Greetings valued Dan's Movie report and Action-Flix.com readers. I had the opportunity to watch a very cool movie called 'Redemption Day'. I wanted to know more so I sat down and chatted with Producer/Writer/Director Hicham Hajji . He chats about getting the film together and various inside stories behind the production. Let us take a trip to Morocco and enjoy the ride with Hicham.
Chat about how the idea for the plot of Redemption day materialized, did you do some research on archaeological sites? In my review, which I have also attached, I stress that much of this film, though fictionalized is plausible, I am curious if you have seen or heard accounts of things like this happening?
Thanks for taking the time to watch the movie, and I’m really happy you enjoyed it
I had the idea to write this script when my high school friend was killed during a terrorist attack in Burkina Fasso while she was sitting on a bar with her crew during a mission for Amnesty International. I wanted to write a movie where I show the point of view of our part of the world.
During the writing process, there was this interesting discovery in Morocco of the 315k human bones and everyone was talking about this. I thought it was very interesting and that would have been a great excuse to bring the Kate character in Morocco, and of course we did many research and wanted to add real life events in the movie.
I saw that you also are listed as one of the film's producers, I am curious with regards to the casting process, how much were you involved, and were the parts write specifically for the actors involved?
I’m the main producer behind the movie, and therefore I was the only one involved on the casting. I was very fortunate to have an amazing casting director by my side, Nancy Foy, with whom I’ve been working in close collaboration for almost a year until she was convinced with the script and my abilities to put that on screen.
Once we got the actors, I had to adapt the script in consideration and give the actors a more attractive parts, almost like a customized script
I really enjoy the work of Serinda Swan, chat about her audition and perhaps what ideas about her character she brought in.
After we made the offer to Serinda, she liked the script and we had a long conversation where she wanted to know everything about my vision about the cinematography, the light, the characters. She understood her character immediately, and created a back story between her and her husband that made her character very credible and intense.
Did you have time with the cast for table reads, for them to get familiar with each other?
Unfortunately, not. I was in preparation in Morocco when they started to arrive. I had the chance to have Gary Dourdan two weeks before the shoot to train with arms and his fight choreography. We spent a lot of time together and it created a friendship or even a brotherhood that created a trust between him and I that helped me a lot directing him.
Chat about working with legend Andy Garcia, I am curious if his part was written for him, and what ideas he brought to his character.
A Legend. That’s the exact right word. I couldn’t believe myself when his agent said he agreed to play the part. He came in the middle of the shoot, as humble as a human can be. As a first-time director, I thought he’ll be telling me what I should do etc… but he’s always been this respectful actor asking for the director’s direction, and he was talking to me like any other director he was working with. Very respectful, humble and of course he was thinking about his character and making him more interesting that what we had in the paper.
Chat about Serinda and Gary's relationship in the film, felt so natural, did you have ideas how you wanted them to interact, or did they bring character ideas to you or a combination of both, if they brought things in, please let my readers know what ideas they shared about their characters.
It was a combination of both. They had great ideas creating their back story. Sometimes they wanted to do more, like during the opening scene where I had my vision and wanted to be straight to the point without a theatral drama, but 99% of the time they were perfect, and they knew exactly how to interact and how to be a natural husband and wife.
With regards to directing, are you a specific detail oriented guy who likes to lay out everything, or do you thrive on the actors hired to bring ideas to the table?
Well, we have a script that I’ve been spending years to write and make it as best as I could, but even though I believed in my script, I was always open for good ideas. I’m the type of guy who’d listen to my grip, for example, if he’d tell me “look, this shot would be better if the camera is on tracks” or to my DP if he said “I’d prefer to shoot this in a different time” or to my actors if they propose me a better dialogues that feel more natural and interesting and even adding additional information that I didn’t have in the script. So I definitely listen, reject what I don’t like and keep what is good.
I noticed that two other writers are listed in the IMDB credits for the film, I am curious how their involvement was, I have seen the movie, is there parts of the film they adjusted or added to it, or did all three of you collaborate in entirety?
I came up with the idea to write this feature and wrote a treatment. I then hired Samy Chouia to help me write a first draft, since English is not my first language I needed someone who can use better worlds and develop the characters. I was constantly reading his drafts and sending pages and pages of notes until he came back to me with the best version. After 8 or 9 drafts, I decided to hire a new writer, Lemore Syvan, to bring fresh ideas and a new vision. I did with her similar work that with Samy. She was proposing some solutions, I’d read what she sent me, send pages of notes until I see it is going my direction and that I had the version I wanted. After several versions, I saw I could take it from there and I then was working on editing the script, adding new dialogues, new characters and been working on the script until the last day of shoot.
Chat about the action, I felt it was more gritty and realistic, were you ever pressured by other EP or studio to add some more like stylized and explosions? Did you use military consultants for the flashback action?
It was very realistic because it was real! We had real guns with blank bullets, we did real explosions, and since we were mostly shooting the action scenes at night, it felt pretty real.
During the shoot I was the sole producer deciding about how I wanted my movie. Most of the others came later on and were respecting my vision of the movie. Unfortunatley I didn’t have the luxury to afford a military consultant, but I watched tons of war movies, and I tried to be as precises as possible. Nevertheless, we used the Moroccan army who provided me all the military equipment, and I had some very interesting conversations with the Colonel that helped a lot.
Chat about securing locations to film, seems like most was shot on location, were there any issues with particular locations?
I had 90% of the locations in mind while I was writing the script. I was born and raised in Morocco, and been a 1st Assistant Director for a decade, and then a Line Producer and a Producer for 8 years. I scouted and shot in almost every place and every city in Morocco. I took this amazing experience I had and put all the most beautiful locations in the movie
Chat about the final film, I feel that it told a dangerous, yet honest story, was there anything you though damn, I wish I could have added this in?
Yes it does. One of my friend works for the US Government and he was shocked reading the script and seeing all those back stories. I really wanted to be as honest as possible telling this story and explain what happens in our part of the world (North Africa). To be honest I wish I could have added a lot of things, unfortunately we had only five weeks of shoot and I had to be quick and efficient and focus on what was important.
Perhaps share a funny behind the scenes story you have not told anyone about.
We stared the shoot on April 1st, 2019. Since nobody in my part of the world has ever directed a Hollywood movie, everyone thought I was joking and that it was an April Fool. Then on the first shooting day, on April 1st, we. Were in the middle of the desert, and had a huge snow storm, yes, in the middle of the desert and we had to change the schedule ad go interior
Chat about your upcoming projects, The Moderator and the Sand Sea? Can you shed a small tidbit about them.
Regarding 'The Moderator', that I wrote and produced, I had the idea to write it during the lockdown, and we shot it a week after the borders reopened. It’s a movie where are female hero is avenging women victim of violence. A kind of Nikita in the modern times. A very female driven story
'The Sand Sea' is also a female driven story, this time inspired from life events, where a young American woman has to fly to North Africa to find and save her adventurous twin sister
Finally, chat about Morocco, I read that you were born there, curious how the average person view the English western culture, like the United States and England? I feel that film brings cultures closer together, allowing people to interact, perhaps share some of your thoughts.
Yes, born and raised in Morocco, watched 'The Shining' when I was four, and then felt in love with the movies. Hollywood movies are very present in every country in the world, and they are translated in all the languages. Since a very young age I was consuming a lot of movies. When I started to work as a PA in the film industry, I was working first on Moroccan local movies, but I would hear that Ridley Scott was shooting not far from US 'Kingdom of Heaven', 'Gladiator', 'Body of Lies', and many other big directors, so I was dreaming to work in those movies until I made it happen and line produced Werner Herzog’s 'Queen of the Desert'. Then I knew I had to go to LA and develop my own stories, because I’ve always been creative and learned very quick. Making 'Redemption Day' was not easy at all. I had to prove to a lot of people that I was able to do what I was telling I could do. It took time, and a lots of sacrifices, but in the end it was worth it.
Thank you for your interest in me and my movie Redemption Day.
Redemption Day opens in theaters this Friday January 8th and will be available to own on Digital and On Demand beginning January 12th from Saban Films.
My 'Redemption Day' review: http://dansmoviereport.blogspot.com/2021/01/redemption-day-2021-movie-review-dans.html