Another Fun Week With ATG


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.

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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.

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.

Chris Quits – Part 2


Today wasn’t off to the brightest start. Chris had told ATP he was quitting and heading back to London on Friday (tomorrow). Dominic Smithers had booked his flight for this evening. Terry was determined to go and he told Ray to start phoning around for new jobs.

I’d also heard that ATP were combing through Chris’s contract trying to find loopholes to force him to stay. I was a bit baffled by that as it was my understanding Chris never signed (see earlier blog entry on this). I guess I’ll find more out about this later.

But shortly after breakfast, Terry gave me an update. Andrew McEwan and Simon had told Ray and Terry that Talal had called Chris and was of the impression that Chris would be back in two weeks. This, despite Chris having sent him an email last night saying he had quit.

Then Chris went to tell Ahmed the news. Ahmed didn’t yet know any of this. An hour later Andrew saw him out on the street shouting into his phone. Then not long after this I bumped into Simon and Dominic in the hallway. Simon asked me my plans. I said I was staying for now to see what happens. I asked him his plans. He said he was “terrified” after what he’d just heard was happening to Chris.

He then wandered off and Dominic told me that Simon had just told him to be ready to go to the airport at a moment’s notice. That seemed very dramatic, I thought, and I asked why. Dom said that ATP (and he thinks Ahmed) had just come down on Chris like a ton of bricks. I asked how that was possible. Dom added that he did not know but that Simon had told him that ATP might demand to have our passports to stop us leaving.

He then told me that Ahmed had been stunned by Chris’s statement. Apparently, he had not seen it coming. We both marvelled at how naive Ahmed can be. I want to say this in Ahmed’s defence. He is 26 and out of his depth. He needs good people around him on this job, looking after his interests, but all he has is ATP.

As Dom told me this, Issam came wandering up – all casual – and said to Smithers, “Here is what I can do for you. I can offer you work back in Jordan on Malik.” At that point, I wandered off. We all know what a farce Malik is. And this for a company that has no morality at all. How could Dom possibly say, “Yes”?

Clearly, it is really going to kick off big time over the next few days. We are supposed to be paid on Sunday. That may be in jeopardy as ATP attempt to force control over us with whatever they have.

On an unrelated footnote, I heard yesterday that a few years ago when this was all starting up, the Qatari investors paid ATP US$3 million to do a feasibility study into shooting “Medinah” in Qatar. Such a study would normally cost about $80,000. So where did the rest of the money go?

Oh, one last thing; I have heard several times now that ATP thought they did not have to provide audited accounts because it was private money. But it is not private money; it is the Qatari governments money and, as a consequence of ATP’s failure to deliver, they have been ordered to provide audited accounts. The problem ATP has is that they have received over $10 million and there is no way they have spent more than $3 million on the show. At a meeting earlier this week which I shall talk about tomorrow, Ahmed was finally compelled to say to Abdul, “Where is all the money?” What happened I’ll explain tomorrow.

Chris Quit’s


Chris called a meeting in my room today. Attending was Ray, Terry and myself. Dominic Smithers showed up at the end.

Chris told us he had written an email to ATP and Ahmed telling them that he was quitting and would be returning to London Friday. His email was polite. But he told us the reason he is leaving is because after ten months of being here, ATP have done absolutely nothing.

He said that if we’d stayed in Jordan we would have been half way through shooting episode 12 now. Personally, I don’t believe that. But he’s right to believe it was possible because it should have been. But now? It’s unlikely ATP will shoot anything. Ever.

Since we have arrived here they have done absolutely nothing.

A lot more has happened this week and there’s a rumour that tomorrow ATP will be emailing us to tell us that we are going on to monthly payments despite our having a deal memo with them that states we are to be paid weekly. ATP doesn’t like that they cannot control us right now. And now Chris has quit.

If they have sense, they won’t send us that email tomorrow. What they do not know is that Smithers has already decided he will quit for certain and that Ray and Terry are almost certain they will. Further, Simon Hunter has decided he will quit mid-September. And Andrew is probably leaving too.

The only person who might stay is me. But more on this — and other news from this week — on Friday.

Unpaid Wages & Strike Action


Ever since I got here, ATG has intentionally paid wages late (if at all) as some sort of passive-aggressive “don’t forget who’s boss” tactic. This has resulted in almost weekly arguments with them that eventually leads to Ibrahim shouting at his staff and telling them to get us paid “immediately”. If we don’t remind them, they do nothing. They say nothing. No apology. No explanation. Nothing. It’s pathetic.

Before coming to Doha, the UK crew sent Abdul a list of expectations. One of them stated that instead of all UK crew getting paid based on their arrival date on the job, we all get paid the same day. For example, my pay day was Tuesday. Smithers’s and Ray’s was Monday. I’m not even sure when the rest were meant to be paid.

The intention behind our idea was that if we were all to be paid the same day, ATG couldn’t hide behind the complexity of payment dates.

The list was ignored. However, about a week later, Abdul sent out an email suggesting we all get paid at the same time.

So apparently it was his idea!!!

Anyway, everyone humoured him, pretended it was his idea and we all agreed it was a fabulous idea of his that we all be paid Saturday. As a result, it was agreed that we should all submit our invoices up to that date so that our wages could be cleared in full for Jordan before the move to Qatar.

We have now been in Qatar for a week.

And we have not been paid.

To put this in perspective…

Smithers, Ray and I are now owed three weeks wages.

Andrew McEwan is now owed four weeks wages.

Chris Richmond is owed about six weeks wages.

Simon Hunter is owed two months wages.

Now Abdul may be owed four months wages but there is a difference of sorts. We always tell ATG to pay up. He does not. So when Simon and Chris went to him last Wednesday and had an argument with him about their late wages and he laughed, he did not get our sympathy.

Simon has now told ATG that he will be flying back to the UK on Sunday and that he will not return until;

  1. He has been paid in full.
  2. He has been put up in a better hotel.
  3. There are proper offices to work in. (more on that later)

As for the rest of us?

We are on strike. Sort of.

We did not go into the office on Thursday. Abdul emailed Chris and I asking where everyone was. We did not answer. I was out on the road most of the day looking for supplies to make the model caves with. The rest were working in their rooms. So it wasn’t a strike in the sense we had “downed tools”. Later that evening we sent the following email which will help to clarify what ind of strike it was.;

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So we are working. But in our rooms. And we are not sharing the ‘fruits of our labour’ with them. We had to make the point that any problems that occur as a result of not talking to them would be their fault because we know the first thing ATG would do is say we are “ambushing the project”. They are extraordinary. I have never come across a more obtuse self-righteous arrogant cold bunch of people in my life. Omar looked genuinely wounded when I shouted at him about a month ago because he thought it was funny when he said we’d (maybe) get our per diems on the following Sunday despite the fact they should have been paid already. How stupid can people get?

Anyway, it is now 10:30am on Saturday and we have not heard from ATG yet. They’re likely going to call our bluff. Ignore us and see what we do because, ironically, our per diems are supposed to be paid today. But I have said to Ray and Andrew that we should not chase up our per diems. We are owed them. That’s a fact. And if we go to collect them ATG will use that to make them look like the good guys and us look like the bad guys. They are not simple-minded. So I said let them bring our per diems to us without us bothering to remind them. After all, we should not have to remind them.

Tomorrow, we shall send out a second email stating that from now on wages must be paid on the day they are owed or we will not come into work the next day. By then we shall all be owed last week’d wages too.

As a footnote, word has it ATG received a $5 million payment from the Studio after Talal got back from Doha. So it’s not like they are short of cash.