In an exclusive interview, Azza Aboul Magd talks to BroadcastPro Middle East about switching gears from advertising executive to executive producer on an independent Chinese production in the UAE You are in the middle of a cushy nine-to-five job as an advertising executive. The phone rings, you pick it up and the voice on […]
In an exclusive interview, Azza Aboul Magd talks to BroadcastPro Middle East about switching gears from advertising executive to executive producer on an independent Chinese production in the UAE
You are in the middle of a cushy nine-to-five job as an advertising executive. The phone rings, you pick it up and the voice on the other end says: Do you want give your career up for oyster mushrooms? What next?
The advertising executive who was faced with the choice in her life chose the oyster mushrooms. No, this is not a movie script but there is a movie involved.
The film in question is a Chinese production titled A Fallible Girl, based on a true story but spiced up for dramatic purposes. Its an art independent production about two Chinese women who run an indoor mushroom farm in Abu Dhabi. The film, which was funded by the China film foundation, was produced by Chinese production house Practice, which has a small base in Dubai Studio City (DSC).
The story follows the women and their exploits in Abu Dhabi as they explore life, deal with culture shock and build a business in the emirate. One is conservative, a bit on the ground and manages the farm while the other is out there looking for love, a laugh and a good night out.
This is the film that caused Azza Aboul Magd to switch career tracks from her job as an advertising agency producer to an independent executive producer (EP).
The job was initially offered to a friend of Magds who recommended the project. For Magd, the choice was between following a dream or sticking to a stable career.
I started weighing between the full time job Ive been doing for 18 years or pursuing my dream. I decided to follow my dream.
In recent years, the UAE has emerged as a film hub for both independent and big budget productions owing to its varied locations, cheaper production facilities, availability of local crew and soft incentives that have been offered by local government-backed entities in different parts of the country.
Hollywood films such as Syriana and Mission Impossible as well as several Bollywood films have been shot in the region thus far. Emerging on the horizon is also Imagenation Abu Dhabi, which has emerged as a big player in several Hollywood as well as Emirati features.
While big budget features have easy access to the best talent and facilities in the country, Magd feels that smaller budget films always have limited options. This is the primary reason she landed the job.
They wanted someone to handle the production from A to Z. They did not want to go to a production company because they could not afford their rates, so they employed me as an EP and I managed the entire project from a production point of view, says Magd.
Filming began in January 2010 and ran for 47 days, 17 days longer than schedule due to unforeseen problems; replacement of the lead actress six days into filming was among them.
International crew and culture – No hot shorts please!
Apart from 20 international crew members, which included British director Conrad Clark, a Spanish Director of Photography (DoP) and a Chinese producer, Magd hired the rest of the crew locally.
I hired forty crew members including production managers, coordinators and technical crew from Dubai. If we include the international crew, we had more than 60 people, explains Magd.
Working with a diverse group and a crew not well acquainted with Arab culture, of course, brought its own challenges. Crew members including the cast belonged to more than 15 nationalities.
I had this big pamphlet where I listed the dos and donts of Dubai and that included modest clothing and I had to keep reiterating it, explains Magd.
Casting and wardrobe Ill buy your t-shirt for US $5
A significant number of the characters in the film were recruited by Magd. Casting was done along with Nasser Ahmed, the location manager who also runs a small casting agency called Advertising Effects.
In some cases, Magd says she recruited people from Sheikh Zayed Road and Mall of the Emirates for US $80 a day. Many were in front of the camera for the first time, explains the EP.
Like every feature, wardrobe was also an important element of the shoot and the DoP, in this case, wanted to have her say.
Says Magd: The DoP was as important on the set as the director in this case. There were times when she would say, No, I dont like this shirt. It looks new. Find me another shirt. We walked up the street and found someone whose shirt fit the bill and offered to buy it off them for US $5. Some people were game so wed take their shirt and give them the shirt that we had bought instead.