaning and washing up.

She chose a large croissant pour me. “You’ll get more for the same price!”

With batteries recharged, I arrived at the theatre door. My good friend Sean – another nightshift comrade – was already there.

The play was superb. It took me a while to warm up to the lead actor, but by the end, I had to fight the tears, so moving and transcendent were the verses from Gibran that were gracefully recited by the lead and all the cast.

Stephanie was in her element; she made the role her own. The chemistry she had with Nabil Elouahabi, in the role of Gibran, helped create a flowing performance.

After the show, I had the pleasure of meeting the cast and crew, with Stephanie selflessly doing wonderful PR work for this budding director and for Mesocafé.

The evening ended with a delicious pizza in the company of Sean.

Peace and love,

November 20th 2011

Monday, November 21st, 2011


  • Mesocafé: Liaising with film institutions.
  • Cannes documentary: I think we may have reached a plateau with the edit. I will need to take a step back from the project to create some distance and to have a better overall view.

Monday evening, and straight after finishing work, I found myself getting off a few stops before my station to enjoy a walk in the unusually warm November evening.
In the distance I noticed a particularly well-lit square. “This must be a film shoot!”

A few minutes later, I joined the small crowd of office workers who’d stopped to watch the film shoot en route home.

The person I stood next to happened to be working for the council. “It’s a Danny Boyle film, with James McAvoy!”. I was duly impressed.
Minutes passed, and suddenly the man himself, Mr Boyle walked outside the Victorian townhouse to chat with his DP. A woman walked her schoolboy son over to him. The director forgets about his DP and begins to answer the boy’s very intelligent questions. “Oh, I hardly do anything on set; it’s all done for me!”. He relates a story about how the glasses of an actor caused a continuity issue in one of his films. “Cigarettes are also a problem.”

Suddenly, someone comes over to me.

“Hi Jaf!”

I am a bit worried that this chap may be confusing with someone else.
He turns out to be a former member of the nightshift crew in media monitoring. He is now working as a props assistant on this project.

We reflect on the number of people who have joined the film industry since leaving that particular media monitoring agency in East London.

Peace and love,