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Masters of the universe

by Chris Newbould on Jun 12, 2012

Filmmaster’s recent regional rebranding brings it into brand alignment with a production powerhouse which truly spans the globe.

Filmmaster MEA, with its regional HQ in Dubai and further offices in Abu Dhabi, Riyadh and Doha, may not be a household name in itself, but it’s safe to assume if you watch television you’ll be familiar with its work.

Among the recent campaigns it has filmed are Pepsi’s ‘Fast Talker’ ad, featuring the young fast talking Arab who, after a childhood of derision goes on to become a rap star, and Burger King’s regional 20th anniversary campaign, both currently ubiquitous on the main channels.

Filmmaster itself is no newcomer to the region – forerunner Dolce Vita Films was created in the UAE about 15 years ago, and brought into the Filmmaster fold in 2005, while Filmmaster itself was founded over 30 years ago in Italy.

Earlier this year the company underwent a major brand realignment to bring all its disparate international elements under the Filmmaster umbrella, with the main regional results being the emergence of Filmmaster MEA Productions and Filmmaster MEA Events.

Throughout the name changes, acquisitions and rebrands, however, one constant has remained, as executive producer Tony Lehal explains: “Whatever the name, we’ve always been determined to maintain the quality of output, production and directing talent across one global brand, but now we’re seeking to make it homogenous with Filmmaster Group.

The realigning of the Middle East operation follows a very successful period which hasn’t gone unnoticed by the head office in Italy, with three further offices opened recently, as well as an office in Rio as we prepare for the forthcoming Olympics.”

The group would seem to be bucking the international economic trend, with new offices opening around the world just as other companies close their regional offshoots, and Lehal is matter of fact about the current economic climate: “I know there’s a recession, but the money didn’t just disappear. The commercial market still exists and people still want to buy.

One advantage we have is that with our international network of creatives we are always up to date. It’s often a case of waiting for new ideas and technologies to filter over to less developed markets, but with our international reach we don’t have to wait.

“We have a new division specialising in non-traditional media to look after all the emerging new platforms. It’s easy to see things like YouTube as a threat for traditional production companies, but we see it as a good thing. The content that gets watched and goes viral is always either beautifully created or really witty – people won’t watch rubbish just because it’s on YouTube.

The quality still needs to maintain a TV level, especially if brands are wanting to get on YouTube. We may not be looking at 1,000 extras like a big TV production, but we still need the same creative spark.”

Executive producer Andrea Ciarla agrees, though he does note one difference with supplying content for online: “The one big difference for content that you want to go viral is the camera. You don’t need as a high quality for online, but that means the creativity has to be just as high, if not even higher, because of the sheer volume of content out there online.”

Indeed, both men agree that whether shooting for new platforms or traditional broadcast, cameras are one area where the digital age has made quality production both cheaper and quicker than ever before.

Lehal explains: “The transition from film to digital has revolutionised the industry. Take the Pepsi shoot – there’s no way we could have done that on time and budget with film.

We had lots of cut away ‘slice of life type shots’, and we had three cameras on set for each scene – Red Epics as master cameras and a Canon 5D with PR mounts for the cutaways.

Using a film camera like the Arri 435, this would have taken three different camera set ups, but we got it all in one. Plus with digital you can edit and get going with post on set – this is where the quality of your team comes in. For example, a lot of people struggle with the Red workflow, so you have to know your stuff to get the most from digital.”

Filmmaster also has a sizeable events arm, which often involves creating video content itself, and a large degree of integration exists between the events and production businesses.

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