Reflection on Production Day 1-3 (361mc)

I can’t believe I’m saying this but I’m back in Morocco, back in Sefrou. It is so strange, I first visited this place as part of the Changing Lives Programme, an organised trip with a job to photograph and capture students engaging with the local community. This time I had organised this myself with my own motives. Planning brought to fruition, actually going ahead with personal projects and doing work with Culture Vultures, the organisation we are staying with.

Sefrou is still as beautiful as I remember, tucked away from the Western world. There are positive changes in the area and through several conversations with different members of the community, I am up to speed with developments and future plans for the art community. It was very strange to arrive at night, stepping out of the taxi into muddy puddles which certainly isn’t the weather I remembered (it does rain in Morocco Sam). The house is a part of history here, we were told it once housed a Rabbi or at least rooms where he would orchestrate religious practises.

Day 1, in the morning we spent time taking in the breathtaking views and started to get some footage for the documentary. The sky wasn’t the best as the sun pierced the clouds and gave us that harsh light. The ND filters we have helped us out a little but they can only do so much. We later met up with some friends I have from Sefrou, had lunch and caught up on each other’s lives. This was more an orientation day as the real work started in the morning.

Day 2 was all about Mustapha, the interview took place at 10am (roughly) as Mint Tea was important first. His workshop is a tight space but he’d moved things round and cleared a lot out during the months we had been speaking. His loom is a mix of old and new materials, it has developed over time but still has elements that are supposedly 400 years old. The interview went well, working with our translator Salim who is a real gem. Huge thank you to Culture Vultures for recommending him!! It was a little hard to summarise answers at the end as Mustapha gave us real detail, this is of course the hinderance of not speaking Darija. Nonetheless, I communicated all of my questions and we had 30 minutes of interview footage. Soon after, Ezra and I became ghosts as we shot Mustapha working on the loom. Playing with the 50mm and the 100mm Macro we captured all aspects of the loom, the tools, the material and Mustapha himself. Here are some stills below of that morning:

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We were fortunate enough to be invited for lunch at Mustapha’s house, this was a true honour to see his neighbourhood, his home and meet his family. This was a great day to be creative and really bring my shot ideas to life, many were at complete random as well. I often feel that the best stuff comes at random when you don’t put too much pressure on yourself. As you can see the 100mm lens is a perfect lens for capturing areas of interest and highlighting the subject of the shot. I have collected a breadth of content from this day alone and feel reassured that this documentary can be worthy of my final piece.

Today (Day 3), has been a real challenge to say the least!! We started at 10am with Selim, translating the interview. This in theory seemed fairly straightforward but I feel I was slightly naive. Our translator would write down the english translation of every 10 or so seconds with the corresponding timecode. This eventually amounted to 10 pages as we cut the 30 minute interview down to the best 12mins. It was a tiring and at times repetitive process but one that was important and had to be done. I am happy that I was able to get this stage going straight away; I will refine these translations once I’m back in the UK. Here is a picture of myself and Selim working hard in the house amidst the 7 hour session:

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During a break from translating, we did get a chance to get some more shots on the roof as the sky had changed significantly since Monday. We had clearer skies with less cloud and not so much of that harsh light from before. I had an idea to grade the shots with warm midtones and play with the gamma levels, this worked ok on the first rush with some shots but if I’m completely honest it does start to look like a Bruce Lee film at times. The interview made me realise that this grade just wouldn’t work so I looked at a more saturated grade under better conditions, brightened slightly to bring up the objects in the image. Looking back over my ideas I can clearly see that I made the right decision; it works far better at showing the beauty of Sefrou’s colours and it’s architecture. Below is a comparison of the two grades:

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This post marks the midpoint in this week of creative thinking. Tomorrow we begin earning our stay as we shoot interviews for Culture Vultures, focusing on a number of artists and contributors talking about the history and culture of Sefrou focused towards it’s artisanal community. I am excited to work on another project and meet some interesting creatives. Certain B-Roll shots we capture may also work for my own project as well so it’s a win-win scenario.

I am thrilled with the progress we have made so far, especially with the decision to bring Mr. Ezra Leese along as he has supported me in all aspects of production and offered opinions on shot ideas. Technically proficient he is, where I sometimes lack so we work brilliantly together. As always onwards and upwards but we’ve already set the bar super high. More of the same please Inshallah…

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