Sunday, August 15, 2010

Scriptwriting Meetings

While attending the independent filmmaking workshop in Jesuits Cultural Center we worked a lot together and we always had that dream of making a feature film together. We tried writing another film but we found out that it needed a big budget and it would be risky to have as a first project so we postponed it for later. Then we discussed the possibility of writing together another project and even organizing a scriptwriting workshop for all the people interested in Alexandria even if they had never written a film script before. We didn't have a clear idea what that project might be about and we suggested that one of us could direct it but then we thought that still needed more experience and it would be more useful for each one to write and direct a part of the total film.

We started writing the script on Friday May 1st, 2010 and set up a schedule for the rest of the steps. Each one of us was free to write what he/she wants. We agreed on fear as a main theme for the 7 films. It was the one of the restriction besides other restrictions like other sub themes and some motifs. We used to meet once or twice every week to talk about the different ideas of each one and how he/she sees fear from his/her point of view and to have a brainstorming to come up with better ideas.

Hend Bakr explaining her idea in one of the scriptwriting meetings

Mohamed Zidan reading his script in one of the scriptwriting meetings

By the end of May each one of us was supposed to finish writing his own short script or segment as planned in the schedule and to start in June writing together the connection between the segments and each other, to have a strong structure as one feature film and not 7 separated short films but we needed more time so the whole process was shifted and each one finished his part at the end of June.

Mohamad El Hadidi writing the ideas in one of the scriptwriting meetings

In July we started discussing all the 7 segments separately and had a brainstorming for the possible connections between these segments and each other. By the end of July we had the final version of the script with all the segments connected with each other in different ways. Unfortunately Mohamed Zidan broke his leg and Nermeen Salem was preparing to travel to USA so we had to start shooting Nermeen's segment right away before she left.

Nermeen Salem, Ahmed Magdy and Mohamad El Hadidi in one of the scriptwriting meetings

We can't think yet of a better name other than "Seven" and we decided to name each segment by the name of the main character in that segment so we can say that "Seven" is divided into: Amr, Hassan, Dalia, Mousa, Maha, Ashraf's mother and the girl.

The 1st Segment "Maha"

Because Nermeen Salem was leaving on the August 22nd, 2010 to USA and wouldn't be back before June 2011 we had to stop working on the budget or any thing else and shoot this segment. 

Nermeen Salem, Ahmed Magdy and Mohamad El Hadidi during shooting "Maha" in Cinnabon cafe

August 8th, 2010 was the first day of shooting for the film or the first segment "Maha". It was shot in "Cinnabon" cafe which is a very well known place in Egypt. The owner of the cafe was really welcoming and allowed us shoot in it for free. Even the customers were not allowed upstairs where we were shooting so as not to disturb us. Nermeen and all of us were really thankful to "Cinnabon" cafe and its help.

Shooting a shot from "Maha" in Cinnabon cafe

The actresses are rehearsing their roles before shooting

Mohamed Zidan and Mohamad El Hadidi working on lighting the location

We didn't want to shoot in Ramadan because of fasting plus the fact that we were in August the hottest month of summer. Since Nermeen was leaving after few days we had no other choice and the rest of the shooting days were in Ramadan and some of them were in the streets.

Near Fouad Street in Down Town or "Mahtet El Raml"

Shooting from the car

We finished shooting this segment on August 16th, 2010. It was shot in 6 days and is supposed to start editing soon.

All the way to the Canon 550D DSLR Camera

Last April when we the 7 of us first had the idea of writing and making a film together we decided to shoot it digitally of course. We were so concerned by the camera we are going to use because there were so many points to think of like quality and price of course. We had limited amount of money. We thought that it was better to invest the money we had in a camera that we could use in other projects later. We were going to have a bank loan to buy the camera we need and the most important equipments in shooting or audio too. We could just use them later for future projects or even rent them in the studio we were thinking of making so we could repay the bank.

At the beginning we were thinking of getting the Panasonic HPX 300 which is a great camera but very expensive. It costed almost 60,000 L.E which are about 10,000$. You can know more about it in the following link:
Panasonic AG-HPX300

We didn't want to rent it because we found out that renting would cost us more than actually buying the camera in the long run. We looked for cheaper cameras and we were very close to get the Panasonic HPX 170 and it was about 30,000 L.E or 5,000$. You can also know more about in the following link:
Panasonic AG-HPX170

By the time we were about to buy it, we found out about the new canon DSLR cameras that shoot videos in HD quality with manual control settings. We tried to ask many people about the quality of these cameras and almost everybody recommended the Canon 5D Mark II or the Canon 7D. Some were skeptical about them because of the rolling shutter problem.
Canon 5D Mark II

But there was a feature film called "Microphone" being shot here in Alexandria in April with the Canon 7D. Mohamed Zidan who is one of us was working in that film and he was really impressed by the quality that relatively cheap camera gives and the chance of using different types of lenses that give you that cinematic film look. You can know more about the film "Microphone" in the following link:

We tried to know more about these new DSLR cameras and we found that great camera the Canon 550D or the Rebel T2i that was released last February. It is very cheap (900$ ONLY) and with great quality similar to that of the Canon 7D in video as it has the same sensor. It even has better things like external mic socket which doesn't exist in the Canon 5D Mark II or the Canon 7D. Besides it doesn't have that rolling shutter problem. We ended up having 2 of this great camera that we are going to shoot our film with. You can know more about it in the following link:
Canon 550D or Rebel T2i

When it all began

The idea of the film "Seven" is to make a collaborative digital feature film by 7 different filmmakers; Ahmed Magdy, Hend Bakr, Mahmoud El Soghiar (Or Houda as he likes to call himself), Mayye Zayed, Mohamad El Hadidi, Mohamed Zidan and Nermeen Salem, all coming from the Egyptian city Alexandria. We attended the one-year independent filmmaking workshop together in Jesuits Cultural Center in Alexandria in 2009/2010. We were 8 in the workshop but unfortunately Ahmed Abul Nasr couldn't be with us in this project from the beginning but he is a part of the crew. All the filmmakers and the rest of the crew and cast are volunteering and not being paid.
The Jesuits Cultural Center Independent Filmmaking Workshop 2009/2010

Mahmoud El Soghiar and Mohamed Zidan have just graduated this year from Law School while Ahmed Magdy and Mohamad El Hadidi are still students in it. Mohamad El Hadidi is a photographer who worked as a cameraman in "Hawi" feature film for Egyptian director "Ibrahim El Batout" and in other short films. Mohamed Zidan worked in several short films and in "Hawi as well. He worked as a DOP assistant in "Microphone" feature film for Egyptian director "Ahmed Abduallah". Hend Bakr has studied Arabic in El Azhar University and now she works as curator in "ACML" cultural office. She is a poet and a short story writer. Nermeen Salem is a teacher of English who graduated from the Linguistics and Translation Unit in Faculty of Arts. She took part in various theatrical performances before. Mayye Zayed has studied Electronics and Communications Engineering but she never worked as an engineer. She has attended many filmmaking, animation and video art workshops. She was also a part of the crew in "Hawi" feature film. Each one them has made two short films during the Jesuits filmmaking workshop, having the rest of the group as his/her crew. They've worked all together in the documentary film "Life in Alexandria".

The name "Seven" is a temporal namer until we come up with a more creative and better one. The idea is to have a film written, directed, shot and edited by the 7 filmmakers together. The film is divided into 7 segments or stories about 7 different characters connected together in a way or another to give us at the end a feature film called "Seven". Each segment is named after its main character. The film's main theme is fear with all its types but also there are some sub-themes like loneliness, death and family.

Alexandria doesn't have a film industry like Cairo so most of people wanting to be filmmakers just leave it to go to Cairo to start a career and the rest of them who stay in it are only making short films. We wanted to stay here and to even make a feature film with the help of all those film lovers in the city. What encouraged us was the fact that some of us worked in the digital feature film "Hawi" (or the Juggler) for the Egyptian filmmaker "Ibrahim El Batout" with almost a zero budget here in Alexandria. "Hawi" was made by a volunteering non professional crew and cast all from Alexandria only. Not only no money was paid for the cast and the crew but also the shooting locations and the equipments used in the film. The Hubert Bals Fund of the International Film Festival Rotterdam (IFFR) has selected "Hawi" among other twenty-nine projects that receive grants for script development, digital production, postproduction, distribution or workshops. "Hawi" recieved the postproduction & final financing fund and it is set to be released January 2011 at the Rotterdam International Film Festival, Netherlands, which is one of the most prestigious and influential international film festivals. So I guess witnessing such experience just gave us hope to make a film ourselves.

Behind the scenes of "Hawi"

You can know more details about "Hawi" in the following link:

We don't want to just make the film "Seven". We as a group are looking for more, as we've been discussing the possibility to have a small production company or a studio of our own. We're looking to invest the equipments we are going to buy to shoot "Seven" with, in this studio to make other future projects.

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