The UAE Pro­duc­tion Fo­rum was launched as an in­dus­try body in May 2017. Its chair, Cen­tral Films owner and pro­ducer Karen Coet­zee, ex­plains why the in­dus­try needs to come to­gether

Campaign Middle East - - CONTENTS -

The UAE pro­duc­tion in­dus­try is well es­tab­lished and recog­nised the world over, so a pro­fes­sional trade as­so­ci­a­tion for film com­pa­nies and free­lancers spe­cial­is­ing in the pro­duc­tion of tele­vi­sion com­mer­cials, con­tent, doc­u­men­taries and cor­po­rate films is well over­due.

At the UAE Pro­duc­tion Fo­rum, our mem­bers in­clude pro­duc­tion com­pa­nies, free­lancers, post-pro­duc­tion com­pa­nies and cast­ing agen­cies. We have an ac­tive steer­ing com­mit­tee, which in­cludes my­self, Reim El Houni, Heather McDon­ald, Ali Azarmi and Shane Martin, who are fo­cused on driv­ing the fo­rum’s main agenda. Then we have a se­ries of work­ing com­mit­tees that deal with spe­cific in­dus­try is­sues.

We want to make the UAE a global film pro­duc­tion hub, which will at­tract a more di­verse pool of skilled tal­ent as well as part­ner­ing with, as­sist­ing and fa­cil­i­tat­ing the sus­tain­able growth of the ex­ist­ing lo­cal in­dus­try.

Sim­ply, we want to make the UAE the coun­try of choice for pro­duc­tion.

But to achieve that goal, to en­able the sus­tain­able growth of our in­dus­try, to keep our free­lancers and pro­duc­tion com­pa­nies busy and to bring more for­eign busi­ness to the UAE, we must get a few things right.

We be­lieve that es­tab­lish­ing a cred­i­ble in­dus­try body is a defin­ing step to­wards this end, and so we are work­ing with the Depart­ment of Eco­nomic De­vel­op­ment and their Busi­ness Com­mu­nity En­gage­ment Ini­tia­tive.

A ded­i­cated and rep­utable in­dus­try body would al­low us to reg­u­late our in­dus­try, make rep­re­sen­ta­tions in the cor­rect man­ner, and ul­ti­mately speak with one voice. Also, be­ing able to keep pro­duc­ers up to date with changes in rules and reg­u­la­tions as well as other key is­sues that af­fect us and our work will be in­valu­able.

The suc­cess of the Fo­rum is based on the ef­fort the mem­ber­ship puts in, and we look for­ward to a vi­brant, pos­i­tive and pro­duc­tive fo­rum.


Cre­ate a val­ued voice for the in­dus­try and for gov­ern­ment con­sul­ta­tion, and build stronger, open chan­nels of com­mu­ni­ca­tion with gov­ern­ment de­part­ments. When laws and reg­u­la­tions are made that af­fect our in­dus­try, it is crit­i­cal that, as a recog­nised as­so­ci­a­tion, we are con­sulted. We need to lobby the gov­ern­ment and other in­ter­est groups to en­sure that leg­is­la­tion is favourable and

A ded­i­cated and rep­utable in­dus­try body would al­low us to reg­u­late our in­dus­try, make rep­re­sen­ta­tions in the cor­rect man­ner and ul­ti­mately speak with one voice.

in the best in­ter­ests of in­dus­try growth and de­vel­op­ment.

Es­tab­lish in­ter­na­tional in­dus­try stan­dards for all as­pects of the film pro­duc­tion process, es­pe­cially health and safety work­ing guidelines for cast and crew, and en­sur­ing that pro­duc­tions are ad­e­quately in­sured and lo­ca­tions are treated cor­rectly.

Build a stronger, more net­worked com­mu­nity and fos­ter pos­i­tive col­lab­o­ra­tions be­tween com­pet­i­tive com­pa­nies and free­lancers. The more we share in­for­ma­tion and sup­port each other, the stronger and more im­pact­ful we can be to­gether.

Quan­tify the eco­nomic im­por­tance of our in­dus­try through an in­dus­try-wide sur­vey, which will also iden­tify new trends and chal­lenges, and in­di­cate how we are re­shap­ing our in­dus­try to fit the ever-chang­ing ad­ver­tis­ing and online con­tent land­scape.

Sup­port the next gen­er­a­tion by set­ting up in­tern­ship pro­grammes and men­tor­ships. Most of what you learn in the film in­dus­try is through on-the-job ex­pe­ri­ence, so shar­ing our knowl­edge and de­vel­op­ing the skills of young pro­fes­sion­als is vi­tal for the fu­ture of the in­dus­try.

KEY IS­SUES & CHAL­LENGES Free­lance work per­mits and visas

Free­lancers are the back­bone of our in­dus­try; we need to make it easy and af­ford­able for them to work here legally. We want the free­lancers who are the best in their field to choose the UAE as their per­ma­nent place of work – this can only be to the ben­e­fit of us all.

We would like to see free­lance per­mits that al­low free­lancers to work both with main­land com­pa­nies and free­zone com­pa­nies.

The launch of the Te­com Gofree­lance work per­mit for AED 7,500 is an ex­cel­lent step for­ward. The UAE Pro­duc­tion Fo­rum was in­vited by the Dubai Cre­ative Clus­ters Author­ity to con­sult on the ini­tia­tive. How­ever, al­most all free­lancers would need the ad­di­tional visa com­po­nent and the added cost of the yearly es­tab­lish­ment card, which we feel is still too ex­pen­sive.

Lo­ca­tion fees

Lo­ca­tion fees are a killer for our bud­gets. We price our­selves out of the mar­ket when quot­ing for in­ter­na­tional com­mer­cials that want to shoot in the UAE, with the knock-on ef­fect be­ing that th­ese com­mer­cials end up go­ing to South Africa, Spain, Turkey, Ro­ma­nia, Le­banon or Egypt.

This dam­ages not only our in­dus­try but Brand UAE as well, as the op­por­tu­nity to put Dubai, Abu Dhabi, or any of the other emi­rates in the world’s shop win­dows is missed.

In Dubai, most semi-gov­ern­ment lo­ca­tions have a very high charge, and whether you are shoot­ing a quick online con­tent piece or a full-blown in­ter­na­tional TV com­mer­cial, the fees are the same. Fees need to be flex­i­ble and aligned with the type of pro­duc­tion that is shoot­ing.


Par­tic­u­larly with short-lived con­tent work, we need per­mits that are cheaper and have a longer shoot­ing win­dow. A gen­eral shoot­ing per­mit at a gov­ern­ment lo­ca­tion costs AED 3,000 (for pro­cess­ing and per­mit­ting); if you are shoot­ing reg­u­lar, fast-turn­around con­tent, this can get re­ally ex­pen­sive re­ally quickly.

We’d like to see a re­new­able monthly per­mit that cov­ers mul­ti­ple pieces of online and cor­po­rate con­tent, with a sys­tem in place for DFTC to easily ap­prove the con­tent. The fu­ture is dig­i­tal and we have to be nim­ble if we are to suc­ceed.

Pro­mote the UAE as a world-class lo­ca­tion to film

The UAE has so many in­cred­i­ble lo­ca­tions, and within a one-hour ra­dius you have the sea, the city, the desert and the moun­tains, of­fer­ing a di­verse ar­ray of lo­ca­tions, all within easy reach. Rugged moun­tains with good dirt and tar roads, new eight-lane high­ways with fly­overs, tun­nels and bridges that are lined with mod­ern sky­scrapers, and so much more.

Un­like in Mor­rocco, where the desert is a day’s travel away from the city, UAE ci­ties are within an hour’s drive from stun­ning sand dunes that run to the hori­zon.

Another great pos­i­tive is that we have to hand easy-to-ac­cess and cost-ef­fec­tive po­lice as­sis­tance for road clo­sures, ex­pe­ri­enced English-speak­ing film crews and a wide va­ri­ety of the lat­est film­ing equip­ment.

We be­lieve it is im­por­tant that the UAE is pro­moted at all ma­jor in­ter­na­tional events, as a coun­try, and not in­di­vid­u­ally as Abu Dhabi and Dubai. It is also essen­tial that pro­duc­tion com­pa­nies be­come part of any in­ter­na­tional pro­mo­tion, as we best un­der­stand how films are pro­duced here.

The Abu Dhabi Film Com­mis­sion’s 30 per cent in­cen­tive for both movies and com­mer­cials has re­ally grown their in­dus­try and skilled up new crew, mak­ing Abu Dhabi a hub. In­cen­tives work. And pro­duc­ers around the world will go to the des­ti­na­tion that gives them the best value for money.

At the UAE Pro­duc­tion Fo­rum, we be­lieve that by do­ing all of this, we will be­come the coun­try of choice for in­ter­na­tional pro­duc­tions and a pres­ence at ma­jor in­ter­na­tional events.

Pay­ment terms

One of the big­gest strug­gles for pro­duc­tion com­pa­nies is late pay­ment terms. Th­ese terms re­strict growth and dam­age the pay­ment chain, which ends up putting free­lancers and small busi­nesses at risk.

It’s easy to for­get, but most pro­duc­tion com­pa­nies are SMEs with lit­tle wrig­gle­room. When a pay­ment is late – with some com­ing af­ter 90 days, a year or even longer – the com­pany suf­fers, growth is dam­aged and the in­dus­try be­comes un­com­pet­i­tive with only a few com­pa­nies left that have the means to make moves re­gard­less of fi­nan­cial im­pli­ca­tions.

Chang­ing this as­pect of pro­duc­tion will make a big dif­fer­ence for the field as a whole.

One of the big­gest strug­gles for pro­duc­tion com­pa­nies is late pay­ment terms. Th­ese terms re­strict growth and dam­age the pay­ment chain, which ends up putting free­lancers and small busi­nesses at risk.

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