Saudi Film Execs & Producers Discuss Why KSA Is Set To Become A Global Film Hub — Cannes Panel - Deadline

قبل 1 شهر 27

As the film industry continues to look to Saudi Arabia as a potential location for movies, a host of the country’s experts along with producers who have worked in the region touched down in Cannes to talk about the country’s ambitions to become a global film hub.

Film AlUla film commissioner Stephen Strachan, Saudi Film Commission Abduljalil Alnasser, MBC Studios’ Zeinab Abu Alsamh, Neom’s Wayne Borg and The Hideaway Entertainment producer Matt Rhodes all spoke at a panel hosted by Film AlUla and Deadline at the American Pavilion last weekend.

Film AlUla has just housed Gerard Butler actioner Kandahar, one of the first major Hollywood titles to shoot its entirety in Saudi Arabia and Strachan spoke about the stiff competition he faced to attract the title to the country.

“We fought for this film against Abu Dhabi, against Jordan – we really did a lot,” says Strachan. “There was a lot of government support that went in to make this film work at the beginning. The producers really thought that there was nothing in Saudi Arabia and there was no film infrastructure and then they were very surprised when they came on the first trip and met with collaborators who had equipment on the ground and location facilities.”

The film shot 37 days in AlUla and 12 days in Jeddah and was, he says, a cooperation between Film AlUla and the Saudi Film Commission.

“We worked on it for a year and a half during Covid and with all of the challenges related to that, before we actually got to filming, I think for us, we were very much the team on the ground. We’ve got a permitting and regulations team that facilitates on the ground.”

Saudi Film Commission general manager of sector development and investment attraction Abduljalil Alnasser echoed the sentiment.

“What they [producers] found was that we have world class logistics,” he said. “People working with them, they love the film industry and they wanted to succeed. They wanted to treat every film as if it’s their own and they actually pulled miracles to make sure that the production is not interrupted in any way and runs smoothly. The creative process itself is difficult enough and I’m sure no filmmaker in the world wants to add the burden of logistics and bureaucratic governmental procedures to worry about.”

MBC Studios’ general manager Abu Alsamh said the country, which only a few years ago lifted its 30-year religion-related ban on cinema, is brimming with stories to tell.

“The country is changing rapidly and there’s a wealth of ideas talking about this time, talking about the past, the transition and women empowerment,” she says. “If I were a writer, I think my mind would blow up.”

Borg told the audience about the long-term ambition for futuristic city Neom, situated more than 300 miles north of AlUla. The futuristic city currently has four soundstages up and running and when its infrastructure is completed, it’s going to have a media up with somewhere between 15 and 20 soundstages including game studios and infrastructure for start ups.

“We’re clearly demonstrating to the industry we’ve got capacity and we’ve got capability to be able to host a production of that scale,” says Borg. “For us, it’s not just about locations. Neom is a new city in the kingdom and a new jurisdiction that is really about the future and clearly the media and the creative industries are a large part of progressive economies that we see all over the world today.”

“The experience for me was just incredible,” says Rhodes of his experience in shooting the Russo brothers pic Cherry a few years ago. The Tom Holland starrer was the first Hollywood project to shoot in the country, but it only shot three days.

“I’d shot in various places throughout the world over my career and I have to say what makes Saudi such a unique experience was everyone that I worked with there,” he said. “There was somebody that was working in some part of the industry but hadn’t worked on a movie and they were just there to figure it out. It’s the concept of if there is a will, there is a way.”

He added, “The hundreds of people that were involved in making this film work there are some of the most extraordinary people I’ve worked with in my career.”

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