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.

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.

 

Embezzle? Fly? Repeat?


Talal flew out to Qatar Tuesday night. I believe he comes back today.

Wages are late again. I should have been paid Wednesday, Dominic and Ray, Tuesday. Andy on Saturday.

I emailed Jude (politely) and she emailed me back saying Accounts were promising two payments on Sunday. I had to ask if that was two people (entirely possible with this company) or two payments per person. She said the latter.

Chris then emailed Fadi. Perhaps he had not noticed that I had already emailed Jude. He wanted a promise we would be paid. Here is his email and Fadi’s response.

Fadi's Replay re Wages

Click to enlarge

So, no answer then to the question actually being asked. Can’t say I was not surprised. I’m coming to realise this is standard practice for ATG.

The fact is we do not know if we are going to get paid Sunday because it is entirely possible even Talal does not know right now. Why? Because the way I see it there are two options;

  1. Everything returns to normal, the Studio gives Talal the next tranche of money, we get paid, and everything carries on as before.
  2. Talal does not get the money and we do not get paid.

Either way, there’s a problem. Because while we may get paid now, the show will still be in trouble.

I think it is blindingly obvious now what the problem is.

Historically, ATP gets paid to make a show. Say USD$2 million. They pocket their 20% fee of $400K. Then they run up nonsense expenses for a further chunk of the budget. Then they hand over the remainder to Ibrahim who must then shoot the show like a student film^ on what’s left.

They then tried to apply that formula to this show, but there’s a problem.

This week, I was told by Ibrahim that the first season’s budget was done by Ibrahim and Ahmed. Ibrahim told me he hadn’t even read the scripts (don’t forget that this guy is the Producer and here he is telling me he did a budget without reading the scripts!!!). He then claimed he relied upon Ahmed telling him what was needed. As I understand it, they then arrived at a budget of about $37.5 million then applied a $10 million fee. On this basis a deal was struck and ATP were committed to making the show for $37.5 million.*

Only problem was, this budget was for Qatar and when they brought in the professionals to re-budget the show, the budget shot up. Specifically, the art dept cost was about $11 million and visual effects about $6 million. Once all the other departments were added, the budget was way more than $37.5 million.

As a result, Talal pushed to have as much of the show moved to Jordan as possible and then, while production dragged, he began taking his fee and syphoning off whatever else he could get away with. Only problem was, they needed $37.5 million to do the show in Jordan too. So Talal and Fadi allegedly embezzled what they could, while leaving Ibrahim minimum resources to produce the show.

What doesn’t make sense is why they started misappropriating funds when they needed it all to make the show. I can only assume that either;

  1. They really did not believe it could be done for the money – in which case they are idiots because clearly it could.
  2. They never cared about the show and just set out to plunder every dollar they could. Which is even more idiotic because they would have made a lot more money if they’d set out to make the best show possible and had run it for five years.

Anyway, whatever their excuse, Ibrahim now acts like he is paralysed. He will not  commit any funds. Meantime they have spent $3-6 million (possibly more) and shot nothing.

Now the studio is demanding the production move back to Qatar. Chris and I have done the math. Qatar is about 6 to 8 times more expensive than Jordan. So if the show is going to cost $37.5 million in Jordan, it is going to cost about $250 million in Qatar!

ATP signed a contract.

ATP *has* to deliver.

ATP is screwed.

Maybe this is why ATP seems to be quietly planning the set-up other service companies. They may mean to transfer all assets to them. They have local crew on miniscule wages. They might be abandoning ship!

As for Ahmed? Chris and Simon are not talking to him. They found his emails to be offensive so they are giving him the silent treatment in the hope he’ll learn some respect. But Bob told me that Qatari’s don’t do respect because they do not have to. I suggested to Chris that if Talal fails they should get on a plane and visit Ahmed to talk friend-to-friend with him.

So it’s wait and see time again. All we can do now, is see what happens on Sunday.


^ I don’t say this lightly. Aside from going to film school in my 20’s, I also taught at film school for several years, so I was very aware of the intriguing similarities between ATG’s work ethic (and misplaced arrogance) to those of many film students that I taught.

* There follows an audio recording of the conversation I had wth Ibrahim in which he blames Ahmed for the ill-conceived budget, explains why the budget does not work (not his fault, of course), and states that he never read the scripts!

audio