A headstrong American real-estate company owner. A spoilt daddy’s girl with a family fortune at her disposal. A British flight attendant travelling the world. A young Australian office manager who moved to a new city for an adventure.
Sounds like the kind of people you'd bump into in Dubai? They are also characters in DCity!, a new English-language comedy series by Naim Zaboura, who is also the show's scriptwriter and co-producer.
The drama will feature four expat women experiencing the high-life in the emirate, complete with the trials and tribulations of moving to a new country – finding their feet, working and making new friends.
The show, which will be filmed in Dubai, was initially intended as a web series consisting of 10-minute episodes. Zaboura, who is Jordanian, was planning to debut the series online during Ramadan, but it has now been picked up by Arab Telemedia Group in Jordan, which will produce and distribute it as a 30- episode TV series next year.
“The way this came about is that ever since I was in film school, I’ve wanted to write for TV,” says Zaboura, who went to the New York Film Academy in Abu Dhabi. “And I’ve been so frustrated waiting for someone to believe in English-language programming in the Middle East that I decided to do something about it myself.”
Armed with a small, self-funded budget, Zaboura teamed up with the Dubai-based actors Laura Quirke and Mylène Gomera to co-produce the show. They will be playing two of the lead characters in the series, as well.
The pilot, which was filmed at the Iris lounge in The Oberoi hotel in Dubai, will be broadcast on www.dcitytv.com during Ramadan. The producers are banking on sponsors and the independent film community in the country to secure a crew, locations and wardrobe for their long-term commitment.
Gomera plays Sophia Casnoff, a real-estate company owner who moved to Dubai from New York and is the daughter of a Wall Street tycoon. Quirke plays a 27-year-old Australian who works as an office manager and who often gets into trouble because of her trusting nature.
The Arab character is played by the 25-year-old Dalia Sharawi. She plays a Jordanian-Lebanese socialite who grew up in Dubai and is living off her father’s fortune without much work experience to her name. A fourth lead character, who is yet to be cast, will be introduced later in the season.
“Whenever I travel to other countries, I’m always asked the same questions about Dubai,” says Zaboura. “You can see this excitement in their eyes when they ask what it’s like to live here. We are going to give people the opportunity to see what it is like.
“We do live these fairy-tale lives here. It’s like one of the lines in the show: ‘Living in Dubai is like being a Kardashian, only better.’
“I’ve met all these characters in real life in Dubai,” says the filmmaker.
Quirke says Dubai is unlike other metropolitan cities, because people don’t abandon their native culture here and they wanted to tap that for the show.
“When you go to the UK or US, you have different nationalities, but they adopt the culture of the country. But the beauty of Dubai is that there isn’t just a majority of expats, but they come with a large baggage of culture, which they then share with others here.”
Zaboura adds that choosing women to be lead characters helps bust myths about women’s rights in the UAE.
“It’s not uncommon for women abroad to think they can’t visit Dubai because there will be restrictions. But our series will show women as independent and making decisions – like they would in any developed country.”
The pilot Date Me Out of Here, starts with Casnoff stuck on a bad date and shows how she survives the ordeal. It will also feature the Dubai-based British television presenter Layne Redman.
In future episodes, Zaboura plans to focus on a variety of subjects, including planning a visa run to Oman, parties at top UAE hotspots and shopping in malls – all with a funny twist. But Gomera says it’s not only about the glitz and glamour – the arts and culture scene will also feature prominently.
“It’s not just the high-end lifestyle,” says Gomera, who is from Germany. “The girls go all over the city and try to keep the stories rooted to what expats do here. We want to embrace all aspects of Dubai, the melting pot of cultures, which brings with it the cuisine, traditions and people from all over the world.”
• Visit www.dcitytv.com for updates on the show