With newer locations and less red-tape for permits, the Dubai Film and TV commission has ensured a 2017 that was nearly as successful as 2016. Jamal Al Sharif. Chairman, Dubai Film and TV Commission speaks to BroadcastPro ME. How was 2017 different from 2016 for the DFTC? In 2016 we witnessed more films and more Bollywood. The money we […]
With newer locations and less red-tape for permits, the Dubai Film and TV commission has ensured a 2017 that was nearly as successful as 2016. Jamal Al Sharif. Chairman, Dubai Film and TV Commission speaks to BroadcastPro ME.
How was 2017 different from 2016 for the DFTC?
In 2016 we witnessed more films and more Bollywood. The money we generated was a little under $46 million (Dhs. 168 million) which is a good number. The money represents amount spent on hotels, equipment, studios and so on. The total amount spent in 2017 was approximately $25 million (Dhs. 92,534,396).
The number of applications for 2017 was 889. However, there is a small reduction in the number of films shot to be honest. Budget crunches have affected both Hollywood and Bollywood. Filming is a long process with a number of scripts that were supposed to be shot this year that have been postponed to 2018.
What did your organisation do differently this year in terms of facilitating business?
We have reduced the time taken to acquire long-term permits, to two days. We are aiming to reduce it to one day. And we are hoping to achieve this in 2018 after negotiating with certain government and private sectors. We are working on a system that will allow potential applicants to pick up a film permit just through an app – we hope to launch the app in the second or third quarter of 2018.
In 2017, the film commission was able to conduct workshops and focus groups that helped a lot in understanding the market. Most importantly we added many new locations to our portfolio including Dubai Park and Resorts and the La Mer project, among other locations. These locations help us make Dubai a more attractive destination for film producers.
With the soft incentives we offer in terms of subsidies for hotel accommodation and locations, fee waivers and helping to connect with right partners and so on, we can impact nearly 30 to 40% of the film budget.
If you are a pre-registered company, within 24 hours you will get the permit and you can pick up your camera and shoot in locations ranging from Burj Khalifa and downtown to the Dubai design district and most of the big malls.
With the shift in content consumption, how are you positioning Dubai as a hub for online content creation?
Among the new applications through 2017 we saw a rise in demand for online content creation. So, we launched VIDXB, the region’s first ever event for content creators, online video, media influencers, fan communities and industry professionals. After its successful inaugural event in December, we are hoping this will be one of the biggest festivals in the region going forward. It will open a new market for us as content creators, including platforms such as Amazon and Netflix, who will use Dubai as a destination to tell their stories.
In terms of nature of content that will be created, we are not here to police people. We have regulations to protect the content maker and the consumer and then they are free to do whatever they want to do. VIDXB brought in international companies and speakers and they connected with local content providers. We want to go global and for that we need to improve the quality and skills of local content creators. We are also looking at establishing an academy for this purpose.
We have multiple types of shoots in Dubai. Dubai is on the radar of any filmmaker. Earlier Morocco or Jordan were popular locations in the region. Now Dubai and Abu Dhabi have proved to the world that they have the most advanced technology and infrastructure coupled with attractive locations, ease of doing business. security, no under-the-table business, multiple entry visas in 48 hours and so on. When you come to film here you know what you are getting.
What is the current status of local productions?
Local productions are happening, but they are limited in number, which is indicative of the age of our industry here. Eventually we will grow, and more online content will grow. In a workshop we recently conducted, 50% of online content makers were Emiratis.
Content creation is in the hands of everyone and we need to support this growing trend. For professional online content, you need a studio and location and DFTC hopes to facilitate online content providers to grow their business.
What were the standout moments of 2017?
Launching the inaugural edition of VIDXB was a big achievement for us. We are hoping to build on the success of the event and through our deals with Youtube Space, we want to create a platform for the online community to develop their skills and create content.
What are the limitations if any, to Dubai as a location for filming?
While the hot summer months can restrict outdoor shoots, we have overcome most other limitations including the availability of local talent. For the last Star Trek movie shot here, 20 to 30% of the crew was sourced locally.