Agent goes star spotting in UAE

Filmmakers, writers and actors have a new champion in Saro Carlwig, who wants to bring their skills to an international market.

Saro Carlwig(C), founder/Agent of Talent Casting Agency(TCA), with two new writers, Ahmed Arshi(R) and Khaled Al Jabri(L),  she just signed up to TCA on Saturday, March 05, 2011 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.  Photo: Charles Crowell for The National

DUBAI //A talent agency that caters for Emiratis has already signed up almost 30 people who hope to break into US television less than two months after opening.

Saro Carlwig, the founder of Talent Casting Agency (TCA), said she had 24 Emiratis on her books with a further five lined up.

"I want to help Emirati filmmakers, scriptwriters and actors develop their talent and take them to the next level," she said. "There is so much talent in this country but nobody to represent them internationally."

Ms Carlwig, an American, is a former lawyer for New Line Cinema and Warner Brothers in Los Angeles. She said she has many connections in Hollywood who could open doors for UAE-based talent.

"Everyone knows casting the right person can make or break a movie and in LA as an actor or a writer you can't get anywhere unless you have an agent. I came here four years ago and immediately saw the need for an agency.

"I am passionate about the film industry no matter which culture it comes from and I want to help."

TCA has signed 12 Emirati actors, as well as those from Lebanon, and a number of directors, including Nawaf al Janahi.

Mr al Janahi, who is one of the UAE's best-known directors and has just finished his third feature film, Sea Shadow, said: "I've been looking for something like this. You can't keep doing everything yourself. It gives you time for the things you need to focus on."

Ahmed Arshi, one of the first clients to sign up, said it was essential for the burgeoning industry.

"Filmmaking is not only about the actors or directors. What people don't realise is they all become who they are because of their agents," he said.

"We desperately need agents here. Whenever someone starts making a new film everyone calls their friends to find actors or extras. It creates chaos and there is no structure. People don't get paid on time and lose faith in the industry. Agents will make the whole process more professional."

Mr Arshi has completed a script for Imagenation, the film production arm of Abu Dhabi Media, which also publishes The National. Alaska is an adventure comedy about two students from Abu Dhabi who attempt to travel to Alaska in order to be accepted into their university campus fraternity.

He said the storytellers of the UAE suffer from badly made films.

"There are a lot of films here which are shot so poorly people don't want to watch them. But the stories are great and stories are what keeps the audiences. Storytelling is the most ancient art and it goes back for centuries. We must respect that."

Ms Carlwig said that she had the idea for TCA when she started going to coffee mornings during her first months in the UAE. She was inspired by the culture of hospitality and the friendly reception, and decided to try to portray it on film.

It was when she got involved in the industry that she realised the lack of agents. She eventually applied for a licence, which she received on February 6.

"Only last month I went to Berlin and everyone wanted to see Arab films, Arab scripts and Arab stories. All eyes are on this region right now and everyone is fascinated with it. We want to show it in the right way and to do that we have to provide a proper form of representation."