Starring in an Arabian blockbuster doesn’t happen every day, so join us as we follow Mohammed Al-Ibrahim on his inspiring journey, both in front of and behind the cameras of “Black Gold” in Qatar.
Okay….so today has been all about the highs and lows. Well, now that I come to think of it, it’s like that every day!
Actors can be extremely demanding. Wait, let me rephrase that. Actors ARE extremely demanding.
Obviously, they are here to focus strictly on their performance. Everything else – from the time they arrive on set to when they eat, go back to their trailers, or have to get into costume and make-up – is managed by someone else, and that someone is me.
With a cast of eight and only one other person assisting, it’s quite a hefty task. I’m communicating with the drivers, the costume department, the make-up department, the 2nd Assistant Director for adjusted times on set, and a few other people that need my assistance… and sometimes all of the above at once! It’s one of those positions where I wished I had five ears, eyes in the back of my head, and a sixth sense for what someone is thinking.
Being an actor and assisting them are two completely different things. It requires heavy attention to detail and a lot – and I do mean A LOT – of patience.
I have to be aware of their whereabouts at all times, whether they are on set or at base camp, and this is the biggest challenge. One moment I could be at ease, and the next split second I could be told that all the actors are needed on set immediately. This is the part where I am running around non-stop for a good hour finding everyone, getting them into make-up and ready for their next scene, while simultaneously trying to remember who it is that likes only one spoonful of sugar in his coffee. I am also at this point carrying three of the actors’ backpacks, on the walkie-talkie and on two phones at the same time……but my God, I love it.
It’s day 2 of riding camels in the desert of Khor Al-Udaid, and I’m just getting used to balancing myself properly when my camel trots. Other than realizing that I have to bond with my camel, and the fact that I have a really sore butt, I’m also realizing how tough camels truly are. Their stamina is unlike that of any other animal I have ever seen. They can easily cover dozens of kilometers of land in a straight stretch and it wouldn’t faze them, even though that stretch also means hovering over sand dunes without losing pace. They truly are desert animals that have adapted to their environment.
This is an environment that feels heavenly when I’m riding through it. Just to think that merely seventy or so years ago, one of my ancestors was riding along this same stretch on his camel. The only difference is that he was actually riding with a purpose. He was on a journey with a motive to survive, whereas I’m preparing for a film role. Man oh man; the years have brought change to this country at such a rapid pace. The fight for survival in the desert might be gone, but still, here I am riding a camel through the desert as the bravest of my ancestors did back then.
Shooting “Black Gold” has begun. Today however, for the first time I woke up to go to set as an actor. What a way to start the Doha shoot!
Having been previously fitted into my costume, I got dressed and sat through the tedious make-up process. The make-up process consisted of three segments. The first is the applied “worn out” look on the face and neck. The skin looks burnt and dry. Later on when arriving to set, the artists then apply “dust” on the clothing and observable skin areas such as: arms, hands, legs, and feet. The final part is the “touch-up” moments before going for a take.
The wonderful bit is that throughout the day, I am regarded as one of the cast. Therefore, the other cast members and myself travel to the set location together, hang out in the same tent together in between takes, and even eat our meals together.
One thing is for sure, the weather has certainly helped me get more into character. When walking alongside the dunes on the second scene of the day, the wind started to really pick up speed, kicking up sand into my face. It allowed me to delve deeper into my character by living as close as possible to the conditions that these characters would have gone through back then. I also didn’t allow myself to drink much water, in order to feel sincere thirst.