DS: DS: How do you respond to criticism that Jinn should have been more representative of Jordanian society, and not just of its privileged layer?
“OUR HOPE WAS TO CREATE A SHOW THAT YOUNG ADULTS IN THE ARAB WORLD AND WORLDWIDE COULD NATURALLY RELATE TO.”
Which were some of the hardest scenes to film?
RD: Shooting in Petra features some unique challenges: cell phones don’t work deep within the canyons, it’s difficult to get trucks and generators out to remote locations, and the weather can fluctuate significantly. Thankfully, we had a lot of support from our Petra location managers and the community; we couldn’t have done it without them. We also had only a limited of days to shoot there, so we tried to maximise our shooting days as much as possible. The scene in the Roman ruins of Petra where we last see Yassin, was especially difficult. It was a cold and windy night, and because of the wind we couldn’t use our wide-area balloon lights as planned for lighting the scene.
But the cast and crew really did a stellar job and were very excited to finish shooting and show the world what we created.
DS: What was the experience of filming in Jordan like?
RD: We’ve filmed in Jordan many times and it’s been a great experience. The Royal Film Commission has always been helpful and welcoming to film productions of all sizes. There is a strong equipment and crew base in Jordan, and the locations in Amman and Petra are unmatched. We were also pleasantly surprised by the quality of acting talent in Jordan. Our cast made us so happy with their hard work and they gave amazing performances.
ED: We tried creatively to set our show in a segment of Arab society, in an attempt to create a show that would resonate with people across the Middle East and around the world. We understand some viewers may find parts of the show provocative. Our hope was just to be as authentic as possible to the specific story we’re telling.
DS: Any moments of cultural confusion in Jordan?
RD: When we started researching in Jordan, we had quite a learning experience about the differences between some high schools in Jordan versus where we grew up. For example, we assumed that students travelled from class to class throughout the day, just as at US schools. However, we learned that in Jordan, teachers move from classroom to classroom! Small details like that really helped to land the specificity of a show in the Arab world.
One of the highlights of the entire shoot was shooting in Bedouin villages near Petra. We were so impressed by the little Bedouin girl in Petra, we wrote additional lines to give her more screen time!
DS: How are your actors coping with the reactions to the show?
ED: The actors are staying strong, they became such good friends on set and were so supportive of each other, that they can help each other process the reactions to
the show. Generally we’re excited about the next stages of their careers. They are all so talented and we look forward to seeing what they do next!
DS: Can you shed some light on the equipment used for the shoot?
ED: We used a lot of aerial drone shooting on this show, to really capture the epic landscapes of both Petra and Amman. We used the new DJI Inspire 2, a professional cinema drone that we kept with us throughout the shoot so whenever we needed, we could grab shots. I piloted the drone, while Rajeev operated the camera on the drone.
In Petra, we were one of the first productions to use advanced ‘ baloon lights’ to light up wide areas in Petra. This was essential so that even at night we could appreciate the amazing place we were shooting in.
We also avoided needing a Steadicam or dolly by using the DJI Ronin camera stabiliser, used in every single scene of the show due to its ability to attain smooth camera motion.
DS: Elan, as a writer, how do you see VOD platforms influencing content being created in the Middle East?
“ARAB YOUTH HAVE LONG BEEN UNDER- REPRESENTED IN ENTERTAINMENT CONTENT WORLDWIDE GENERALLY, AND WE’RE EXCITED TO HELP CHANGE THAT”
ED: I hope streaming giants such as Netflix will allow a freedom of storytelling to flourish in the Arab world and allow filmmakers of many different types in the Arab world to tell their stories. This includes underrepresented genres: teen drama, scifi, and fantasy that can really resonate with audiences world wide, not just in this region. We hope through more Arab content, the world will see a side of this region they’ve never seen before, and hopefully show our audiences that people are more similar than different.
DS: What kind of stories do you want to tackle in future projects?
ED: Rajeev and I tend towards aspirational stories grounded in reality; stories that deal with what real people are dealing with, such as Mira and her family in Jinn. Many of our stories deal in genres such as fantasy or scifi, to make them more entertaining and accessible.
DS: Despite the rich tradition of storytelling, there is a dearth of Arabic digital content available for young people in the Middle East…
ED: Hopefully with Jinn, more networks and streamers can see there is an appetite for Arabic digital content for young people in the Middle East. By having more shows such as Jinn, hopefully more content providers will create more shows like this and give them a chance to flourish that they wouldn’t have had before. And mostly, young people just need to keep supporting and asking for such content until people listen. We certainly tried to do our part!
DS: Do you see Jinn going some way to dispel biases against the Middle East?
ED: That was one of our primary goals with Jinn — to allow people around the world to see that Arab teens are like teens anywhere in the world. They have crushes, worry about their future, love their families, and everything in between.
When we first pitched Jinn, neither of us had ever seen an Arabic language teen show. We hope that this is just the beginning of a new wave of Arabic content that can really travel around the world and show people the Arab world in a truly authentic way.