The Hollywood Reporter has published a report on a training program for Middle East TV producers and writers underway at the University of Southern California. The program held at the Los Angles at the USC School of Cinematic Arts Complex will run until August 5, said the Hollywood Reporter article.
According to the report, 10 TV writers and another seven producers from Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Lebanon and Saudi Arabia will participate in the TV writing course. The course is part of a new program known as the Middle East Media Initiative (MEMI) which has the backing of big Hollywood companies and the U.S State Department, as well as USC Norman Lear Center, Arabic TV producers and American Embassies from the Middle East. The goal of the program is to support training and collaborations between media and digital professionals in the U.S. and the Middle East.
The course now underway is designed as a Hollywood boot camp, with Arabic TV writers and producers participating in a TV writing course given by Hollywood execs, writers, and show producers. The participants will be taken through the process of how American TV shows are created and will be offered tips and advice on the Hollywood methods of conceptualizing and producing hit TV dramas and comedy series.
During their Hollywood training stint, the Middle East writers and producers will also have access to observe American TV writers and producers, as they work on live projects in writers’ rooms, in pre-production meetings or on TV sets.
The MEMI program comes at a time when Hollywood studios, Netflix, and other digital players are keen to bring high-end Arabic TV shows to a potentially huge market. With a TV viewing audience of 300 million viewers across the region, the training program aims to impart skills in creating high-quality American style TV shows for Arab speaking audiences.
The USC program will train Arabic producers and TV writers in the Arab world to create new local TV content that is a step above the usual Arabic soap opera-style dramas series and slapstick comedies, which are staples of Ramadan programming. With Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund investing in companies like premier talent agency WME and in bringing Hollywood content & entertainment to the Kingdom, the Arabic creative sector will be looking to learn from the Hollywood system to create American-style TV for their region.
"The participating TV writers and producers are eager to raise the quality of programming in the region, creating content that finally reflects audiences’ real lives," said Rachel Gandin Mark, director of international programs at the USC School of Cinematic Arts, in a statement.
The Hollywood Reporter article stated that Netflix is joined by major TV and Film companies including HBO, CBS, NBC, Fox, USA Networks, Discovery, Kapital Entertainment and UTA in the MEMI initiative. The two-year program will be led by program director Deana Nassar, who previously served as artistic director of the Arab Film Festival and was the Hollywood liaison for the Muslim Public Affairs Council.