When Adam Ridgway began looking through actor profiles when casting for scenes in Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol, which was filmed in Dubai, he did not expect such a large pool of talent to choose from.
"You'd be amazed. I certainly was. I was genuinely stunned by the amount of experience that people over here have," he says.
Ridgway, 30 and from the UK, is managing director of Mediacubed, a professional networking site geared towards the media industry. When the company took on the job of scouting for extras for Ghost Protocol in October last year, they took a new approach and conducted the entire process online.
They were inundated with applications, from which they created a shortlist - complete with video and photos - that was made available for the directors and producers to access online.
Ridgway says that this experience, followed by time spent at both the Abu Dhabi Film Festival and the Dubai International Film Festival talking to casting directors and film producers, made him realise that the region houses "a wealth of talent, with countless individuals who are keen to explore opportunities, but lack access to a platform enabling them to do so".
The upshot of this is the forthcoming September 12 launch of www.dotcasting.com an online casting company designed to create a virtual community of "talent". The site aims to provide a means for people, be they singers, dancers, models, actors, songwriters, musicians or stylists, aspiring or established, expatriate or Emirati, to "broadcast themselves internationally", says Ridgway.
"Our slogan is 'brand yourself' - and we want to provide the opportunity for people to do just that." Individuals - that is, the talent - pay a retainer of Dh100 per month to register on the site, which enables them to upload a "3D CV" detailing their experience and interests, as well as portfolios, show reels, music videos or DJ sets. Companies or clients meanwhile are charged a monthly fee of Dh1,000, allowing them to post their profiles and job briefs and search a database of talent for the individuals best suited to their needs, be it a band for a promotional event or a model for an advertising campaign. Ahead of its launch the site already has 9,300 members, amassed from previous castings, existing Mediacubed contacts and advertising via social media.
"Our unique selling point is that we don't charge commission and we ensure that companies using dotcasting.com issue payment to the people they hire regularly - within 30 days, is the rule," says Ridgway.
To encourage this prompt payment, dotcasting.com will reward the companies that pay most promptly or reliably by featuring them in an online gallery. It's all very well to say that the UAE is awash with untapped talent, but are there jobs available? Ridgway is realistic: "Obviously, there's not the same amount of opportunities that there are in Bollywood, Hollywood and the UK, but nevertheless, this is an exciting time for the region."
He believes the release of Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol - slated for a UAE release date of December 15 - will prove to be something of a watershed moment.
"I think that ever more people are waking up to the idea of this part of the world as a filming destination. At the moment, it's not being tapped into, or used to its full potential, but the region has a huge amount to offer as a film location; you've got the mountains of Lebanon, lush green in the summer, snowcapped in winter; the vibrant cities of Morocco; the ruins of Jordan; the changing landscape of Hatta; the sparse desert - so many different vistas to explore.
"We've done our research and wouldn't have launched dotcasting.com if we didn't think that it was a viable endeavour. As it stands, we are in talks with three international film production companies, two of which have plans in the pipeline for preproduction to begin in the region towards the end of the year."
Ridgway says that further information is likely to be released to the public in October - possibly at the Abu Dhabi Film Festival.