Irune Gurtubai and Ben Sharrock are currently studying on the MFA Advanced Film Practice course at Screen Academy Scotland, Edinburgh Napier. Irune writes from Spain where they are currently casting their final project for the MFA (WORKING TITLE: Untitled Sahara Film). Irune is producer on the film and Ben is the writer/director. They plan to shoot the film in the Sahara in October 2014.

I started working on this project (WORKING TITLE: Untitled Sahara Film) almost a year ago, when writer/director Ben Sharrock and I came up with the concept for it. We developed the script of this short fiction film together, which will be filmed at the Sahrawi refugee camps, in Algeria. I’m aware that most people don’t know much about the Sahrawi and their situation. Long story short (very short), Western Sahara has been under Moroccan occupation since 1976 and hundreds of thousands of Sahrawi people have lived in refugee camps in Algeria since then. 

As part of the preparation for the film, Ben and I visited the camps last December. It is really difficult to get a seat on the charter flight that took us straight to the camps, but thanks to the contacts we had made in the previous months, we got our seats, and we got an NGO to sponsor us. It was an amazing experience and an invaluable trip for us. We had meetings with the Ministry of Culture and the Director of the Kaid Saleh Abidin Film School, which was one of our main goals for the trip. The collaboration with both institutions is key for the film so we were delighted to have very successful meetings with them. We also experienced first hand what filming at the camps would be like, as we shot a promotional video for the NGO that was supporting us. 

More recently, in April, we flew to the Basque Country, where we are currently casting for the film, as there is a big Sahrawi community here. We are looking for two 10 year-old boys to star in the film. It has proven to be quite challenging, as the Sahrawi community is very closed, but this is of course part of the process. Through our contacts, we met a very influential Sahrawi woman who is helping us gather lots of children for the casting sessions. We have had a few sessions already but most are yet to come!

As well as the casting, our two other main focuses at the moment are finance and crew. We have already raised 62% of the budget, but the process has barely started. While we consider whether to have a fundraising campaign or not, we are in touch with potential private investors. At this point, private investors are half of the funding bodies we have on board, so they represent an important part and lots of opportunities.  

Regarding crew, we will soon start recruiting the key members. We have a few names that we are interested in, as well as people we have worked with before. For other roles, we have designed a project with the Kaid Saleh Abidin Film School at the camps, where the students will be able to take on roles and be part of our crew. This way, this becomes a collaborative project where the refugees have the opportunity to get involved. 

We still have a lot of work to do, but the project is taking shape and we look forward to everything that is coming!