Building a city within a city

The scale and scope of this world production complex has the potential to create an industry that can contribute to the economy of any country that builds it, writes Joy Films‘ Ali Azarmi

I’ve had the privilege of witnessing UAE’s rise since 1993 and that has shaped my perception and perspective on change and the possible.

The speed and impact of that epic rise, inspired and influenced many. Individuals, companies, industries and even countries. The UAE became the proof of concept for any grand ambition labelled impossible by skeptics.

The film industry in the UAE grew in this environment, with the grit of pioneers like the late Tim Smyth to whom our industry is greatly indebted. 

Today in the UAE, the crew and producers represent the diversity of the country and are as good as the best of the world. In fact, the top producers in the MENA region have unparalleled multi-faceted skills.

But what does it take to bring productions of all categories to one place to shoot the world?

The second Campaign Saudi Briefing event of the year will be taking place in Riyadh on 12th October 2023. A variety of panels and speakers will be discussing the themes of media and marketing. For more details, click here. 

A city within a city

Imagine a city within any city, with districts representing different countries and neighbourhoods.

High streets and back streets, interiors and exteriors. urban and industrial. Airport lounges, parks, shops, restaurants, shopping centres and hotels.

All designed to be functional as well as film production-friendly. Then we have backlots, state-of-the-art studios, virtual studios, water tanks, warehouses of props and wardrobe along with workshops of set designers and model makers.

Of course smaller scale of such a concept exist in many cities around the world but none has the scale and diversity to attract all kinds of productions and the potential for growing and expanding organically with every production.

A global production complex which makes productions far more economical, quicker and even environmentally friendly with far less waste and travel.

Ali Azarmi, Managing Partner at Joy Films

Great ambitions, great potential

At its most ambitious scope, it would of course require backing and support at the governmental level but it can be built in phases.

It could provide sponsorship and generate revenue from tourism and advertisers as any city in the world does, but here each international district would potentially have targeted audiences.

For example, brands can advertise in Chinese in the Chinese district of the production city and contribute to the authenticity of that district. Airlines or tourist boards could sponsor entire districts. 

The scale and scope of this world production complex has the potential to create an industry that can contribute to the economy of any country that builds it. 

Attracting professionals from all over the world and from every sector of the film industry is hugely important to the growth of the film industry in the region.

As great as the technical crews are in the UAE, Lebanon and Egypt, there is not enough of them for more than two or three main productions at any given time.

Wardrobe and stylists, production designers, art department, almost every department of film production would have to grow to facilitate the volume of work.

But again, as the UAE has so brilliantly demonstrated, ‘build it, and they will come’.

Changing the script of the industry

When it comes to hosting events, developing infrastructures, providing logistics, facilitating businesses and industries, investing in technologies, human resources, best processes and building the future, this region tops the best of the world.

The World Production City is a perfect fit, the UAE may seem like the logical candidate for its location but Saudi Arabia’s huge surge and transformation could well be the future leader in this field – as it aims to be in every other industry.

Qatar is also well capable of taking the lead. The global film, TV and media production represents a multi-billion dollar industry which is currently dominated by Hollywood and Bollywood.

It is fast becoming a diversified industry of the arts and sciences. AI, software and hardware, drones, robotics and predictive technologies are shaping new possibilities in media.

Combined with gaming, the future potential of the entertainment sector in terms of investment is mind-boggling.  A plan is being proposed for this to become a reality and it only takes the power of the will.

It can and will completely change the script and the scene in global film production.

By Ali Azarmi, Managing Partner at Joy Films