Abdul’s Sister

Abdul’s Sister was to start work today. As of this morning, she has pulled out. Why? because of ATG’s contract. Here’s what it allegedly included;

  1. Ten days unpaid holiday.
  2. One year contract.
  3. $20,000 fine if anyone complained about her work. Such as failure of a prop to be up to standard.
  4. $125,000 fine if she discussed the show with anyone (when she pointed out she had to do that to do her job properly she was told she would have to do her job without doing it).
  5. Terrible wages.

She’s not the first. Abdul’s Cousin’s contract said that if she left without permission she would have to pay a $100,000 fine. Abdul’s Brother signed an agreement that he would not take another job until ATG had offered him an agreement (this is not the same as an agreement that allows them first refusal – they were saying he could not take another job even if they had not counter-offered).

So Abdul’s Sister has turned down the job offer.

She was the only person other than Abdul’s Brother to consider working for ATG. Based on what just happened, I’ll be surprised if Abdul’s Brother signs. And if he does, I may have to fire him for his own sake.

Name’s above changed to protect identities.

Film School ATG

Today is feeling like one of those days when it’s impossible to turn a blind eye to just how ‘film school’ ATG is.

When we got to Doha, we were each issued with a SIM card with just 20 minutes of local credit! Mine ran out after three calls. When I asked the production manager, Majid, to sort it out he told me I could go across the road and do it (isn’t Production supposed to sort this stuff out?). I told him I had been in the middle of nowhere yesterday without any credit and I had needed to make calls, that this was not acceptable and he needed to get a better system. He told me there wasn’t a better system! I said clearly this was not true because he could not tell me that the whole of Qatar uses 20 minute credits on their phones.

Wages are late again. One UK crew member is owed eight weeks wages! Everyone is owed money. Threats of not coming back to work have not worked. ATP has basically given us the finger. The Art Dept has arranged a meeting today at 11am to decide on a system for dealing with this.

Abdul is still stuck in the basement of ATG1. They want him to become a full-time employee. They are lying to him. He has had both Khaldoon and ‘Abdul 2’ on his case about it. Promises of, “We will look after you”, “You’ll get paid on time if you sign”, “We might even let you go to Qatar”. So Talal has his brainwashed lackies trying to brainwash Abdul with promises and lies. The more I hear the more they sound like a cult.

More to follow…

Go Fuck Yourself!

Bob had a meeting with Ibrahim a few days ago which did not go well. Bob has not been paid for three weeks. He confronted Ibrahim about this who had no excuse.

As Bob lost his temper, Ibrahim threatened to fire him. Bob told him to go right ahead adding that he might like to call Simon (the director) and tell him what had happened because at that point Simon would quit and Issam would leave too.

Bob then told Ibrahim to “go fuck himself”, at which point there was a hesitant cheer from the adjoining office where Ibrahim’s staff reside!

It is of course terrible that such things should happen. But if dissent does exist within the ‘hallowed halls’ of ATG, Ibrahim and ATG have brought this upon themselves.

In the past, ATG has attempted to divide and conquer the Art Department. Recognisable tactics include paying some staff on time and others late in order to create tension within the Art Department. Unfortunately for ATG, their tactics are transparent and rather immature. The result is that the Art Department has become more united, and often laughs at their silly little games.

I have heard from some of the less loyal ATG staff that this has caused tremendous frustration at ATG. They cannot understand why it is that they cannot ‘break’ us. What we cannot understand is why ATG would even want to. There is something ‘mentally ill’ about this company.

Meeting Given Go-Ahead. But No Go-Ahead For The $7,000 Set!

At the last minute, the meeting with Talal to discuss construction of the Fortress gates/wall was given the go-ahead. A meeting took place at 5pm in Talal’s boardroom. The model was conveyed to his office and since I cannot show a photo of the finished model, this blurred image will have to suffice. All I can say is, it looks pretty cool.

Chris postponed his flight so he could attend. I was not invited, but at Chris’s request I attended anyway. For the Art Director not to be there was ridiculous.

Fozan was there. He sat next to Talal and barely said a word. Instead he looked rather sad and afterwards he confessed to me that he found the tone of the meeting unpleasant.

The meeting did not go so well. Simon – the director – did an enthusiastic pitch which led to Talal rather rudely calling him a “used car salesman”. He then proceeded to rubbish the idea of building the set despite Simon pointing out that this was a $7,000 set being built for a series with a $37.5 million budget. Not building this set was clearly ridiculous. The entire UK crew knew it. But then Talal started to accuse the UK crew of repeatedly interrupting him despite his seldom allowing people to speak! And when he did not feel he was getting his way, he left the office in a childish huff. He finally came back after much persuasion. The meeting ended with no decision having been made. But that alone said plenty.

This was the first time I met Talal. At one point he referred to me as the “mysterious art director”. Clearly, he wasn’t sure about me yet – my silence making me an unknown quantity.

Talal was friendly and warm at first, but I noticed how all the ATG crew (with the exception of Fadi) sat with their eyes glued to the floor and their hands clasped, afraid to look Talal in the eye. I was reminded of my suspicion that this company seems to operate more like a cult with Talal as its figure-head.

I wasn’t impressed by Talal, but figuring out what he is up to and why is something else and abut that I am curious. Only time will reveal his “master plan” and for now at least, I’m prepared to wait and find out what it is.


I don’t recall if it was this meeting or the next where Talal said Ahmed did not know what he was doing. But I have a recording of him doing so, so it will be clear which meeting that was when the audio recordings goes live.


The recording of this meeting can be found by clicking here in which Talal claims – more-or-less – that Ahmed does not know what he is doing.

Fozan Salaheen & Talal’s Attitude Towards The UK Art Dept

So apparently there was a meeting last night about the Art Department … to which the Art Department was not invited. But I heard through someone who was there that it was ugly. Apparently, Talal informed those present that none of us UK people know what we are doing (!) and we just waste money (Let me add that this is the same person who has paid me to be here eight weeks but allowed me to do nothing! And let’s not get on to Chris, the designer, being here since last November!!!). Anyway, curiously the one art department person that was there was Fozan Salaheen – a local, and ATG’s go-to designer. I have been told Fozan is not only the new designer on “Malik”, he is now the Construction Manager on “Medinah”!
I foresee several problems here.
First, ATG knows that they are not allowed to have “Medinah” crew work on other productions. But hey, we’ve been here before so there’s nothing new in their allegedly using “Medinah” funds to finance their other productions. But there’s another problem: I was told that during the meeting he flatly denied agreeing to do a test piece for us about 4 or 5 weeks ago, that he had stopped responding to my phone calls and emails, only to then eventually email me saying he would, well — let him explain in his own words….
Now after this I asked him about another test he was supposed to be supervising for us. Basically, we wanted to know if local artisans could reproduce stone walls convincingly. We gave Fozan a sample to show to someone. Fozan proceeded to argue about how it should be done (which seemed to defeat the point of doing a test). Anyway, we never saw the sample. Instead, the following email exchange happened. Notice that although I call it an exchange, none of them are from him. Fozan had disappeared.
So anyway, Fozan suddenly reappears at yesterday’s meeting. And today I see him hovering around the office, but Fozan does not talk to me. At one point I was in the kitchen. He came in behind me, saw me, and promptly left. I know because I saw him looking at me reflected in the window.
So Chris and I then had a chat in which we agreed we would politely try to work with Fozan but that we should pick up where we had left off. So I looked for Fozan but he had vanished again (on past occasions he has walked into the office because he has been told to, he has checked I’m here, then left without saying “Hello” on the pretext that I looked busy!).
So I texted Fozan and sent him an email. Here’s how it looked.
He didn’t answer my text or email. So at 11:49am I called him. No answer. I called again. This time he answered — maybe because he knew I was not going to stop until he did. He told me he was in a meeting with Ibrahim. I said “okay” and we agreed he would call me later to arrange a meeting later this afternoon.
Let’s see if that happens.
But one last thing. Not long after I sent this message, Fozan returned and confronted Issam – who had no idea what was going on. Fozan slammed Issam’s brand new MacBook on the desk- damaging the body. I missed this as I was at the other end of the building being told that Fozan was arranging interviews with carpenters without discussing this with me first. I’m not sure this is true but the fact I believe it could have happened speaks more about the lack of diplomacy and professional etiquette at ATG than it does about Fozan.
Meantime, here’s the email I sent him after the call.
Here’s a little backstory on Fozan. When we first met I was impressed. He talked about his passion and drive to do something worthwhile. Problem is, since then all I have seen him do is talk.
Finally, on an aside, ‘Bob’ just told me he called Ibrahim again to ask about his wages. Ibrahim promised they’d be paid tomorrow. He then said, “Bob, come on, you’re supposed to be on our side, not theirs”.
Apparently, it went right over Ibrahim’s head that there was something very wrong with this statement and that there should be no sides (see what I mean about a cult?). It seems to me that ATG is so used to screwing people over, they are no longer capable of seeing themselves as part of a team. It’s usually the case the thing a person or ‘company’ hates most is the very thing they are most guilty of. Why would you trust anyone else when you know you cannot be trusted? So it’s “us and them”. Great.

ADDED MAY 29th, 2016

Since writing this entry, I have become very fond of Fozan. It took me a while to understand his position – that he is a respected designer in his country who was basically being told by Talal to be a runner for an Art Department from another country. No wonder he was acting up.

‘Bob’ is a pseudonym that I shall be applying to a group of people to protect their identity in instances where ATG might seek to punish them.