Working on an Indie film certainly has it’s struggles and issues. Adding into that a sensitive topic about divorce in the Muslim community, writer and director Oz Arshad has managed to create Finding Fatimah, a light-hearted RomCom. We spoke to Oz and the Director of Photography, Phil Moreton about how they tackled this feature film from start to finish.
How long have you been writing and directing, and is this your first feature film?I was a high school teacher in the UK for 10 years since leaving university and I left teaching in 2015 to pursue filmmaking. This was my first feature film, I haven’t done a short film or written before.How long were you working on it?
The script took around 4-5 months with rewriting taking place right up until production finished. Production was 1 month and post-production was 6-7 months. So from script to screen it has been just over a year.How did this movie come about?
I was hired by the studio, British Muslim TV, who wanted to make a light hearted Muslim centric romcom with the objective of it to being taken on tour around the UK on a charity tour.I had the freedom to write any story as long as it stayed within two parameters. Firstly, it must appeal to a wide ‘practicing’ Muslim family audience who’s views range from liberal to conservative and secondly to focus around online dating and the non-physical aspects of the character’s relationship. With that in mind I wanted to ensure two things from my side; that this be a true British movie and the story be one that can be accessed by many people without compromising the parameters. So Finding Fatimah became a light-hearted look at the struggles of everyday people trying to find love. It’s a story about how millennials in the Asian community overcome cultural hurdles to find love in 2017.What inspired you to do a film on divorce being a taboo for men too?
I have male and female friends who are divorcees and come from Asian and English backgrounds. From my experience English people don’t really give a monkeys and get on and move on, whereas with Asians it’s a cultural sticking point.I decided to focus on a male character as that was truest to one of my friends who is divorced. I don’t think divorce is a taboo anymore. I think communities have fully accepted the concept of divorce but not the divorcee. People might be like ‘You’re divorced, that’s fine, but not for me’. This is what becomes the challenge, because if it wasn’t for the divorce label being an unnecessary barrier, two people may be suited to each other. It also creates paranoia and frustration in the mind of the one divorced. This conflict was something which interested me.What are some of the challenges you faced in bringing this film to life?
With this being a micro budget feature we had many challenges in terms of the number of locations and cast. Trying to align logistical, financial and human resources was always testing. A previous producer who left the project had scheduled the shoot as six day weeks over four weeks so we were locked in due to deadlines. It squeezed our time for pre-production which was excruciatingly challenging on a film with so many locations and cast. Without key members of the crew in production and post production, this film would never have seen the light of day.Can you tell us about any gear you used, as I am sure you had restrictions being an indie film.
I knew early on that, due to budget, I would not have access to big lighting trucks, camera cranes, elaborate gimbal systems or steadicams so I went for a substance over style approach. My cinematographer Phil Moreton has done an incredible job with the tools we did had to make the film look so good on the money we had. He was instrumental in ensuring the money was used precisely for gear that would visually help the storytelling.We used Cineo HS lights pretty much extensively on every lighting setup.Our main camera was a Red Epic-M Dragon with an Arri Alura Fujinon 18-80mm cine zoom T2.6. A couple of scenes required a RED Scarlet Dragon as a second camera. We used a Chapman Leonard cobra dolly for all our camera movement. Exterior establishing shots were done using a BlackMagic Design Ursa Mini 4.6k. Aerial drone shots were mainly on a Sony ARII. The handheld online videos were shot separately with a combination of DSLR Canon 550D, GO Pro and DSLR Panasonic GH4.Phil, why did you decide to use the Cineo HS?
Finding Fatimah, released date: April 21st 2017. Watch the trailer