CreativeFeaturedSpecial Feature

Production industry snapshot – Tony Lehal, head of content, UAE and KSA, Filmmaster MEA

Production industry snapshot

How is the regional production market changing?

The market is evolving – as budgets have been shrunk down more and more over the last couple of years, briefs have changed as production diversifies its deliverables. We’ve found that clients want more ‘snackable’ content; bitesize chunks that can easily and quickly be consumed, compared with the longer, more story-focused content. Nevertheless, the demand for TVCs still remains, however the ‘snackable’ content is almost seen as the audience’s doggy bag, ready to be gobbled up at the viewer’s convenience.

How is demand changing?

We will always face the classic price/quality/speed battle. We have adapted our team over the last few years to be one of the few production houses in the region to have a multinational team of in-house director/editors, director/producers, TVC producers, technology researchers and creatives that support our clients with price, speed and quality demands. Production houses need to adapt and cultivate multidisciplinary teams to ultimately answer the market’s needs.

What is the biggest challenge to regional production houses?

There’s no question, location fees really have made the region uncompetitive as a shooting destination. The same can be said for challenges with flexibility on normal logistics like aerial permits, which take a long time to approve, making last-minute shoot changes near impossible. It’s hard – almost impossible – to be financially competitive when bidding for local agency work against international production houses, so regional production houses end up losing out to cheaper destinations like South Africa, Spain, Turkey and  Romania. It’s a shame to lose local work to international suppliers.

What high-level reform would most improve the industry?

I really applaud the new Gofreelance work permit by Tecom for AED 7,500, meaning freelancers are able to live and work in the UAE legally and easily. This move is really going to transform the industry and build a better pool of talent and tech crews for productions in the region. But, looking forward, I would love to see location costs slashed and rebates offered to international clients to come and shoot more projects in the UAE.

What changes are you most excited to see in the coming few years?

I think we’ve come to a stage in production where content is more device- and platform-agnostic than ever before. What I’m most excited about is the convergence of content with technology/innovation, and content becoming borderless. What we watch will become almost omnipresent, jumping out of the devices and into our lives. Exciting times ahead!