Paris Norriss has set himself many challenges over the past two years.
Learning how to pearl dive, racing electric cars, wakeboarding and zip-lining over Downtown Dubai – the self-described adventurer is always looking for his next thrill.
However, when it came to flying solo in a paramotor, the Englishman more than met his match. “The thing with that is it requires absolute dedication,” he recalls. “So when you make your run to take off, you absolutely have to go for it.”
Norriss’s leap of faith took him as high as 150 metres over a pristine strip of Ras Al Khaimah beach. He says the pinnacle was the easy part; his eventual landing half an hour later, he admits, was not the smoothest.
"Oh, I just crashed," he tells The National. "When I was doing it, I was thinking this is how the Wright brothers felt on their first flight. Their plane didn't even have any wheels because they hadn't yet thought about landing."
This is one of the many experiences and anecdotes you will find in Norriss's programme Guy in Dubai. Available in the region on OSN Streaming and on Amazon Prime in the UK, the lifestyle show follows Norriss as he indulges in a series of activities – both thrilling and cultural – across Dubai and the Northern Emirates.
All 18 episodes of 2018's debut season run for between five and 13 minutes, with the second batch landing online next month.
Live your best life
While the concept isn't a new one, what makes the show worth watching is its subtle inspirational theme. With each episode beginning with Norriss thinking of a new experience to conquer and ending with the task achieved, Guy in Dubai is as much a challenge to its host as the audience.
“I am asking people to be more adventurous in life and basically enjoy the moment,” Norriss says. “I am not talking about doing super-physical things, it is about changing that sort of thinking that says: 'I will work for 30 years, retire and then live the life I want'.
"Instead, try some of those things now. Sign up for that diving course or learn a new skill. Why wait?”
This is a mindset, Norriss says, that has taken on extra resonance during the pandemic. “When we had the [curfew], we all realised what was important,” he says.
“As well as friends and family, we really began asking ourselves if we are living our lives to the fullest, and how we perhaps didn’t take advantage of certain opportunities, like being able to go to the mountains or the sea.
"Now that we are slowly going back out again, I am seeing people doing more of these things.”
While Norriss is a solid host, he had no television experience prior to the programme. Not only that, Guy in Dubai is his first foray into television production.
So how did he get on to Amazon and OSN?
Follow the money but do what you love
Norriss’s unorthodox route into the television industry is instructive.
A serial entrepreneur with as many successes as failures, Norriss recalls how the concept for Guy in Dubai came to him in 2014 as a result of some soul searching.
“I was doing all sorts of random ventures from an e-commerce portal to a tech business and a leadership development company, and what struck me when some of these things went wrong was how it has always been focused on creating wealth and getting that pot of gold in the end,” he says.
"And I came to a thought of: 'You know what? What about creating a business that allows you to do what you love to do?' So I asked myself what do I love doing? And I realised that I want to be an adventurer. I want to climb mountains, race power boats and do these things. So, I was like, 'OK, maybe I could create a television show around that'. I realised that in Dubai I can do many of these things."
So Norriss set to work with a small crew, and by 2018, had produced four pilot episodes. Word of his exploits reached the boardrooms of OSN through Norriss’s extensive network of business contacts and before long a deal was struck.
That is the short and sweet version of the story, Norriss admits.
“At the same time, there have been a lot of rejections and meetings that went absolutely nowhere,” he says. “So I think really what it boils down to, and this I learned from the world of entrepreneurship, is the importance of persistence. You need to keep going and eventually things will happen.”
Another key business lesson Norriss took on his latest venture is to follow the money. It was for this reason that he refused to screen his show on social media sites or YouTube. A streaming platform, he surmised, would be the most attractive option for potential investors.
“The money follows the viewership and you've somehow got to get the viewership,” he says.
“So if I could just convince an OSN or Amazon or a TV station that they need my show, then I have guaranteed viewership, which can get me the sponsorship, which gives me the money to then go produce the show and be even more creative. You need to begin with distribution and then work your way back from there.”
Guy in Abu Dhabi?
With cultural authorities in Abu Dhabi, Ras Al Khaimah and Saudi Arabia keen for local spin-offs of the show, Norriss plans to amend the name of his series in the future.
"I realised that by calling the show Guy in Dubai I kind of shot myself in the foot," he says with a laugh.
"So I think what will happen is eventually, it will be called Guy in Arabia, with Dubai and other places being a specific season."