The Dubai-based company recruiting the next generation of Arab stunts professionals
Emirati producer Hind Al Basti and Moroccan stuntman Faycal Attougui have established a stunts service group to recruit and train people in the region
There are three film franchises that every stunts professional aims to work on during their careers, says Faycal Attougui: “Star Wars, Mission: Impossible and James Bond.” And the Moroccan stunts co-ordinator is well on his way to crossing the second of those off his list.
Attougui was part of the team behind the 2016 film Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, and while he has yet to work on a James Bond project, he is currently in the thick of filming Mission: Impossible 7 in the UK.
The film crew finished shooting in Abu Dhabi in February, when Attougui, along with the rest of the cast and crew, travelled to the UK to continue production.
Attougui, who has more than two decades of experience and has worked on several high-budget productions, including Christopher Nolan’s 2010 film Inception and the 2016 movie Assassin’s Creed, starring Michael Fassbender, says Cruise is among the most dedicated actors he has worked with.
When films come here to shoot from different parts of the world, they bring their own stunt [crew]. We want to change that
Hind Al Basti, film producer
Attougui won the Motocross Championship in Morocco twice in a row, in 1997 and 1998, before deciding to pursue a career in stunts. He was only 16 years old when he had his breakout opportunity in the 1998 Jean-Claude Van Damme film Legionnaire and he has since amassed an eclectic set of stunt skills that have made him a Hollywood favourite.
However, he is now bringing his know-how and experience to the UAE, helping to promote and train stunt co-ordinators from the country and the region.
Attougui is among the talents represented by Dubai-based company The Stunts Services Management, founded by Emirati film producer Hind Al Basti. Its aim is to build a community of stunt professionals in the region. “When films come here to shoot from different parts of the world, they usually bring their own stunts [crew],” Al Basti says. “We want to change that.”
Abu Dhabi’s tax rebate incentive, which draws many foreign productions to the emirate, may prove to be an advantage. These are often required to hire local creatives in order to qualify for the tax rebate.
“This is something that could boost our profile,” says Al Basti, who has worked on several projects in America, Europe and the UAE, including the 2016 short psychological thriller Evelyn.
The idea to launch a stunts services management company came to Al Basti while she was working on an Emirati production last year. “It had more than 25 stunts [people], most of whom came from Morocco. I thought that not only do they have a lot of experience in the business, but they also speak the language, so why not open a company to represent them?”
Al Basti then met with Attougui and drew up a business strategy, detailing the venture’s trajectory for the next decade and setting a plan to train local athletes to perform stunts. The company was officially launched in August and had its first commission in a yet-to-be-disclosed project by Freej creator Mohammed Saeed Harib.
Al Basti currently represents Attougui, as well as Attougui’s brothers, Mohamed and Aziz, plus a few others, but she says she is looking into bringing more people from the region on board.
“Not to say I only exclusively work with Arab talents, but I am adamant about hiring as many Arabs as possible,” she says. “This is one of the reasons why I started the company, to give exposure to Arab stunts [professionals] like Faycal because a lot of the time people tend to think only westerners have experience like that.”
Al Basti says the company has already received several applications from local and regional athletes who are interested in pursuing a career in stunts. However, Al Basti and Attougui agree that not everyone is cut out to work in the industry.
“To be a good stunts [person], you need to have it in your character. You can train for years and never be good. You need to know your body. You need to have great reflexes. You need to know what to do when you fall.
“Some people do a small fall and destroy themselves and others fall down stairs, stand up and say: ‘I’m good.’ It’s all about reflex.”
Over the years, Attougui’s ability to recognise who has that innate ability to perform stunts and who doesn’t has improved. It’s a skill that will help him build a dependable team for The Stunts Services Management.
“The vision is to start training people here so that we have enough manpower to start a stunts school,” Al Basti says. “The challenge is to first be consistent in our presence and take up jobs locally, regionally and internationally. We want to expand step by step. We want to train people in different departments and increase the number of stunts [professionals] in the country and eventually the region.”
Hopefully, by the time the opportunity to work on a James Bond production presents itself, Al Basti and Attougui will have a whole team ready to take on that mission.
Updated: May 21, 2021 12:46 AM