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Monday, December 30, 2013

Posters

The closer the film was to be finished, the more nervous we were. We were doing many things at the same time in parallel trying to meet DIFF's deadline. One of the most important things we worked on during that period was the film's poster. We looked at many film posters in order to find something that impress the 6 of us. We fell in love with some film posters that were made in Eastern Europe especially Poland in the 60's, then we began the journey of looking for a graphic designer whose work resembles such direction. We kept looking and looking until we found her on Behance. Maria Ines Gul is a graphic designer living in the UK so this meant lots of Skype meetings :) and the ironic thing is she's actually Polish so she was perfect. We really loved her work and after the experience of working with Anna on the music via Skype, working with Maria seemed like something we are used to or let me say experienced in :)

During a period of three months we had some skype meetings and wrote many many e-mails to each other. Maria sent us many sketches and first drafts and it took us around two months for all of us to agree on one thing. At the beginning we agreed on making two posters but then we ended up with three since we really loved Maria's work :)





Because Maria can't write Arabic, we had to find a way to design the posters in Arabic as well. We asked the Egyptian painter and visual artist Maher Guirguis whose work we really love to design the film's title in Arabic and we were more than happy when he agreed. After this there was one more step left which was transforming the rest of the text to Arabic. Since we were very busy back then, Yousry El-Dardiry who is a friend of Mohamad El-Hadidi and to whom we are very thankful came and volunteered to help us. 




Thank you Maria.. 
Thank you Mr. Guiguis..
Thank you Yousry..
Thank you everybody :)

DIFF 2013 Again

We were really surprised by most of the reactions we got after screening the film in Dubai International Film Festival which ended two weeks ago. We all know how important is the way this film was made but what was surprising and eye-opening is what people thought of the film itself whether they loved it or not. It was our first time to talk about it publicly and explain how it was made. The two screenings went really well and the film looked so different on the big screen. Many film critics wrote positively about the film and the film had its first review in the ScreenDaily :) We were also very happy to see regular people booking tickets in the movie theatre and paying actual money to watch our film. It was really quite an experience for the 6 of us and Mark Lotfy; the executive producer who joined us later in DIFF. 

Before the 1st screening

The film's ticket in the 2nd screening

We also had an panel discussion about teamwork with the filmmakers of another Lebanese film called "Void" that was competing for the Muhr Arab Feature award as well. It's also a collaborative feature made by 7 filmmakers so it was really important for both of us to talk about our different experiences especially with the fact the two films may sound similar but in fact they are very different.


Hend, Mayye and Nermeen during the panel discussion 

The most surprising thing for us was the press and all these interviews we had to do. At the beginning we had no idea what we should say but then by the end of the first day we did. Mohamad El-Hadidi's said it all in his live interview on Sky News Arabia. Thanks to the team of MAD solutions and especially Marwa, the film had a very good exposure and was always under the spot light. Here you can check all what was written about the film during the festival and afterwards.

Hadidi during his interview in Sky News Arabia

Hend during her interview in Nile Cinema

Many people are asking us now about our plans for the film in terms of distribution and we really have no clue. We want to submit it to different film festivals all over the world and maybe it's time now for us to learn more about distribution as we did learn everything else in the process of making this film.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

DIFF 2013

The mice have finally left the room :) Yesterday we arrived here in Dubai to attend the 10th edition of Dubai International Film Festival. The film's World Premiere is today in 2 hours actually :) We are very excited but nervous at the same time. We are also very glad that the 6 of us could make it since the festival only invited 4 of us and we had no money to pay for the other two. This is why we applied to ADEF travel grant (Jeeran) to cover the travel expenses of Ahmed Magdy Morsy. Mohamed Zedan was coming anyway to DIFF to participate with a feature documentary in production in Dubai Docs in Dubai Film Connection but he was coming just for 4 days which means he was going to miss the screening. We were over the moon when ADEF accepted Ahmed Magdy Morsy's application. They were also generous enough to make an exception and cover the accommodation expenses of the extra 5 days Mohamed Zedan needed to attend the film's screening. 

So once we arrived yesterday we had no time to rest as we had to go to the festival's opening night. It was our FIRST time to walk on the red carpet and we really enjoyed it :) After all these years and all this hard time, it was our moment. 

The 6 filmmakers and their first time on the red carpet

Since the film is also part of Dubai Film Market, we had to print some postcards and the press kit. We also met MAD solutions our marketing and sales agent to give them all the needed documents.
The film's postcard on one of the festival's decks

Mohamad El-Hadidi has just came in and yelled at me because we have to go to the screening. I told him it's important to post something about the screening but he said it's more important to go to the screening and that was convincing :)

Monday, November 25, 2013

The Last Export

Last week was really a very TOUGH week. We had to export the film to send it to DIFF and we all hate this process especially Mohamad El-Hadidi who always becomes very nervous when he hears the word "EXPORT" even if it's just for a 10 min video :) After the test screening in Bibliotheca Alexandrina, we wanted to fix some issues in color grading and sound mixing so we were camping in Rufy's for a whole week.

Since we have only one computer and we needed to finalize everything in a very short time, we had to bring in more computers. Thanks to Ahmed Nabil and Mark Lotfy who were generous enough to give us their personal computers as well as Tamer Nady who brought his monitor, we were able to finish on time :) We divided all the computers we had as well as our personal laptops into separate stations in different rooms. At some point we were working on 5 computers at the same time in parallel. We also had to rent a projector to see how things are on a big screen and even went to Bibliotheca Alexandrina for a second time to make sure everything is ok. I think pictures will speak louder than words to describe this week :)

Tamer Nady is working on the film's color

Offline Media Everywhere





After a long week, Ahmed Magdy is having a nap on the couch

"The End of The Mice Room" drawn by Nermeen Salem

After exporting the film we had the dilemma of how to send it to DIFF. We wanted to send it in DCP but it was totally out of our budget and we couldn't afford it so we asked the festival if we can send a digital file on a hard drive instead and they agreed which was GREAT :) We were a bit worried about shipping so we tried to secure the portable hard drive as much as possible. We bet DIFF has never seen a film wrapped is such creative and bizarre way like ours.





This wierd package has the work of 3 years and a half

Who else could share this moment with us other than Ed Wood ?





Mark Lotfy

When we first started writing the screenplay back in 2010, we had no idea that anyone would be interested to work with us in this film. We still remember Mohamed Zedan when he proposed the idea of talking to Mark Lotfy about the project and asking him to help us with equipment from his video production studio Fig Leaf Studio. It was quite a surprise for all of us when Mark agreed and was very excited even to work with us himself. Mark was not only the executive producer in this film but also the biggest supporter in the last three years in all artistic, financial and even emotional aspects. 

Mark Lotfy & Ahmed Magdy in one of the editing meetings

Mark's notes about the film's cut

During the film's journey there were many people who promised us things and made us believe in them but eventually let us down. Yet, it was people like Mark and the rest of the cast and crew who gave us hope and made us more determined to finish the film. Mark Lotfy, thank you for keeping all your promises. Thank you for believing in the film, supporting it all the way and doing all your best for it to be where it is now. 

Sunday, November 24, 2013

World Premiere

After 3 years, 6 months and 2 weeks we are more than happy to say that the film is FINISHED :) It is going to have its world premiere in Dubai International Film Festival or DIFF in less than two weeks in the Muhr Arab Feature competitionThe film is going to be screened on Saturday December 7th at 9:15 pm in MOE 12 and on Monday December 9th at 3:45 pm in MOE 6.



We were really over the moon when we saw the film's page on the festival's website. For a moment we couldn't believe our eyes. It was quite a journey that started with a simple dream of the six of us wanting to write a screenplay together in October 2009 and ended up with actually making another film and being best friends, partners and family. Along the way many people joined us and dreamed with us whom without we couldn't have gone so far :) Thanks a million we'll be forever grateful.


Thursday, November 14, 2013

Test Screening

Last Tuesday we had a test screening in Bibliotheca Alexandrina where only the film's crew were invited thanks to Ahmed Nabil; a dear friend of us and one of the 1st ADs who organised such event. It was such a strange feeling to watch the film on a big screen. It IS actually very strange to finish the film after all these years. It is more like waking up one day and realizing that your child is now a grownup !! 

It was really great to share this moment with the crew especially with the fact that some of them were only present in the early stages of production. We couldn't have made this film without each one of them. We also wish we could have Anna (our music composer living in the US) and Maria (our poster designer living in UK) with us that day but who knows maybe one day we'll all meet somewhere eventually.  It was also such a pleasure to share this moment with Islam El-Azzazi; an independent Egyptian filmmaker who has been supporting this project since the beginning. 

The first picture for most of the film's crew together

It was very important to have this test screening now after the film is FINISHED. We've been working on back-lit computer screens where everything looks good all the time so it was very different to watch it on a big front-lit screen. It was very important for color grading and sound mixing. We took some notes and realised that we need to change few things. I myself preferred to just watch it :) No more notes .. no more final touches :) Once someone told me that films are never finished, they are always abandoned. Maybe it's time now to abandon The Mice Room.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Thank You

Yesterday we have received a comment on one of the blog's posts that left the 6 of us speechless. Thank you whoever wherever you are million times :)


Saturday, September 28, 2013

Art Direction: Before & After

It's been almost 2 years since we finished shooting in January 2012. We've been focusing so long on post-production and all the effort everybody is doing right now that we forget sometimes the effort everybody did in production or pre-production. 

One of the most interesting things we never talked about in details is the art direction. Since we shot the film in real locations, we needed to work with the art directors on colors, backgrounds, .. etc. Since back then the film was divided into segments, each segment or we can say now each story had its own art director. 

As I was going through some old pictures of locations, they seemed so different than how they appear in the movie. One of these locations is the apartment where Rawya was shot. The old apartment belonged to the grandmother of one of our friends "Nourhan Ehab" and it was so beautiful but Nehal Ghanem had to add some touches :)
Mohamed Zedan is checking the location                    Nehal Ghanem is adding her touch to the location               

The kitchen before and after art direction

Nehal redesigned all the apartment's rooms and added all the elements she wanted to samples she made with photoshop, to give Mohamed Zedan an idea of what she was thinking of before buying anything or getting started.

Nehal Ghanem's sample of the kitchen after decoration 

Another angle of the kitchen before and after art direction

The other two stories where art direction was significant are Dahlia and Moussa. Emad Maher had to cover the empty white walls in Moussa while Nermeen Salem and Sara Hany tried to stick to Mayye's red-white-black color palette in Dahlia with the almost zero budget they had. They even had to paint some stuff in the hair salon and Sherifa the owner who played the hairdresser in the film as well was kind enough to let them do so :)

The street before and after art direction

The hair salon before and after art direction

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Mixing: Audio Desync Problem

It seems that Final Cut doesn't like the 23.98 frame rate and since it's the frame rate of all the film's footage, we had a big problem to synchronize the output video file with the audio file after mixing. And since we spent so much time trying to figure it out, we thought of sharing it with everybody in order to avoid it in the future :) So because the camera's frame rate is not actually 24 like cinema cameras but 23.98 like most digital cameras, this 0.02 difference causes an audio "desync" problem with the video file when they are both imported again to final cut for the final export.

The audio mixer Samir Nabil and I, tried to find a solution for this problem and after many days the only thing that worked was to convert the video file's frame rate to 24p using Cinema Tools. The process is called either pull-up or pull-down but I always forget and get confused which is which :) You should either do it to each video file on your timeline or with the final video and this is what we did and we should have done that before starting audio mixing.

The film's quick time video file had to be exported with the codec Apple Pro Res, then opened with Cinema Tools. In Cinema Tools all we had to do was to conform the frame rate to 24p. During the process we also learned that you have to make sure that the Sequence Settings have to match the footage settings, the Audio/Video Settings including the Capture Preset (even if you are not capturing any footage) or you can edit on Avid if you can afford it :)

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Music Recording

After more than a year of working on the music, Anna Drubich finally recorded it in Hyperion Studio in LA in the US. Then she sent us the files via dropbox and now it's Samir Nabil's job to mix them with the film's audio. Like many of our dear crew, Anna has been there since the beginning when the film was divided into 6 segments. Back then we worked on the music of each segment as a separate short film but with a common theme between the 6 of them. Then when the segments were combined together later resulting in one film, we had to work on the music all over again.

The final music was played by Anna herself on piano, Evgeny Tonkha on cello, Nathan Matthew David on guitar and Leo Chelyapov on both accordion and duduk. Anna also had to record their names for us as well so that we write them correctly in Arabic in the film's final credits. Luckily all the Russian sounds that sound unfamiliar in English existed in Arabic :)

Anna with Nathan in the recording session

Leo Chelyapov is playing on duduk

Evgeny Tonkha and his cello

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Credits

Since the film is almost finished, we are trying not to forget anyone's name in the film's credits. This film could have never been made without the contribution of all these people who helped us and their continuous support along the way in this very long journey. And even though the film crew members and the cast usually choose in the contract how they want their name to appear in the film's credits and since we didn't write any contract or agreement with any one of them during pre-production, we thought that now is a good time to ask such thing. So if you acted or worked in this film in any way, please write to us how do you want to write your name in both Arabic and English. If you don't speak Arabic like our music composer "Anna Drubich" or our poster designer "Maria", please record to us how do you correctly say your name in your native language :) and we'll do our best to write it correctly in Arabic :) Thank you all again for everything, we are forever grateful.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Dubbing

Since we have been learning everything about filmmaking in this movie, we thought it's time to learn more about dubbing with Samir Nabil who is the film's sound designer and mixer. Because of all the problems we had during shooting, there are some problems in the film's audio. We did our best to record the best audio we could but of course the first stories we shot like Maha, Moussa and the girl have very bad sound due to our lack of experience and the absence of Sameh Nabil; the sound recorder who joined us later in Dahlia, Rawya and Amr. 

Samir Nabil in his studio "The Badroom"

Ahmed Magdy with Mostafa Darweesh (Amr's father) in a dubbing session

Samir Nabil is enjoying his coffee & cigarettes while dubbing one of the scenes 

P.S. The black & white photos in this post are especially dedicated to Ahmed Magdy Morsy whose favourite colors are only these two.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Enjaaz

After applying to so many grants and being rejected, disappointed and pessimistic, The Mice Room was finally selected for Enjaaz post-production grant in 2013 :) This is just what we really needed to carry on after consuming all our energy in making this film during the past 3 years. Now we can't wait to finish it and start screening it everywhere :)


The co-production agreement delivered to us by post mail

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