Saturday, 22 June 2013

Role models

That's that then! 5 days of shooting for Tales from the White City in the can. I'm travelling home on the tube, having dropped Michelle off at Oxford Circus, and I reckon I'm gonna sleep for the next 24 hours, if not forever! 

Our crew has worked so so hard and I'm proud of each of them. Things got really tricky at one stage today. I went low blood sugar and turned into an absolute gorgon, at one point yelling at Michelle when she used the phrase "my bad", "never say that to me again. That phrase isn't even English!" She's got my number, however, and responded with brutal sarcasm, "yes, sir." Funny how some people instinctively know how to deal with a bloke like me. I huff and puff and stamp my little feet, but then it's gone and I feel ashamed! 

The most stressful moment today was when we realised we didn't have a final shot for Danny's sequence. I'd not been able to prepare anything because we had no idea which locations we were shooting in until we woke up this morning and I'd sort of backed us into a rather shiny cul-de-sac where everything we'd done had been such high quality that there was sort of nowhere to go other than epic. 

There was a big argument. I had a little tantrum, everyone looked at their shoes, and after much health and safety chatter from producer Penny, we decided to go for another shot, filmed from the boot of a car, in one of the peculiar little winding lanes which snake their way towards the gypsy encampment under the West Way. It was irresistible, really. A lorry load of hay was being dropped off at the concrete horse paddock down there and the scene was reminiscent of something from the early 1970s. 

Danny had been somewhat slow on his cues all day and we'd had about 8 false starts. I was literally tearing my hair out, but then, as if by magic, everything slotted into place... And there it was... Five seconds, ten seconds, twenty seconds into the shot, and still no mistake, still no slip-up on words, no small child waving in the background, no car beeping its horn and refusing to get out of the way. And as we pulled around the corner, leaving Danny, mournful and wistfully looking into the middle distance, I realised we'd got our final shot, and no one had died in the process. 

The end of the day was like a glorious Egyptian dream. Mostafa had made his cafe look absolutely beautiful with flags and flowers everywhere, and fish and bamya grilling on a barbecue. Hundreds of people were inside playing backgammon and smoking sheesha and to cap it all, he'd practised and practised his lines so that he could do them anywhere we placed him. We were given delicious food; for me an Egyptian vegetarian speciality called cousherie and a massive vat of hot chocolate, and everyone made us so unbelievably welcome. 

I would be surprised if the material we shot there isn't amongst the most colourful and exciting in the film. 

We ended the night in a pool of tranquility with the building's resident Imam praying quietly on a Persian rug whilst the hurly-burly mayhem of the cafe continued in the background. I was particularly moved to hear that he was expressing his prayer through gentle song. It felt so appropriate after everything we'd being doing and he'd danced and clapped and supported us from the side lines all night. He's such a warm and kind-hearted young man. When asked if he would provide us with a piece of advice for the younger generation, he said, very simply, "Islam is peace and not war..."   
Now there's a role model. 

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