Oct 16 2009

The launch of PenMedia’s Studio shoot of Shara’a Simsim

Published by at 10:52 am under Blogs

By Daoud Kuttab

Saed talking
It was 9:47 on Tuesday October 12th, 2009 when studio director Saed Andoni made the oft repeated word in film and television. Action. The action he was calling for was the filming of a short scene of a limbo set representing the bedroom of the Palestinian muppet character, Karim.

The filming of this small scene marked the launch of the filming of the fourth season of the Palestinian version of Sesame Street. The filming is new on many fronts. It represents the maiden filming by new Palestinian media NGO, PenMedia which I established shortly after resigning from my previous position as the director of the Institute of Modern Media at Al Quds University. PenMedia a subsidery of my Amman-based Community Media Network has a local advisory board headed by former Palestinian head writer Khalil Abu Arafeh.

Also new was the studio. A converted conference hall on the fourth floor of al Bireh tourist hotel the new studio represents the largest multi camera studio in Palestine today. Compared to where the last season was filmed at the studios of Al Quds Educational TV this new studio is probably four times as big allowing actors and camera crews the ability to work without being squished in a tiny studio.

Layla Sayegh the Shara’a Simsim project manager has also taken over as studio producer, running around all over the place and making sure that everyone knew what his or her job was and that everyone was available on time and with the right attitude. The beautiful set was given an extra touch by Layla whose last minute addition of some shrubbery and trees gave the studio that living and green look.

This shoot also represents the rise of stardom of a new studio director. Saed Andoni who began his filming work with the first series of shara’a simsim back in 1995 has now received his MA degree in filming from the UK and was line producer in the previous season. Saed has taken over the place of his mentor and trainer George Khleifi who has been a key creative talent for this sesame street program since its inception when he and I were involved in the Jerusalem Film Institute.

Even more changes are represented in this season. Shathin Zamamiri is the new puppeteer filling the shoes of the veteran muppeter Rajai Sandouka. Shathin has taken over the role of Karim. She and others were among those trained by Sesame’s muppet trainer Noel McNeal.

Finally with all the success of the past, another new element was born on this day. Apparently the first ever shara’s simsim actors union was born, headed by Fadi Al Ghol the muppeter who has given life to Hannen. Well with success comes some side issues that we must learn to live with.
For more background see this NY Times magazine piece http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/04/magazine/04sesame-t.html?scp=1&sq=can%20muppets%20make%20friends&st=cse

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