Earlier this year, Image Nation Abu Dhabi, twofour54 Abu Dhabi and MBC Studios announced a new partnership to produce what has been called "the world's first Arabic-language soap opera", Inheritance. Three months on, twofour54 Abu Dhabi's vice chair, Maryam Eid AlMheiri, says production is on track to kick off in December this year.
This is the first time the Arab world has undertaken what most of the world knows as a “soap opera.” Why do you think this has taken so long, given the region’s love of dramas and the format’s global popularity?
Developing a soap opera is no small undertaking; to ensure the viability of a long-term Arabic language production, key elements needed to be in place, such as strong infrastructure and a sustainable pool of talent. Abu Dhabi has carefully cultivated an environment that is welcoming to world-class productions. Today, we believe we have reached a point in our industry where both elements have been firmly established and able to support a long-term production like Inheritance.
Twofour54 has played a key role in establishing a production industry that has prospered over the past 10 years. We have attracted major Hollywood and Bollywood productions – from Mission Impossible: Fallout to Tiger Zinda Hai. We have also supported numerous Arabic productions, such as Iftah Ya Simsim, Hob Bila Hudood and the first two seasons of Al Asouf, as part of our mission to nurture the region's talent and encourage the creation of quality Arabic content.
Ultimately, Inheritance presents an opportunity to do two things: introduce a completely new format to the region, and to act as an anchor production that builds upon the work that twofour54, MBC Studios, and Image Nation have done in creating a compelling Arabic content for the region. In this light, Inheritance will be much more than just a soap opera and it is our hope that it inspires and motivates the region's next generation of film and TV professionals to collaborate and create their own stories.
What stage of development are you at?
The project is currently in pre-production, and everyone is working tirelessly to finalise scripts, recruit the cast and crew, construct the studio, and scout for potential filming locations. Production is slated to begin in December, and MBC recently announced they are looking to hire freelancers on long-term contracts to fill a number of technical roles – ranging from sound engineers, to gaffers, to production runners and more. At twofour54, we’re advertising the opportunity to our community of over 530 freelancers and are encouraging more to apply to these technical roles through our dedicated freelance support team.
The story of Inheritance is created by British writer and showrunner Tony Jordan – known to many as one of the top writers of the legendary UK soap series EastEnders. He is currently working with a team of leading Arabic writers, including seasoned Syrian writer and scenarist Mazen Taha as chief writer, along with storyliner Nour Sheshakli and the writer Thaer Alakel, as well as young Saudi writer Abdulaziz Al Maghrabi. Episodes will be based on themes and storylines relevant to the intended audience with the first episode airing in early 2020.
You have something of a master of the art heading up the show in Jordan. How was he persuaded to come on board?
To bring the world's first Arabic soap opera to life, we worked closely with Peter Smith and MBC Studios to search for an experienced industry professional to pen the project. Our collective network led us to Tony Jordan – who already had ambitions to create and develop a drama project outside the UK, and had developed an initial idea called Inheritance. He worked closely with MBC Studios and a regional crew to develop the show, reflecting the culture and setting.
You mention a purpose-built studio – where will this be located?
We will be building an entirely new studio in Abu Dhabi for Inheritance, which will serve as the main location for filming. Spanning 2,500 square metres, the studio will feature a variety of different sets, while offering the facilities and equipment required for this type of production. Construction is almost complete for the planned December date, when principal photography is set to begin.
This is the first time twofour54 has directly financed a production. Is this something we will see more of in future?
Supporting the development of high-quality Arabic content is a priority for twofour54. More than 400 million people in the world speak Arabic, which means there is a considerable demand for quality content globally but a shortage of supply. The productions made here in Abu Dhabi are helping Arabic filmmakers tell the stories of our region to the world. They are opening a window into our incredible culture and people – and we are always on the lookout on how we can support this goal.
In the first year alone Inheritance is scheduled to shoot for more than 250 days of the year, and is expected to generate more than 200 jobs. This is in line with our long-term goals of enabling the growth of the region's Arabic content, connecting local talent with career opportunities and creating a sustainable media industry.
For applicants interested in freelance roles on Inheritance, email email@example.com with your CV by Thursday, October 10, 2019.