At least five big budget Hollywood film projects are slated to be shot in the Middle East in the next two years, according to Hollywood actor and film consultant, Bashar Atiyat, who was in Dubai recently to hold an acting workshop in conjunction with D-Seven Marketing and Design, for aspiring filmmakers.
"Expect to see at least five big Hollywood films being shot in the Middle East with the smallest of these having a budget of US $22 million," commented the Jordanian-American consultant, who comes to the region every year with the aim of bringing projects from Hollywood to the region. “We will be shooting Rumi, the Fire of Love, which will focus on the life of Jalaluddin Rumi, a Sufi saint. This project was initially started in Dubai but left this place because of lack of sufficient interest from local businessmen. However, we have now got about $17 million for this film and need another $5 million. If we get this, we will begin shooting immediately,” he confirmed.
Oscar-winning cinematographer, Vittorio Storaro, has been signed up to shoot for this film while two award-winning actors have been shortlisted for the lead role.
A second film titled The Nomadic Prince is also scheduled to start filming in the Middle East next April, according to Atiyat, although the location has not yet been finalised. “I am co-producing this with an independent filmmaker from LA and will also play a small acting role in it,” he commented.
He also confirmed that some projects from Paramount as well as political thrillers were in the pipeline. “We intend to do political thrillers that have car chases, accidents, shootings, explosions et al. These will be based on the region and shot here,” he claimed.
Atiyat, who has lived in Hollywood for the last 17 years and acted in films like Syriana, Bel Air, The Wedding and Wishbone among others, however, reiterated that there must be a better serious understanding of the film business and more local investment in it to attract Hollywood talent to the region. “There are many producers who want to come and work in the Middle East but it has to be worth their while as well. If Hollywood sees serious investors in film here and attractive distribution deals, they will come here to shoot. Otherwise, they will go to other locations that offer them better incentives. If they come here to shoot, local actors and crew will get hands-on experience working on international productions and is a good opportunity for the film industry here to grow,” he added.
The filmmaker, however, dismisses misgivings about Hollywood films stereotyping Arabs in specific roles. “In film, there is nothing called positive or negative publicity. Everything is good propaganda. If an international crew comes and shoots in a country, it only gives its residents a better chance to be part of an international crew and learn how such productions are done. This is what is important.”
Atiyat also promised that for every project he brought here, he would take the people he had trained at local filmmaking workshops. “By doing this, we will eventually have trained a large pool of crew locally to work on set for international productions."