Movie maker

Movie maker

Jamal Al Sharif is hoping to make Dubai an ideal location for film and television shoots. We speak to him about the city’s growing popularity among film makers

By Mohamad Kadry

Published: Sun 24 Feb 2013, 8:22 PM

Last updated: Fri 3 Apr 2015, 5:50 AM

Even Tom Cruise pays Salik.

When Mission Impossible was famously filmed in Dubai two years ago, the production company incurred nearly Dhs90,000 in fines. The curious statistic is just one of hundreds of details Jamal Al Sharif must tend do. As Chairman of the Dubai Film and TV Commission, he’s the man behind the city’s explosive film and TV industry, managing everything from script approval to location scout for the hundreds of requests the organisation recieves from the global film community.

Al Sharif is on a mission to accelerate Dubai’s position as a hub for film and TV shoots and he’s calling on industry professionals to work with him in hopes of improving services.

We sat down with Al Sharif to get a glimpse into the production world that is making Dubai a choice destination for the film world.

Can you tell us about your job roles?

I’m the managing director of Dubai Studio City and Dubai Media City, and I’ve also taken on the role of Dubai Film and TV Commission as Chairman of the Board. The film commission is close to eight months old; however, the services have been operating since 2006.

What are some of the things that you deal with in terms of film and television shoots in Dubai?

If you were shooting here before 2006, to apply you had to go through various government departments. You would start with Dubai Police and then go through Dubai Municipality and the National Media Council. This combination of government approvals would have taken you over two weeks to get a permit, and to get your script approved probably a month to 45 days. In total you would easily be looking at a month to shoot in Dubai and you would be very limited in terms of available locations. All these processes are important to any film or TV director, so we had to come up with a one-stop-shop solution to reduce time. It was a challenge because we had to go through various government departments to allow us to act on behalf of them. We received their blessings and now we can basically get script approval in a maximum time of two weeks and shooting permission within a week.

What are some problems you’ve faced with films shot here?

We had one Indian film shooting in the Metro station. Although it went very well, they never requested for any power supply, so they brought their own generator for all their equipment. When they plugged their lights into the Metro socket, the power shut down on the entire Metro station. Sometimes we also get a request to shoot along some of the city’s most well known roads, so if there’s a Bollywood dance being filmed, there’s absolutely going to be a traffic problem and we work to avoid these situations.

Mission Impossible is considered to be a turning point in Dubai’s popularity among film makers on the world stage. What kind of impact did it have on the city?

The enormous impact was expected in all honesty. After the release of the film at the end of 2011, applications reached 870+. The following year we reached 1,100 applications. Lots of companies wanted to learn about the locations used in the film. Burj Khalifa had the largest amount of requests, especially among Bollywood filmmakers. Mission Impossible spent about Dhs100 million in Dubai. The money was spent on hotels, airlines, catering, oil and gas, rental equipment, studio rentals, logistics, cargo and Salik – even Tom Cruise pays traffic fines!

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