Papa est la!

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I am a single father and I’m gonna let you in on a little secret…I’m Batman!

Baby-Doll_WithdrawalEvery parent, whether lone or in a relationship knows that feeling. You have to be everything and anything to this little person, you GET TO BE everything to her. The car breaks down, you fix it, a toy splits in two, you put it together, she’s hungry, you provide food, she’s sick, you provide medicine, she cries, you provide comfort. You hold your baby until she feels better and all the tears have dried up and her one toothed smile re-appears.
To her, you are the single most powerful being in the universe, the one with all the answers, the one who carries all her stuff like a pack mule, the one with the silver coins that are used to obtain goods and especially the one with all the tasty snacks.
Your utility belt contains calpol, nappies, wipes, breadsticks, petit filou, oranges, cauliflower cheese, brocoli, spaghetti and all the major food groups (that you don’t even eat) but for her, you provide everything.son_of_the_demon_by_axlsalles-d4v2i2h
Your biggest weakness is your heart, the way it breaks when she’s teething and you know there is nothing, with all your power and might, there is nothing you can do to soothe her, you can only hold her in your arms and share her pain. The only thing you want from God is to be granted the ability to take away that pain even if it means transferring it to yourself just so that your baby doesn’t have to suffer anymore.
Your neck stiffens when you’re at soft play and the bigger kids are running very close to her, nearly knocking her over, it takes every ounce of patience you have to fight the protective impulse coursing through every fibre of your being but you can do this, you’re a dad, her dad, you have to set an example.
You are the first man she knows, you are the unachievable standard that she will set for her future partner/spouse and who she will use as comparison when she sees TV dads & her friends’ dads. If you you are in a relationship, your daughter will see that as the standard of how things should be. How I treat that woman, how I speak to that woman, how I hold that woman will register in my daughter’s mind as ‘normal’, as ‘standard’ therefore Dads must be conscious of our actions and words, for our baby sees everything we do and will inevitably copy it.  She must not ever see a person undermined because of her gender or her looks or any other characteristic. Instead our daughters must see us celebrate the women around us,for their achievements, their triumphs but also during the harshest of times, when our partner is suffering, our daughters must see us holding them and helping them through it.
For that is the kind of man you have to be when you are a father. Your legacy won’t be the house/car/savings that you leave behind, your little girl can get all of that on her own, your legacy will be the way you lived your life and the way you treated those around you.
robian-toddler-damianI don’t fight crime but I fight other battles in everyday life. I win when I see that smile when picking her up from the minder after a long day at work. She doesn’t care for my suit, my car or my gadgets, she just needs me to be there. I am grateful to be able to feed and clothe my child and that she has not once seen me cry while I look at my bills and think of how I will cover them this month.
So dads and mums, treat yourself when you can, remind yourself of how good a job you’re doing and ignore those that would put you down.
You are Batman!
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Journey to divorce

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Getting married is oft romanticised as the ultimate goal of a relationship/dating. Films, TV series often end with the couple getting hitched, especially animated films of the disney variety tend to end with marriage and a promise of happily ever after and we rarely ever see this magical ‘ever after’.
Back in 2003, I remember watching a film titled ‘Chalte Chalte’, the first half revolves around the usual tropes of boy meets girl, they get off to a rocky start but gradually become friends and fall in love, there’s a love triangle and family resistance but they surmount those obstacles and get married. I thought it was romantic, the songs were good and the humour spot on. I also though the film was over but turns out we were only halfway through and it surprised me as I was thinking well they’re married so they’re gonna be happy, all good, all sorted but when I realised they were going to show ‘marital problems’, I distinctly remember feeling my heart sink because subconsciously I didn’t want to have this idyllic picture ruined but was also morbidly curious as to which direction they would take this in.
The main characters go through financial problems, family relationship breakdown and slowly drift apart. This crushed me, I couldn’t comprehend what was happening.
Bear in mind that I hadn’t exactly been around healthy examples of marriage while growing up, my parents got close to divorce multiple times and were unhappy, other wedded couples in my immediate family had more than their fair share of trials. So why was I so surprised at seeing Shah Rukh Khan and Rani Mukherjee going through the same issues?
In spite of all the bad that I had seen in real life, romantic comedies gave me hope and built this idea that if you found the right person, you’d be alright, you’d always be smiling and happy and you’d sing and dance around the house together. Until you had kids that is…THEN your kids would sing and dance with you and repeat the cycle!
That film gave me pause, I related it back to my parents’ situation then brushed it aside. Fast forward a year, I watched Hum Tumhare Hain Sanam(which actually came out 2 years earlier but I was a poor student in London so I only caught it when a friend lent me the DVD, or was it VCD still then?!)

 Now this plot started with a similar premise, the couple get married but the husband doubts whether his wife is just being a dutiful wife rather than actually being in love with him and her friendship with a male friend adds to the drama and self doubt. Those feelings of lack of self worth, doubt, needing constant reassurance really hit home for me. Having had an ‘unstable’ childhood due to a traumatic event at age 8/9 and having a controlling father as my primary male role model hadn’t actually turned me into him but instead made me feel unvalidated and unworthy on many occasions, the surrounding patriarchal society also had a lot to do with that. I related more to the women around me who were at the whim of their partners and has to ask for permission to go outside than I did to the men, who had money, resources, flash cars, seemingly owning the world and the women in it.
I examined my own life and relationships and noted a disturbing truth, as much as I rejected the controlling behaviour that I had seen, my lack of self worth made me seek validation in others and that constant need turned into somewhat demanding behaviour towards people I was in a relationship with, I would need a text or a call regularly, I would ask for reassurance, confirmation of their feelings regularly. I saw it as something that was essential in the relationship, that need to be told and reminded that I meant something to someone, that I mattered.
It took me nearly a decade to work through this(I’ll probably delve into that decade in another post, should there be an apetite for it), counselling, breakups, health scares, depression, a lot happened on my way to discovering who I was when I didn’t have anyone with me. Who am I without my friends, partners, family? I remember the moments where I felt whole for the first time since childhood. I was in the pre-production phase of a short film, was still refining the script and getting a crew/cast together, work was especially heavy during that period, lots of unpaid overtime. I had just saved up enough to help my parents buy a house and get out of the rental market. I got home after a production meeting, having found my crew, met a huge deadline at work and made the bank transfer which brought me back to zero savings and I remember feeling…good. It was alien to me at first, I had so many responsibilities, people counting on me, goals I wanted to achieve, classes I had signed up but for the first time, I didn’t feel overwhelmed, I looked at it all and thought to myself ‘I’ll only do this if I want to, not because I have to, I don’t have to do anything I don’t want to do or be anyone I don’t want to be’. I allowed myself to stop feeling the weight of the world on my shoulders and to just let it all go, to care less about what was expected of me by others but more about what was healthy for me.
I met someone creative, active, kind and joyful. I did not seek her validation, she just gave me her support and was my biggest fan as I was her’s. We dated, were in a relationship, moved in together and were married not long after. Armed with the knowledge of what we’d seen around us growing up and not wanting to repeat the mistakes we had witnessed, We talked at length about what we each wanted from a life partner and dotted the i’s and crossed the t’s, agreed the no no’s and we compromised. 2 years later we got separated while expecting our first child, no amount of reading or relationship counselling could repair the rift between us. I was the first to say it out loud, its over, I cried. It seemed like life itself was ending, we wouldn’t get a house together, build a tree house for our children, get a scooter and go for picnics at the park on sundays, have quickies before going out on fridays, travel the world hand in hand while we grow old.
Now I could say that it was the upcoming birth of my child that got me through it but it would only be partially true. What got me through was the memory of that moment where I felt…good. Knowing that I felt that way once without anyone, and as dependant as I’d become on my life partner during our time together, I would be ok without her and she would also still thrive without me. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t an instant feeling of ‘yay i’m gonna be alright’, it took time, self reflection and mindfullness, we each had to work through our feelings of anger, abandonment, betrayal and pain, we mourned the relationship but we continued living for our own sakes and our child’s.
Divorce does leave you dissapointed and struggling to reconcile things for a while. Thinking of a life beyond the next 24 hours was impossible for a long time. But slowly that feeling of hope came back, armed with more life experience, I refused to be brought down and made even more cynical, I choose to love life again with all its wrinkles.

Unnecessary metaphor: Two people sow a seed in the Soil, both must water the plant and keep it protected from outside conditions for it to grow and blossom. If it gets too much water but not enough sun, it may well wither…

Hoo boy! Its been a while.

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_20160816_114806.JPGWhere to begin? Its been practically two years since my last post. I’ve clearly been busy with personal and professional ‘things’. I joined a meetup group called lets make a scene last year and participated in a number of fun short films, I even got to act in a couple of them, granted I was typecast as ‘Thug #1’ but I liked it and made plenty of friends along the way. Some have gone on to make some amazing shorts, others realised that filmmaking wasn’t for them. We all got something out of it. Thank you Mandana for running a tight ship!

Set1The group was on hiatus for a short while but has now started back up with a new leader at the helm, I haven’t attended any sessions yet but I hope to do so soon. You can check out the group here: http://www.meetup.com/LetsMakeASceneLondon/

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Or have a look at our past films on vimeo: https://vimeo.com/groups/266496/videos/136675324

I also had a small part in a Tinder related short from the West London Film Group, it felt good to act again. I produced a short comedy written by Chris Waller: Counsellor(s) a few weeks back which is now in the editing stage (set photos embedded). I cannot wait to share that one with the world, Chris is very talented and I look forward to reading his future scripts. The team got along very well and we all hope to work together again soon. Thank you Chris, Richard, Ranmal, Tugba, Ed & Ed for a great shoot!

A la prochaine, les amies…
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Remember Hopscotch?

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In last year’s creative collaboration post, I mentionned Old Mauritia. I have since worked on a short video with them and that has given me a reason to dust off the camera. I tried my hand at a different kind of filmmaking: Visual comedy.

This term bring to mind Charlie Chaplin, Benny Hill & many other classics. This often dialogue-less form of entertainment is the hardest to pull off in my opinion as with a reduced amount of words, I find it hard to convey meaning and comedy across. When I started on the script, I felt very much out of my comfort zone and after a number of attemps, I decided to only write an outline and to wing it on the day of filming.

I would never recommend winging it at all when it comes to filmmaking but old habits die hard. Turns out that improvising the scenes and character actions worked much better in this case than what I had attempted to write. The shoot was done at short notice (read 1 day notice), therefore we didn’t have much time to find actors so I put myself in it alongside Goolshun, the founder of Old Mauritia.

I would also never recommend directing and acting at the same time because the last time I tried this (my first attempt at filmmaking) ended up in abject failure in terms of delivering a decent film. Although a lot was learned from that project. I brought my tripod, setup the camera and started filming from a shot list that was mostly in my head. Credit to Goolshun for putting up with my dictatorial directing style and my budding staging skills. I would have strangled me if I was working with me…

Early on in the brainstorming process, we decided it was going to be a mix between thriller, comedy & musical. It turned out to be a riff on all three. My days as a Tenor in my college choir are well behind me so I resolved to do a dance only number rather than singing. A decision very well received by Goolshun. I picked a Salman Khan dance video (Dhinka Chika) from the film ‘Ready’ and put us through the paces of learning a choreography that neither had seen before. We shot the dance part at the end of the day and were running out of sunlight very fast. I am not-doing-that-again (he says…again).

We think it turned out pretty well but you, our audience will either confirm/deny that. Please do watch it with your mates and let us know what you all think!

Adults & Videogames

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mk2-screen2I wrote this post 3 years ago but never got round to publishing it, I found the draft while going through my music folder. I find my writing style to have been a little juvenile and passive aggressive at the time but I thought best to post this as it was written then without any corrections. Please note that some of the figures below are now out of date.

“I’m writting this piece so I can express my bewilderment as to the general public’s ignorance in regards to modern videogames and the people who play them.

As a proud console owner, I sometimes feel that adult gamers are often the subject of ridicule due to their purportedly childish hobby. Those jokes often come from people who haven’t touched a console since they were what? 12?!

Lets start with a couple of facts about the gaming industry:

  • The commercial videogame industry has been around for close to 40 years.
  • The global industry is worth £35+ billion pounds.
  • The industry directly provides 32000 jobs in the US alone and a lot more in peripheral companies.

The industry has yearly trade shows like TGS and E3 where gaming journalists (yes these are journalists that report on games similar to those that report on films).

Atari2600The ‘playstation generation’ as we are sometimes referred to, has grown up in parallel with the growth and maturity of the games industry. I started in the late 80s playing on my dad’s Amstrad PC. Graphics weren’t much but gameplay was solid on games like Bruce Lee’s Enter The Dragon. I moved up to the Atari console which had many more games and then onto the MegaDrive where I was introduced to Street Fighter. When the 16-bit era started, SOnic the hedgehog and other staples of the videogame industry were born. The games were targeted to gamers under 18 as they likely were the only generation that had grown up playing the earlier videogames, therefore it was assumed that only they would be interested in the industry.

haa2501frontLets not forget though that the games were being developed by adults for big companies and those adults had probably not played many if any video games during their youth simply because they didnt exist at the time. Mortal Kombat was released in arcades and afterwards ported onto consoles. MK was definitely not a kids’ game and featured violence and gore in a very surreal way but this gave us gamers an insight into the future of gaming as we journeyed into adult life. As violence became mainstream thanks to movie franchises like lethal weapon, Terminator, Die Hard, Predator, it became acceptable to have violence in videogames as long as they were properly labelled. This was another phase of videogames maturing with the gamers and the society around them.

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A few years later came the Playstation, fathered by Ken Kuturagi. The console was groundbreaking in terms of technical ability giving developers the possibility to build interactive 3D worlds for gamers to do battle in. Videogame realism further improved giving opportunities for games to try and emulate the special effects found in movies. The improved memory capabilities of Compact discs also allowed for better story telling in games. As gamers were getting older and more educated, their tastes were changing and growing progressively. They didnt just want to shoot monsters, they wanted a reason to shoot the monsters, they wanted to know their character’s backstory so they can relate to them. They wanted believable enemies so they could understand why they had to shoot them. The playstation has sold 102 million units worldwide since its release.

Halo_Combat_Evolved_In_Halo_3Gamers and developers of every calibre embraced the console and the industry giving rise to developers who would specialise in certain genres of games, some would specialise on a specific franchise and others on specific gamer age groups.

The original amstrad PC gamers were now in their early 20s and going into the employement world (to which many a gamer was to be lost and never recovered). Those who did stick to the hobby, used their hard earned cash to purchase consoles and games. With the advent of the internet, gamer communities were created around forums, people sharing walkthroughs, writing reviews and creating mods for PC games. The advent of the Playstation also brought in better FMV (full motion video) support, CD music and VCD playback, bringing games a tad closer to the movie entertainment industry. Games now had intricate plots, characterisations, voice acting, drama (see: Metal Gear Solid).

metal-gear-solid-hdThe latter elements of a game were created not just because the technology allowed for it but also due to the demand from older gamers for…well ‘older gamer oriented games’. We wanted stories that would rival the ones we read/watch on television, special effects that would rival Sci-fi blockbusters  and characters/worlds that would be easily recognisable as a brand just like other parts of our life was similarly branded: NIKE, NISSAN, SONY, NOKIA etc.

Gaming was always part of pop culture but it has now become even more prominent and dare I say …mainstream.

If you’re curious about this hobby, please ask a friend who has a console to help you play one of their favorite games and ask them why they like it so much. You never know, you may have a hidden talent at a particular game!

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Rambles about depression

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We’ve all suffered from depression at one point or another of our lives, we may not have known it then and chalked it off to a monday morning blues or post holiday blues or even PMS. For the majority of people, depression can be shrugged off but there is a sizeable % of the general population who cannot just drop it.
According to various sources, as many as 121 Million people worldwide have some form of depression and only 30 million of them have access to an effective source of treatment.

‘What is depression?’ is a question I’m often asked. The true answer is I wish I bloody knew. It can be characterised by deep sadness, lack of energy and will power to do even menial tasks or even getting up in the morning. Some people finds that if affects their devision making ability. The above are only the most common symptoms, there are so many variations that it would probably take a mainframe to list out the permutations. infinity sign.
A biological explanation could be: the chemicals that keep our brains functioning and keep us ‘sane’, tend to balance themselves out naturally, when depressed, those chemicals are produced in fluctuating amounts, therefore causing the brain to act abnormally. Blah! Maybe that’s why there are meds for depression, to regulate the flow of chems in the brain.

It is a legally recognised as an illness, which is awesome coz now if you have depression, people can’t say you’re just CRAZAY! Although you’ll probably think of yourself as just CrAZAY!!!

Who suffers from depression?
Everyone…although those who have a history of abuse, whether physical, sexual or emotional tend to be prone to it. Women are twice as likely to suffer due to having higher levels of estrogen than men. People who have participated in substance abuse are also known to suffer from depression.

The reduced confidence that comes with depression is perhaps what causes the latter. If i’m not sure of my own ability then I can’t put any weight behind my decisions so I just don’t decide.

Is depression fun?
NO.

What is happening with PFZ?

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Clipboard01How long does it take to edit this bloody thing? Our main edit has been completed for just under a year now. In order to fully realise our vision, we wanted to add some animated transitions between the scenes to add a bit more originality to the episode. The preferred method being rotoscoping, check out the Keanu Reeves and Robert Downey Jr film ‘A Scanner Darkly’ for an example http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4E9zMVocnys.
Rotoscoping on a budget is a right pain in the **** in that it takes a lot of manual effort to produce just one frame (there are 24 frames in a second of video). So for a five second transition, you need 115 frames and if it takes half an hour per frame, it would take roughly two whole days of work to produce 5 seconds of footage.
It took us a whopping 6 months to find someone who was interested in working that hard on a lo/no pay basis and the reason why they came on board is that they thought the PFZ story is one worth telling.

You can see our animator’s blog here: http://denisantanasblog.blogspot.co.uk/2013/12/last-project-of-year.html

The talented Deni Santana has spent the majority of December working on our transitions, half of them are done and she is currently working on the other half. Thank to Deni’s dedication and creative flair, we have also asked her to be involved in creating the Title Sequence once the transitions are done. Deni is juggling our work among other paid work, check out her blog for more on her current projects.
To be frank, it sucks to have a great piece like PFZ in hand and not be able to share it with the world ASAP, sucks to have to spend so much time on post production, it is downright depressing when i think that we finished shooting this in 2012 and its still not out in 2014. But it will be done, we won’t give up.
I would like to thank everyone who has worked on this and is currently working on this on top of their full time job and family responsibilities, your help is really appreciated.
PFZ will be worth the wait.
Your’s,
Zaeem

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