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.

Money! Money! Money!


So Talal claims that today he is meeting the investors and their advisors to convince them to continue shooting episode 12 in Jordan and to give us more money to do it. The problem is they might very well say, “You’ve already had enough money to shoot the first episode. What have you done with it?”

Bob joked that Talal was taking a big risk going to Qatar. He might get arrested at the airport then the Qatari’s might investigate ATP under Jordanian law and that might be it for Talal. The scary thing is, Bob could be right.

Simon said this morning that he is going to Qatar tomorrow to also meet the investors and advisors to also pitch shooting episode 12 in Jordan still. He understands that he also needs to assure the Qatari’s that we can begin work in Qatar. I told him there is plenty to do there. There is, but everyone keeps going on about how we should have started building the oasis set in Qatar back in April when Chris tried to convince ATP this should be done. Chris was right. But for everyone to be going on about what should have been done is not progressing what should be done now. I’d like to get out there now and take a look at the stages and figure out how we can make them hospitable so we can start building the cave sets. Let’s be clear; I don’t believe for one second we can shoot season 1 in Qatar. That would be absurd as there just isn’t enough money (especially with the way ATG is spending it all). But we can shoot the pilot. Maybe even the first five or six episodes.

Today I am going to re-read episodes 1 and 2 and start reading episodes 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7 to see what can start prepping in Qatar now.

Meantime, we are waiting for news from Talal and construction has been put on hold. No payments are being made. Except, curiously, for Dominic Smithers’s dummies. That is happening today. So it seems that while we are not buying materials for sets on the assumption we shall move to Qatar, we are buying props and dressing (however few).

Meantime, people are saying that Ahmed has burnt his bridges and ruined his reputation. I think this is a bit unfair. Just because he is young and naive, and doesn’t know *how* to lose his temper, doesn’t mean he deserves to be ‘kicked out’ (some people are acting as if he should be). He has kept his temper under control for months when he had every right to lose it. So who can blame him for losing it now in such spectacular fashion and for such a good reason? But instead he has suddenly become the bad guy.

I don’t know him. I’ve only met him a couple of times. But he seemed reasonable enough to me. He needs time to calm down, a reason to calm down, and a means to save face.

By end of today, or end of tomorrow, we may know more.

And The Crisis Just Keeps On Rolling (Unlike Our Cameras)


There’s been lots of discussion today.

Turns out the reason Chris was not in the office is because he was on Skype all morning to Ahmed who continues to be very angry. Ahmed is insisting that it is the studio who are insisting the production move to Qatar.

I feel strongly that the focus should be on making Ahmed feel better. He has invested a lot of time and his professional name in this show. He may only be 26. He may not be that experienced. But that is when it matters most. Once you are established, you can afford to mess up and move on and rely on past credits and experience to bail you out. But when you have neither, that is when it threatens to destroy your career and it is no surprise you feel angry and in jeopardy.

I recall how when I was 26 I faced a similar experience and had to sue a producer named Simon De Selva for attempted copyright theft. I won. He declared his company bankrupt and I got my script back. But it was several years before I felt like writing again. At that age, these things can matter and they can matter a lot. I wonder if the people on this show know that?

Which is why I’m sceptical the right approach is being taken on fixing this. Bob told us an hour ago that right now neither episode 12 or 17 is being filmed. The show has ground to an absolute halt. Ahmed wants to know why we are not packing.

This is crunch week. By the end of it we will be moving to Doha or not. If we are, we have massive budget problems to face because this show cannot be filmed in Doha with the budget that has been allocated for Jordan. Today, Issam told us that when the contract was negotiated between Talal and the studio, Talal had to do due diligence to be certain that the show could be done in Qatar. It was Talal’s job to factor in the very hot summers (55 degrees C) that occur there, the lack of suitable terrain, and so on. Now Talal is saying we cannot shoot there because it is too hot and Ahmed is rightly saying that Talal has no choice because he agreed to it.

But no-one in this crew will agree to that. Right now the only two people who have said they will go to Doha is Ray and myself. And, of course, ATP. But Chris is convinced that Ahmed wants ATP out, and I’m inclined to agree. Why else is Ahmed writing out a list of ATP’s contractual obligations and demanding that they be met? Amongst them is the August deadline to begin shooting something and the November 1st deadline to begin shooting specific parts of Medinah.

I think we can meet both deadlines but only if ATP sorts out their accounting and procurement procedure. If they do this, I’ll do whatever I can to help ATP. Some big changes need to happen in the next week. But ATP seems clueless (or is pretending to be).

And the studio is Qatari.

This is a country that currently has some of the most expensive engineers in the world sitting around for months doing nothing when they should be building a bridge because the Qatari’s are appear unmotivated to advance the project.

Ahmed needs a guiding hand that he can respect, trust, and know has the show’s best interests at heart (and by proxy, Ahmed). Right now, there is a not a single HoD who can do that because either they’re incompetent (ATP) or ATP won’t let them (everyone else).

My next blog could easily be called It’s “A Mad Mad Mad Mad World.”

In ‘ATP land’, it really is.

Qatar = 1 Jordan = 0


Everyone is despondent.

Simon and Chris got back from a meeting with Talal. Chris has had an email from Ahmed. Issam has spoken to Ahmed.

All the ATP bullshit has finally gotten to Ahmed and he has gone on the warpath. He is now insisting the whole shoot move to Qatar. Three months of prep for Episode 12 (mostly consisting of delays by ATP) now has to be scrapped because Episode 12 is a location shoot and Qatar has not been recced for suitable locations (and that’s assuming it even has any which is unlikely in most instances).

No-one thinks Episode 12 should be shot in Qatar other than Ahmed. Not even the English crew. Because while we are all believe that ATG is possibly pocketing a big chunk of the budget, what’s left will be worthless in Qatar.

There’s going to be a meeting at 5pm in which Talal will be updating HoDs on what is to happen next. Odds are he will be going to Doha to try and meet the investors and possibly Ahmed. But that will be awkward. Ahmed knows about Tala’s fraudulent claim that the fortress will cost USD$250,000. Talal has basically screwed himself and his own company by being so absurdly greedy.

Now he has to deal with the wrath of Ahmed, who has very little experience of how the industry works. Ahmed has a lot of responsibility given he is the front-man for the largest show ever made in the Middle East, and he’s only 26-years-old, so I don’t blame Ahmed. I’d be just as angry in his shoes and I have 28 years experience behind me.

In short, there are three groups here – the Qatari investors, the Jordanian producers, and the English creatives, and none of them trust each other, respect each other, or know how to work with each other. There are too many cooks, too many egos, and it is killing the show.

The only solution is for someone new to step in — someone motivated by integrity, honesty, and a capacity to see all sides of the fence, but most importantly someone who will take the time to listen to and understand all three cultures. But that’s not going to happen, because unfortunately there is not one single person on this show that can do that. And ATG would never allow someone new on board with such credentials.

Chances are, this show will not survive being made by three such disparate groups.

The meeting at 5pm will bring us one step closer to do or die. But it may be a week before we know the real answer. And even then, odds, are, it’ll be no answer at all.