Predictable Ambush


Just as I was about to walk out the door to go meet Ahmed, Majid called. Abdul wanted to see me.

I said I was late and would see him when I got back. Moments later, Majid called me again. Except it was Abdul. I met him. He told me I was not allowed to go. He demanded to know why I was seeing Ahmed. Foolishly I was honest and told him I felt Ahmed should appoint me “acting Production Designer” until a new designer was attached as I felt ATG would appoint someone internally and that would be a disaster.

Abdul accused me of spending yesterday running around telling everyone my “ridiculous idea”, which is not true. When I challenged him to tell me who had said this, he could not answer. I asked him to promise me that no-one internal would be appointed. He said he was not 100% sure, so I pointed out that if he was not 100% sure then clearly he did not consider it such a ridiculous idea. He refused to answer that.

He is so transparent and yet he refuses to admit it. Does he believe his own lies? It’s hard to tell.

Bottom line — Abdul has blocked me from seeing Ahmed because Abdul doesn’t want me as acting Production Designer because right now the Art Dept is a rudderless ship and ATG want to seize control.

ATG have made suggestions for new designers to Ahmed. People like Stuart Craig (Harry Potter designer) who would not dream of doing this series in a million years. Are ATG stalling with stupid suggestions? Hard to know. But right now there is no Art Dept and ATG are no doubt glad of it.

The Truth Is Out……


So I’ve been promising a major bit of news and here it is.

After it all went off over the wages, Issam, Chris and Simon decided we should all have a meeting to discuss the email that we had sent (see below).

Screen Shot 2015-08-14 at 13.39.34

As you will see, the email was to the point, factual, and decisive. It was written by more than one person, sent from an anonymous account so ATG could not victimise anyone, and signed alphabetically so they could not pinpoint a hierarchy.

The next day, ATG had a crisis meeting and on the Sunday they responded with this email;

Praxino Mail – Unpaid Wages

(click link above to see full email)

Praxino Mail - Unpaid Wages copy

It runs for several pages (4) and is remarkable in that it manages to turn our “to the point, factual, and decisive” email into something else. ATG clearly put a lot of work into this email. They must have, because there are so many lies. Not one thing in it is true. But let’s start with the rather bizarre insinuation that our email represents a conspiracy! Why did they do this?

The answer to this question is best represented by how Abdul began the meeting. He started by labouring the fact that ATG was concerned about the email because it suggested a conspiracy intended to sabotage the show (!) and that if we had problems he would rather we approach him one-on-one. Why did he say this? Because ATG like to bully and while they can bully individuals, they cannot bully a group. So Abdul’s statement had nothing to do with fixing problems and everything to do with “fixing us”.

But all of this is nothing compared to what happened half an hour into the meeting.

I think it was me who initially pushed the point about the fact that Abdul was compromised because ATG owes him US$40,000+. I pointed out that he was supposed to look after the investors’ interests but how could he when ATG owed him so much money? He asked me what it had to do with me and why did I care? I said I cared about people doing what was right and ATG were not doing what was right by him. It was then that things started to unravel.

Abdul explained that he did not mind being owed so much money because he could afford to take “a hit”. For example, he said, “If four payments are owed, two to me and two to Ray, I’m happy for him to be paid.” At which point Chris said, “Well that obviously means there is a cash flow problem.” Abdul then said that was not the case, at which point we started going round in circles as Chris, myself (and I think Terry) started to question his logic;

“If there isn’t a cash flow problem, why aren’t they paying you?”
“Well, because they can’t right now.”
“So there is a cash flow problem?”
“No, there isn’t.”
“So why aren’t they paying you? If they have the cash, what is stopping them?”
“Well they have had a problem making payments.”
“For four months! They’re paying us. How come they can’t pay you?”
“Because they can’t.”
“Then there is a cash flow problem?”

Or words to the above affect. At which point a studio representative, who had been quietly listening said, “I don’t understand, Where is all the money we just gave you?”

We could all see that Abdul knew he was in trouble. He tried to make excuses, then the studio rep dropped the final blow.

“This makes me think ATG must be spending Medinah’s money on it’s other shows.”

Terry and I both saw a look of utter horror flicker across Abdul’s face. He quickly made excuses. But at that point everyone around the table knew – the studio rep had just said he knew what ATG was up to. It was out there. And Abdul was cornered.

But it was at that point we backed off.

We all know Abdul is cornered. ATG owes him $40,000-plus and they are using it to control him. He is their puppet, and they can make him dance as much as they like.

While we have no actual proof that ATG is embezzling money and everything I say in this blog is alleged only, Abdul signs contracts and agreements and payments. If ATG is up to no good, and we all firmly believe that is the case, he is directly in the firing line. It’s no accident ATG sent Abdul and Majid to Doha alone. Majid has no authority and Abdul is expendable. Chris and I have discussed the fact that if ATG do get caught, we believe Talal and Fadi would go to jail. The same could be true of Abdul.

For anyone who would like to deny the above conversation ever took place, well, I recorded it.

The Aftermath … So Far


This is where we or at…

Last night, Andrew and Chris accompanied Dominic Smithers to the airport via dinner at a restaurant. Chris was supposed to let me know where they were going, but either he forgot or he had already told me but I had not heard him. Either way, I didn’t go and neither did Ray or Terry as I was supposed to call them. After the dinner, Dominic got on the plane and the rest returned to the hotel. Then first thing this morning, Chris got another plane back to London.

That evening, I received an email – I won’t say what was in it as it would get someone into trouble – but I realised then what ATG might be up to. ATG would not want me to be in charge of the art department because they know I say it “as it is”. I realised that ATG might be planning on making Fozan the new designer. They of course would tell Ahmed that this was a temporary arrangement, but such arrangements are never temporary with ATG, and once Fozan had the post of production designer ATG would have full control of the art department and any hope Ahmed had of this being a proper production with money spent on the sets would have been killed then and there. (No offence to Fozan, who I like, but he is an ATG employee).

The above was all the more likely because of something Terry told me yesterday. Terry had told me that Abdul had mentioned to him the idea making me the construction manager. This amazed me at the time because Abdul had already made this offer to me before and I had turned it down on the grounds that it was ridiculous idea because a person cannot be the art director and the construction manager on a show this big. I also wondered why Abdul suggested it to Terry and not me. Terry said he had replied by saying that he thought that was a bad idea, and that I should remain as supervising art director because I would keep a tight control on any expenses and account for every penny – something Terry seems to think I’m very good at. According to Terry, Abdul looked rather displeased by this statement. Terry felt Abdul’s reaction had more to do with the prospect of me keeping a close eye on the budget rather than the idea of me not being the construction manager.

Anyway, I asked Terry if he thought that Abdul was suggesting I be the construction manager instead of the art director. Terry believed this was the case. I don’t know if he is right, but he could be.

It is now Friday — our day off — and I shall have to wait until tomorrow when I meet Ahmed to find out what happened today. Because although it is Middle East’s day off, Talal, Ibrahim and Abdul have a habit of using Fridays to plot their shenanigans. All too often we have come into work on a Saturday to find out what they have been up to the day before.

I am also meeting Simon tonight. I shall see what he has to say but it is my understanding that he plans to leave the production in the middle of September, and that Andrew will follow. This morning Terry was very unhappy. Although yesterday afternoon Ray and Terry had decided they would stay on, this morning Terry clearly wanted to go. He was fed up with the substandard hotel, the lousy food, per diems of only $40 per day when Doha is one of the most expensive cities in the world (currently he knows someone in Hungary on $70 per day and that’s on a low-budget film and they are staying at the Hilton), the constant lies by ATG, their total disregard for other people’s happiness and well-being, their paying wages on a date best designed to mess with your head, their total ineptness at actually producing a show, and their incredibly blinkered belief that they are always in the right.

This coming week shall be, without a doubt, another week when things really kick off. ATG has not mentioned insisting on paying us monthly yet. Maybe that was not true. Maybe they’ll mention it soon. Maybe they are so stupid they will mention it tomorrow.

When I meet Ahmed tomorrow, I plan to tell him changes need to be made. For one thing, a system has to be implemented by the end of this month to make sure that all crew are paid on time and without penalties. It’s time for a change. Let’s see if it can be done.

Strike Action Update


Though we worked, we did not go into the office Thursday or Saturday (Friday being our day off). Abdul knew we were working because I had told him we were.

This morning I got a call from Abdul. I then emailed the crew summarising what he had said;

  1. Abdul had joked about his points not being alphabetical.
  2. He said we would be paid Monday or Tuesday.
  3. That “we” [he did not say who “we” are] reserved the right to not pay us for days we do not show up in the office even if we say we have been working.
  4. There was no apology.
  5. No explanation.
  6. The tone of the entire email was immature and offensive.

This requires further explanation.

The “alphabetical joke” is a reference to the email Ibrahim and Ahmed were sent saying we would not come back to the office or share our work until we had been paid up in full.

Abdul also started by saying, “Is this the leader of the Devine Clan?” I pointed out — as Ray had apparently done to him last Thursday when he said the same thing about me — that all the UK crew were in agreement about this. But still Abdul likes to joke about it.

When I told Abdul we had been working in our rooms, he said “But how do we know that?” I replied it is a point of trust. He said “You could be lying.” (!!!)

There’s a principle of psychology that the thing people despise most in others is the thing they are most guilty of. ATG thinks everyone is trying to stitch them up or is lying to them because this is what ATG does to everyone every day.

At no point did Abdul offer an explanation to me or an apology. ATG and its staff don’t do apologies (actually, Ibrahim and Majid have apologised a few times — good for them).

Anyway, Chris told me it all “kicked off” Thursday night between the email and Simon going on the ‘offensive’. There were calls between Talal and Ibrahim and Abdul and Fadi and they ran into Friday. Chris said ATG had fucked up. They couldn’t make payments because Fadi and Talal had both been away. But that’s just nonsense. That excuse can only be used so many times before it becomes utterly ridiculous and we’ve heard it too many times already. ATG fuck up because they want to. It’s part of their MO for screwing with other people’s heads and reminding them who’s boss.

Oh by the way…

I emailed Abdul afterwards asking for clarification on whether or not our pay would be deducted for yesterday and last Thursday.

 

Stuck In Jordan


Shatat is still stuck in Jordan. ATG is still refusing to bring him out here.

Abdul apparently told Andrew that he could get another Shatat out here within a few days. He also infuriated Emad by saying that since we trained Emad and Shatat up we should do the same with local people to replace them.

We did not train Emad and Shatat up. They were both highly-skilled people who were hired because of their skills. Shatat is BY FAR the best SketchUp artist I have come across. He is ridiculously fast, doing in less than an hour what it takes other SketchUp artists a day or more to do. And he does it better.

The only thing we taught Shatat was the everyday practices of a film/TV art department and, perversely, we have not done much of that because we do not have an everyday art department because ATG refuses to staff our department properly and refuse to let us do our job properly.

So thanks to ATG, we’ve really taught Shatat very little and Emad nothing at all.

It is so typical of the obtuseness and arrogance of ATG (and now Abdul) to think they could train anyone to do anything. The first people that need to be trained is them.

Chris will be talking to Abdul again tomorrow about Shatat. If Shatat is not out here by next weekend, I think it will be my turn to try.