British Council’s report on Saudi film industry highlights challenges

The research was carried out in 2019-2020, and it highlights the key skills needed to strengthen and develop Saudi Arabia’s film industry in the future after surveying 422 people in the sector. (Supplied)
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Updated 02 October 2020

British Council’s report on Saudi film industry highlights challenges

  • Research emphasizes Kingdom’s potential for more films to be made by Saudis, in Saudi Arabia, about Kingdom

JEDDAH: In-depth research by the British Council in Saudi Arabia assessing the film industry landscape emphasized the Kingdom’s potential for more films to be made by Saudis, in Saudi Arabia, about the Kingdom.
The Saudi Film Skills report launched on Thursday is the first report of its kind, coming only two years after the Saudi government lifted a 35-year ban on the film industry in the country.
“The purpose of the study is to define the gaps in the industry, and as filmmakers we know the gaps already. However, we need to define it with numbers, with accurate data, so that we have a plan sufficient to support the industry,” Saudi filmmaker Hajar Al-Naim told Arab News.
“This is very beneficial for all of us, the government, filmmakers and investors,” she said. “There are many gaps the research has discovered and we were not aware of them before.”
The research was carried out in 2019-2020, and it highlights the key skills needed to strengthen and develop Saudi Arabia’s film industry in the future after surveying 422 people in the sector. Forty percent of respondents were filmmakers, 30 percent were students, and 17 percent crew.
According to the report, there is tremendous economic potential for film in Saudi Arabia, with Saudi consumers preferring to watch films reflecting their own culture.
It showed that 93 percent of all Saudi film companies film locally, while 35 percent of those surveyed said that the biggest advantage of the local film sector is the cast and on-screen talent, followed by the availability of film locations (19 percent) and market potential and audience demand (17 percent).
Moreover, the film sector is mainly characterized by its young workforce, with 72 percent of respondents being younger than 30, and 34 percent of them were female.
Women working in the sector had different motivations from their male peers. For instance, 51 percent of women said they work in film because of their love of visual storytelling, compared to only 36 percent of men. Moreover, only 2 percent of female stakeholders indicated finance as the leading motivator, compared to 16 percent of men.
Nonetheless, this promising sector also faces real challenges, as nearly half of respondents (43 percent) said that financing is the greatest barrier for producers and companies over the next five years, while 13 percent said it is the lack of a skilled cast and 11 percent said film training and education access.
Recruiting crews is also a significant issue for Saudi film companies, as more than half of surveyed companies found recruitment difficult, the biggest issue being skill shortages. Forty percent of companies cited a lack of job-specific skills, education or experience as the biggest challenge in recruiting. This was followed closely by the cost of labor (38 percent).
Al-Naim thinks that the Saudi film industry lacks the integrated mix that defines an industry, including regulation, funding and infrastructure.
Another issue facing the industry is lack of below-the-line crew. “Everyone in the industry wants to work in the above-the-line jobs, they want to be directors, producers, actors, and screenwriters,” she said, “while we lack below-the-line jobs such as operators, art directors, and supervisors. What will attract international productions to Saudi Arabia is when we have the below-the-line crew. If we don’t have them it means we don’t have the basis of the industry.”
More than half of all Saudi productions were short films (54 percent), followed by web productions (30 percent); only 4 percent were feature films.
 




This promising sector also faces real challenges, as nearly half of respondents (43 percent) said that financing is the greatest barrier for producers and companies over the next five years.

Online streaming and over-the-top services were the viewing platforms with the greatest opportunity for Saudi film in the future, with Netflix (50 percent), YouTube (39 percent) and Shahid by MBC (4 percent).
More than a third of the film sector resides in Riyadh (39 percent), followed by 29 percent residing in the western cities of Jeddah and Makkah. The research, conducted by London-based research agency Nordicity, is intended to widen the understanding of professionals in the culture sector in Saudi Arabia and the UK about the possibilities for collaboration in the area of films, and to develop programs and projects to support the sector.
Within the industry, there is a considerable interest in working with the UK film sector, with nearly a third of film producers and companies indicating an interest, and 72 percent of those surveyed very interested in partnering with the UK.
Saudi film producers and companies highlighted the UK sector’s professionalism and their pre-production strengths.
Of those, almost half (47 percent) perceived the most significant benefit of collaborating to be the UK’s leading film industry experience, followed by its international standards (21 percent). In terms of challenges, cultural differences were cited as the biggest issue, followed by the cost of travel (20 percent).
 


Houthis, Iran condemned over new drone attacks on KSA

Updated 26 October 2020

Houthis, Iran condemned over new drone attacks on KSA

  • One civilian injured by shrapnel after Saudi-led coalition intercepts four flying bombs launched from Yemen

JEDDAH: Houthi militias and their Iranian backers were condemned on Sunday after the Saudi-led coalition intercepted four explosive-laden drones in two attacks launched from Yemen targeting the south of the Kingdom.

Three of the drones were destroyed early on Saturday and a fourth on Sunday. Shrapnel that fell in Sarat Abidah governorate injured a civilian, and damaged five homes and three vehicles, said civil defense spokesman Capt. Mohammed Abdu Al-Sayed.

Iran was increasing its support to the Houthis to undermine efforts for peace, Dr. Hamdan Al-Shehri, the political analyst and international relations scholar, told Arab News.

“They want the Houthis to sabotage all they can in Saudi Arabia, regardless of whether their target is a populated area, oil facilities or even a sacred place. This adds tension to the area, and that is what Iran is working on.”

Iranians want the Houthis to sabotage all they can in Saudi Arabia, regardless of whether their target is a populated area, oil facilities or even a sacred place. This adds tension to the area, and that is what Iran is working on.

Dr. Hamdan Al-Shehri, political analyst and international relations scholar

Al-Shehri said the situation in Yemen would remain the same unless the legitimate government was returned to Yemen, Security Council Resolution 2216 was put into practice and the Houthi militia were removed.

“Without these things, the Yemen crisis will not end and the whole region will remain in tension.”

The Houthis did not differentiate between military sites and civilian locations, he said.

“Their objective is to damage all places they can reach in Saudi Arabia, and their latest attempts to attack a populated area are nothing new.

“They have also targeted airports and some Aramco oil facilities. If the Aramco attack had not been contained, the damage would have affected the whole Eastern region. They have also attempted to target Makkah, where pilgrims and worshippers were performing their rituals.

“They don’t care. If you look back at what the Revolutionary Guards did at the Grand Mosque, you will realize it is not strange that the Houthis are trying to destroy everything in Saudi Arabia. The strange thing is the silence of the world toward what is happening.”