Director’s Journal: Day 12

Thursday, Day 12.

Today we are meeting at 5pm in the evening.  With a number of scenes to shoot at night, we decided that it would be best to rest during the day, and come prepared for a night’s work.  I have trouble sleeping much past 7am.  My internal clock forces me up around that time, in spite of the lack of sleep and overall exhaustion from the previous 12 days of shooting.  The day is spent running errands, calling producers, and squabbling over lost props and the keys to the apartment that we rented earlier in the week.

The evening comes, and the crew arrives on location in a lackadaisical haze.  There is a certain malaise that has befallen the group, probably from last nights ridiculous hours after an already long week of shooting, and the heat that we have been enduring in the dog days of summer.  I gather the crew for a pep talk, and we begin to run around, preparing for the evening.  Producer Mohannad’s Ghawanmeh’s teenage sister, Aman, has been assisting with wardrobe, food prep, and general tasks at hand.  She is full of energy, and seems to be one of the only one of us who isn’t affected by the schedule.  She is assisting Waiel Safwat, Assistant Director.  She yells out, “Quiet on the set!” and inspires me.

Twilight falls quickly, and soon it is dark.  We are trying to shoot a particularly heavily choreographed scene in the kitchen, and are struggling.  Sarah Martens is particularly tired, and she is having a hard time staying awake in front of the camera.  I turn to talk to Jeremy, and notice that he looks like the walking dead.  Large dark circles have formed under his eyes, and his flesh clings to his skin, like a cancer patient.  Jeremy is very lactose intolerant, and though Fatima has been cooking largely vegan dishes, Jeremy has had to abstain from many of the junky treats brought in to sustain us.  Jeremy rubs his eyes as the hour creeps past midnight, and I turn to the living room to notice half of the interns sleeping on the couches.  Mohannad seems awake enough, and we shoot over a sequence over and over again where he delivers a line, followed with a chuckle. After the tenth take the chuckle has brought much of the crew to giggles, and I stifle my own laughter, pinching myself to keep quiet.

We shoot most of a challenging scene in the kitchen with Mohannad and Adam, and try in vain numerous times to coordinate a motion where the two actors spin around from the counter, pause, and bring some pita with feta cheese to their mouths.  Though Kareem had a secret stash of high quality Holyland feta in the fridge, the props coordinator had bought more affordable feta for use in case of multiple takes.  Mohannad and Adam stuff mouthful after mouthful of the cheap-shit feta into their faces, and before long Mohannad is cursing at the stuff.  We have a good laugh, and keep trying to get the shot.

At one point I look at the monitor, and wonder out loud whether the shot is in focus.  I consult with Jeremy, and he insists that it is in focus.  We go back and forth for a couple minutes about the issues, and it becomes clear that we can’t go on for much longer.

Sarah is having trouble delivering her lines with any clarity, and patience is wearing treacherously thin.  Waiel has long since given up eyeing me over running behind schedule, and only Aman seems tireless as she yells, “Quiet on the set!”

We shoot as much as we can, and finally decide that we have gotten far enough to justify calling it a night.  It is around 2am.  Upstairs, Julie Gaynin is logging info into the computer about the scenes we shot in previous days, and I am engaged in a discussion that feels more like an argument with one of the producers about not having a chance to review the dailies.  There doesn’t seem to be the time or the energy to spend another hour looking at what we shot at the end of such brutal days.

In spite of the exhaustion and difficulties, there is a sense of accomplishment with what we have done to this point that is contagious.  It has been growing ever since we made it through the first day.  That evening I drive Adam Elsafy back to his home in North East Minneapolis.  Adam is a 15 year-old actor who has been in a couple plays, and whom Kitty discovered at a casting call session for another director’s project.  He is a diligent young man, very serious, and intense.  I feel tremendously guilty that I have kept him out so late, but he seems easy going about the schedule.  Unlike the other 15 year-old actor in the film, Ali, who plays Mohannad in the memory sequences, Adam is serious about wanting to act, and pursue a career down that path.  It is well past 2 in the morning, and I get lost trying to get onto the highway.  We talk about how the film is going, and about the process of movie making.  Adam is considering transferring from his high school to an Arts school, and I encourage the decision.  What are the chances for success if one goes down the path of the arts, I wonder?  As I turn down the dark street leading to his house, I thank him for his professionalism, and tell him that he will go far.

avatarBy Dan on
Posted in Journal, Production