x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Dubai to put itself in the picture with film incentives

Dubai plans to offer incentives for filmmakers in a bid to boost its local production industry and wider economy.

A still of the movie City of Life, showing Yassin Alsalman and Saoud Alkaabi. Courtesy: Gate Media Films
A still of the movie City of Life, showing Yassin Alsalman and Saoud Alkaabi. Courtesy: Gate Media Films

Dubai plans to offer financial incentives to filmmakers after losing out on dozens of international productions that had considered shooting in the emirate.

A proposed incentive scheme is intended to boost Dubai's movie industry, which local filmmakers say has suffered because of a lack of government subsidies.

The move follows an announcement last week that Abu Dhabi is to offer a rebate of up to 30 per cent of costs on international film and TV productions shot in the emirate.

The two emirates are collaborating in helping to encourage more film productions in the UAE, said Jamal Al Sharif, the managing director of Dubai Media City and Dubai Studio City.

"It's a national duty to develop the industry overall in the UAE," he said.

Mr Al Sharif was named chairman of the newly established Dubai Film and TV Commission, which will be created under a decree issued by Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed, Crown Prince of Dubai. He will also oversee the initial development of a government-sanctioned incentive programme.

Scenes from the blockbuster Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol, as well as local movies such as City of Life were filmed in Dubai.

These movies attracted some financial assistance from the Dubai Government and local companies. But Dubai is yet to offer a formalised incentive scheme for filmmakers, as is common in many established film markets.

"Now we need a structured incentive programme," said Mr Al Sharif.

Mr Al Sharif said a board would be appointed to run the commission, as well as to structure the financial incentive scheme. He said it was too early to set a timeline on the launch of the scheme.

Tim Smythe, the chief executive of the production house Filmworks, which facilitated the shoot of Ghost Protocol in Dubai, welcomed the launch of the incentive scheme. He said it could help to attract the shooting of more independent movies in Dubai, but added that the scheme should not just rely on "soft money", or discounts to a limited number of services.

"What Dubai has done is a great thing. But it has to become a tangible rebate," said Mr Smythe.

The Dubai Government has not yet announced the level of subsidy that will be offered to filmmakers.

Abu Dhabi is set to offer a rebate of up to 30 per cent on spending, with eligible costs including temporary accommodation, flights booked on Etihad Airways and the contracting of UAE-registered film crews.

Mr Smythe said that the Dubai scheme would have to offer a rebate of at least 20 per cent to be effective.

He added that over the past seven years he had been consulted on at least 30 film productions that eventually chose not to shoot in Dubai because of its lack of a rebate system. "[They] very likely could have filmed here if there was some form of incentive," he said. "Independent films will only look at cities that have a rebate system, because otherwise they can't make up their budget."




Without it you lose way too much production, because it will go to the country next door."

Shivani Pandya, the managing director of the Dubai International Film Festival, said financial incentive schemes were vital to attracting international productions.

"Incentive schemes are very important for attracting films. A lot of countries do it," she said.

Film production had benefits to the wider economy, she added. "Everybody has seen the impact that a film like Mission Impossible had, in terms of what it does to the economy as a whole," said Ms Pandya.