FEATURED STORY

My experience creating a short for the World of Film competition

By Khalifa

When Sony first contacted me and told me about the World of Film Competition and that I would be one of the Dreamakers creating short films, I got really excited. For me, it’s been a couple of years at least since the last short film that I’ve created, mostly because I tend to get super busy working on commercial projects for clients. So this felt like the perfect opportunity to reconnect with what made me fall in love with filmmaking in the first place, which is creating my very own short films.

Preproduction:

Coming up with the initial general idea of the short film wasn’t that challenging for me, since I often keep notes of any interesting idea that crosses my mind or that I just stumble upon in life. This can be inspired by an interesting conversation that I sparked with a friend, a situation that happened to me one day, or something that I read online. So, over the years, I managed to gather quite a lot of interesting ideas that I want to incorporate into my work in some way or another.

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I knew I wanted to create a short film that discusses how social media can sometimes be a fake reflection of people's lives, and this is something that I have touched upon in the past few years. Some people nowadays can go above and beyond to portray an image that is not necessarily true in any way; posting on Instagram about how they’re having the time of their lives, but the truth is they’re not really as happy as you may think they are. With this initial idea in mind, I contacted Hagar ElSolamy, a creative director and a good friend of mine, to develop my vision into a proper short film with a solid storyline. It took us a few days to come up with the first draft of the film, which then took us a few meetings to tweak some bits and pieces of the film, either to make sure that it fit the original concept of the film that I had in mind or whether because of scenes that I knew that were hard to execute because of logistical challenges. I think it is really important to keep in mind the logistical challenges that you may face later on during the production phase as you are developing your short film so that you don’t just work for weeks on something and later on discover that it would be next to impossible to execute for whatever reason.

As soon as I had the storyline ready, I contacted Ahmed Musbah, one of the best producers that I know, and he was really excited to join us on board for this project. We soon started location scouting and getting shooting permits. This phase was one of the most challenging for us in the short film, as it can be super hard to find good locations in Egypt, but after a few days, we managed to find all the locations that we needed. I made sure to go to the locations multiple times prior to the shoot as I was working on the shot list, to help me visualize how the shot would be (in terms of camera angles, movement, and shot sizes).

Production:

This short film was shot in only 2 days and across 3 different cities: Cairo, Alexandria, and the 10th of Ramdan. However, shooting days were such a breeze for us since we had everything prepared beforehand, so it was just a matter of following this plan accordingly. The production phase is actually my favorite out of the three phases since you get to see all the things you had in mind become a reality.

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I think that running into some trouble in the production phase is something inevitable in any shoot, so you always have to be prepared for it, at least mentally. So you won’t get overwhelmed in any way, and that can jeopardize the whole project. One of the challenges that we faced was timing. Since this project was shot in 3 cities, I underestimated the time needed to move from each location to the next one. I tried compensating for this by making sure that all the actors were well briefed about the scene that we were doing before reaching the shooting location, so we wouldn’t be wasting any time reshooting anything multiple times.

 

Gear:

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For this short film, I knew I wanted to keep things simple, I wanted to minimize the gear I used without compromising the quality of the short film in any way. In terms of cameras, I chose to use the Sony FX6, and coming from the Sony Alpha line, shooting with the Sony FX6 was such a different experience for me. I made sure to get to know the camera inside and out a few days before the shoot, which is essential so I wouldn’t be wasting any time on set during a shoot trying to figure anything out. The whole new button layout and menu took a bit of time to get used to, but once you know your way around the FX6, you’ll fall in love with this camera. It was mind-blowing for me how effortless it was to use the Sony FX6, I barely had to worry about any of the technical aspects of the camera or the image it was producing, which gave me a lot more mental space to just focus on the actual film scenes and how I was directing the actors. The electronic ND filter made me forget about the exposure. It really didn’t matter if the lighting in the scene changed a bit or I had to swap lenses or anything, I knew I'd always be perfectly exposed, which is essential for me to produce a perfect image. Plus, the fact that the electronic ND filter has no hard stops, made it possible for me to have some shots of the character moving from a very well-lit environment to a darker environment, and the ND filter just seamlessly adapts accordingly to set the exposure without even noticing. This short film was shot in a run-and-gun kind of way, so there really is no room for error. One thing that gives me peace of mind during the shoot is the very dependable autofocus system. I no longer have to check if the shot was perfectly in focus or not.

All in all, I am really happy with this experience and how the short film turned out. I couldn’t be more thankful to everyone who worked with me on this project and to Sony for giving me the opportunity to work on this in the first place.

About Khalifa

An independent Filmmaker based in-between Cairo & Berlin. Started his filmmaking career with short documentaries, winning in local & international film festivals. Currently focus on travel & lifestyle content, working with international clients.

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