Monday, January 28, 2008

A State of Surreal Reality

Ok, where do I start? I don't know how to describe the feeling, but I will try to recap it with some words that are supposed to somehow summarize the penultimate highest moment of my life.

Like many other filmmakers, my whole life I've dreamed of making movies. Why? I'm not sure I can nail it down with words, but I can tell you that the whole creative process is very fulfilling. It's very satisfying to imagine drama and comedy... to write it on a piece of paper, then turn it into something that you can give life to with creative actors, film it with a cinematographer, cut it to tell a sequential story conveying emotions married to powerful music. To do this for a living? What more could I ever wish for?

Finally screening Captain Abu Raed, my first feature film, at the Sundance Film Festival was the most thrilling experience of my life. Every one of our screenings was packed and I was so thrilled to sit in the back and watch these audiences laugh and cry in all the right places and then come and tell me that they've fallen in love with my film and its characters. Something I've poured blood and sweat into over the last two and a half years with a group of incredible collaborators. I had several people come up and tell me they now have two favorite movies, Cinema Paradiso and Captain Abu Raed. It's a surreal experience. We've succeeded in making a movie that transcends cultures.

And then to have AN EXCELLENT REVIEW from Stephen Farber, the toughest critic at the Hollywood Reporter. Just when you think it's great... it gets better...

We got standing ovations at every screening, and almost every person stayed for the Q&A. One of the festival runners said this is the only movie to get a standing ovation at Sundance this year.

And to top everything off, finally at the awards show, they called it:

Scroll to 8:30 in this video of my acceptance speech.

And finally, I am happy to inform you that we are in serious discussions for theatrical distribution across the United States and the rest of the world. It will be just a matter of time before Captain Abu Raed is playing in a theater near you. Now it just doesn't get any better than that. And that my friends brings my childhood dream full circle.

Thank you Sundance. Thank you Paper & Pen Films. Thank you David Pritchard and everyone at Gigapix. And thank you everyone who has been part of my journey to get here.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Sundance Excitement

I suppose now is as good a time as any to look back and reflect on the almost five years that I've been in Los Angeles leading up to this very exciting week with the Sundance Film Festival coming up in two days.

You know how some people look back and say "If I knew how much work this whole thing was going to take to get here, I don't know if I would've been able to pursue it"? Well, I don't think I can relate to that, primarily because as much work as this whole intense five-year period has been, I really enjoyed every moment of it. And I think that's the key in any career-path one picks for themselves. With all the ups and downs, it's all about how you deal with the journey. I remember when I submitted my first screenplay to the Sundance Writers lab back in 2004, it made the semi-finals short list but never made the final selection. I said that's okay. I'll just hope for the next opportunity and keep making short films in the meantime. And so a few months later I made it into AFI. So you never know where the opportunity shows up, but you have to keep taking shots and creating the possibility for another opportunity. And when it comes, you jump on it. I milked my education at AFI. I was always thinking about Captain Abu Raed while learning new methods and techniques. Especially the abstract things like extracting real performances from people and finding emotional truths in fictional situations. I would think about that stuff while rewriting the script. Using physical action to create subtext. That's the beauty of film.

So here we are now. I can't wait for the first screening. Our premier has been sold out for a while now, but we have a special event double-screening for 1600 high school kids the morning before the premier. I am so looking forward to that experience. At this stage, I've seen the film at least 300 times in one form or another (not to mention the two trillion times while cutting each scene), maybe more. And I still am moved by it. Yet now I watch the film for the audience's reaction more than anything else.

I've learned so much from life over the past five years. From the people I've met and worked with. If I die tomorrow, from a selfish standpoint, I would feel okay with myself because I've left a stamp in time with Captain Abu Raed. Now my focus is on taking things to the next level and making an even more challenging film. More complex, more difficult, and just as good.

Until then... see you at the movies!

Saturday, January 12, 2008

La Vie En Rose

I finally just got to watch "La Vie En Rose". Wow! What a beautiful film. Incredible performance from Marion Cotilliard and beautiful direction, cinematography, score, editing, and production design. I can't tell you how much I loved this film on so many levels. I can't believe it's not nominated for a Best Foreign film Golden Globe. Nonetheless, I can go on and on telling you how much I loved it, or I can just tell you to see it. Keep an eye for these long beautifully performed/choreographed steadycam shots. There's one in particular that haunts me! You'll know it when you see the film.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

A New Website

Happy New Year everyone. Okay, the countdown is on. In exactly two weeks, we'll be on our way to Sundance. Things have been heating up and we've got a total of seven screenings at and around the festival. This is going to be too much fun and a lot of work as we ramp up to sell the film to distributors around the world.

In the meantime, thanks to Omar Al-Zo'bi, we have a new official web site with a slick polished look. He did a beautiful job. It's still at the same address:

See you at Sundance, then in Amman.