Q & A Sally El Hosaini

Babylon: My Brother the Devil took part in Babylon in 2009. Can you tell us how long the film took to make altogether, from idea to completion? And can you tell us a bit about how you managed to make it work, especially with the financing?

Sally El Hosaini: It took five years to make the film. I've been told that the average time to make a feature is six years so I think my experience is pretty normal. First there was the writing and development stage. In the beginning I was doing it solo so I had to reorganise my life to accommodate it. I left a full time job at BBC Drama to focus on writing the screenplay so I had to get used to living on a much tighter budget. I managed to make a few promos for charities on the side. I was also fortunate enough to get onto a few different development schemes like Babylon, RAWI, and the Sundance Institute Feature Film Program. The Sundance Institute awarded the project some development grants so that was integral to moving the project forward. The next stage was finding a producer and raising finance. I'm more of a creative so this was my least favourite part of the process, but I quickly learned about the business and developed a "producing chip" in my brain. As an independent filmmaker you have to. So I hustled and managed to attach a fantastic group of people to the project like my producers Gayle Griffiths, Julia Godzinskaya, and Michael Sackler. The film was financed 100% privately without any support from public bodies. Then, when the film was finally green-lit, I was on the 'hamster wheel' of prep, shoot, post. And now we've only just taken our first steps out on the festival circuit so I suppose the journey still isn't over.

Babylon: How did you recruit the local community where you shot and how did the production work on a day to day basis? For example, what size crew did you use, how did you manage things like crowd control, police relations and so on?

Sally El Hosaini: I've been living in Hackney, where we filmed, for over ten years. All of the locations in the movie are in my neighbourhood so I know a lot of people there. Also, Hackney Film Office supported the project and understood what we were trying to do. Once I had chosen which estate I wanted to shoot on we had a meeting with the Tenants and Resident's Association. They were excited to have us around all summer. We wanted to be part of the community so we actually set up our production office on the estate. People from the area would walk into the office and ask us what we were doing then they would get involved. We kept the crew small and intimate so that we were light on our feet and non intrusive. This allowed us to be spontaneous. We had no issues with police and lots of the kids who live on the estate were cast in the film. And Gayle Griffiths is now working with the TRA to set up a Cinema Club in the community hall on the estate. This allows the local community to have access to films since most can't afford the extortionate £11 for a cinema ticket.

Babylon: How long did you allow yourself for post-production and what were the major issues, if any?

Sally El Hosaini: We had a ten week edit which felt really tight because the first assembly of the movie was 3 hours long. Just too much good material. My editor, Iain Kitching, was fantastic though. We rose to the challenge and managed to finish the film in time for our World Premiere at Sundance Film Festival. We worked until the final hour (5am) and literally hand carried the film to Sundance the next day. We were really proud to be the only British film in competition.

Babylon: What are the prospects for sales and distribution post Sundance and Berlin?

Sally El Hosaini: Winning the Best Cinematography (World Dramatic) award at Sundance has given the film a lot of attention. As did being in the Panorama Special section at Berlinale and winning the Europa Cinemas Label award out there. This award means that our film was chosen out of 54 others as the one that the Europa Cinemas chain thought would do best in their cinemas. There's also a financial incentive towards European distributors so it's a wonderfully practical award. We have sold the film to the USA and Canada. And we are just tying up a deal with a UK distributor so there will be a British release announced soon. Join our facebook page to stay in the loop: or follow us on Twitter @MBTDFilm


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