Abu Dhabi’s twofour54 today organised a media tour of its award-winning backlot at Khalifa Industrial Zone (KIZAD). The backlot is helping attract some of the world’s leading production companies to the Emirate as the free zone continues to realise its vision to be the ‘Capital for content creators’. The 70,000-square meter backlot, the largest in the Middle East, was built in the Khalifa Industrial Zone (KIZAD), with facilities including costume, make up and dressing rooms as well as canteen and production offices.
The backlot has already hosted productions such as ‘Tiger Zinda Hai’ – India’s 2nd biggest grossing film of all time – and MBC Arabic dramas ‘Al Asouf’ and ‘Haret El Sheikh’, as well as many other feature length productions from Indian cinema and Hollywood. The media was taken on a tour of the sets for these productions which included - A 6500 square-meter set for the production took the shape of a small village based in the 1970s, a 5,400 square-meter outdoor set was built to host filming the 30-episode MBC drama Haret El Sheikh which was aired during Ramadan 2016.
twofour54 Marketing Manager Mohammed Alkhoori said the backlot forms part of the film and TV production ecosystem that has been developed over the past decade in Abu Dhabi and has worked on over 370 production and post production projects.
H.E. Maryam Eid AlMheiri, CEO of Media Zone Authority – Abu Dhabi and twofour54, said: “We are extremely proud of the incredible film and TV production facilities that we have developed in Abu Dhabi, such as the backlot at KIZAD and our world-class production and post-production facilities.
“Abu Dhabi is attracting production companies from some of the world’s biggest film hubs, including Hollywood, Bollywood, Tollywood, and the Arab world, to its shores to film their productions, which is an important part of our mission to establish a thriving and sustainable media sector in the Emirate.
“The investment that this creates, as well as the economic impact on sectors such as tourism of the publicity that these productions generate are playing an important part in Abu Dhabi’s drive to diversify its economy.
”However, it’s not just the facilities that are giving Abu Dhabi the reputation as one of the hottest locations in the world at the moment as it is also our diverse range of locations, from forts to skyscrapers; supportive government; excellent infrastructure; talented pool of freelancers; and the financial incentive of the 30% rebate on production spend from Abu Dhabi Film Commission.”
Alkhoori added that the twofour54 rebate offer, along with the comprehensive production services and availability of local freelance talent have been the major factors helping to bring film and TV productions to Abu Dhabi and continue to make it an attractive propsition for Arabaic and international productions.
Above; A marketplace scene shot on the sets of Tiger Zinda Hai
Earlier this year, at the 14th Digital Studio Awards, twofour54 was named the region’s ‘Studio of the Year’ for the second year in a row – and for the fourth time overall. The award came just a few months after twofour54 also received the ‘Editor’s Choice for Outstanding Set and Studio Build in the Region’ at the ASBU BroadcastPro Selevision Awards.
The media tour included a detailed look at the largest set to be built on the backlot was for ‘Tiger Zinda Hai’ last year. The film required the construction of a 20,000sqm set, with more than 150 people helping to build it over 102 days. It was the largest set ever built for a film by the production company, Yash Raj Films. The film was set in Iraq, and the backlot depicts Iraqi street scenes, including more than 50 shops and a fruit and vegetable market, as well as a war-torn part of a city. The intricate set included some 2,500 windows and 1,000 doors.
Salman Khan described it as “one of the most beautiful sets” he’d worked on, adding: “The government has been very helpful… It’s been a great experience”, while co-star Katrina Kaif said: “It’s been one of the most comfortable shoots I’ve been on… it was like being on one of the best studios anywhere in the world.”
Above: A look at the 'wartorn' area of the set which was carefully designed to recreate a war zone area
The backlot is also home to the 6,500sqm set of ‘Al Asouf’, an Arabic drama from O3 Productions starring Nasser Al Qasabi. The backlot was transformed into a 1970s neighbourhood in Riyadh for the 30-episode first series. It was also used for another Arabic drama from MBC, ‘Haret El Sheikh’, which is written by Bandar Bajbaa and directed by Al-Mothanna Sobah. The production featured more than 60 actors and the 5400sqm set depicted a neighbourhood in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia in the late 19th century, centred around a piazza with shops, a mosque and houses.
Above: ‘Haret El Sheikh’ 5400sqm set depicts a neighbourhood in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia in the late 19th century, centred around a piazza with shops, a mosque and houses.
Above: The regional media was given a look at the Tiger Zinda Hai set which continues to be used for productions. The huge 20,000 sq. m. set was built over a period of 3 months.
The total area of the backlot is 70,000sqm and facilities include costume, make up and dressing rooms, along with a canteen and production offices.
In his interaction with the media AlKhoori stressed on the future expansion plans for twofour54 which will include a massive new Studio City complex and backlot, which he said is currently the biggest project underway. He added that smaller productions will also be able to take advantage of the facilities.
However, all this is just the start, with exciting plans revealed over the last year to expand film and TV productions facilities further in the future, including twofour54’s Studio City at Mina Zayed, a 300,000sqm backlot and studio complex that is under development. It will feature an outdoor film set, a permanent backlot and studios for productions of all sizes, from small local projects to Hollywood and Bollywood blockbusters.
This will be complemented by twofour54’s move to a new home on Yas Island from 2020. Already, twofour54 is home to more than 470 media companies from around the world, including some of the industry’s biggest names, such as CNN, Ubisoft, and Apple. The zone is also home to some 650 freelancers.
The new home will be part of the AED 12 billion Yas Bay development taking shape on the southern end of Yas Island and will increase the capacity of the free zone by 30% with the option to expand even further by 2030. The built-for-purpose home will feature state-of-the-art offices, TV studios, retail spaces, and recreation facilities.
Above: Mohammed Alkhoori, Marketing Manager twofour54 at the KIZAD backlot