Another Stage Deal Messed Up. Why?

So we’ve been told that the stage where we are supposed to build our sets has fallen through for the second time and Talal is saying local labour is too expensive and maybe we can use work-experience crew — on a series that Ibrahim has told us has a $37.5 million budget…

There’s only one of three ways to look at this, 1) They’re either clueless and too proud to admit it so they’re just bluffing their way through; 2) They are robbing the investors blind; 3) Both.

Why they’d be so stupid to do ‘2’ I don’t know. After all, they could have made five seasons and put 20% in their pockets because that’s allegedly their cut.

When you consider than this company has existed for around thirty years making endless cheap dramas it seems unlikely that they’re so stupid they could not make something. So the “crooked” option seems increasingly likely.

Which is why Ahmed and the Qatari investors need to look at ATG’s accounts for the show. I suspect that close examination might raise questions; like why it says that there is something like six producers and a production manager on the show when we barely ever see the producers and we never see the production manager (perhaps because they’re all working on other shows?).

Bob told me tonight that if he were a betting man he would put his money on 4 to 5 weeks before we all leave. I told him I think ATG is trying to force us to leave; that this is why they keep paying us late. They can’t fire us because only Ahmed can do that. They need us to walk off the project so they can blame it’s collapse on us or insist that it is better to use their own crew. My curiosity compels me to stick around and find out the truth.

Battle Of The Construction Manager & Bob’s Unpaid Wages

While I got on with a provisional schedule in the absence of a Construction Manager, various things happened today. First, Ibrahim failed to pay Bob  his wages despite the fact Ibrahim had promised Bob they would be paid before the 10th May. This is the second time Bob’s wages have been late. This morning Bob decided not to work because of it. I told Bob to go right ahead.

Meantime, Issam promised to deal with it and he spoke to Ibrahim who promised that Bob would be paid by Friday at the latest. But since Ibrahim has broken promise after promise about wages being paid on time, why would we believe him?

By the afternoon Bob was doing work for Ray Perry anyway. He’s a good egg, is Bob.

Currently Talal (ATG’s owner) and Ahmed (Medinah’s original creator) were in town. Ahmed is usually in Qatar where he lives. I’ve been told he does not like being away from home. The fact he really needs to be here is a problem.

Talal, on the other hand, seems to rarely be in Jordan. Instead he likes to spend his time travelling from place to place. London. Paris. I’m not sure where else but this is the first time he has been here that I know of since I arrived back on March 17th.

The first description I heard of Talal was, “angry child”. Though I have not sat in one of his meetings with his staff yet, everything I have been told indicates it is painful for his employees.

The reason Talal is here is allegedly two-fold; First, because Ahmed is here (I have been told Talal needs to, “keep a reign on the show’s creator and money-channel” – no comment on what this means – I’m just quoting what I’ve been told). Second, because another show has been thrown into chaos.

I have been told ATG is producing three shows. The first is of course “Medinah”. The second is a show called “Malik”. The third, well I don’t even know what that is. But “Malik” was plunged into total chaos last Thursday when the designer, photographer and director all quit. Just to give you a sense of how bad that was, consider this;

ATG has a clause in its freelancer contract that states that if a freelancer quits they must refund all of their wages!!!

I’m going to say that again because you won’t believe it. If a freelancer quits, ATG’s contract demands that they refund all their wages.

“Malik’s” director was so fed up with ATG he agreed to go to the bank and refund 1/3 of his wages there and then.

So ATG staff marched him to the bank and took back his money.

Meantime, “Medinah” is also in chaos. Talal is refusing to meet the show’s designer. Why, I’m not sure.

ATG hired international crew for “Medinah” not out of choice, but because it’s part of ATG’s contract with the financiers: ATG must use international HoDs in order to make sure “Medinah” is of a greater standard than their usual shows because ATG has no experience of making a show of this scale. It’s become clear that ATG is not happy about this.

(There’s also another rule that anyone working on “Medinah” must not be working on anything else. But I have heard that the production manager, production coordinator, make-up artists and location manager are all involved in “Malik” and – possibly – the other unnamed show. It has also been often alleged that “Medinah’s” budget is funding the other two shows to some degree. Last time I checked this was called “embezzlement” – but so far it’s just a rumour).

Anyway, Talal is refusing to meet Chris because Chris wants a UK Construction Manager and other UK crew. Now the show will be better for it. But Talal insists that local crews are just as good. However, ATG has shown me local crew work that they commissioned and frankly it’s atrocious – so while there may be good work somewhere in Jordan, ATG doesn’t seem to have anything to do with it.

ATG acts like this does not matter, but it does. It matters because just as an audience member can often tell good acting from bad without knowing why, they can also tell when something looks real or like a set. And that destroys the ‘reality’ of fictional drama.

So back to tonight. Chris – the designer – has been trying to meet Talal since yesterday but Talal has been ducking and diving. He’s finally, supposedly, meeting Chris today. But only because Ahmed is here so avoiding Chris is nigh on impossible.

Earlier today, Chris told Issam that if Talal isn’t allowing him a UK Construction Manager he might as well quit. And if he quits, Simon Hunter – the director – has said he will quit too.

It has come to the point that we may all be quitting tomorrow. So anther ATG show will have gone down the toilet in under 7 days due to their useless bloody-mindedness. You got to hand it to them; at least they’re consistent.

Polystyrene Sample

Fozan and I are on our way to see a piece of the test set. It seems Fozan has calmed down and is a little humbled. He keeps calling Ibrahim to talk Art Dept issues (without discussing them with senior art dept members such as Chris or myself). I don’t know why. But we are on our way and we will see if the sample is any good. Of course the real question is what it’ll look like once it has been aged and painted. Right now it’s just a ‘template’.