What Do You Get When You Combine An Art Dept With ATP?

It’s very difficult to write this blog. So much happens (or should I say, “Does not happen”) that it’s hard to keep track.

Today I refused to go on a recce because the new driver is dangerous and nearly got us all killed yesterday.

Today, we have not been paid.

Despite my asking Fozan to bring the sample window and shutter in this morning, he did not. Instead, he arranged for the new driver to bring them this afternoon. It is now 7:15pm. They are not here.

But the main reason for this entry is the hell that has become construction.

Normally I like to keep an eye on every little detail. It means I can maintain quality. It means I can stay on budget. It means I can look after my crew. I do this by centralising as much work as possible in one place. And by having transport to regularly visit other construction facilities. I have everyone’s email address and phone number. I send copious emails. I work more hours than asked for. But with ATP, that is different.

I have no idea who our construction people are because they’re all third parties hired by Fozan. I have no budget. No workshops. No tools. No crew that I know of. No email addresses or phone numbers. No-one I can send emails to. And just now I told the Production Coordinator I won’t be doing any overtime for ATP because they are spying on us, tracking our hours, and knocking off wages for any hours they think we have not done.

My exact words to the PC were as follows:-

“I’ve accumulated 135 hours over the 12 hours. Normally, I’m very charitable about my time. Last job I was working between 16 and 19 hours a day despite an agreement of a 12 hour day. Job before that I was doing an average of 15 hours a day on a 12 hour day. Job before that an average of 17 hours a day on a 12 hour day. All of which I did as a favour. For free. In fact, I don’t think there’s ever been a job in my 28 years in this industry where I didn’t volunteer time for free. That ATP have succeeded in making me decide not to do any overtime for them really is quite an achievement.”

But my main concern is how am I going to build the sets? When I asked Fozan today what had happened with the fireplace test set which was supposed to be finished over two weeks ago, he told me he had seen the sample, did not like it, so was going to get someone else to do it. He should have told me this without my asking. He should have sent photos. He did neither. And he told me nothing. He is operating in a vacuum without seeking our feedback or input. The work his people deliver is consistently no good and off-brief. No-one here looks at our drawings!!! So given that Fozan is not a team-player, given that we have no workshops, give that we have no construction crew that I can see, how are we supposed to build anything?

The fact is, I don’t believe Talal and ATP *want* us to build anything. Dominic Smithers just emailed Ibrahim pointing out that all the stuff he asked to be ordered for the last *ten weeks* has not been ordered with the exception of a few cheap rugs. When you consider that ten weeks is usually enough time for a Hollywood feature to fully stock its prop and dressing department, we should have a substantial prop store of stuff by now, but instead we have this;

Our Dressing Store After 10 Weeks
Our Dressing Store After 10 Weeks

You have to wonder what on earth these ATP people think they are doing.

We (the international crew) all think that – for whatever reasons – ATP thinks they can make this show the same way they make all their other shows. Why they think this or why they would want to, given they have around 20 times their normal budget and the potential to make a show that could run for five years (think of all the money they could make out of that!), we cannot work out. But it would seem it can only fall into one of three categories. Either;

  1. They’re stupid.
  2. They’re crooks.
  3. Both.

Honestly, we don’t know which it is. We just can’t figure it out.

The DoP is supposed to turn up about June 8th. His name is Larry Smith. He did “Bronson” and “Only God Forgives” for Nicolas Winding Refn. He’s a contact of the director and he’s very good.

I have been wondering if ATP wants us all to quit, then they can blame “Medinah’s” falling apart on us, shoot it their usual cheap way, and keep the rest of the money for themselves. If that’s true, they must be so frustrated that we have not left. And wondering what else they can do to try and get rid of us.

I should add that that while their contract with the investors requires them to hire international crew, that refers only to HoDs. I’m not an HoD. Neither is Dominic Smithers or Ray Perry. So why hire us? Are they charging a big fat commission on us and using that to get more money out of the investors? We have all wondered this. Personally, I really do not know.

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