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.

To Doha Or Not To Doha?

I was ill yesterday so didn’t go into work. Not that anything would be happening.
Today was supposed to be crunch day. After listening to Ibrahim promise repeatedly last week that timber, steel, tools and consumables would be delivered last Thursday, then Saturday, then Sunday, today nothing had arrived.

So I went to see Ibrahim this morning and he told me “in confidence” what has happened. According to him, he received a call last night from Ahmed saying that the production now had to be moved to Doha. Specifically, there were two options;

Episode 12 continues to film in Jordan but the rest of the series shoots in Doha (in which case episode 12 would not shoot until about August 8th)

  1. The entire series moves to Doha.

As a result of this conversation with Ahmed, everything was now on hold.

Let’s backtrack…

Last week, it was common belief amongst the crew that a large tranche of money was due yesterday from the Qatari investors (ATG told us this – of course, there’s always the possibility they might be lying). This money was needed to pay for everything that was to be purchased this week. However, it was also common knowledge that Talal had allegedly massively screwed up by telling Ahmed (who visited last week) that the fortress set was going to cost USD$250,000 (!) when Ahmed already knew it was only costing USD$8,000 because the designer had told him so!!! That was when the penny appeared to drop with Ahmed just how big a crook Talal might be. So Ahmed returned to Doha last Wednesday, and it looks like he reported back to the investors who then decided to move the whole shoot to Doha to put a leash on the now underline;”>very suspect ATG.

So now we jump forward less than a week and everything could be about to fall apart.
Ibrahim told me that if we move to Doha then we need to go there as soon as possible and get a sense of what resources really are available. Ahmed has told him everything is available there. Ibrahim is sceptical. I said I was certain Ahmed was wrong.

Ibrahim also expressed his misgivings about the budget – insofar as it has gone wildly out of control. I was amazed when he alleged that he had worked out the budget with Ahmed. And that Ibrahim had relied upon Ahmed’s word because Ibrahim had not read all the scripts (!!!). Ahmed allegedly told him there would only be a handful of effects needed and between them they would work out a VFX budget of USD$280,000!!! I’d say that’s 1/20th of what is needed (and that’s me being conservative).

That’s when the penny dropped with me: that if Ibrahim is telling the truth, Ibrahim really has no clue how to do a budget and if what he says about working the budget out with Ahmed is also true, then Ahmed knows even less (I hadn’t known up till then that he had been involved in the budgeting).

I offered to help Ibrahim in any way I could. At this point I see no point in being difficult. And it might help me to get to the bottom of what might really be going on.

The entire English crew has struggled to understand the bizarre logic of ATP. I could guess, but I don’t think I need to. It seems pretty obvious what might be going on. But again, the question is why? I mean, if we can all see it, who won’t?

Right now, Simon Hunter and Chris Richmond are meeting with Ibrahim to discuss what is happening and to demand their wages. Chris has not been paid for something like five weeks. Simon has not been paid for something like nine weeks. Issam has not been paid for something like three months! I believe this is because ATP ‘controls’ people by not paying them. And they are relying on these three guy’s commitment to the show to not quit. But that may be changing right now.

Curiously, Ibrahim told me as I was leaving the office that I would definitely be going to Doha because I’m the most experienced person on the show. Was he flattering me? Of course he was.

I like Ibrahim in principle. As the saying goes, “Innocent until proven guilty”. But as Abdul keeps telling me, “Trust no-one at ATP”. So I’ll wait and see.

Today may really be the day…

Email To Ibrahim re UK CM

I sent the following email to Ibrahim this morning:-

Email To Ibrahim

I have no problem with how ATG makes shoots if what we are making is a low-budget Bedouin drama. But we are not. This is supposed to be Jordan’s and Qatar’s – in fact, the Middle East’s – biggest ever production and yet Talal insists on working as he has always done. Clearly he does not want to build any sets and this is why they do not want a UK CM. Clearly he does not want a studio/stage/workshop space to build sets in because they have never needed one before. But the budget on this show is substantially higher than anything they have done before, so what;s the problem? Why does he refuse to aspire to deliver what he is contractually obliged to deliver?

Anwar expressed concern that they do not have the money to make this show. I like Anwar – I think he’s a good man – but I do have a problem with that statement. ATP has $37.5 million to spend on 20 episodes. That’s $1.875 million per episode. “Game Of Thrones” costs $1o million per episode. Essentially five times more. But Fozan told me that our main set for episode 12, the Fortress – which would cost about $50,000 if built in the UK – could be built in Jordan for under $8,000. That’s less than 1/6th the cost of doing it in the UK! So if you assume that ATP has only 1/5 the budget but they can do things for 1/6 the cost that means that $1.875 million is equivalent to $12 million in the UK. That’s more than “Game Of Thrones”!!!

(Obviously some things won’t translate quite so easily – example: cameras costs the same amount wherever you buy them but it’s not like we need a hundred cameras – but I have been a production manager too and I know how these things work. In short, Anwar’s claim that they cannot afford to do it is wrong. The question is, why does Anwar and ATP believe this?)

The point I’m making is that I’m sceptical at this point they will allow us to have a UK CM because they will insist we do not need one. Why? Because – be it arrogance, ignorance or something else – Talal refuses to listen to his far-more-experienced-at-this-scale-of-show UK advisors. But the real question is, why won’t he listen? What is he hiding?

What is he really up to…?

Meeting Given Go-Ahead. But No Go-Ahead For The $7,000 Set!

At the last minute, the meeting with Talal to discuss construction of the Fortress gates/wall was given the go-ahead. A meeting took place at 5pm in Talal’s boardroom. The model was conveyed to his office and since I cannot show a photo of the finished model, this blurred image will have to suffice. All I can say is, it looks pretty cool.

Chris postponed his flight so he could attend. I was not invited, but at Chris’s request I attended anyway. For the Art Director not to be there was ridiculous.

Fozan was there. He sat next to Talal and barely said a word. Instead he looked rather sad and afterwards he confessed to me that he found the tone of the meeting unpleasant.

The meeting did not go so well. Simon – the director – did an enthusiastic pitch which led to Talal rather rudely calling him a “used car salesman”. He then proceeded to rubbish the idea of building the set despite Simon pointing out that this was a $7,000 set being built for a series with a $37.5 million budget. Not building this set was clearly ridiculous. The entire UK crew knew it. But then Talal started to accuse the UK crew of repeatedly interrupting him despite his seldom allowing people to speak! And when he did not feel he was getting his way, he left the office in a childish huff. He finally came back after much persuasion. The meeting ended with no decision having been made. But that alone said plenty.

This was the first time I met Talal. At one point he referred to me as the “mysterious art director”. Clearly, he wasn’t sure about me yet – my silence making me an unknown quantity.

Talal was friendly and warm at first, but I noticed how all the ATG crew (with the exception of Fadi) sat with their eyes glued to the floor and their hands clasped, afraid to look Talal in the eye. I was reminded of my suspicion that this company seems to operate more like a cult with Talal as its figure-head.

I wasn’t impressed by Talal, but figuring out what he is up to and why is something else and abut that I am curious. Only time will reveal his “master plan” and for now at least, I’m prepared to wait and find out what it is.


I don’t recall if it was this meeting or the next where Talal said Ahmed did not know what he was doing. But I have a recording of him doing so, so it will be clear which meeting that was when the audio recordings goes live.


The recording of this meeting can be found by clicking here in which Talal claims – more-or-less – that Ahmed does not know what he is doing.

Another Constructive Meeting Cancelled

We were meant to meet Talal today to discuss the fortress gates set – the one set that has so far survived ATG’s castration of Chris’s and Simon’s and Ahmed’s vision – so guess what happened? Talal postponed the meeting until tomorrow.

That might not seem so bad if it were not got one thing: Talal knows Chris is flying back to London tomorrow so Chris can’t be there to save this set.

We spent the whole week building a model for this meeting to sell this set. Fozan loves it and assures us he can build it for just 7,000 JODs which is nothing. But it would seem Talal doesn’t want to build any sets.