x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Nurturing the UAE's new film makers

Incentive programmes can be a great help in building the UAE's film industry. Support for new film-makers, as well as for big productions, is money well spent.

The world is used to seeing London, New York, Mumbai, and other major cities depicted on cinema screens. But people from other places less often enjoy the deep affirmation of seeing their own landmarks, scenery and culture depicted.

That is part of the reason why the UAE's nascent film industry is receiving solid support from high levels, not only in helping bring Hollywood A-listers such as Tom Cruise to star in major films like Mission: Impossible IV but also in the form of financial incentives to give Emiratis hands-on experience in the industry. This applies to directors but also to film crew. Technical skills in a range of off-camera jobs are vital to the growth of a well-rounded production industry.

Building this up is not an overnight process, but we applaud the steady progress demonstrated by recent encouraging announcements.

Just this month, Beware The Night, a Jerry Bruckheimer- produced paranormal thriller starring Eric Bana, was filming on location in the dunes of Liwa and at media hub twofour54's intaj studio in Mussaffah.

Six Emiratis from twofour54's vocational trainee programme were part of the film's production team, as part of the deal with the Abu Dhabi Film Commission, which offered a 30 per cent rebate on the company's local spend, and scouted locations for the project.

The deal not only gives those Emiratis first-hand experience of how big movies are made, but also spreads the word that Abu Dhabi is a good place to film.

Film making is an industry in which new talent naturally bubbles up from below, rather than being imposed from above. For that reason, incentive programmes have to nurture local talent in small-scale productions, as well as attracting big titles studded with stars.

In this sector too, there are encouraging signs. Aflamnah, the first "crowdfunding" site in the Middle East, has proven successful for upcoming Emirati film makers like Amal Al Agroobi, whose 2012 short documentary Half Emirati received warm reviews.

This week she raised the full budget for her proposed episodic TV and web-based project, Proud To Be Sharjonian, through Aflamnah.

This region has never been short of talent and enthusiasm. With proper support, that will translate into Emirati culture - and the distinctive landscapes of the UAE - being seen on screens around the world.