By Yasser Obeid, Managing Director at a.k.a Media
In my career, I’ve seen the rise and rise of the UAE as a filming destination. We all know the myriad of reasons why – the infrastructure, weather, tax breaks, talent pool, geography – and the list goes on. But I’ve also seen some trends emerging in the last few weeks which are worth a little more discussion.
As we all know, seasonality plays a big role in the UAE’s production calendar. As we move into the cooler winter months, vaccination programs roll out, and international travel restrictions ease, we can expect to see more and more international production coming back to the UAE.
The pandemic decimated global travel but, as of September 19, 2021, Abu Dhabi has eased its rules even more for vaccinated travellers. I believe this will bring back international production crews to Abu Dhabi – almost immediately. It was stalled for quite a while, since our capital wisely imposed very tight restrictions on travelling to the emirate.
News of the $6 billion post-pandemic stimulus investment over the next five years from the newly-created DCT Abu Dhabi will go a long way to draw production to the emirate, too. Add in the timely and useful rebate of up to 30% on qualified spend, and I seriously believe we will see more Hollywood blockbuster shoots such as the recent Mission: Impossible 7 and Dune.
Seeing the world going back to normal, local production is coming back to almost pre-COVID levels, certainly at our company, and there’s a strong pipeline of quality content needing to be produced.
Saudi Arabia has also recently re-opened its doors to vaccinated travellers – both inbound and outbound. I believe we should expect a large batch of KSA production coming into the UAE now as well. From our perspective, it’s useful to know our neighbors can also facilitate international crews flying to the Kingdom for campaign shoots.
Of course, Dubai Expo is about to open its doors. This October, we all have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to help tell the world about the UAE and all it has to offer as an emerging hub for the entertainment sector and the production industry in the region.
Dubai Expo hinges on opportunity, technology, innovation, and sustainability.
There’s a multitude of opportunities for the local production industry to show its high level of local knowledge and cost-effective shooting expertise to the millions of global visitors expected to descend on the UAE in the next six months. Let’s take advantage of this audience, all keen to learn more.
Certainly, from my perspective, the raft of future opportunities looks promising. One side effect we saw of the pandemic is the rapid growth in virtual studios globally. Almost on a daily basis, I’m seeing how people shoot in newly-created digital studios.
High technology now allows us to travel in a second, virtually, to any part of the world. This, I believe, heralds a new era in content production. While digital, virtual studios seem thin on the ground here in the UAE right now, it will be fascinating to keep an eye on this trend.
Considering the world is heading back to ‘normal,’ post-pandemic, it will also be really interesting to see if any international virtual studio companies will come to the UAE to set up. While we love, embrace, and utilize technology to the full, I believe the world still prefers reality – for now. There’s a place for virtual studio work, but nothing truly replaces the real world for quality production, in my opinion. The best option is a blend of digital and reality, as we saw in our recent epic music video for Alan Walker and Imanbek, here.
We are also seeing the somewhat pervasive creep of synthetic media – like AI-generated voices. While real voice talent is still the gold standard, some elements of voice work are clearly going to be replaced in the coming years with artificially generated voiceovers. Interesting times, and a trend we’re watching carefully.
My final point as we race back into the ‘new normal’ is the increase in product launch campaigns. For example, we are currently working on a new car model launch for the region, while the a.k.a. Media pitching team is extremely busy working on other potential launch campaigns.
Right now, at the time of writing in mid-September, it feels like business is getting back on track. We are here, we are resilient, we’ve survived the global economic meltdown induced by the pandemic, and we are already seeing much greater demand for content. From my perspective, the future of production in the UAE looks dazzlingly bright.
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