Director’s Journal: Day 2

Sunday, Day 2.

With the first day of shooting behind us, I feel more secure about what I am doing as director, and what it all means.  Remember, I haven’t been through any of this before, like some Hollywood director sipping espresso from under an umbrella with a megaphone.  On the contrary, yesterday I found myself setting up the industrial strength coffee maker that I had borrowed from my parents, and trying to find a place for it amidst the food and catering supplies that Mohannad’s mother, Fatima, had strewn around the kitchen in preparation for the second days’ meal.  Fatima is a lovely woman, quiet and kind, and tirelessly preparing the most amazing vegetarian and vegan food for the cast and crew of around thirty people.  Without complaining, she quietly sets up some breakfast choices for the crew.  Cheese, crackers, grapes, coffee, peanuts and M&Ms… I reach directly for the M&Ms.

The second day feels like a breath of fresh air compared to the first.  Largely, this is because we are shooting in the front of the house most of the day, and the breeze helps to cool us down.  I am much happier with how the shots turn out outside.  There is more space for us to get the right positioning, and the breeze brings a nice element of motion into the background as the leaves blow around.  It is important that they move a little, as our shots are so stationary, by choice, and necessity.  It is challenging shooting with the sun shining directly down on the scene, and we wrestle several makeshift sun deflectors to prevent direct sunlight from bathing the actors and ruining the shots.  In spite of the sun, we make our way through most of the first several scenes.

In the afternoon, I bring the antique 1967 Triumph Bonneville to the front of the house.  I rode it to the scene, that morning, keeping my fingers crossed that it would start and I wouldn’t get into a fatal accident on the way to Richfield, where we have been shooting.  As the case and crew take a five minute breather, I review the scene to come: Sami Aziz rides the Triumph up the sidewalk where Mohannad is dozing on the steps.  Sami yells out one line.  Simple enough.

The only problem, is for the life of me, I can’t get the bike started.  I kick the starter over and over, and nothing…  The sun blazes down.   The script supervisor, James Janicelli, looks over nervously, pretending not to worry.  I kick the starter, again and again.  Sweat pours down my face in the blazing sun.  I realize how ridiculous it must all look.  The director frantically kicking the starter of this antique British motorcycle, while his cast and crew watch on in a mix of sunstroke and amusement.

I take a break, and return to the bike slowly.  I go over every step that Roy had shown me at Roy’s repair.  Tickle the fuel buttons.  Check to make sure the bike is in neutral.  Check the key.  On.  Check the—Oh! The fuel valves!!  I move them into position, and try again.  The bike bursts into life, just as a cool breeze moves through the trees.  Applause.  Were they real, or did I just imagine them.  I don’t even know.

We shoot the scene with Sami Aziz (Kareem Aal) riding up the sidewalk on the Triumph.  He tries the maneuver several times, every so often killing the engine.  I start the bike again for him so his makeup won’t completely run down and stain his shirt.

“Quiet on the set!”

“Camera rolling!”



Kareem maneuvers the bike up the sidewalk and breaks, his boots skidding across the concrete to a halt.

“Yo Habibi!”

His line.

“Cut! Perfect!”

There are more applause, and this time I know they are real, because I am applauding.  It makes me very nervous to see anyone other than myself ride the bike.   There’s the risk of injury, death, or damage to the bike itself.  And the bike is only partially mine.  The body belongs to the bike I bought last winter, but the engine and other antique parts belong to Roy, a bearded motorcycle man who spends his days gunning bikes in need of repair in his warehouse repair station in South Minneapolis.

I look over at Kareem, who sits pensively, still on the Triumph.

“What’s the matter?”  I wonder out loud.

Kareem’s makeup glistens in the beating sun.  “Was I supposed to be holding the Leica bag?”

avatarBy Dan on
Posted in Journal, Production