Filmmaker Sam Kadi is no stranger to shooting in unconventional circumstances. For his last film, “Little Gandhi,” he found a novice photographer to capture footage inside war-torn Syria. Kadi resorted to Facebook and Skype as his communication tools.
As the world went into lockdown during the coronavirus pandemic, Kadi was working on his latest project “Lamya’s Poem,” an animated tale inspired by the great poet Rumi, on which he served as producer. The film was still in production before lockdown and featured at the Annecy Animation Festival as part of the Work in Progress section.
Kadi spoke to Variety about working on the animation remotely, shopping a film virtually and trying to finish his “work in progress” during a pandemic.
How has it been having a virtual screening in Cannes and being a part of the virtual market?
The official festival was extended due to the pandemic and ran from June 15 to June 30.
Our product screened on the 22nd and it’s been an extremely unique experience. We were showing a teaser and presentation and working that market doing pre-sales.
Had you finished production before the lockdown?
We were still working on it. It slowed down a bit before we went into lockdown, but we are so lucky to be doing animation right now because it’s one area that you can execute during this lockdown.
For us, we eventually got our animators working from home and that put us back on track. They’re all working on the project as we speak.
Logistically, where are your animators spread and how are you managing it all during this time?
Our team is spread out between Canada, Washington D.C and I’m here in Santa Barbara. Zoom is not foreign to us. We were using it before lockdown, but it’s being used heavily since we can’t get together.
As far as voice talent (Mena Massoud “Aladdin” and Millie Davis “Good Boys”), we recorded our voice talent early in the process and we still have more work to do. But it’s challenging. We’re looking for background voices who have the ability who can record at home. Some actors who do voiceover work for a living have sound booths in their homes and they’ve been able to record, but it’s a unique experience trying to maneuver and find solutions and to be creative while trying to stay on track and keep the process going and to finish the project by the end of the year.
As we speak, “Lamya’s Poem,” has been picked up by sales agents is that correct?
Yes. In North America, the film is represented by ICM. Right before Annecy, we landed with West End films in the U.K. They were behind “The Breadwinner” and “Song of the Sea” which was one of my favorite animations.
We are so lucky to have them. Everything has been done over Zoom calls. There were a lot of negotiations back and forth. You usually meet people during markets or you have a meeting with them somewhere in L.A. or London. And now, it’s all online.
What’s a typical day like for you?
I’ve been taking meetings from 6 a.m. You’re talking with people in London and then you’re on the phone to somebody from Denmark.
And then I’ve got calls in Los Angeles or Beijing. I’m sitting here talking to you, while I have like two screens — I’m working on one and watching meetings on the other and communicating with people. I keep reminding myself that I’m so blessed to be part of this and working a life-changing platform which is motion pictures.