x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 16 January 2018

TV producer adapts to different realities

The Life: Sonya Edelman had to reinvent her career as a television producer once she moved to the UAE. She discusses making the transition and how she made a new start.

Sonya Edelman, after moving to Abu Dhabi, spent months searching for a new job.
Sonya Edelman, after moving to Abu Dhabi, spent months searching for a new job.

Sonya Edelman used to produce TV shows in the US for the Food Network and Home and Garden Television. But after moving to Abu Dhabi and spending months searching for a new job, she realised she was going to have to reinvent her career. Ms Edelman discusses how she did just that.


What was life like just before and after you arrived in Abu Dhabi?

I produced reality-style television. We called it lifestyle programming, so home decorating, food and travel shows. I was a professional before following my husband here. I hate on my visa, it says "housewife". It's really demoralising in a way.

What expectations did you have of finding a job once you landed?

I didn't really have any expectations when I first arrived. I knew that the English-language lifestyle programming I had been doing would be more difficult to come by here, though I know it existed. If I was just a little farther north [in Dubai], or if I'd be willing to commute, it would be very different for me job-wise.

What strategy did you take to find work in Abu Dhabi?

I would look on job boards. It was all online, especially because in Los Angeles [work is] very parsed out. Film is very separate from television, from commercial and from stage work. Coming here, my strategy was apply to a broader base. I applied [to work] on a documentary, and for a position at the film festival and ended up getting them. I was surprised but glad I wasn't pigeonholed like in Los Angeles. Here I saw my options expanding.

How did you adapt to the kind of work you used to do?

What I do here is quite different from what I did in the States. What I did was created TV shows that were broadcast on television there. Here, I primarily create content online or for mobile devices. I do my own filming and editing. Before I was just a producer; I had assistants, actors, sound men.

You've since produced video projects for the book publisher Random House, as well as the International Herald Tribune. Who else have your clients included?

Non-profits, with an eye towards enticing donors. I've done some work for a poet who was interested in creating an online presence for herself. I also did a piece for Cafe Arabia [a restaurant in Abu Dhabi].

Where are you hoping to take your business?

I'm very eager to have more work. The great thing about this work is I can decide when I want to go out and shoot during the day. I can schedule my shoots around my 2-year-old's nap time, or when he might go to sleep in the evening. Editing can happen at any time.