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Hello All -

Sorry for radio silence – we have had our heads down of late and been extremely busy. Firstly finance is so very very nearly secured for “My Soviet Kitchen”, it’s all a matter of getting the right actor to realize how brilliant the project is, then we are all systems go. The current plan is to shoot in March next year in Georgia, Russia, Oxford and Pinewood. We have been preparing as much as we can, meeting with lovely potential Heads of Department, as well as shooting various camera tests at Take 2 with our cinematographer David Rom.

Brek has recently directed a brilliantly funny new short play, The 3 Turn, at the Olde Red Lion theatre pub in Islington. All this alongside organising her Caribbean wedding….. multi-tasking a go go! Elizabeth meanwhile has been working as co-writer and script editor on an international array of projects, including Richard Goldgewicht’s Brazilian “Futebol” feature and Tatjana Acimovic’s “Anka” – a Croatian children’s story. Mon dieu!

The new Tailormade website that we talked about earlier in the year you might have noticed has been put on hold. We came across some stumbling blocks regarding the build and then everything took off regarding MSK so it was parked whilst we concentrated on the film. We are planning on picking this back up in the Spring, will keep you posted.

OK – one New Year’s resolution is to blog more frequently!

Happy Christmas and A Joyous New Year -

Love the tailormaidens.

Dear All -

 Hope everyone is well and enjoying the short bursts of summer sunshine! Now we have Elizabeth back from her whirlwind tour of the Med as part of the British Council’s Cinema Nautica (previously called Spring Loaded) film and festival project , we have been drumming up lots of juicy work for the summer season including helping out on Enfield Council’s Bicycle Ballet – funnily enough incorporating two of Brek’s favourite passions – dance and cycling! Check out there website here – it looks great fun http://www.bicycleballet.com

We are also arranging another 24 hr Film Challenge as part of the North London Film Partnership; if you want to take part in this please see http://www.nlfp.org.uk/ for more information as well as hosting the screenings for the SEPG film marathon http://southernexposurepg.org.

You will also be able to see the films made as part of the Cultural Olympiad’s Tree of Light workshops across the country as the Tree of Light events are the major city celebrations as the Olympic torch passes through – would be great to see you there dates and locations are; Oxford Monday, July 9th and Henley Saturday, July 21st. For further details check out http://thetreeoflight.org

Meanwhile, My Soviet Kitchen is still roaring ahead, and we are currently meeting up with lots of Heads of Departments and also out to cast for the main role of Ivy. Once we know who she is we will be able to look for suitable men to play opposite her. It’s going to be great fun to see who we can potentially pair her up with. We will be putting four more MSK podcasts up shortly so watch this space.

Best Wishes,

The Tailormaidens.

Arriving in Athens in the afternoon from a surprisingly easy exit from Israel via Ben Gurion airport, we picked up our hire-car and drove into the seemingly quiet capital city. But central Athens holds hidden driving agendas and after some nightmarish acrobatic car-manoeuvring we finally settled into the guest rooms of the NIA (Dutch Institute in Athens) that are at the foot of the Acropolis, comfortable and well-equiped (although sadly not big enough to accomodate 25 people). The same evening, the NIA held a 2hr talk by a Dutch economist Dirk Bezemer of Groningen University on the Euro crisis that we attended, after which we were picked up by our lovely Greek co-pilot Stavros Raptis, director of the Athens Short Film Festival and casting director/short filmmaker. Over a Santorini-inspired dinner, he confirmed he is happy to provide support in terms of screenings and filmmakers. He then gave us a list of local production companies, by which point we started to realise the effect of the crisis in Greece: more then half of the companies have shut down in the last year, others are on the brink of collapse, and out of his list of about 40 companies, only 4 could be interested in Cinemanautica (new working title of the project) and more importantly, would still be around next year!
Embodying the still-positive spirit of the Greeks, Stavros called around to arrange meetings with possible collaborators for the coming days (Boo productions, Pan, Yorgos Tsourgiannis (producer of Dogtooth) and Panos Productions).

On Friday we had a morning meeting at the British Institute, who have a very nice location and set up in the Lykabettos area sharing extensive and lovely grounds with the American School . Their attic artist studio space is quite small plus the studious environment does not seem to be the perfect place for a group of no doubt boisterous filmmakers, but an outdoor screening in their yard could be an option. Stavros reported back that most production companies are busy making commercials to make ends meet, but we can meet filmmakers Denia Safari and Alex Aristopoulos the following day. We visit the Benaki Museum who were holding a photographic exhibition about the population exchange of Greeks and Turks in the 1920s following WW1 which is very moving and simply told. In the evening, we start drafting the first funding application to Allianz Kulturstiftung..a potential major source of funding.

On Saturday, we meet Tonia of Nostalghia Theatre Company at Six D.O.G.S artist space to talk about screening, casting and crew possibilities and she shows us around the different space which could be very good for production offices and locations. Around midday we meet up again with Stavros, Denia and Alex who besides making films, run a soup kitchen for Afghan/Pakistani immigrants from a squat. They are very enthusiastic about the project, would like to collaborate, but do really make clear the financial situation in Greece is very difficult at the moment and nobody even knows how they will feed themselves after some months..

It’s an odd mix in Greece : a combination of smiles and good humour coupled with the economic reality of their situation. People are dealing with it different ways and the younger generation in particular seem to be, paraphrasing Tonia and Denia, making it their own.

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One of 60 (!) open air cinemas in Athens, Botanical Gardens.

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This isn't relevant but I couldn't resist

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Temple of Olympian Zeus

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British School attic studio space

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Outside the Benaki Museum

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Acropolis undergoing renovation

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Maartje in the British School garden terrace

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Japanese tourists at the Parthenon

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Another open air cinema!

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Acropolis by night

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6 D.O.G.S. outdoor space

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Local graffitto

Where Egypt ends and Israel begins is a little blurred for us. Sinai was an endless, beautiful sandy mass that grew more defined at dawn. We had taken the night bus from Cairo’s Turgoman station and occasionally woke on the 7 hour journey to have our bags searched, to allow some men off to pray, to hear the canned laughter of an Egyptian comedy on the television.

Suddenly there was the sea, the Red Sea, on one side of the road and bedouin camps the other. We had reached the Taba/Eilat border crossing at 6am and everyone was asleep apart from some not-so-friendly camels and a Russian lady who crossed over with us. Straddling the border is the Taba Hilton, a subject for a documentary right there, as tourists come from both sides to dip their toe in the controversial waters.

Once in Israel we took a second bus from Eilat, through the Negev desert, past the Dead Sea and up to Tel Aviv, another 5.5 hours. Our hostel was in the old Yemenite quarter – lots of low-slung, coral coloured houses in the south of the city – next to the HaCarmel Market. It was pretty and quiet but the city is London-expensive which was a shock after Cairo. We had also known for a couple of weeks that we were visiting at a bad time : Memorial Day and Independence Day holidays over the three days of our visit and a lot of businesses would be closing so we were unable to meet as many local contacts as we would have liked.

Nonetheless, our first meeting was a welcome supper with Naomi Michaeli of the British Council who had assembled a dinner of filmmakers and festival staff such as Naomi Levari of Black Sheep Films and Netalie Braun of the Women’s Film Festival. Inevitably, the political situation in the region was discussed with reference to our project and the difficulties (if not impossibilities) inherent in traveling filmmakers to and from Israel and various Arab countries. Our second meeting with Sigal Yehuda of the prestigious Greenhouse Project (a documentary development programme for filmmakers throughout the region) the following day was insightful insofar as we discussed ways in which they were able to circumvent many of these difficulties by hosting the workshops in third party countries and being funded by the EU.

On our last day we met in Rabin Square with David Polonsky – the animator behind the celebrated film Waltz with Bashir, who was keen to get animators involved in the project, designing opening and closing title sequences; and a young production company, Green Productions, headed up by Gal Greenberg who, like everyone we have met so far, was happy to help with in-kind support, production office space and equipment.

Nearly forgot, we did actually have some time off for the first time in 10 days! We walked to Jaffa, the wonderful old part of town with the old harbour and port, and rifled through the flea market for vintage postcards and Jerusalem-ware. We saw a little postal piece of England there outside the current Post Office and walked back up along the seafront, the Mediterranean at last close at hand!

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Mediterranean - at last!

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Jaffa

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These look familiar

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But there is in razor wire...

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Celebrating Independence Day Israeli-style

In Sinai, you see a lot of this

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And a few of these...

Day (which was actually night) 1 of Cairo, started with our arrival
from Tunis on Friday night and a swift pickup by the Meramees Hostel
driver who got us into Downtown (chainsmoking ‘Cleopatra’ cigarettes)
in less than 30 minutes. This was, according to him, a miracle. We
checked in to our spacious if spartan room in the middle of the city
on the 5th and 6th floors of a massive colonial building. Operating
ancient Cairo elevators turned out to be not an unusefull skill.

In the evening we had dinner with Jonathan Curling (British producer
working for Misr International Films), Juditta (starting up a local
talent agency after many years working abroad) and two of her young
actor clients. Revenue at the restaurant, which mainly served the ex-
pat community, was down 60% since the Revolution and our time in Cairo
was peppered with similar depressing statistics.

On the first full day we met William Wells from the Townhouse Gallery.
He is an ex-pat Canadian based in Cairo for over 30 years who has
grown Townhouse into a lively hub for contemporary art and film with
projects suchs as residencies, galleries, workshops, screenings and a
bookshop. William gave good feedback and contacts, clearly pointing
out the benefits and pitfalls of a project such as ours.

After we spent a couple of hours in the world-famous Egyptian Museum
escaping heatwave Cairo and Tahrir Square, Maartje met with some local
independent filmmakers, who all showed their enthusiasm for the
project and interest in applying. In the evening we met Marianne
Khoury, managing director of Misr International Films (Youssef
Chahine’s company), together with Jonathan, for dinner. It was
inspiring to talk to her about her work in Egyptian cinema and
especially the script development and short film programmes for young
filmmakers she initiated.

On our final day in Cairo we met Dalia Suleiman and Tamer el Said of
Zero Productions, after William’s suggestion. Zero is made up of
several young filmmakers who are determined to build up from scratch a
new film industry/infrastructure in Cairo. In a Downtown 30’s building
overlooking a synagogue, they are renovating 3 floors in which they
have a production company, an online civic-journalism platform called
Mosireen as well as an exhibition and meeting space for filmmakers
called Cimatheque. A very energetic Tamer, who is overseeing the
respective projects, is more then willing to offer Cimatheque as a
platform for the Spring project and potential full Cairo partner. He
also made practical and welcome suggestions to improve the project: an
additional workshop for all filmmakers in the development phase, as
well as a mobile film festival after the films are finished.

For lunch we met the lovely Cathy Costain at the British Council
headquarters for a catch up and chat about the Cairo cat populations,
cakes and sexual harrasment (to name just a few). We then made our way
across town to book 2 tickets on the nightbus to the Israeli border at
Taba-Eilat, crossing Sinai in 7 hours. To close our great Cairo
experience, we met some other local filmmakers and a young TV
documentary team from Germany for a traditional ‘Koshery’ (street food
megamix of spaghetti, rice, macaroni, chickpeas and a bunch of other
starchy/greasy ingredients) and later apple nargileh at Townhouse.
Armed with bananas and babywipes, we left for the bus station around
10:30 pm. Israel here we come..

Tunis is only an hour and 15 minutes flight from Marseille. The French influence is still in evidence, not least the prominence of the language, but also politics, architecture and vibrant cafe culture. But it’s inimitably Arab too, part of the Mahgreb and proud of it.

On our first afternoon we familiarized ourselves with the bustle of central Tunis, dominated by ave Bourghuiba and the labyrinthine 8th century Medina. Our hotel has been another excellent, if hilariously retro choice. La Maison Doree boasts a gold elevator, a 1950s phone booth and wi-fi in the ‘rez of put shoes only’.

Supper was shakshouka and fresh dorade at La Petite Hutte whilst the local men smoked incessantly and watched Chelsea v. Barcelona.

Our first meeting the following morning was with Dalenda Mekki of the Tunis Chamber of Commerce who works with Richard in Marseille on the Moviemed programme amongst many others. She is a formidable woman. Amongst other things, she works in enterprise, export, communication & training and tourism.

We then took two taxis (drivers in Tunis never admit they don’t know where they’re going) to Sindbad Productions, run by Anglo-Tunisian partnership of Philippa Day and Moez Kamoun. Working across the film spectrum of commercials to international co-productions, Sindbad are very ‘can do’. We met with similar enthusiasm from Quinta, a Franco-Tunisian company whom we met in the rain (!) over coffee on ave Bourghuiba. Ad-hoc addition of a local filmmaker was enlightening to get a perspective on the position for magrehbi filmmakers within the festival industry. On our final day, en route to the airport, we met with Habib Attia of Cinetelefilms who believes there will be interest from Tunisian’s many young filmmakers (there are five national film schools in the country!), so long as the project can be as accessible as possible considering the language and financial requirements of potential applicants. The drivers of Cinetelefilms got us smoothly and swiftly to the airport! Next stop Cairo.

In April 2012, with seed funding from the British Council’s Young Creative Entrepreneur programme, Elizabeth Mitchell and Maartje Alders of Tailormade Productions began a research and development trip for two weeks around the Mediterranean. The aim was to scope possibilities and partnerships in 5 countries in the region: Marseille (France), Tunisia (Tunis), Egypt (Alexandria/Cairo), Israel & Palestine (Tel Aviv), Greece (Athens) for a film production and exhibition project to take place in Spring 2013.

Marseille -

After arriving at Gare Saint Charles, an elevated train station with magnificent views across the city, we check in to Vertigo hostel, a very cool, reclaimed furniture and modern colour-schemed but friendly place with excellent wi-fi (infrastructure always proves to be the unsung hero of projects like this!).

I have been up since 3.30am so am keen for some lunch and we head to Place Notre Dame du Monte/Course Julien, a ‘bohemian’ area full of vintage stores, artisan soap factories and cheap cafes.

Properly fuelled, our first meeting is with Jerome Nunez of Films du Force Majeure, a local production company who specialize in documentaries and fictions as well as international co-productions, all good signs for a local partner. Force Majeure would be able to help with publicizing the project, recruiting filmmakers, organizing students to be runners/junior crew, applying for local funding and screening the work of the filmmakers at local cinemas such as L’Alhambra.  It is an encouraging start.

Then we head to FIDMarseille – the preeminent, international documentary festival in the city which takes place every July. General Secretary Anaelle and Programme coordinator and Head of FIDlab Fabienne are also enthusiastic and would be happy to support our workshop programme and outdoor screenings (with which they have previous experience) even suggesting the Teatra Silva which seats, gulp, 3000 people in a reproduction Roman amphitheatre! Let the games commence!

Day 2 and we meet with the public sector ‘official’ side of Marseille, Vassili Meimaris who heads up the Commission regionale du film Provence-Alpes-Cote d’Azur (PACA) and his financial officer, Florien. We wade through the detail of how we could qualify for funding considering the mobile nature of the project. It is possible to receive up to €30,000 per project from them and they want to help so we keep fingers crossed for future collaboration. Also in terms of promotion and contacting local filmmakers/potential participants the PACA commission is willing to help.

We get a little lost as we wander through very diverse districts before reaching the ‘center’ of the Old Port. Above the Tourist Bureau we meet veteran ex pat Englishman Richard Bower who heads up the Marseille Provence Chamber of Commerce tourism section. He is keen to make the most of the Mediterranean’s film industry to promote the area more generally and set up MovieMed, a regional network of 6 countries (including Tunisia and Egypt) to help coordinate this strategy. His advice is fantastic and he helps us to build a well-rounded picture of Marseille past and present. He suggest we meet the City’s representatives ‘Mission Cinema’ of Marseille and the British Consul in a possible next visit. In November he is organizing a MovieMed seminar in Marseille and we could be possibly invited to speak to the overseas partners.

All the contacts we made so far will be present at the upcoming Cannes festival next month, where Maartje and I will hopefully be attending as well. It’s looking very positive so far.

Next stop, Tunis!

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