Tuesday, October 31, 2006

What A Way To Make A Living

I got a rather vague phone call last night from a German photographer wanting to use some horses for a photo shoot near one of the pyramids. He said that they would be by the farm around noon today to talk to me about it and to arrange things. Noon came and went, but there was no phone call. Aside from the fact that we can always use the money, filming is some of my favourite work. Then at about 4 pm the phone rang and it was the photographer. He and the photography subjects were on their way to Sakkara and wanted me to meet them there for the shoot, but there was no way to get there in time and no one in the car seemed to know exactly where they were going. And who were the subjects? A couple of body builders. Body builders? That's a new one.

I sent my driver out to find their car and bring them to us so that we could do the shoot behind the pyramids of Abu Sir, time running out to be able to set it up at Sakkara before sunset. We chose horses for the shoot, Nazeer and Bunduq, my two steady fellows who have already done filming for the History Channel, and who are both average height for Egyptian Arabians, thereby making body builders look larger.

We all met up behind the pyramids of Abu Sir, two grooms and myself on horseback and the photographer and body builders in my jeep with my driver. They got ready, doing push ups and other exercises to warm up their already fairly impressive muscles, while the horses stood on watching. The photographer was doing a shoot for a sports magazine based in New York, and he started out with some stills of muscles being flexed in front of the pyramid. We moved on to a series of stills with the boys mounted on the horses (who were attired in bareback pads) in front of the pyramid. At this time of day the sun was shining low over the plateau to the west and lighting up the pyramid and the boys on the horses beautifully. Body builders don't have much time for horseback riding and these boys were not entirely comfortable sitting bareback on my geldings. I'm not sure how comfortable I would be sitting bareback half naked in a brisk wind in the middle of the desert either. The horses, having been through the whole waiting game of filming before, stood calmly for the flexing and twisting that was required to show all the work of the body builders to its greatest effect, and gradually the boys gained confidence. Dorika took a turn but was not at all impressed with the work, fidgeting and fussing while her victim posed in front of the awesome backdrop. She definitely does not think that filming is much fun and let everyone know. She is, however, very good at keeping the boys in line as they walked around one corner of the pyramid making their dignified way towards the photographer. So Dory came back to me and continued her work on the production end of things.
At this time of day the people at work on excavations in the area have gone home and the area is technically closed, but the watchmen were willing to allow us to shoot in the desert behind the pyramids as long as we avoided the working areas. Since no one wanted to see a horse and rider disappear into a shaft tomb, we were more than happy to oblige them and the watchman sat with one of my staff watching the rather strange (certainly by rural Egyptian standards) goings on.

It wasn't all work and no play for the horses however. Dory was delighted to be able to show her son and Bunduq her heels during a brief run in the desert and one of the boys had Bunduq utterly entranced as he gave the horse a massage while we were waiting for the last of the photos to be taken. The little bay gelding's twitchings and sighs afforded everyone even more hilarity...I swear if he'd been able to roll over on his back for a tummy scratch like a dog, he would have done it. All in all a lot of fun and something completely different.