Eight aspiring filmmakers were sent to the Tribeca Film Festival in NYC, where they undertook a screenwriting workshop and worked with mentors such as writer and director Ruba Nadda and screenwriter Sabrina Dhawan, followed by pre-production workshops in Qatar, where they were mentored by cinematographer Sandi Sissel, and director and producer Shekhar Kapoor. Once the […]
Eight aspiring filmmakers were sent to the Tribeca Film Festival in NYC, where they undertook a screenwriting workshop and worked with mentors such as writer and director Ruba Nadda and screenwriter Sabrina Dhawan, followed by pre-production workshops in Qatar, where they were mentored by cinematographer Sandi Sissel, and director and producer Shekhar Kapoor. Once the workshops were over, the eight filmmakers came back and made their first 10-minute shorts.
Kanary is a coming-of-age story with themes pulled from the Western genre about Reem, a Qatari teenager who discovers a surprising secret about her religious father.
“I took on the traditional megalomaniac role of writer and director. We had a few technically difficult shooting days, mainly involving the over-complicated assembly of a car-mount and the weather. In order to see properly into the monitor screen which was a major issue, I stapled some heavy abaya fabric onto a wide-brimmed visor and Voila! we fixed our major problem: the Sun. Otherwise, the cameras performed well both on the indoor and outdoor shoots and we even used a Canon 5D on one day to shoot B-Roll of a sunset.
“I have remained consistent with shooting styles (i.e. if I was doing handheld…I’d go guerilla all the way, not half-way) and probably cover some of my scenes more methodically so I’d have more finesse within the edit. Perhaps the main challenge was working in the blazing heat with a tired crew and it was tricky getting good and consistent audio. ADR is a friend and all but I’d rather not have to used it over all the dialogue. My hope is that dubbing will give Kanary a nice, Spaghetti Western flavour.”
If filmmaking will have me, I’d be delighted to pursue it.”
26 years, Qatari
Title: Land of Pearls
An elderly pearl shop owner tells his grandson a tale of what life was like in the pearl-diving past in order to get him to mend his relationship with his father.
Role: Writer & Director.
“I was writer, director, camera assistant and camera operator on this film. A lot of people don’t realise that it usually goes beyond the two daunting roles of writer and director on the production of a low-budget short film. You have to be everything you possibly can be.
“Our mentors walked us through what we could and could not do with the EX1. We had Oscar-nominated Director of Photography Sandi Sissel with us.
“I struggled with direct sunlight in my shoot as 70% of my film involved shooting outdoors. Three out of five days were spent shooting at sea. Shooting in natural light can cause continuity issues during post-production as the sun was constantly moving, whereas in a traditional studio, you have the freedom to control the intensity and direction of light. In order to get around this, we constantly cheated the positions of the actors during medium and close shots to make it look like all the camera angles were shot simultaneously in a certain scene, when in reality it was shot over a period of four hours.
“Recording sound at sea was a nuisance. We had to deal with unexpected gusts of wind, aeroplanes, helicopters, and speedboats and it was very tiring. We tried to capture as much natural sound as possible without using ADR, but at the end of the day, it was necessary as some of it was out of our control.
“Filmmaking for me has graduated from being a hobby and a passion into an obsession.”
Film Title: If Only
If Only is about two colleagues who check into a hotel room to complete their assignment on a children’s book, where one is the writer, Esha and the other is the painter, Suzie. During their stay, Esha claims she is haunted by a ghost but Suzie does not believe her. What unfolds affects both women.
“I wrote the script under the guidance of Ruba Nadda and Sabrina Dhawan.
“I shot on the EX1, which was great but it doesn’t work very well in low light conditions so the image appears in soft focus. But we managed to lighten the shots and grade it in FCP.
“We were given one camera to shoot our film. Ideally, I would have liked to use more than one camera. The shooting hours could have been lesser and faster then.
“As mine is a horror film, I also felt a bit limited by FCP and would have like to play with some more editing software applications that would have helped me to create the effects required for a horror film. It may have enhanced the film more although I’m quite happy with the final product. Filmmaking has been an addictive experience for me and I intend to pursue a career in filmmaking.”
Amir Mahmoud Ghonim
Age: 21, Egyptian
Film Title: Donia
Donia is about three people from different walks of life. The only thing they have in common is that they have met on the dance floor in a night club. The story becomes a metaphor to showcase the cracks within society.
Role: Screenwriter, and director.
“As we were trained on the EX1, it was easier to work with it. This camera is stable and gives us pure pictures. Also, its sensitivity to the exposure and light temperature was sufficient for my shoot.
“It was also easy to carry and we could shoot many different and difficult angles. We used FCP and After Effects to edit and colour grade the film. I’m also sending my film to the US for scoring.
“I did face some significant challenges but working with professional and experienced crew and editors who knew what they were doing made the decision-making process a lot easier. I plan to pursue filmmaking in the future.”
Age: 24, senior student in graphic and fashion design in Virginia Commonwealth University in Qatar for arts and design.
Title: Um al Subian
The film is about a ghost that hunts a child. The ghost (Umal-Sobian) is a rebellious jinn that tortures children. This movie showcases the lifestyle of Qatari families in mid 1940s, and their beliefs.
Role: Editor/ Director/ Scriptwriter
“I made this movie in honour of my deceased grandfather, who was one of the known ‘Motuwa’ during her time. My biggest problem was finding a Qatari actress but as I could not find any, I shifted my storyline and let the mother die at the beginning of the story. Most of the actors I found were male so I got one of the actors to cross-dress, where he wore the (Batwala) which is a traditional face covering to hide his features.
“Shooting in August, when the sun was at its hottest made filming outdoors difficult so we opted for an indoor location. I managed to find a place belonging to an antique keeper, where we found a lot of old things that he had found over the years and bought. As the film was set in the 40s, the backdrop was just perfect for the shoot.
“The script kept changing to the last day of the shoot, depending on the circumstances we were going through; so I had to be flexible while ensuring that I did not lose the plot. It was a lot of fun but chaotic and stressful as well. I like the way all the pieces have come together in the final version.”