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Noura Al Kaabi, chief executive of Abu Dhabi’s media free zone twofour54, is looking forward to another year of growth, and of attracting big-name international projects and Emirati workers. Mona Al Marzooqi / The National
Noura Al Kaabi, chief executive of Abu Dhabi’s media free zone twofour54, is looking forward to another year of growth, and of attracting big-name international projects and Emirati workers. Mona Al Marzooqi / The National

Twofour54 boss basks in year of achievement

Noura Al Kaabi, chief executive of twofour54, looks back on the company's achievements in 2013

ABU DHABI // It was a busy year for twofour54, but its chief executive Noura Al Kaabi says 2014 will be even busier.

Ms Al Kaabi says last year was about revision and renewed focus for the five-year-old company, which is the commercial arm of Abu Dhabi’s media zone authority.

“[It was] the year where we successfully attracted more than 240 companies to twofour54 and that is not easy because we are in a niche market here,” she says.

“At the end of the day they can go anywhere, but the difference is what is offered and the opportunities here. We have been attracting regional players and looking at what we can do with Arabic-content creation.”

She also points to the employment opportunities the company has created.

“We have created more than 2,200 jobs that weren’t available five years ago and we believe that is an achievement,” Ms Al Kaabi says. “Let it be in animation, let it be in app development or gaming and coding. We look for opportunities.”

Twofour54 has also been involved in a number of big-name productions.

The titles and opening scenes of Hollywood film Beware the Night, starring Eric Bana, were filmed in the capital using the facilities at twofour54’s intaj studios and on location at the Liwa oasis.

To remember the landmark, Ms Al Kaabi keeps a prop skull from the set in her office.

Another first for twofour54 was the filming of Syrian Ramadan drama Hamman Shami at the company’s studios in Abu Dhabi.

Hamman Shami was directed by the renowned Syrian director Momen Al Mulla, whose past credits include Bab Al Hara, one of the most popular television series ever produced in the Arab world.

These programmes received a 30 per cent rebate on the cost of production, a benefit to which companies working with twofour54 are eligible on condition that Emiratis can be involved and learn from the process.

For this year, Ms Al Kaabi said she was looking forward to production starting on Iftah Ya Sim Sim, the Arabic version of the popular children’s show Sesame Street, later in the year.

She restated the need for more local talent to come forward and work on the programme.

But there is still uncertainty about twofour54’s involvement with the filming of the next instalment of the Fast and Furious franchise.

Several scenes for the blockbuster had already been shot this year in the capital, but filming was put on hold after the death of its star Paul Walker in November.

Ms Al Kaabi says twofour54 is still awaiting confirmation from the production company and will have more news in coming weeks.

She also mentions the role twofour54 plays in championing the role of women in the media industry.

“If we look at the numbers of our students, most are women. We have set designers who are women, we have them at government desks.

“The two Emiratis who graduated from the Ubisoft Gaming Academy are females, so they are out there now.”

Ms Al Kaabi says exciting times lie ahead for the new year.

“For next year we are looking at projects that aren’t just good on their own, but have a positive impact on the industry. We also will have a strong commercial focus as well as talent development,” she says.

“Whenever a graduate comes from twofour54 they become part of a cultural build. It will help them in the future and the skills they acquire will serve them for their career.

“There will be nice surprises for 2014.”

ksinclair@thenational.ae

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