Sulaymaniayh, Kurdistan, Iraq
This movie is the best part of the entire X-Pro3 project for me.
It’s the most epic of all the things I delivered, because ace filmmaker Ihsan Ibraheem made it. He’s a one-person Hollywood production machine. He directed the movie, coached the clueless star, did the cinematography, set design, editing, grading, sound capture, and sound engineering. If you look very closely, you’ll notice, in the beginning scenes, that there’s motion graphics in one of the scene transitions. Yep, he did that too. Man’s got a multitude of serious skills.
Ihsan and I work together, so I’m well aware that he really knows what he’s doing with filmmaking. He’s got a breadth of skills in that field… and can also remember minute details of most movies in existence. He’d never touched a Fuji camera until I turned up with an X-T3 and asked if he wanted to try it. In the span of 2 days, he’d researched and broadly tested its capabilities. At the 3 day mark, he knew far more about the camera, and how to use it, than I did.
So when Fujifilm bestowed the X-Pro3 project on me, and wanted a short film to be delivered, Ihsan was the only person I wanted to put this movie together. If he had said no, I would have been totally screwed, so I’m pretty happy he was keen!
I gave him 3 requirements for the movie:
- It had to have the X-Pro3 in it
- It had to have me in it (unfortunately)
- The footage had to be gorgeous – a nod to Kurdistan’s aching beauty and its mountains * as we see them
Then handed over a script, and the rest was all him.
It was an eye opener for me to be part of a real filmmaking process. There were concept discussions, shot lists, scene visualization. We went on scouting missions, talked about the logistics of shooting in these locations and tested. I basically hung around, waited to be told what to do, and did it to the best of my ability. Luckily, a lot of that involved traipsing around in the mountains trying to look cool, so it was fun… for me, if not for Ihsan, who had to run in circles around this movie star with the camera + stabilizer in all kinds of awkward angles to get the best shot.
He taught me how to read for the screen, and adjust the cadence of my speech for nuance. Doing the voiceover turned out to be the hardest part of it all. I rewrote the script a couple of times to include more natural sounding speech, and did a lot of retakes. Honestly, I should have done even more retakes, but we ran out of time.
We had a solid plan, and Ihsan works incredibly fast, so the actual shooting only happened over a couple of weekends. We’d planned it in detail, so I had some idea of what the end product was going to be, and I was confident it would be good.
But I wasn’t prepared for how seeing the first cut would feel.
I don’t enjoy seeing myself in photos or videos. I’m weird and awkward and this is always amplified in front of the camera. But when I saw myself roaming around the glorious landscape in that first cut, I was stunned. The movie was epic, and it never hurts to feel like one is a hero in a sweeping saga.
But that wasn’t what really hit me about the whole thing.
As a photographer, I honour the people whose images I capture, by seeing the best of them, and translating this into a photo. If I’ve done my work, the person in the photo will recognize themselves, and the esteem in which I hold them. It’s not easy to do, and far more complex in video.
And Ihsan had done just that: seen me at my potential best, and captured it in video.
That kind of thing doesn’t happen everyday.
For that, Ihsan, thank you. I’m honoured.
I’m stoked at how it turned out, and feel pretty damn lucky to have worked with someone of Ihsan’s caliber. He works very hard at what he does and is always looking to level up, and it was no different for this movie. Observing him at work is to learn that I can always level up in some way, and that I should always be leveling up, because that is the only way to respect my craft. Hashtag lifelessons right there.
If you haven’t watched it already, what are you waiting for?
* We began this project before the Turkish incursion into Syria, and the Kurdish proverb “no friend but the mountains,” is being spoken by Kurdish friends and neighbours again, as the USA pulls its support from northeastern Syria, opening the border to Turkey’s invasion.