Monday, 30 March 2015

Filming for Larry King in Israel - Part 2.

Every shooting day was ridiculously long but inspiration was running high as Israel is truly any cinematographers dream destination. We had a great team with producer, assistant, driver, guide and talent. They all became gaffer and sound engineers, extras and actors as the days progressed. There was not a moment of chilling and we pumped out the shots with careful consideration. On one occasion we stopped next to the highway to take a top shot of the Sea of Galilee. I jumped out and immediately a car with a trigger happy Israeli soldier stopped shouting in Hebrew to me. He had a gun and was ready to shoot…. how crazy is that. Well.. nobody really got what they wanted. The shot was not that interesting…… for both of us.

During our time in Israel I had the feeling that all the natural elements were proving themselves to me. One weekend we had a raging storm that came over the Mediterranean. The waves were up and the entire surfing population were on Red Alert. Anyhow, I was not here for fun and with the storm in full swing we made use of the free production value. Every day I took on the elements with motivation to try and top the previous day’s material. One of those nights, around 2 in the morning I found myself jumping out of bed completely in a state of paranoia. How quickly the state of Israel can do this to you. It sounded like the Carlton hotel was struck by a missile. The sound was so overwhelming and huge, the building was shaking. I jumped into my clothing and was ready to run for my life… but it was only thunder that struck right above the hotel. I was in complete disarray. The last week from a 16 days shoot I ended up in Jerusalem and if you thought it’s complicated within the country, this city takes things to an entire new level. I wish I could say that there was a magic button that one could push and find some sort of acceptance amongst all, but I fear to say that’s probably never going to happen.

One thing that does give me hope is that my filming here is part of Larry King-and-his-dynamic- team’s mission to help people with better ethnic and religious understanding amongst one another. To bring a positive message even though there is so much hate and judgment in the news today. I believe I am at the right place at the right time to do something in my small filmmaking way. To capture compelling stories and tell it in a truthful, but positive way. Everybody should once go and visit Israel and experience the place for yourselves. Besides all the extreme complications it’s an amazing country and I cannot wait for the next opportunity to film in the Holy Land.

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Filming for Larry King in Israel - Part 1.

How to even start to express with how complicated Israel is!  All around the Holy Land there are countries that hates them. Israel in a way, has it all. Located mostly in a desert - somehow they are the only ones with lots of water. Not lots of water Switzerland, but lots of water Middle East. Now I am sitting in a small town in the north of the country. I can see the Syrian border on a beautiful snow covered mountain a mere 20 km away. Four days ago there would probably have been some amazing powder runs on that mountain, but most likely not used to its full potential.

Flying is kind of always a stressful experience. Reasons being: filmmakers don’t travel light. Every client requires you to do something special and to make "their" film stand firmly above competition. But for that you need gear.. and lots of it. Packing as light as possible is essential. Stripping it all down to the bare minimum, leaving everything unnecessary at home. However check-in luggage ended up at 28 kg, which meant 5 kg over weight. But with already 40kg hand luggage there was nowhere to go with the 5 kg over weight - but to pay.

When security x-rayed my bag everything came to a halt. They basically closed my security check point after I got in and diverted the other passengers elsewhere. Like I was the first camera man ever to travel by plane! However it was my first time traveling to Israel and little did I know what they had in stall for me. I was called over the loud speaker to come to the counter. A group of men started to ask me funny questions about everything. At first I thought it was a joke.. Security: Why do you work in Switzerland? What do you do? You are African, with a German passport living in Switzerland. That’s not good mate. How long have you been working? What kind of films do you make? Show us some of your films. Xaver: Heart Aspirations? Security: Yes… Xaver: OK but that would mean that it’s a world premiere. Security: Mmm… Pimps prostitutes… it’s not getting better mate... On the radio in Hebrew…. blablabla… Does not sound too good, I thought. Security: Who do you work for? Xaver: Well, Larry… Security: How did you get this client? Xaver: Mmm...Do you know Tina… Security: Why do they need you and not ask somebody from the USA?….. well the list goes on but that was some of the more interesting ones. I must admit that I enjoyed the whole interrogation.

After that we went for a second round to a separate room… just to make sure and re-check all my hand luggage. I was worried about the weight, but somehow it was not on their agenda. They were looking for something way more threatening. Just when I thought it was over I was told to come with them to my checked-in luggage. They took me in a completely separate Israeli’s check-in area. I had to unpack my entire checked-in luggage while every part was examined thoroughly. As we departed an armored police vehicle followed us all the way down the runway until we were in the air. That’s something pretty substantial. Later I managed to ask the Swiss Police force what that was all about and they told me that El Al Airline is the most dangerous airline in the world. I tried to look if there was any fighter jets following us but could not see them.

Now you are in the Holy land and believe me when I say that you are in the hot seat. That first night I could not sleep. My head was spinning with excitement. Maybe I had the Jerusalem syndrome. There is such a thing... when people completely freak out when they are in the Holy Land and think they are the next big Masaya that came down from Heaven. It was not like that… however I had many script ideas flowing through my head. Basically at 1h00 I was kicked out of bed. I sat by the computer and jotted down all the thoughts that were rushing from my mind. The most beautiful words merged with crazy pictures. The land of milk and honey is no myth. It’s real.    

Behind the scenes photos by: Calvin Mays
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