Education, education, education

Greater industry understanding needed, says ImageNation boss.
Back to school for the regional industry.
Back to school for the regional industry.


When we met with Image Nation CEO Michael Garin last month, one thing became clear: The UAE’s film industry has a long way to go, not just in terms of making films, but in terms of education too.

Garin dismissed the many rumours that have surrounded the delayed release of Djinn, from royal disapproval to mass walkouts, as ‘nonsense,’ and added: “Tobe Hooper is a DGA director, so it’s all been done under All done under DGA rules. That means the film has a test screening, then the director can recut it. We didn’t even get the film to start on post till late November.

“The thing you have to remember is everyone here is a novice. It’s a new industry. When Image Nation announced it was putting six films into development before I arrived no one, including the film makers, understood the difference between development and production. In Hollywood around eight per cent of films in development end up on the screen. Everyone thought development meant six films would be produced.

“The previous management should maybe have made the difference a bit more clear. The time Djinn has taken is pretty typical, but no one here knows that. We have a community that puts film maker on their business cards but have never made a film.

We’re having to educate filmmakers, journalists and even audiences in the way of the market. We have a 33 per cent completion rate on those original six ideas, which is unheard of in Hollywood, but here people think two out of six is a failure.

That’s been our biggest challenge – this is a culture that doesn’t accept failure, but you can’t have creative success without taking creative risks. We’ve had to create an environment where people feel safe to fail.”

Garin notes that Sea Shadow was a huge success, and outlasted many Hollywood blockbusters in UAE cinemas, but says he has the task of educating expat audiences before him too: “We need to show expats that Emirati films are worth watching.

Sea Shadow’s success was almost exclusively Emirati. With Mohammed Saeed Harib’s football comedy that we currently have in production, and with Djinn, this should be easier – they both fit into genres that are familiar to Western audiences, - horror and sports comedy.

Djinn is half in English and we’ll be undertaking an international marketing campaign. Our task is to find films that fit into genres that work here but also have chance of working elsewhere.

The Gulf audience is not big enough to make a profit from on its own, so we need to try and make films with global appeal. That’s why our partnership with Hyde Park is so important.
Everything we do in the UAE is subsidised by profits from that outside the region. We can make big profits internationally and use the profits for investment in things like Arab Film Studios.”

Key figures

  • 06 Films put into development by Image Nation in 2010
  • 02 Of these completed to date
  • 01 Of these released to date
  • 01 Further film currently in production in the UAE

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