30th April, 2013


By Manjusha Radhakrishnan, Senior Reporter
Published: 06:58 April 11, 2013

Want success in the movies? Aspiring filmmakers should start at the bottom and gradually work their way up to the top, say industry experts.

“Everybody wants to be a director first,” said Michael Garin, CEO of Image Nation in an interview with tabloid!

“It’s the worst part of the UAE. They should be directors last. If they haven’t done all the other jobs, how are they going to manage all the people it takes to make a film?” he adds. His theory on whether budding filmmakers have worked their way up the grind will be put to test this weekend with the start of the sixth the Gulf Film Festival, which showcases the talent of rising talents from this region. His top tip?

“If you look at Ron Howard or Steven Spielberg, they make a movie every eighteen months. But if you are Howard’s costume designer or Spielberg’s editor you are working 52 weeks a year … Considering the number of movies that are made in this region, if you say you are only going to be a director you may make a movie once every three or four years,” he warned.

Hollywood producer and CEO of Hyde Park Entertainment Ashok Amritraj, who has teamed up with Abu Dhabi’s film production company Image Nation to produce Hollywood biggies such as the thriller The Double and Emmy-winning series Lost Christmas, agrees.

“Even now, people often come to me and ask: ‘why don’t you want to direct?’. My answer is always, I enjoy the process of finding an idea, bringing it to reality and putting it on screen, marketing it and perhaps owning it,” said Amritraj, who just finished shooting Jennifer Aniston’s next film in Connecticut, also starring Tim Robbins, John Hawkes, Mos Def and Isla Fisher. It’s a collaboration between his company and Image Nation and presented an opportunity for local talent to be a part of the working crew. But such clout didn’t come easy.

Amritraj’s first break in the notoriously secretive film industry came in the form of Sidney Poitier.

“It took me years to realise that people want to play tennis with me but nobody wanted to make a movie with me. I remember in the 1980s, when Sidney Poitier during a tennis game said, ‘you should come and watch me edit’. I spent time to understand the script … all of that helped in my education,” said Amritraj, who advocates learning from every film expert to crack the industry. The duo also urged filmmakers to be in the industry for the right reasons.

“One of the challenges we have here, like any industry everywhere, is that because it’s a glamorous industry there are so many people who want to be a part of it. But they don’t have any appreciation of how hard it is and how much work is required. Part of our challenge in everything we do and dealing with young people is that to try to separate people who are focused on the glamour and the ones who are really dedicated,” said Garin.

They used this yardstick while choosing two Emiratis to participate in the reality show Chance of a Lifetime. The non-scripted series will be hosted by Amritraj who is in search of a talented documentary filmmaker. Each team will feature a member from India, the Gulf and Singapore. The winning documentary will be screened at the United Nations, and during May’s Cannes Film Festival. The local telecast is planned for after Ramadan.

“We have two Emirati girls and two Emirati boys from this region along with teams from Singapore and India. They will be put in teams and asked to make documentaries based on the millennium goals of United Nations.” He’s also in talks with stars who lend their star power to the UN to feature in the series. Asked if Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, the recent recruit to the UN Goodwill ambassadors, will feature in the documentary, Amritraj didn’t rule out the possibility.

“It’s too early to talk about it. But I will interview my Bollywood friends who have kindly agreed to be a part of it in my next trip,” said Amritraj.