Thursday, December 29, 2005

Reconnecting with Life

I've been in Jordan for about 10 days now. I'm here for Christmas and New Year's, but I'm also here to remind myself that I'm a human. I don't know if it's LA or my obsessive immersion into filmmaking and writing, but something beautiful happens when I come to Jordan. I reconnect with this feeling of having other things in life not to miss out on. Family. Friends. People in the streets. Real things that have nothing to do with movies. Don't get me wrong, I never want to not make movies. Movies are my life, but most of the time I'm too caught up in the movies that I get disconnected from life.

Jordan. I love coming to Jordan. I love walking in the street. I love going downtown to the "balad" where sellers call out for vegetables. I love having breakfast with my family. I love visiting my grandma and cousins. I love hanging out with my childhood friends. I reconnect with life when I come to Jordan. And people are different. These are my people.

It's funny because I'm halfway torn between being Jordanian and being Americanized. I've been in the States too long to ever want to give up the individual isolated lifestyle that I love because of freedom and unattachement to things. It feeds my creativity. But then there's the other side that tells me yeah, Jordan feeds your creativity too. Maybe one day I'll come back and live here. I feel so fortunate that I stayed connected with Jordan over the past 16 years while living in America. And by the way, if you ask me, I think that all the grumpy faces you see in the streets have a smile underneath waiting to come out.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Directing film on film

At the beginning of the year, before I even got accepted at AFI, I dreamt that I directed a film shot on film. Well, today I shot my first film film, not video film. Oh how nice it felt. The sound of that film rolling. The idea of shooting 24 photographs per second is so much more exciting than magnetic scanned video. One day soon, I shall say goodbye to the video camera and embrace that machine which captures motion on celluloid.

So the big thing of course is that when you shoot on film, you're completely reliant on measuring light with light meters. You don't rely on a monitor for lighting decisions. Of course all that was up to Will Beckly, my wonderful cinemaographer. We're going to be shooting an action comedy together for cycle 2 in February. This was a great start for a working relationship that I know will continue on past the AFI.

So the assigment with this film was to tell a story with no sound and make it visually interesting. We made our story about a guy trapped in a dark room with a streak of light seeping in from the outside. For my actor, I employed the amazing Jemuel Morris. Some of you may remember him from one of my shorts called "If..." This guy can do anything you ask him to do, and he brings a unique breath of life onto the screen. Definitely also someone who I plan to conitinue working with in the future.

I feel like everyone I've met in LA over the past two and a half years has been part of my journey for a reason. Some are such a joy to work with that I can't wait to launch my directing career just so that I can make full feature movies with them as the stars.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Why I love film

Finally, we're done with our cycle films. In addition to directing my film, Obsession, I crewed on several other films. We had a lot of fun and many challenges from shoot to shoot. Racing with the clock to get shots, communicating with each other, making compromises, finding solutions... it's what filmmaking is all about.

I'm directing a 16 mm experimental short with my cycle 2 cinematographer next week. We're shooting on film using the Ariflex SR2 camera. It's a silent metaphorical film about a man trapped in a room. I've always wanted to shoot on film. To me, it's much more exciting than video.

I can't imagine my life doing anything else. I love filmmaking. For my cycle 2 film, I'm making an action comedy about a guy who goes out to retrieve his kidnapped golden retriever. Along the way, he goes through a journey of pain. It's a movie about man's loyalty to his dog.

Classes and the workshops have been great. I look back at what I knew about visual storytelling three months ago, and what I know now...well, I think it's incredible what you can learn in three months.

I've also spent anytime I had outside of school on the rewrite for my Jordanian Feature film debut, which I plan to direct in Amman summer 2006. For this screenplay, I wrote the story over the summer, then made a second draft with about 30% changes. Then I stepped away from the script for a couple of months and started over from a blank page. I re-outlined the whole thing, restructed the story with special attention to point of view, added a major new character, took out unnecessary junk and sped up the plot. I think I now have a very entertaining and emotional story that encompasses all the social classes in Jordan. Imagine, if you will, a serious Jordanian feature film that plays a role on the international film market. That's my goal. Let's see where the journey goes from here.