December 2015 – January 2016 were not the best times for this project. I was stuck in the biggest patch of Film Board mud incapable of getting anywhere with the permit I had applied and paid for. As my partner put it at the time, this was stressing me out as it was testing two sides of my personality: the need to be a goody two shoes and the need to be organised and in control of things. Try as I might I was not getting anywhere.
Enter two unseen heroes of this whole caper. Dusan and Suheil. Dusan is a post-production specialist and awesome editor. I met Dusan via his very talented wife Michelle who is a health economist doing a PhD at LSHTM. Michelle and Dusan moved to Tanzania in Autumn 2015 so Michelle could crack on with her PhD research and Dusan could start something in the film industry. Dusan kindly – and now it would seem perhaps foolishly – offered to help follow up on what was happening with the permit when I returned back to the UK in December. He did everything, he went to the Film Board, he went to the medical research ethics board, he drew on every contact Michelle had, he sent me 15 whatsapp messages every day at 6am for a month. But still nothing. All he ended up with was a whole load of frustration and no permit.
At this point camera Gary put me in touch with a friend who had worked with Suheil – arguably the best fixer in Tanzania. If only I met Suheil in October things could have been so much easier. Suheil took up the challenge of a film permit with ease and confidence – he would have everything sorted in a week. All seemed straightforward, can’t see the problem. This was music to my ears. I love Suheil, when in a desperate situation you need a whole load of positivity, and he has it in buckets. However, after printing out a whole forest on my behalf and try as he might (and believe me he tried) Suheil could not secure the permit, and understandably, like Dusan, got frustrated with the whole thing. It took up a lot of his time, resources and energy (and I’m convinced gave him malaria – science fact!) but still nothing.
I wanted to write this post to highlight to anyone reading it that first, if you ever think of making a film in Tanzania your first port of call should be Suheil. He may not have secured me a permit, but if anyone was going to do it, it would have been him. Also – and I think he’ll thank me for the plug – he has a boat that your crew can hire. Our last days in Tanzania were a little stressful so we’ve not been on the boat, but he was always keen to tell me about it. Second, if you want geeky film tips, an editor or post-production specialist, Dusan is your man. His most recent work premiered at Sundance dontchaknow. Third, over the course of trying to secure a formal permit lots of other production companies in Tanzania gave me advice, some were baffled by what was happening and some reported they were having a similar confusing and problematic time with the Film Board. However no-one had ever paid and not received the final permit. So finally, if you are the Film Board, are you ever going to formally give me the permit I paid for in December?