Weil thinks things are moving forward. Let’s see, shall we?
As I expected, nothing is happening.
Two weeks ago (on the Saturday) Ibrahim promised me the scaffolding would arrive the next day. It did not.
Last Sunday (he was here in Doha), he promised it would “be here today or tomorrow”. Again, on the Monday, Ibrahim promised it would “be here today or tomorrow”. And on the Tuesday, he again promised “today or tomorrow”.
By the end of the Wednesday, it had not arrived. Nor did it arrive Thursday.
The only thing that happened is that on the Wednesday, I had an email from Neil saying that Ali (from Innovation) had come over and that he had forced Majid to supply the list of scaffolding so that a supervising rigger that Ali had arranged to be at the hangar could assess if it was enough.
Apparently, Majid ran off looking very panicky to make a phone call. At that same time, I was in a meeting about the bus crash sequence. Ibrahim was there. He got a call, answered, leapt out of his seat and suddenly vanished.
Back at the hangar, Majid reluctantly handed over the list and the supervising rigger said there was plenty of scaffolding on it although some essential parts were missing.
This would be a step in the right direction if it were not for Majid’s odd behavior and Ibrahim suddenly vanishing at the same time.
That same day, Joel and Ahmed had a long chat. Joel has always stood by the Art Dept saying we cannot build sets without money (for some strange reason Ahmed has been blaming us for not building sets despite our not having any money to build them with – go figure).
Anyway, Ahmed apparently asked Joel what he thought and Joel told him he thinks that ATP are holding back funds to try to force the show back to Jordan so that they can collect their monthly fee for longer. Joel thinks if the show goes back to Jordan it will fall apart. I think Ahmed may have acknowledged this possibility. I 100% believe Joel is right.
We had a big meeting about the Oasis last Monday. Weil was there to meet Ibrahim. Afterwards, Ibrahim took him to one side to discuss money. That was the last we heard from Weil.
On Thursday, I asked Ibrahim what happened since Ibrahim has not volunteered any information. He told me the contract was being updated as he’d persuaded Weil to recce the contract length from 90 to 75 days. How that is possible I do not yet know. You can’t make plants grow or root faster.
When I asked about the buses last Wednesday, Majid told me he was getting Scar to sign the contract “today”. But Scar refused. Apparently, the contract included various penalties he considers unreasonable. Also, it said he had to deliver in 24 days and he said he could not.
The next day, I asked Majid about it. He said it was fine and Weil had agreed to deliver in 22 days! I expressed surprise saying the Art Dept had just spoken to Weil who said 24 days was not enough. Majid looked awkward and said he was getting Scar to sign the contract “today”. Clearly, he was lying.
The Patrols. These are two cars Ray needs. For over four weeks now, Majid has been promising Ray he will buy them “tomorrow”.
The rocket launch control room needs a steel framework for the mezzanine floor and steel handrails. We gave Ibrahim a quote from our chosen supplier. He wanted to know exactly how they would build it. They refused to supply more details until they’d been paid (maybe they’ve heard about ATP?). Since I heard Ibrahim had been badmouthing us about not doing things the ATP way, I sent him two more quotes (which we had previously emailed to him on October 20th anyway). I have not head back.
Joel is right. ATP has everything it needs to release funds for all the sets and they do nothing. The only reason anything is happening down at the hangar is that one of *our* crew (not ATP) is using petty cash to buy supplies. And because the one thing ATP bought is timber.
Today, the construction boys ran out of screws. And we have run out of petty cash. So they are waiting for screws to turn up so they can continue building.
How utterly ridiculous.
The situation so far…
So 52 days ready to build and no money to pay for anything. Nada. Zilch.
Specifics are as follows;
Build caves – told Production 7 weeks and 3 days ago we were ready to build. Submitted quote for scaffolding. Scaffolding is needed to build the platforms the caves will sit on. Until we have scaffolding, we cannot begin building the caves. After 52 days, still no scaffolding.
Build rocket launch control room – told Production 7 weeks and 3 days ago we were ready to build. Submitted quote for scaffolding (the same quote as the caves as it was all part of one quote). Until we have scaffolding, we cannot build the ‘RLCR’ because it is needed to build the roof which needs to go in first. After 52 weeks, still no scaffolding. By the way — here’s the design for the RCLR.
Buses – we need five buses modified to look new and to be suitable for crashing. We had a contractor lined up to do the work. We were told it would take them about six weeks ago. We submitted their quote to Production five weeks ago. They promised to action it immediately. They didn’t. We still have no buses.
Buy Patrol Wagon vehicles – we need two. Production told us they will be bought tomorrow. That was four weeks ago. That’s a lot of tomorrows.
Oasis – Maysaa did a ton of work to get the quote and scope of works ready in time (totally professional as she is a full-qualified architect). Ahmed promised it would be approved by the end of the week. That was three weeks ago. It still has not been approved.
Range Rovers – this is priceless. Literally. Ahmed wants two Range Rovers so he can crash one of them. Total cost just under $250K. This despite the fact the pilot episode Art Dept budget should really be $500K. He said we would get them through Product Placement. That was five weeks ago. Fadi – head of PP – has been emailed by Ray around 10 times about this over the last four weeks. Total number of replies. Zero. Nada. Zilch.
Since arriving in Qatar, ATP has been emphasizing how we are all a team. And yet I have heard from numerous sources that despite the fact ATP has provided us with zero funds to build anything, they have been quietly blaming the Art Dept for not building anything. Even Ahmed has been extremely abusive about the Art Dept.
The only money we have had access to is petty cash which has had to come out of Majid’s own bank account. That’s right. ATP has no legal or financial presence in Qatar — even now — so it depends upon passing petty cash through an employee to pay for trinkets!!! (Is this further proof they are embezzling funds???)
This all seems to reinforce the rumour that ATP has no intention of shooting in Qatar. That it is doing whatever it can to force the shoot back to Jordan. And that it will blame anyone it can (easiest target — Art Dept) to achieve this goal.
What it does not explain is Ahmed. Why is he also blaming the Art Dept? Is he stupid? Is he in on whatever ATP is up to? Has he an alternate plan? Whatever it is, alienating the Art Dept is achieving nothing.
I had a chat with (local unnamed crew member) yesterday. He was appalled about what is going on. He reminded me of a site meeting a few weeks ago about the buses where Ibrahim promised to take responsibility for the buses after our contractor pulled out due to their having been messed about too much by ATP. He made the promise in front of Azmi, Ray, Rita, Hamad, myself, and several other people. When I wrote an email of the minutes of this site meeting, he denied saying it. Everyone was appalled by his bald-faced lie but (local unnamed crew member) was livid. He said that is when it sank in what a complete liar Ibrahim is.
I’ve been trying to avoid saying or thinking it, but I think we’ve reached the point where I have to accept that we will never film in Qatar. If anywhere at all.
It’s been six weeks (around Sept 19th) since we first presented quotes to ATP for scaffolding so we could begin work on the caves and rocket launch control room. And after all that time we still do not have any scaffolding.
Last Wednesday morning, I called a meeting between Production and the Art Dept to ask why no-one seemed to agree on who was responsible for sorting out the scaffolding. At the time, I was being told that Azmi was saying Hamad was doing it and Hamad was saying that Azmi was doing it. Hamad said it was not his job because he is not an expert on scaffolding and that that was the Art Dept’s job. At which point, Jude informed us that scaffolding had been bought from a company we had not recommended. I asked for confirmation they would be providing what we had asked for but she could not do that. Hamad then tried to justify it being bought without the Art Dept being consulted, to which I pointed out that he had just said the Art Dept was the experts so why was he justifying Production buying scaffolding without our input?
Expressing concern that we had no way of knowing what had been ordered, I asked for the supplier’s list. After three days I still did not have it. Instead, I got the list they used to buy it — a list that had been confirmed to be out-of-date weeks earlier; a list that did not list all the individual components needed because it was based upon detailed conversations between the Construction Dept and another contractor. Put it another way, Production had fucked up once again.
Ibrahim then emailed me asking why the Art Dept was causing problems. Antony pointed out to Ibrahim that we were trying to prevent problems. Ibrahim said we should wait until the scaffolding arrives and then see if anything was missing and that, if it was, he would buy or hire replacement scaffolding immediately.
And that is what it has been like for the last seven and a half weeks.
It’s been another ‘fun’ week at ATG.
Talal visited last week, and while he seemed to be at a bit of a loss as to what to do, looking like a lost schoolboy, his presence still caused its own fair share of chaos. After three weeks of atrocious Wi-Fi in the office, Talal instructed the runners to go and buy a 4G mobile internet modem. Our pleasant surprise was short lived. After half an hour of actual proper Internet access, we suddenly lost access when Talal had the password changed (unannounced) so only he could use it. But on the plus side, we got paid on time, no doubt the result of Talal not wanting to sit with a group of people pissed off at not being paid wages. This also meant that Andrew’s reply (sent while Talal was with us) to Ibrahim’s email encouraging us to accept monthly wages was met with an extremely brief, inarticulate, and equally ambiguous reply from Talal.
Somehow, I doubt Talal’s email will be the end of the matter. And indeed, Terry’s email to Jude this afternoon, reminding her that our wages are supposed to be paid today, was met with an unsurprising silence.
On Thursday evening, I was dragged out on a recce to the hangar with Talal, Majid, Issam and Ahmed. When it became apparent that using the actual hangar as an office was a ridiculous idea, Talal proposed that we go to Katara village (where Ahmed has an office), and that we aim to get some office space there. For a moment, as we were sitting with the manager of the entire Katara Village facility and a rather lengthy conversation took place in Aramaic, I actually thought Talal was asking to rent an office. But as we left, I discovered that Talal had in fact been trying to blag an office for free on this $50 million production!!! As a result, we were offered the use of the unused canteen — an area that included a corridor through which people traipsed on a constant basis.
Talal then took us for dinner. Conversation fluctuated between animated Aramaic conversation and awkward silence. When it came time to pay the bill, the waiter handed it to Talal who promptly shoved it towards Majid so that he could pay out of the show’s budget. The food was good though, and we eventually left.
The other bizarre thing that happened was that after a few days of listening to Issam and Ahmed talk naively about hiring production designers like Gavin Bouquet (Star Wars) and Stuart Craig (multi-Academy award-winning designer whose credits include Harry Potter movies), Talal decided that we did not need a designer since Chris had already designed the show.
Well, never mind the fact that only about 5% had been designed and none of it locked! It cannot be overstated what a moronic thing this is to say.
Aside from the fact that not all of the sets have been designed, a designer is needed to see the designs through to completion of their construction. And let’s not get onto supervising design during the shoot! I can only assume that they do not want a designer because that way the art department has no real authority. And given that we have been such a nuisance with our constant requests to buy props, dressing and materials and crew to build sets and so on, (you know, the kind of stuff that a show usually has), well, who can blame them?
Today there was a new development. This morning Bob emailed me to tell me that he had sent an email to ATG informing them that he had contacted a barrister who has told him that ATG has repeatedly been in breach of contract due to its failure to pay his wages on time, its failure to pay his last few weeks wages, and also that they had doctored his contract and gotten him to sign it under duress, and because of this if they do not pay him the rest of the money that he is owed by the end of this Wednesday the copyright of all his work will revert to him. They’re so stupid they may not pay.
Today, when I proposed to ATG that we hire the construction manager I had found if we were not getting a designer yet, it was suggested to me that maybe I could be the production designer, the art director and the construction manager! It would be funny if it weren’t so ridiculous. Needless to say, my answer was brief and it was a very short conversation….
The last thing to happen today, Ahmed emailed me saying that he would like to talk about how some of the old designs were no good. He asked me if he should give me his notes on the set or give them to the new designer once one had been appointed. Clearly, he does not know that they do not intend appointing one.
Or were they lying to me (I actually found out through Bob as they did not even bother to tell me), when they said they were not going to get one? And if so, why…?
FOOTNOTE APRIL 21st, 2017
Since I never signed a contract with Arab Telemedia AND I’m owed money, the hi-lighted text above (bold and italics) would mean that all work done by me on Medinah remains my property. As such, ANY attempt by the show’s owner’s to sell or broadcast it shall be illegal and subject to a potential major lawsuit by me.