And The Crisis Just Keeps On Rolling (Unlike Our Cameras)

There’s been lots of discussion today.

Turns out the reason Chris was not in the office is because he was on Skype all morning to Ahmed who continues to be very angry. Ahmed is insisting that it is the studio who are insisting the production move to Qatar.

I feel strongly that the focus should be on making Ahmed feel better. He has invested a lot of time and his professional name in this show. He may only be 26. He may not be that experienced. But that is when it matters most. Once you are established, you can afford to mess up and move on and rely on past credits and experience to bail you out. But when you have neither, that is when it threatens to destroy your career and it is no surprise you feel angry and in jeopardy.

I recall how when I was 26 I faced a similar experience and had to sue a producer named Simon De Selva for attempted copyright theft. I won. He declared his company bankrupt and I got my script back. But it was several years before I felt like writing again. At that age, these things can matter and they can matter a lot. I wonder if the people on this show know that?

Which is why I’m sceptical the right approach is being taken on fixing this. Bob told us an hour ago that right now neither episode 12 or 17 is being filmed. The show has ground to an absolute halt. Ahmed wants to know why we are not packing.

This is crunch week. By the end of it we will be moving to Doha or not. If we are, we have massive budget problems to face because this show cannot be filmed in Doha with the budget that has been allocated for Jordan. Today, Issam told us that when the contract was negotiated between Talal and the studio, Talal had to do due diligence to be certain that the show could be done in Qatar. It was Talal’s job to factor in the very hot summers (55 degrees C) that occur there, the lack of suitable terrain, and so on. Now Talal is saying we cannot shoot there because it is too hot and Ahmed is rightly saying that Talal has no choice because he agreed to it.

But no-one in this crew will agree to that. Right now the only two people who have said they will go to Doha is Ray and myself. And, of course, ATP. But Chris is convinced that Ahmed wants ATP out, and I’m inclined to agree. Why else is Ahmed writing out a list of ATP’s contractual obligations and demanding that they be met? Amongst them is the August deadline to begin shooting something and the November 1st deadline to begin shooting specific parts of Medinah.

I think we can meet both deadlines but only if ATP sorts out their accounting and procurement procedure. If they do this, I’ll do whatever I can to help ATP. Some big changes need to happen in the next week. But ATP seems clueless (or is pretending to be).

And the studio is Qatari.

This is a country that currently has some of the most expensive engineers in the world sitting around for months doing nothing when they should be building a bridge because the Qatari’s are appear unmotivated to advance the project.

Ahmed needs a guiding hand that he can respect, trust, and know has the show’s best interests at heart (and by proxy, Ahmed). Right now, there is a not a single HoD who can do that because either they’re incompetent (ATP) or ATP won’t let them (everyone else).

My next blog could easily be called It’s “A Mad Mad Mad Mad World.”

In ‘ATP land’, it really is.

Jordan or Qatar

Do The Right Thing!

Yesterday’s meeting lasted over two-and-a-half hours.

It revolved around two things;

  1. Ahmed’s decision to move to Qatar.
  2. Where we shoot episode 12 and why.

Ahmed has apparently insisted the whole production be moved to Qatar with the intention of filming episode 12 in October. He does not seem to understand that this is not possible.
What he is forgetting is that we have no locations there, we have not recced them (and since Qatar’s oldest building dates back only 65 years it is doubtful we will find a suitable courtyard for episode 12), that we have no crew ready there, that if we move Simon and Chris may quit because they will have had enough, that we will could lose our DoP, that because it is so much more expensive there our budget will effectively be slashed by about 80%, the list goes on. But I do understand that Ahmed is desperate, and I fully understand why.

At the meeting, Talal asked everyone (international and ATP crew) – one at a time – what everyone thought and everyone agreed: Episode 12 *has* to be shot in Jordan. He then asked what people would do if the shoot was moved to Qatar. Everyone said they’d quit with the exception of Ray and myself. Ray said he wanted to stay. I said I was undecided but would back up the quitting story if Ahmed asked me directly because we need to appear unanimous on this point.

I was told by people who have had more meetings with Talal, that this was the first time one of Talal’s meetings was a discussion and not a lecture. I can believe that; after his $250K fortress screw-up, he needs us on his side.

Talal told us he will be going to meet the studio (investors) on Wednesday. He suggested that Simon and Chris and Anthony also fly out and try to meet the studio (obviously a ploy to make it look like we are on Talal’s side). Talal’s ulterior motive aside, my personal feeling is that this is inappropriate.

Going to the studio instead of going to Ahmed will look like they are trying to go over Ahmed’s head when they should go to him first. Yes, Episode 12 needs to be shot here, but instead of focusing on that — and I feel, perhaps wrongly, that that is what everyone is doing — they should focus on making Ahmed feel better because there are genuine reasons for him to be upset.

Ahmed is young but he’s no fool. He will know he has over-reacted (though he was right to react). The international crew needs to let Ahmed off the hook. They need to say that they’re impressed he did not lose his temper before now. They need to talk to him like one human to another and say, “Yes, there are problems, but they can’t be solved overnight. So how about if we continue to shoot episode 12 in Jordan while setting up episode 1 in Qatar? That way the investors will see movement”.

I shared my thoughts with Andrew. He felt I had a good point. I also said that by focusing on just getting Episode 12 shot back here, and aiming for six weeks to start shooting, we were just setting ourselves up for failure again if ATP did not deal with their cashflow and their procurement problems. If this is not done, six weeks from now we would be exactly where we are now. But now we – the English crew – would also look like fools for having suggested it could be done in the first place when; that given events of the last three months we should know better.

Chris has vanished. He is not answering is phone or Skype. Simon has been asking where he is, either to draw more attention to his absence or because he is genuinely worried.
Everything is on hold today. Nothing is moving forward. All we can do is wait and see.