ATG’s Hidden Agenda?


It’s difficult to keep up with this blog.

Typically, a blogger may have a few things to report each week. But with ATG there’s usually an avalanche. The last week has been no exception.

Three times in the last week, I have been told the exact same thing by Anwar, Sari and Fozan; “Talal is smart. He has a mission. No-one but him and Ibrahim know what it is but it’ll be smart.”

Abdul (a pseudonym I am using to protect the identity of certain ATG employees) – as much as I have come to like him – has an ego and he cannot help but tell more. Yesterday, he told me that Talal had called him the night before and over 45 minutes had proceeded to tell him that he aims to shoot episodes 12 (with Simon as director) and 17 (with Ahmed as director) and to use episode 17 to prove how incompetent Ahmed is so that Ahmed will then be fired.

At which point, Talal will have complete control. He can then fire the English Art Dept crew, get rid of Simon the director, promote Fozan to the position of designer, and promote Anwar to the position of show director.

Abdul told me this in strictest confidence of course. He also said he told Talal that the only three people he respects in the English Art Dept are Dominic Smithers, Ray Perry and myself. Of course, none of us are HoDs, and Abdul has to say this because he can’t say I’ll get fired! But of course I know I will.

None of this is news to me though. I’ve believed for weeks that Talal is plotting to get rid of Ahmed and then he can fire us as well (Talal cannot fire us without Ahmed’s consent) and promote Fozan to designer and someone else to director.

Something else happened yesterday which only adds to my conviction that the above is true. A DoP turned up a few days ago to work on “Malik” but he found out – much to his surprise – that “Malik” already has a DoP!

I met the guy at the pub last night. He was there despite the fact “Malik” is filming because he has nothing to do! So I asked him if he’d signed ATG’s contract and he said he had.

This is the same contract we had been given and it says an ATG employee must work on any and all productions they are told to. And indeed, Ibrahim told him yesterday that he should not worry that he is not working on “Malik” because he will be doing “Medinah” soon.

The problem is that “Medinah” already has a DoP.

Larry Smith has worked with Stanley Kubrick, Nicholas Winding-Rehn, and has done some very excellent work. He got here earlier this week. And yet somehow Ibrahim is already telling this other (unknown) DoP not to worry because he’ll be doing “Medinah” soon.

Am I surprised? No.

This is the point where Simon may quit, Chris will follow, and the shoot will be thrown into chaos and Talal will come to the rescue. Will Fozan step in as designer? Maybe.

It’s possible that this is Talal’s real game-plan: force out the English crew, appoint Anwar to direct episode 12, Fozan to design the show, leave Ahmed to direct episode 17 and make sure he goes over-budget and has something unworkable, and then Talal will be perfectly justified in telling the Qatari financiers that they must give him full control and let him do it his way.

But Talal has a problem. First, as rumour has it, he has recently lost contracts with NBC and the Dubai people which will make it difficult for him to sell his most recent show (which should be a reason for him to make this show work his way all the more), and there is a substantial email and paper trail to show that his handling of “Medinah” has been less than professional.

Although Talal and Ibrahim have made it impossible for the Art Dept to realise Chris’s and Ahmed’s vision, this does not mean there is no vision.

And we can prove it. Unlike ATG, we have strived to create the show the Qatari investors are expecting in terms of scope and audience expectation and we have the ‘paper trail’ to prove it. Meanwhile, ATG are trying to squeeze it, to save money left right and centre. But why?

I come back to my point – and I’ve told Sari, Fozan, Anwar and Anthony Bluff this – $37.5 million ($45 million if you include ATG’s fee for producing a single season of the show) for 20 episodes of “Medinah” in Jordan is worth more than $100 million for 10 episodes of Game Of Thrones in the UK.

The fact is that, comparatively speaking, we have a bigger budget per episode for “Medinah” than “Game Of Thrones”, so why is it Anwar and Talal and Ibrahim are all saying there is not enough money?

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