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Yousaf Bokhari: Old Runnymedian

Updated: Mar 14, 2019

Yousaf Bokhari is a famous Spanish producer and, coincidentally, an Old Runnymedian. I recently had the pleasure of meeting him to discuss his journey from being a pupil, to being awarded his first Goya Award at this year’s prestigious awards ceremony.

A producer is the person who plans and coordinates various aspects of film production and arranges financing. Mr Bokhari described his profession as being like that scene from ‘Back to the Future’ when Doc is attempting to pull the cables together at the top of the clocktower to enable Marty’s safe return to the future. For those of you who haven’t seen the movie, go and watch it now. The producer’s job is to pull together the director and the finance to ensure that projects are completed.

Mr Bokhari left Runnymede in 1975, after successfully completing 6th form. He took part in the drama club plays such as ‘Fiddler on the Roof’ and ‘The Match Maker’ and from doing that knew he wanted to become part of the theatrical industry. It was, however, a long journey to where he is today.

He took a gap year after school during which he enrolled in film school. They had no money for film cameras but this year of learning about the arts inspired him to follow his dreams. He joined the Universidad Complutense de Madrid the following year, where he met many of his current friends.

One of his closest friends’ father was a director, working on a B-rated kung-fu movie. Mr Bokhari used his English speaking skills to help write the script; in the end he practically wrote it all. He was eventually promoted to assistant director and was invited to visit LA, where the movie was being made. He has been working as a production manager and producer ever since.

He’s known for his work on movies such as ‘Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade’ (1989) and ‘The Gunman’ (2015). One of his most recent successes was with ‘The man who killed Don Quixote’ (2018). This project has acquired something of a legendary status, even before it was brought to the big screen. It was the brain child of Terry Gilliam and had been in the works since 1989; it became a sort of myth in the movie industry for encountering terribly bad luck. The first attempt starred Jonny Depp and looked extremely promising but was cancelled after just 6 days due to absolutely everything going wrong. In fact, there was a subsequent documentary made on the catastrophe, showing how a combination of illness and floods can lead to a stalled production.

One reason it took so long to get going after this was due to the director, Terry Gilliam. He is a notorious dreamer and this movie represented his philosophy; that is partly why he petitioned for so long to get it done. He could be considered a maverick, since he is hard to control and can get out of hand with his works. This meant big costs. Moreover, he encountered many mishaps and was ultimately unable to acquire sufficient funds. After a while, it became infamous. It became known as the movie that would never get made, meaning it was an even harder to pull the job off and for it to live up to people’s expectations that were growing with time.

Mr Bokhari joined Mr Gilliam on the 8th attempt. He worked tirelessly, signing deals with DVD and TV companies, eventually drawing up a budget. They downsized from the original $45 million provisional script, which included time travel and lengthy battle sequences, to a more reasonable $18 million version, taking out extensive CGI and scenes with large numbers of extras. With this, they eventually managed to get the show on the road.

Then, during the filming, it was necessary to make sure everything was going according to budget. It was especially difficult for this particular movie since it had been running around in Terry Gilliam’s head for 25 years, meaning he had a specific way he wanted it done. Of course they both wanted to create the best film possible but, with a smaller budget, it was necessary to step away from this vision and come up with clever ways of sticking to budget, while also creating art. This often took the form of changing the story as they went along.

In the end, they pulled it off and the movie was finished. It received mixed reviews and some even argued it would have been better to keep it as a myth. However, that is the nature of art. Once you’ve made it, it no longer belongs to you but to world and you need to be ready to take criticism.

Although the film didn’t get the critical acclaim that might have been hoped for, it was still a very difficult task to actually get it produced. For that reason, Mr Bokhari received the Goya Award for Best Production Supervision. He told me he was thrilled to find out that people valued his work but that the work doesn’t stop and he will simply carry on. This may seem like a boring response to achieving such a great feat but in reality it is how the movie business works. “You can’t just say, that’s it, I’ve achieved it all. All you can do it keep working on your projects.” In fact, Mr Bokhari is currently working with The Crown finding them a location in Spain to film parts of season 4.

Jemima G Year 13

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