FILM INDUSTRY THEN AND NOW WITH CRISPIN DOMINIC, ACTION FILMZ
Industry pioneer and an ardent film enthusiast, Crispin Dominic has been in the film equipment rental business for over two decades, nurturing several projects under his belt. In an intriguing chat with Karishma Hingorani, he throws light on the evolution of film within the region and highlights the role of technicians in sustaining a good production
HOW HAS THE INDUSTRY EVOLVED OVER THE YEARS?
I have been in the industry since 1996 working my way up from camera assisting and since then until today, I have seen the industry shape up to such modernity. Driving my thoughts back into time, schedules of shoots were made based on the availability of the desired crew. We had only a handful of crew at times, which resulted in flying international crew from outside the country. Honestly, when I look back, we could only manage maybe one shoot a day. That is how it was back in the day.
Today, the industry has come up to
a position where we can manage to do more than ten to twelve shoots, since we have talented crew around. The scale of production has viably changed. There is so much more equipment and personnel available. Dubai has always been open to experimentation, that has also attracted a lot of international crew to come and settle down, which I think is one of the reasons we have so much more projects to engage in. The locations and infrastructures have attracted people from around the world because we have the best of all – a modern city, the desert, mountains, basically everything within easy access and reach. We have seen the film industry in the UAE outgrown small productions and become home to big blockbuster Hollywood and Bollywood feature films. The country is headed by such a positive and esteemed leadership, which makes things so much more systematic and organised. I have seen for myself, how the city has outgrown from two lanes to seven lanes or more. I consider myself extremely fortunate for having been part of the growth and seen the success of the film industry.
WHAT HAS BEEN THE IMPACT OF THE PANDEMIC ON THE FILM INDUSTRY IN DUBAI?
It is absolutely commendable, how the country on a whole has reacted to the situation and kept things in control. It is one of the first places where they let full production happen. Of course, precautions had to be taken care of and borne in mind, in spite of all that, work just kept pouring in. For us, at least as a company, we have had one of the busiest times during and after COVID. The flow of work still continues. As the saying goes, there is a potential down to the many ups, even for us, there was a short downtime of four to six months, but since then everything remained in normalcy and things picked up. Right now, we are in a good position.
WHY DID YOU DECIDE TO START ACTION FILMZ?
There were a few things which helped me decide on owning a rental house. Monetary gain was certainly never one of them. I used to work as a technician on set and that is how I got into the industry. After working my way up as a photographer, I went on to assist people in the film business when there was almost no crew. Sometimes I would be the gaffer, at other times I would play some other role. I used to multitask and be hands on while at it. For example, I always felt lighting was the toughest. I thought if I know lighting, I will be able to easily shoot, so I put myself into it because there was nobody to fill that role. Eventually, I opted to be a gaffer. During all this time spent on set, I realised the importance of having the right equipment which was not locally available to meet the international demands.
That is where I saw an opportunity. I wondered how this could be the case in a city, that constantly persists for the best in the world. With a strong
DURING ALL THIS TIME SPENT ON SET, I REALISED THE IMPORTANCE OF HAVING THE RIGHT EQUIPMENT, WHICH WASN’T LOCALLY AVAILABLE TO MEET INTERNATIONAL DEMANDS. THAT IS WHERE I SAW AN OPPORTUNITY.”
HAVING A DEDICATED, PASSIONATE TEAM WITH TONS OF POSITIVE ENERGY PLAYS A VITAL ROLE IN THE SUCCESS OF A BUSINESS. AT THE END OF THE DAY, THEY MAKE THE COMPANY. FOR ME, IT IS NEVER ABOUT COMPETITION, I SEE THIS INDUSTRY AS ONE BIG COLLECTIVE, ONE BIG WHOLE.”
will to change that, I decided to buy equipment, which was not available and that is how my rental services began. And the rest has been all about pursuing that passion over the years.
I love what I do and I love technology. My vision is always driven by what can be done to bring the best to Dubai because someone had to. And that is why, we keep getting the latest equipment here, all the time. Growth happens from the people working in the organisation and our fellow peers, who are constantly working, updating and supporting us. Their belief pushes us to do better. I also used to travel a lot attending trade shows, which gave us more exposure, that led us to meeting pioneers within the film fraternity, and in return gaining a lot of insights from them about the latest equipment. That kind of backing from the industry has led to our growth. We are completely a service industry and it is very important to have the right attitude. If you have that, I believe nothing can go wrong. The whole process for me and everyone associated with Action Filmz has been very organic. We just took baby steps in nurturing what we love and here we are.
YOU STARTED AS A GAFFER. WHAT ARE SOME OF THE THINGS YOU LEARNT FROM THE ROLE AND WHY DO YOU SAY LIGHTING IS THE TOUGHEST?
For me, lighting is an art and I instantly fell in love with it. I find it very interesting. It is like an artist painting with a brush, we use lighting to paint powerful visuals. We recreate what we see in our day to day lives and this why lighting plays a very important role.
I was very fortunate to see films evolve and my love for the industry kept evolving over the years. For say, my passion for lighting is what got me into this business.
IS THERE ANYTHING ONE MUST KEEP IN MIND WHEN OWNING A RENTAL BUSINESS?
For me, it was always the passion and the love for film making that got me into this business. I never entered this industry for monetary benefits. All this respect has come from the rental house, with a lot of passion, hard work and the right decisions. The rental business can be tricky because one has to have the knowledge in order to not backfire with the wrong equipment. As an individual, I never shy away from asking people what they think about a particular technology. Having a dedicated, passionate team with tons of positive energy plays a vital role in the success of a business. At the end of the day, they make the company. For me, it is never about competition, I see this industry as one big collective, one big whole.
WHAT ARE THE CHALLENGES OF BEING IN THIS INDUSTRY FOR TECHNICIANS?
It is an extremely tough industry with severely long hours. I know how difficult it can get. I am in constant gratitude for the entire team for being part of this industry and choosing to stay in it every single day.
Personally, I believe the crew deserves a lot more. I believe technicians are the real heroes. For me, the DOP in a set has been my ideal hero. It gives me another high altogether to watch the DOP at work. It is not an easy job at all.
WHICH HAS BEEN ONE OF YOUR MOST MEMORABLE PROJECTS TO DATE?
Every job has to be a memorable one – at least for me. To me when I go back home after a job, the feeling of pride is what remains a memoir to me. So, I cannot be biased towards any one project. Every project is special, whether I am providing technical support, or producing it, We work strongly as a unit with complete honesty and passion. When my team goes out there, when people say they see me in each one of them, that is truly the best feeling in the world and matters most to me.