Saddam’s Iraq: Setting the Scene

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by Vicky Bennetts

Producer Diary:

Sunday 21st February 2010
We are up early for our first day shoot. We arrive as the sun is rising over the desert. The rest of the Tunisian team arrives and we get set up for the first shot of the film. It’s always a bit tricky the first day of any shoot as everybody is working for the first time together and finding their feet. There is also a lot of driving and our main actor has to get used to driving on the other side of the road. We have 6 local extras that are all playing Iraqi army officers. They really get into their roles and we manage to hit our wrap time of 6pm.

Monday 22nd February 2010
Today was a slightly easier day as we had minimal crew. We were heading out into the Sahara to do all the main desert scenes and all the crew were not needed. It also gave the art department time to set up for the following day. We had three jeeps, one being the picture vehicle. We arrived on the edges of the Sahara early and finished two scenes before 8am and then we were in the sand dunes. It was amazing spending that amount of time in the dunes. We had to be careful with the light and by 6:00pm we had to wrap as we were losing light.

Tuesday 23rd February 2010
This was our first day on set. The other days had been spent in different locations in and around the outskirts of a town called Nafta. The art department had done a fantastic job. The prison set looked amazing and our extras where really talented. We started later as we had some nighttime scenes to shoot. The prison set was the courtyard of an old traditional Tunisian village house and our extras all came from the village of Nafta. By 6pm the gaffer was ready to set up the lights and by 7pm we were shooting our nighttime scenes. We managed to finish on time at 8:30pm and got back to the hotel for food and some well earned rest.

Wednesday 24th February 2010
This day is going to be a hard one. We have some big scenes to finish this day and one of them is preparing for the torture scenes. I have our grip and art director prepping the two actors who will play the torture victims 4hrs before we are due to shoot the scenes. The make up artist is also on set and is doing a brilliant job of covering the men’s bodies in whiplashes and cuts. We start to run into difficulties half way through the day as each scene is taking longer than expected. The environment is dusty as we are in an old abandoned hotel that is full of sand.

We eventually film the torture scene and everybody is happy with the outcome. We make up time but everybody is so tired by the time we wrap at 9;30pm. We have an early start the next day so we all head back to our hotels in Tozeur, a half hour drive from Nafta.

Thursday 25th February 2010
Call time is 5:30am today as we have a 1hr drive to the location, which will be the oil field. We have so many scenes to get through we really need to be on top of our game to finish on time. We arrive on location and we have a few issues with sound. The location is a building yard and there are people and machinery constantly working. We manage to get every scene completed but lunchtime and break for an hour in a local restaurant. The day is extremely hot and we all are beginning to feel tired. We keep going and by 7pm we’ve finished and on our way back to Tozeur. That evening we have a few beers at the hotel as the next day is our rest day.

Friday 26th February 2010
We all have a day off from the schedule.

Saturday 27th February 2010
We wake early and all get to the location on time. The extras are ready and the vehicles are all in place. One of our main UK actors got bitten by a mosquito the day before and is slightly allergic to the bite. His hand is swollen but he feels ok and keeps going. I manage to buy some anti- histamine and the swelling goes down. We get some great scenes completed and eat at a local restaurant in Nafta.

Sunday 28th February 2010
Marcelo our soundman is not feeling good today. He ate something the day before which has made him ill most of the night. We start the day slowly but manage to pick up some speed later. This is the day we are in the hotel and we have so many scene to complete I’m worried we’ll go too much into over time. Everybody is in high spirits and Marcelo starts to feel better by the afternoon. We shoot an amazing scene with an actress from Tunis and the energy is kept going right up until 9:30pm. We are now over the half waypoint and it feels good to know that.

Monday 29th February 2010
We manage to start a bit later this morning. Cameras start rolling at 8am. We are in the main square in Nafta and there is a constant stream of tourist and tourist buses that we politely have to move on before every take; this slows us down but eventually we get what we need and we move to our next location. We have another 3 moves this day and they all go well.

Tuesday 1st February 2010
This is the last day of filming but we have several key scenes to shoot and we are shooting in a moving bus. This is difficult as the whole unit is moving with the bus. We also start late the extras are great and we complete everything in the bus by lunchtime. We then finish some arrival shots and wrap at 2pm. We all are very tired but get in our vehicles and drive 6hrs to Tunis. The shoot is finished and we are ready for our flights home the next day.

Locked Up Abroad: “Saddam’s Iraq” premieres Wednesday July 7 at 9P et/pt. Visit the site during the airing to read Q&A’s from those in the show who were locked up.


  1. Heather Gibbons
    Las Vegas
    June 27, 2012, 11:09 pm

    What is the name of the movie he made about his story?