x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Dubai-based Cinescape Box Office facilitates first Korean film shoot in the UAE

The first-ever Korean feature to shoot in the UAE just wrapped in Abu Dhabi.

The Korean actor Kim Woo Bin on the set of The Technicians during filming in Abu Dhabi. Courtesy Trinity Entertainment / Lotte Entertainment
The Korean actor Kim Woo Bin on the set of The Technicians during filming in Abu Dhabi. Courtesy Trinity Entertainment / Lotte Entertainment

It has been a year of many firsts for the UAE film industry and May 25 marked another as the first Korean feature to shoot in the capital touched down to film scenes at Abu Dhabi International Airport and Emirates Palace. A few minor scenes were also shot at the Hilton Capital Grand, where the cast and crew were staying.

The thriller, with the working title The Technicians, stars Kim Woo Bin and Lee Hyun Woo. Kim enjoyed big-time success with the 2013 box-office hit Friend 2, while the child-actor Lee’s blockbuster Secretly, Greatly, drew audiences of seven million in their homeland.

For the director, Kim Hong Sun, the film is his second major feature following 2012’s revenge thriller Traffickers, which attracted an audience of 1.7 million in South Korea and earned him the Best New Director gong at the Blue Dragon Awards.

A local partner

The Korean producers behind the film, Trinity Entertainment and Lotte Entertainment, are also familiar to home audiences with hits such as Friend 2, while for Cinescape Box Office, the newly launched Dubai-based producers, the project was a way for it to break new ground. “This is our first film production support venture,” says Karl Calleja, Cinescape’s divisional director.

Cinescape Box Office is the film-production arm of the events-production company Total Concepts International, which has previously worked on a lot of festivals, shows and theatre productions in the UAE.

“We’d originally planned on launching Cinescape with a big festival event – not something to compete with DIFF [Dubai International Film Festival] or ADFF [Abu Dhabi Film Festival], but something different that we know we can pull off,” says Calleja. “We’re still in talks about that, but the Korean producer is a friend of our managing director, Bilal Mansour, and this opportunity was there, so we decided to bend a bit and do this to get the support of the industry and get our name known.”

Cinescape may be a new venture but it has clear and ambitious goals for its role in the regional industry. “Cinescape wants to extend an invitation to producers and international companies who want to shoot in the UAE,” says Calleja. “We want to highlight the location as a filming destination. We also organise all the permits and licences and offer full production support for filming.”

Supporting cast

For the Korean crew, it seems there were several factors about filming in Abu Dhabi that appealed to them. “We decided to shoot the final scenes of our movie in Abu Dhabi to bring flavour to our film, especially the unique and beautiful architecture of Abu Dhabi – the blending of the traditional and the new,” says Jimi Nam, the executive producer and chief executive of Trinity. “In a way, we also want to introduce the Arabian culture to our market.”

Nam brought a team of 21 from Korea to Abu Dhabi, including the actors Kim and Cho Youn Hee, the producer Kyung Sam Yook, the director and 17 additional crew members. His team were supported by a local crew of 36, made up of 28 supporting actors and eight additional crew.

Nam says the experience was a positive one, with support coming from across the board. “We are very fortunate to have Cinescape Box Office on board. Our coordination was prompt and we had a fast turnaround given the short notice to the local production team. We got the utmost support and cooperation of the concerned government authorities for related licences and permissions from the Customs to the Media Council and from our location management to getting the additional support-cast talent, skills and equipment.”

Word of mouth is vital in spreading the virtues of the UAE as a filming destination and it sounds like the Korean industry could be in for some positive reports on the team’s return.

“I would definitely recommend Abu Dhabi as a filming destination. We had a wonderful experience. We wish our filming could have been longer because we really wanted to show the unique charm of the UAE in general and Abu Dhabi in particular, but just as in any other production, we have a schedule to follow and a budget to consider,” says Nam.

Filming for The Technicians began in early March in Korea. Final scenes were shot in Abu Dhabi from May 25 to 27 and the film is scheduled for a Korean and Asian release later this year. The producers hope to release the film in the UAE shortly thereafter.

cnewbould@thenational.ae