So back to the contract.
After five hours and forty-five minutes, I left Ibrahim’s room and went down to the lobby where I had spotted Ray, Kristine, Barbie and Gabor and I told them what had happened. I asked them if they would be open to signing a contract with ATP. Kristine said she would never sign one with them. The others were more-or-less in agreement.
They asked me what I thought and I said I had come to the conclusion that the contract was a lie: that the reason they needed it was:-
- To stop us from using social media to destroy their reputation.
- To avoid paying us altogether because the contract was with a subsidiary of the main company and so it could declare bankruptcy if it had to.
- To keep us here as slaves if the job actually went ahead (there was no termination date or resignation clause and it even included other dramas by ATG).
I went to bed and that it when the threats started.
First I got a message from Rita saying she had been suspended. Then I got a message from Prince saying Hamad had told him that anyone who did not come in would not be paid and would have per diems and hotel costs deducted.
At 10:33pm my phone rang. It was Majid. Then my hotel phone rang. I ignored it. Next morning, Prince told me he had a call at 10:30pm from Hamad saying that if he (or any other local crew) was in meetings with any international crew, he was to leave immediately or he would be fired.
Next day, Prince was verbally attacked by crew members who thought he was responsible for Rita being suspended. He was very upset, saying he had done no such thing. I pointed out to people that this was a “divide and conquer” tactic I have seen ATP use before and that Prince had not done anything. He is not in today. He emailed me saying he was ill. I suspect he is feeling quite hurt and weary of coming in.
On Thursday, Ray and I met with Ahmed and George. I explained that I was suspicious of the contract. Ahmed was quite careful about what he said. He did say, “We are continuing to support ATP for at least the next few days.” He also said, “ATP hates us.”
George was very careful and said nothing. Well, he said one thing but I could not hear it. And, I seem to recall, something else in Arabic.
Ray and I then went back to the Millennium Hotel to meet Ibrahim again. The lawyer – Yazed Kanan – from the previous night was there again. By now I did not trust him. He had said several things that were plainly not true. Specifically, that the contract protected our rights more than ATP’s and yet the contract had no termination clause, no resignation clause, and tied us to the company until the Series (or any other production by ATP) was finished.
The meeting again revolved around the contract. After about forty-five minutes, Tim and Neil turned up. Ibrahim had not wanted to meet them. But Ray told him he had mentioned the meeting and they were coming. Ibrahim wasn’t happy about it but in the end said it was okay.
When they arrived, they were polite and cordial and asked about money and the contract. During the meeting, I mentioned we would like a lawyer to look at the contract. Amazingly, Ibrahim then stated that we were not allowed legal council. He had said a similar thing the previous evening, so I pressed the matter by saying that it was a legal right. He said it was still not allowed – that the ATP legal time would not allow it. I said that by saying this I suspected he was breaking the law. At this point, I looked at the lawyer, Yazed. He was visibly squirming in his seat, but he said nothing.
I don’t recall what was said next, but I have a recording of the entire meeting which you can listen to below.
It was suggested by Ray, Neil, Tim and myself that it would go a long way towards helping matters if Ibrahim came to the hangar on Saturday to tell the crew his side of the story. No-one had seen or heard from him in weeks. This was causing a lot of anxiety and distrust. Ibrahim, amazingly, agreed (he was under a lot of pressure from Talal to make this work).
This morning, Ray, Tim, Neil and myself sent an email to Ibrahim telling him that certain crew members had urgent financial problems.
A second email detailed the people in question, and the amounts they needed.
I did not hear back from ATP until I went in this morning. Ibrahim was here and he met with Construction. There was also other people there. Jules from make-up. Roba. A few others. Again, Ibrahim was not happy about that. But he pretended it was okay. The lawyer was also there.
The meeting was again about the contract. But first we insisted on talking about the Filipino crew that needed money today. Ibrahim said he had not seen our emails on the subject. I believe he was lying. He did not look sincere or interested.
He was then told the Bangladeshi set construction guys were leaving tomorrow to look for other work since they had not been paid either. At this point, his interest perked up (It’s important to note at this point that set construction was the one area that showed progress – however slow. It was advantageous to ATP as they could use it to show the Studio that they were doing something. Ironically though, this work was entirely due to subterfuge on my part to get things built behind ATP’s back!). Anyway, Ibrahim made a couple of calls (very quietly) and for a while I actually thought he was helping the Filipino crew.
More fool, me.
Later on, I learnt he was actually paying the Bangladeshi guys so they would not leave so that the sets would give ATP leverage to demand more money.
As for the the people we had mentioned in our emails? Amongst them;
- A man who needed to pay medical bills for his father who was in hospital.
- Two men who needed to pay school bills so their children could sit for exams.
- One man who was about to default on his mortgage for the second time and lose the home where his eight-month pregnant girlfriend lived.
- Two more men about to default on their mortgages for the second time.
Not one single dollar…
Not even a cent…
I guess medical care and homes and education don’t figure on ATP’s scale of importance.
The rest of the meeting was about the contract. Ibrahim and Yazed, the ‘lawyer’, insisted we must sign it or we would not be paid. We said we must be paid first. Deadlock. I proposed a interim agreement – a one-pager that would say something like, “We, the Crew, agree to sign a contract, the terms of which have been negotiated in good faith, provided we have been paid first.” We would then all sign it. The lawyer insisted that would not be acceptable.
In the end, what was agreed was that the lawyer would bring the contract in tomorrow and everyone would be given the chance to read it and to add comments, and that the contract would then be signed if both parties were happy with the terms.
There were a few heated moments. Ibrahim got angry with me when I said if I was in Talal’s position I would sell one of my houses and give the proceeds to the crew. After everyone was gone and there was just Ibrahim, Majid, the lawyer, Ray and me, he told us that Talal was “a broken man”, that his houses were under foreclosure, and so on. I said we did not know this as no-one has seen or heard from Talal for weeks, and if it were true, we were sorry.
But of course, I do not believe a word of it.
After all, where has all the money gone?
Finally, when Ray mentioned the four other shows that ATG was shooting back in Jordan, Ibrahim said this was not true and that ATP is doing only one other show. He was angry at the insinuation. He got angry and aggressive several times which, given his position, wasn’t exactly appropriate but was nevertheless rather expected (isn’t that what happens in movies when the shyster is cornered?).
Ray and I joked with Ibrahim a bit. Always good to finish on a good note even when you’re dealing with the Devil. I said, “you have to understand that people get paranoid and stressed when they don’t have money.” He sort of acknowledged this. Reluctantly.
One last thing. Jules suggested that an email was sent by ATP saying that people would be paid once the contracts were signed by a realistic confirmed date. The lawyer said he would talk to Fadi about an email and a date tonight. It seemed to be agreed it would be done although Ibrahim sounded like he thought the email would be sent AFTER we signed the contract.
After the meeting, I talked with Bob (this particular ‘Bob’ has experience of ‘fixing’ films and has worked on films where the producers were proven to be embezzling funds). He said it was all nonsense. Ibrahim was lying. ATP has the money. Lots of it. I was inclined to agree. I said I think the contract is about NOT paying us as it is with a contract that can declare bankruptcy. But they would still enforce the non-disclosure clauses stopping us from broadcasting on social media what a bunch of crooks we all think they are.
Bob told me that the reason we never had any money to build sets or buy dressing or get props made was because ATG was using just the interest on the money to fund the show (as much as they could get away with it). This, he said, was why we were not being told what the show’s budget was, what our department’s budget was, why nothing was every bought beyond what was absolutely essential, or could be an asset that ATG would later ‘steal’. These were Bob’s words, not mine.
Afterwards, ‘Another Bob’ came to my office. He asked me if I had noticed that Ibrahim had mentioned that the contracts had run out in November. I said not only had I noticed, but that I had just five minutes earlier told Kristine about it.
I said I’d not only noticed, but it looked like he had slipped up to me and that he had noticed too.
‘Another Bob’ and I agreed on an interpretation: ATP’s contract has run out and they are probably in a sort of “first right to renew” situation. If they get their paperwork in order before it runs out, maybe they’ll get more money.
But part of that paperwork looks like it involves the contracts. That, or ATP is trying to lock the crew into an agreement that would isolate Medinah Company, forcing them to re-crew which might jeopardise future investment from the Studio.
It is possible the investors are making ATP jump through hoops they hope ATP will fail to achieve. ATP will then lose the right to renew. At that point, they will be fired. Possibly investigated. Meanwhile, new UK producers will step in and it will be agreed that since the crew is actually very close to shooting, they should pay off the crew, get the pilot shot, and start to fix what ATP has broken.
I spoke to ‘Bob 3’ about it just now. ‘Bob 3’ thinks this may be the case. It also ties in with some of the things said and done lately:-
- ATP’s fear of the crew not working and the threats they went to to stop us.
- ATP paying the Bangledeshi guys to continue working while not being so quick to stop Rita and the Filipino guys from losing their home.
- Christof saying that he is supporting ATP for “a few more days”.
- Christof saying that, “ATP hates us.” Obviously that was going both ways.
- Other people saying “hang in for a few more days.”
‘Another Bob’ and I could be wrong, but it all adds up for now at least. ATP might finally be about to get fired. Hopefully, they’ll be investigated too. And hopefully, some of them will be jailed. After everything they’ve done to destroy this show, and not done to help their crew, they deserve it.
But the worst part of all this is that the Filipinos could still lose their homes, their kids could lose their education, an eight-month pregnant woman might be about to be made homeless, and people are facing bankruptcy. And all because $30 million is not enough for ATG.
This saga has taken on a whole new level of evil this last week.
I am witnessing “evil”.
I just gave Rita my per diems to help her with the rent. She was going to get kicked out of her home tonight. She is getting more money elsewhere. Hopefully, Rita and the Bangladeshi guys will not be homeless tonight…