Director’s Journal: Day 5

Wednesday, Day 5.

After the first four days of shooting, I am beginning to feel more confident that I can make this film, more or less, how I intended.  Though we are a little behind schedule, we didn’t fall any further behind yesterday.  The crew is great, the actors are great.  Everyone has a remarkably positive attitude toward being here.  We meet in the morning to sum up how things are going.  We send Jules Ouanes (Assistant Production Manager) to fill a laundry list of supplies.  We are using walkie talkies to communicate throughout the house, and I have established a working rhythm with Waiel Safwat, Assistant Director.  Every fifteen minutes or so he walks past me and gives me the eye.  That means were are falling behind, and I need to motivate people to be done with lights.  Ahhh.  Lights.  Lights take longer than almost any other element of this film.  To get a realistic look inside seems to be what has set us behind.  Still, the shots are coming out looking great.  Now how can I balance great looking shots with falling so far behind…

The days shooting all takes place in the upstairs bedroom of Mohannad’s house.  The first couple hours revolves around removing almost everything from the bed room, and then setting it up to look like Sami’s bedroom.  Needless to say, the 80 degree day quickly makes the upstairs intolerable (Mohannad’s house has no air conditioning).  I send Jules Ouanes back out to buy a fan for the window.  He returns with a fan, and a receipt.  I add it to the growing pile in my pocket, a pile of paper drenched in pocket sweat.  Will I even be able to decipher the printed number later, or will they be melded into a mush from the dampness?  I don’t know.

The scenes look good in the bedroom, overall.  Mohannad does a wonderful job folding sheets.  It is harder to make folding sheets look good than any of us anticipated.  Makeup is always close at hand, and the seven makeup artists rotate throughout the day, depending on their schedules.

We are all feeling fairly giddy from the heat and excitement from making a movie.  The scene arrives where Flora (Sarah Martens) must cry quietly in Sami’s bed.  Mohannad must then get in the bed and put his arm around her.  It takes at least forty minutes to set up the lights, and the two lie in bed together, in position.  After a while I hear snickering from the set.  By the fifth day we have all developed a comfortable rapport, but I realize that if I’m not careful to manage the environment, the comfort and emotional safety of the actors may be compromised.  I firmly remind the crew that Sarah and Mohannad are working hard, and that no body should do anything that could bring them out of the zone.  It quiets down, and I wonder if the crew will still show up tomorrow.

Without realizing it, it has gotten very late, and we have a long way to go, yet.  A critical scene is at hand, with Mohannad and Sami watching TV together in bed.  It is Kareem’s first and last scene of the day.  I can tell he has been preparing.

“Quiet on the set!”

“Camera rolling.”


“And… Action!”

Kareem and Mohannad play their scene so naturally yet intensely that I feel moved by their authenticity.  Kareem barely blinks through the entire scene.  It is incredible.  We do one more take from a closer vantage point, and then move on to transition to the next set up.  As I am rearranging the items on the night table, I notice that Kareem is drenched in sweat from concentration.

avatarBy Dan on
Posted in Journal, Production