Director’s Journal: Day 10

jason-mo-radio-voice

Tuesday, Day 10.

I wake up and stare at the call sheet.  We have to be at the University of St. Thomas radio station, KUST at 9am.  Sara Abdelaal is Program Director, or some big name there, and has offered to let us shoot the scene there.  The actors and crew amble in on the late side, and I don’t say anything.  They are all working hard and are tired from the previous night’s work.  Parking is almost as terrible as traffic, and there is a bunch of construction around campus.

We’ve been having trouble with one of the makeup crew-members.  All of them do a wonderful job, except for the one who shows up early to St. Thomas.  Unscheduled.  In fact, we had removed her from the schedule after she made several continuity errors in makeup and hair, and seemed to have trouble finding the right look and pacing for our project.   But she’s here now, and there’s nothing I can do about it.  Our Assistant Director has the morning off, and we are already behind schedule.

The radio station proves to be a challenging place to shoot.  There is a lot of noise from the room next door, and we finally get Sara Abdelaal to ask him to turn down his radio.  We spend the next three hours trying to shoot a scene that seemed to go so smoothly in rehearsal, but proved more challenging on location than expected.

Finally we arrive at the scene where Mohannad recites the words of the beautiful poem by Darwish.  He realizes that he doesn’t have the wardrobe that he needs, and we spend the next 30 minutes trying to figure out what to do.  Finally he begrudgingly borrows a shirt from Nabil Amra, who plays a fast talking radio guy.  Mohannad is furious with himself for forgetting the shirt, and even more annoyed that we don’t have the manpower to have safeguards in place to assure that such a thing doesn’t happen.  Ahhh, indie film making woes.

After the radio station we bring a small crew and a few actors to Minnehaha Falls.  At the last minute, or bid for a permit doesn’t come through, so we decide to take our chances.  As we unload camera gear and Arab actors, dressed, one in a black suit, and the other in a linen shirt and ponytail, a squad car drives across the grass slowly, pausing about a hundred yards from us.  We all try to look nonchalant, and miraculously the squad car pulls away.  I wonder what could have been more unnerving to a police officer than Mohannad, but my attention quickly turns to the weather.  It looks as if it is beginning to drizzle.  We make our way down to the falls, and shoot a couple key shots of Mohannad and Sami walking down the steps.  It looks great, and we prepare for the shot with dialogue.  It just so happens that the falls is completely dry due to the drought, and it is eerily quiet.  I had been worried about recording the audio, competing with the crashing falls, but we really lucked out in that regard.  Earlier in the summer I had shot a little B Roll at the falls, and had grabbed what we needed to feature the lovely look of water.

With small droplets of rain beginning to fall, we quickly set up the shot with Mohannad and Sami, talking by the falls.  Kareem delivers a killer performance, and I stupidly interrupt him halfway through when I think that he has botched a line.  I kick myself when I realize that his deviation from the script had been intentional and utterly beautiful.  I have him repeat the scene, and he matches the enormity of the first performance.  Cut.  Print!

The rain clouds pass, and we pack up and go to Hidden Falls across the river road.  We luck out with some gorgeous magic hour sun, and end with a handful of cutaways of Mohannad and Flora that I have a funny feeling will come in handy later.  Flora’s yellow coat glows in the setting sun of the magic hour, and we spend 25 minutes shooting the beautiful light, glowing through her coat.

DSC_0597When we have what we need, we take a few minutes to play at the lovely overlook point a few blocks from the Hidden Falls entryway.  The cast and crew seem happy and relaxed, somehow.  One of the actors, Emilia Aghamirzai (who plays Mohannad’s girlfriend) is leaving tomorrow for acting school in New York.  We wish her well, and the gaffer gives her a piggyback ride.

We have a quick ice cream cone at Dairy Queen, and I listen to the interns’ stories about studying abroad, and their impressions of the world.  I remember when I was a student at Macalester.  Holed up in the art department, painting for hours.  Rocking in the basement of the New Hall with my band, Exempt from Death.  Feeling isolated and lost my senior year, wondering what I would do with my life.  I hope these young adults follow their dreams, and never let anything stand in their way.  I wonder if that’s what I did, or if I’m just fooling myself into thinking anything is possible.  I drive home having crossed the halfway point.

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