Offering a film location is just the first step

Attracting Hollywood filmmakers is important, but we should also support our own industry

Emirati filmmaker Ali Mostafa on the set of his film, From A to B, at the Corniche in Abu Dhabi. Silvia Razgova / The National
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What do Bang Bang, The Bourne Legacy, Fast and Furious 7 and Star Wars: Episode VII have in common? They all contain scenes shot in Abu Dhabi. With crews from Hollywood, Bollywood and the regional film industry flocking to the emirate, it is moving steadily towards its goal of becoming a global hub for filmmaking.

As The National reported yesterday, the city is the only one in the Middle East to make it onto a list of top international locations for film production in the latest issue of online magazine P3 Update. A major film and entertainment website, The Hollywood Reporter, also pointed out that Abu Dhabi is "poised to become Hollywood's go-to locale" in the region.

P3 Update said the vibrant locations, modern architecture, Arab heritage and year-round sunny weather make it “like no place on Earth”. The weather allows film crews plenty of natural light and helps keep them on schedule with few rain-induced delays. The mild winter allows for production when some European and North American locations are grey and wet. All this is further enhanced by Abu Dhabi’s mix of political stability, social tolerance and a well-deserved reputation for hospitality.

Then there’s the financial factor: the UAE offers incentives that few other locations can match. The Abu Dhabi Film Commission provides a 30 per cent rebate on feature films, television shows, commercials and music videos, a figure that also applies to airfares with Etihad and accommodation. The emirate is also investing in developing local talent to produce highly-skilled film professionals, meaning crews can be hired locally.

These advantages should not go unnoticed by the industry heavy­weights attending the Abu Dhabi Film Festival, which is taking place until Saturday. Meanwhile, the local decision-makers should be looking at other ways of keeping the momentum going with the view to building up a local film industry. Possibilities for financially supporting such an industry include creating a fund-raising infrastructure through a new investment product, or even a small fee collected at cinemas. Just Dh1 added to the ticket price for a Hollywood or Bollywood blockbuster could create millions so homegrown filmmakers can tell our own stories.