Friday, November 11, 2005

Stories of the days shooting: A Discussion

There’s only so much that you can be taught in a classroom or from a book. You have to get a camera in your hands and start shooting.

Diana: Impressions? Overwhelmed from everyone around; really inspired, but shocked also, all in such a short period of time. I want to be truthful. I have such a great partner, clear and focused, that’s been really helpful. But still, I have no clear idea what I’m doing, and that’s scary.

Katherine: This is meant for you to stretch a bit, get outside your patterns. This doesn’t have to be enormous. Be kind with yourself, be serious, and commit to an idea. There is no right answer. Pick something and work with it to make it the best it can be. Everything will change when you shoot. No matter how hard you plan. And, especially in the documentary world, the editing stage is the most important stage. You find themes, and then you may want to go back and shoot more. Just because you have a camera in your hands doesn’t turn you into a monster: If you go out with the intention not to be exploitative, you generally won’t be.

Mick: When we were putting together classes, and it looked like a week of classes and then Kiarostami saying, go make a movie in two days. We thought, let’s get them started right away, getting to know each other and the city or this could be a disaster. Get them out in Marrakech to understand the circumstances of shooting in the city.

Katherine: I also want to emphasize that you should have fun filming.

Hakim: I am always so confused. I have no idea what I’m doing. My first days I am a zombie; I’m biting my nails. I can’t enjoy it; I don’t have the courage to look at it. I just want to get to the next thing because I don’t know that I’ll last till the next thing. A lot of the time when I told the shot supervisor, OK, that’s the print, I was usually wrong. There were others that I didn’t realize until I had a little distance from shooting.

Layla: My experience yesterday was intense. Yesterday, when we went to shoot and I took the camera after David, I was confused first, because the way I was approaching people with the camera generated a kind of violence. I don’t work confidently enough in my self to be clear. I should have said: I would like to shoot that, I can't give you very much money. This is how much I can give you, so will you let me or no? and that's it. Instead I said, I'll give you money and they said, Ok, do it, great. Then, afterwards, they would want more and more. This happened three times, I got so confused. My camera was shaking and my shots were getting shorter. My topic was to work on hands.
I was in a complete moment of loneliness. It was probably the biggest moment I’ve ever had. I’m used to working in fiction and things are organized weeks before. So if there is a problem, there are people deal with it. I don’t have to face them and do business with them--totally different from Jemaa al Fna. Then I gave the camera back, and I got a phone call from my husband. It was a totally crazy conversation, and I didn’t notice that David was filming me talking on the phone. (David: And of course I never knew what was going on, because I don’t understand the language.) I said, No, please take off the sound when we get back to the classroom. It was really intimate things. So then I took the camera, and when I took the camera, I noticed, my outlook had changed. It’s like if I wanted to keep cool, calm, so the camera took the same approach. The shots became longer, wider. I should not avoid people's faces. Because at the beginning I was taking things as a tourist, the women doing henna, the musicians, superficial looks at things. But after the confusion, my shots became longer and my outlook became deeper. It was near the end of the evening so we had to go soon after. But the things I took after, a man with coins in his hand doing a rhythm with his fist, and he took cigarettes and was counting with his hands. Then I realized he was counting with his fingers (I am talking with my hands, sorry, it’s the continuation of my thoughts, that I am talking with my hands.) I wanted to share that experience because it made me learn a lot of things about me. I was avoiding connecting with people. I just wanted to be nice, and take the picture.

Mick: Nathaniel Dorsky, he doesn’t want to work with people, or confront people. One of his films was made on his living room floor. He bought a bag of sand, and with a vacuum cleaner blew over the sand. It’s a 25-minute film. So this is part of the process, to find what you want to push through, and what you accept as a limitation.

Simo: Today I left with George and we found ourselves at Jemaa al Fna, and I filmed a monkey, a horse and feet, that’s it. So honestly either I messed up, or there is something wrong in my head. But it’s an interesting process that each time (and people know me for this) I make a joke out of an assignment, and I tell myself maybe its to avoid fears; I like my work, but I don’t take it seriously. So the feeling I felt was like the time I started acting 15 years ago. I know that it’s a process of feeling naked, so thank you very much for listening, and I’m sure I’ll do something with my horse, monkey and feet.

George: For me, to go out and shoot a documentary, well I thought I couldn’t do it, because at Hunter we study film and learn to plan everything out ahead of time. So going out, I thought it would be miserable, and I know that everyone will show great stories and so, maybe it won’t be in me. So it was great going out with Simo, we tried to figure out the structure, but it didn’t work after two minutes, so we tried to find a new one, and so on. Then we went to get a drink to figure out what were doing and Mick came and said, what are you doing here? (Laughing)

Mick: It’s funny because they said they were done shooting, and that they had gotten everything they needed.

Karima: I wanted to work with veiled women who have a little bit of an aggressive attitude towards the camera, and also because they want money to be filmed. And, yesterday, with Diana, we had a woman in front of us; from far we filmed, and then we said, why not try to ask her to film up close. So I tried not to be brusque, I tried to find a strategy to convince her. And it wasn’t easy. The conversation started off well. Then finally I said could I film you. That's when the problems began. No, no, and that’s that. I don’t want to be filmed. I was very persistent; I didn’t want to leave. I’ll stay and do what I want. She had very shining eyes and I really regretted not being able to film her. She didn’t have any clients; she had had a bad day. She didn’t want to leave, I was filming from afar, she was picking up her things, but with a real slowness, really reluctant to leave. And her movements were so expressive. Finally I convinced another women to let me. I was so triumphant, and then! Then the battery died. I had tears in my eyes.

I always want to be at the same level as the people, not to make them feel like I am superior because I have a camera. I want to have a relationship with the people. Through the questions I ask, but also with her reactions to me, how she looks at me. I want her to trust me, but I know I can’t have that, but in some way yes.

Bouchra: I think I had better luck than others, and I had people asking me to film them. Not only because I’m an actress and people know me, but also old people who were asking me, looking me in the eye. I explained exactly what I wanted, the eyes, the wrinkles, and the looks. I even wanted to give money to a man who looked really poor and he wouldn’t accept it, he said it was an insult for me to give him money for what he wanted to do for free. With one shoe shiner, I thought I could really have a great story. I had the story of his life in 10 minutes, I had a man called Brahim, he was already telling me his childhood dreams, that he wanted to be a tailor and couldn’t realize his dreams. It’s a different style, to share with them. They asked, oh is that your husband. We must try to be sincere. They can tell when you are scared. I asked him if I could film him during shoe shining, and he did a great job, he gave even more of himself. I think it’s sharing. Yesterday, with four old men I had their addresses at the end of an hour, I’m very satisfied to talk to them, to sit down with them.

Karima: With my subject, they just wanted a question answer relationship and that’s it. They control the share; they won’t let you give what you want from them, only what they want.

Everyone agrees: It really depends on who you’re approaching, what time of day, how their day was.

Mick: I have a colleague who plays very, very stupid to get what she wants out of people. She asks, what is that, what is an exotic dancer, for example. So since she pretends to be thick, people want to explain to her. That’s one technique.

David: I’m used to interviewing, so I wanted to work on the place. I focused on color, textures and the history. What I always thought of as cut-aways, but now they are the most important part. I’m letting go of my structure and control, and I like the structure and control of my life, because everything is chaotic except what we impose. People come up to say, “Shoot me!” and I say, no, I’m not interested, maybe tomorrow. So I had a man talking to me when Layla was shooting, and he didn’t want anything from me and we just hung out. Then I realized that the cart was really interesting, so I decided that I would film the almonds, they could be like boulders up close. So then I filmed it, and then I felt like I owed him and I did pay him. The number 43 on his stand was his identity in his space. Then I asked if I could shoot him because I wanted to remember the experience.
It was so different than when the orange juice man poured us a 15 dirham orange juice, which I knew was 3 dirhams. We settled on 20 dirhams for the two drinks.

Hakim: You should be aware of not falling into a trap of, whether we like it or not, what might be considered exotic. Because we are in Jemaa al Fna, no matter how we cut it we’ll still have that tourist look. We will have the unequal look. We talked about where we would put you when you came, and we thought we wanted you all in a house. Let’s get away from the five-star hotel and the luxury experience. This whole thing about time depresses me. And the idea that these could end up as exoticizing pieces struck me and hurt me. I thought we should go out without cameras and the balance of the relationship needs to be another perspective of this workshop.
This came up yesterday in a great discussion about “Which Way is East?”

Youssef: They don’t ask money of everyone, they ask of people who they think belong to another circle. I used to take my camera everywhere. But I would take it out and I would look around and then I would let it go, saying, what am I really going to do with this footage, this isn’t really interesting. I couldn’t bring myself to film. So starting about a year ago, I don’t take it anymore. So this assignment was difficult, because I know how I work, and it’s not like that, without any ideas, just filming. I asked myself, what do I know about Marrakech? Well, I don’t like Marrakech.
When talking to my subjects, I talk a lot of bull. I say, I don’t have money. They don’t pay me to do this either. When they ask, Where will we see this video? Oh well on that big screen over there, in the middle of the square. But anyway, I thought I wouldn’t learn anything about Marrakech, but actually we are learning a lot.

Lenina: It’s not me to go out and shoot like that. I have to go back to me. I said “spirit” as my word in your class to describe Marrakech. So what is my connection with Marrakech? I felt a connection with the palm trees. Nour-Eddine was supposed to shoot from 3am to 7am, and I woke up then too to help, but he didn’t end up shooting and I couldn’t sleep. So I wrote.
(Not exact)
Outside of my window, the palm trees speak French...
But in my heart I speak Spanglish...The people say I look Moroccan, but I can only say choukrane, waha, I carry words in my backpack
The first day I was pulled by the henna artist who tried to paint my hand, and that meant a beginning. So I had to go back to the beginning. So in the Palmerie I was impatient to capture the scenery, the children playing, the woman putting clothes on the laundry line. But I saw the connection between Nour-Edine and I thought that was the most important part, even though we can’t always communicate.

Hakim (to class): You went with two handicaps. You didn’t have the writing, the clear-cut desire, only what Katherine asked of you. Even if we don’t write much—Kiarostami only writes a page, two pages—it helps a lot. It helps you to pinpoint what it is you want. There are tons of things happening, but I want just one thing that enters into it.
Plus, we are going out without a production, a real mandate, a recognizable title or identity, or mission. The people we are filming need to know. We are part of a game, and they are part of a game, and we need to explain to them in a way they can play as part of the game, even if they are not actors. So we need to be able to, first of all, explain who we are, so that they can play along with us.
The third thing, very important, is that we have to be open. What excites me is the unpredictable; the world and life that is there that I have to adjust myself to. Our dream is only big in our heads, it’s not big in the heads of others. So, with monkeys or horses, or whatever - even people who work with you for a long time - you may come back for some scenes and the person doesn’t want to be filmed anymore. But then you realize that maybe it would be even stronger with their voiceover. You work with what you are given.


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