NEOM’s media hub on a mission to nurture Saudi talent

The $153 million movie ‘Desert Warrior’ is one of 20 productions hosted at NEOM. (Photo by Neom)
The $153 million movie ‘Desert Warrior’ is one of 20 productions hosted at NEOM. (Photo by Neom)
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Updated 19 September 2022

NEOM’s media hub on a mission to nurture Saudi talent

The $153 million movie ‘Desert Warrior’ is one of 20 productions hosted at NEOM. (Photo by Neom)
  • Executive Wayne Borg says facility will compete with world’s best creative centers
  • Hub will ‘provide every opportunity for young Saudis,’ he says

CANNES: The NEOM media hub is set to become a hotbed for the Kingdom’s creative talent as well as a major contributor to the nation’s economy, according to one its senior executives.

“For all of the great infrastructure we will have and for all of the great companies we will attract, fundamentally the success of this proposition will rest on our ability to develop that talent pool,” Wayne Borg, managing director for media and entertainment at NEOM, told Arab News.

Although still in its early days, the media hub is a key element of the NEOM smart city, and one of its missions is to compete with the world’s elite creative centers by driving local workforce development.




Twelve young Saudi trainees contributed to the ‘Desert Warrior’ film production in different departments. (Photo by Neom)

“Initially we will bring talent in, we want knowledge transfer, we want the young people to learn from the best at a global standard. We need to develop that talent pool here,” Borg said.

The hub aims to educate and empower young people across the Kingdom by giving them hands-on experience with world-renowned filmmakers and producers.

FASTFACTS

• Although still in its early days, the media hub is a key element of the NEOM smart city, and one of its missions is to compete with the world’s elite creative centers by driving local workforce development.

• The hub aims to educate and empower young people across the Kingdom by giving them hands-on experience with world-renowned filmmakers and producers.

“We should be there to provide every opportunity for young Saudis who want to pursue their careers who may not have had the opportunity in the past or would have had to go overseas. Now they can stay here and do it in the Kingdom and work with the world’s best,” Borg said.

“For a long time young people were nervous to pursue their passion in the industry here because there wasn’t an industry here so they couldn’t see career pathways and secure employment.

“We are changing that and we are showing that through this pipeline of productions you can develop your career, you can work in a global industry, you can work with the best people and learn and pursue your passion and have a successful career.”

In accordance with Saudi Vision 2030, the media hub will serve as a focal point for the film production, gaming and digital publishing sectors.

Since Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman announced the plans for The Line development in NEOM there has been a lot of buzz around the smart city.

The media hub aims to contribute to the Saudi film industry through international collaborations and the promotion of local productions. It also seeks to create initiatives in industry learning and opportunities for Saudis through various partnerships.

One of those is with the National Film and Television school in the UK. NEOM also offers entry-level certificate courses in multiple disciplines for those who want to try their hand at different formats.

“Once they have received the certificates we are attaching those students to the productions so that they start to gain credible experience with world-renowned production crews and hopefully they can start to build up their portfolio and their CV,” Borg said.

He said the hub also offered a two-year master’s program for those who wanted to pursue specialist areas in film.

It has also established the NEOM Digital Academy which supports students who are interested in content creation using smartphones and other small devices. It has already made programs with the Saudi Broadcast Authority and Rotana.

“This stuff is priceless in terms of its value to young people,” Borg said. “We are currently working to develop programs in secured areas of on-screen production and gaming.”

One of the highlights of the media hub is its work in nurturing talent in the gaming industry.

“Gaming is obviously a huge focus right now in the Kingdom … (and) a huge focus for us,” Borg said.

“We have to be driven by what the industry needs first and foremost. There is no point in us driving it. We will facilitate it, we will develop the programs and we want to work across the Kingdom with all of the stakeholders to help develop that talent pool because that’s important for us.”

As a result of its investment in new talent, the media hub is contributing to job creation and the Kingdom’s economic growth.

“The media industry all around the world now is a real driver for economic growth and has an incredible impact not just from an entertainment perspective or from an information perspective. It’s about that direct impact,” Borg said.

He added that in some countries the media sector accounted for as much as 4 percent of GDP.

“It’s a priority sector now and it’s a sector that progressive economies pursue,” he said.

The $153 million movie “Desert Warrior” is one of 20 productions hosted at NEOM.

“In practical terms ‘Desert Warrior’ generated over 80,000 hotel nights,” Borg told Arab News.

“When you think about a $150 million production, if you strip out the post piece you will come to $100 million being injected in six months into the local economy.

“From caterers, drivers, electricians, carpenters, hotel rooms, cleaners, how it radiates out and amplifies. We have horse trainers, people looking out for animals. It has such a direct impact on the economy,” he said.

The film had four months of pre-production and a five-month shoot with over 450 people on set daily.

“We were able to bring a lot of young Saudis on to the project as extras … which was fantastic,” Borg said.

Through the media hub, the film also enlisted 12 Saudi trainees, who worked in different jobs such as camera assistants and in general production.

“For a lot of them this was their first time on a feature film set anywhere in the world,” Borg said. “And to be able to do that in their home country in NEOM is a fantastic achievement and the start of an emerging development program.”

 

 


KSRelief concludes voluntary program to combat blindness in Bangladesh

KSRelief concludes voluntary program to combat blindness in Bangladesh
Updated 04 October 2022

KSRelief concludes voluntary program to combat blindness in Bangladesh

KSRelief concludes voluntary program to combat blindness in Bangladesh

RIYADH: King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center (KSRelief) concluded on Saturday the voluntary medical program to combat blindness and its diseases in Nawabganj Town, Bangladesh. 
The project came within ‘Noor Saudi Arabia’ voluntary program.
Since its beginning, the KSRelief’s voluntary medical team has medically examined 4,610 cases, distributed 1,616 glasses, and performed 519 successful cataract surgeries.
This campaign is part of the voluntary projects, implemented by the KSRelief in several countries, with the aim of providing treatment to people with limited income.


KSRelief distributed food baskets in Pakistan, Sudan and Lebanon

KSRelief distributed food baskets in Pakistan, Sudan and Lebanon
Updated 04 October 2022

KSRelief distributed food baskets in Pakistan, Sudan and Lebanon

KSRelief distributed food baskets in Pakistan, Sudan and Lebanon

RIYADH: The King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center (KSRelief) continued to provide assistance to people in disaster-hit areas and refugee camps.
Various relief aid was distributed to those affected by the floods in Pakistan with as many as 1,360 food baskets distributed, which benefited 9,520 people.
These efforts come within the Saudi relief airlift operations that have been dispatched, under the directives of Saudi Arabia’s King Salman.
Similarly, KSRelief distributed 455 food baskets in Khartoum, Sudan – or translated to 2,503 individual recipients – as part of programmed efforts to help needy families in the country this year.
KSRelief also distributed on Saturday 675 food baskets in the Arsal region of Lebanon, which benefited 3,375 people under the food security effort for Palestinian and Syrian refugees as well the host community there.


SDRPY participates in Mahri Forum in Yemen

SDRPY participates in Mahri Forum in Yemen
Updated 04 October 2022

SDRPY participates in Mahri Forum in Yemen

SDRPY participates in Mahri Forum in Yemen
  • The purpose of the forum is to contribute to raising and developing awareness toward cultural heritage, as well as to protect it from extinction

Al-MAHRA, Yemen: On Mahri Language Day, the Mahri Forum was held at Qishn School, Al-Mahra governorate, with the participation of the Saudi Program for the Development and Reconstruction of Yemen.

The purpose of the forum is to contribute to raising and developing awareness toward cultural heritage, as well as to protect it from extinction.

The SDRPY participation comes with reference to strengthening ties between both countries, as well as supporting culture in Yemen.

“We wish Yemen all the best, and may it recover within a secure, prosperous, and stable environment. May Yemen be able to contribute to the projects and initiatives hosted by the SDRPY, which amounted to 224 programs and initiatives in total, including more than 50 projects in Al-Mahra, with the purpose of improving its daily life and raising the efficiency of infrastructure in various sectors,” said Abdullah Basilman, director of the SDRPY’s program office in Al-Mahra.

Mahri is a Semitic language like Soqotri and Shehri, among others. SDRPY aims to contribute to the revival of the Mahri language and avoid its extinction through its participation in the forum.


Tawqeer initiative launched for elderly pilgrims

Tawqeer initiative launched for elderly pilgrims
Updated 03 October 2022

Tawqeer initiative launched for elderly pilgrims

Tawqeer initiative launched for elderly pilgrims

MAKKAH: The General Presidency for the Affairs of the Two Holy Mosques, represented by the social, voluntary and humanitarian services, has launched the “Tawqeer” (elderly care) initiative, through which several programs and services are provided for elderly people to enable them to perform rituals in ease and comfort, enriching their experience.

Two Holy Mosques chief Sheikh Abdulrahman Al-Sudais affirmed the presidency’s keenness to provide the best social, voluntary and humanitarian services to pilgrims while applying preventive measures, following health instructions and providing visitors with a safe and healthy environment in the Grand Mosque in Makkah.


Saudi Arabia’s children now have holistic sports program for skills development

Saudi Arabia’s children now have holistic sports program for skills development
Updated 04 October 2022

Saudi Arabia’s children now have holistic sports program for skills development

Saudi Arabia’s children now have holistic sports program for skills development
  • Focus on play and not competition, says agency designing programs
  • Multiple sports for ages 4-10 including dance, yoga, gymnastics

RIYADH: A local organization, Sports Hub KSA, is designing tailor-made sports programs for children that emphasize play and skills development rather than competition, and which encourages the involvement of parents.

Simon Muller, CEO and co-founder of Sports Hub KSA, said of the approach to programs: “We want to give children a chance to do sports differently than in a school environment. There’s no pressure, it’s not in 45 minutes the teacher doesn’t have to teach something specific … the children can play in the time frame that they are with us.”

Sports Hub KSA is a Saudi Arabia-based agency that specializes in creating and delivering sports programs for stakeholders such as Inspire Sports, schools, families, and individual children aged between four and 10.

This year, for example, Inspire Sports organized a summer camp program, one of the first in the Kingdom after COVID-19, allowing children to interact with others their age.

Unlike other sports programs, Inspire does not urge competition or being the best, it rather sets a foundation for children to develop their skills while enjoying multiple activities and sports in one session.

Sports Hub KSA is a Saudi Arabia-based agency that specializes in creating and delivering sports programs for stakeholders such as Inspire Sports, schools, families, and individual children aged between four and 10. (Supplied)

“It’s a mix of sports, multi-sport is the core of our concept, it isn’t one single sport, children always need to explore different things and one sport can get boring after four or five sessions,” Muller said.

Muller believes that it is important to play with children especially “those aged between four and 10, as it is way more important than specializing in one sport.”

There can be five to eight sports or games in a session such as athletics, dodgeball, basketball, football, gymnastics, dance and yoga. “We are more focused on the game rather than the sport. “It’s very interesting that the children are interested in many different things.”

Muller said that yoga, which was done at least once a week, was quite popular in the program.

The three-hour summer program only offered apples, bananas, and water. “We just want to set examples and offer something healthy during our sessions to influence other parents and see what we are offering. We are also using social media channels to promote healthy eating,” he said.

Muller said that inclusivity is a major aspect of their programs, so the role of parents is important and coaches encourage them to be involved and present during sessions.

“Inclusion is a very important aspect of what we are doing, we don’t want to exclude anyone. We try to have games for children of different levels and age and development stages to have fun together,” Muller said.

“We are totally aware that what we are doing is something new and we as a company are new and we also know that trust is the most important thing for parents when they decide to send their children to programs, especially when the children are so young,” he said.

“Inclusion is a very important aspect of what we are doing, we don’t want to exclude anyone. We try to have games for children of different levels and age and development stages to have fun together,” CEO and co-founder of Sports Hub KSA said. (Supplied)

“So, we have open days where families can come with their children and just try it and see what we are doing but we also invite the parents all the time. The doors are completely open so parents can come in and see what we are doing at any time of the program,” he said.

“Everything is important at a young age, between three and six it’s very clear in the scientific world that this is the most important age in developing certain behaviors and having a positive association with certain things,” Muller said.

“The ultimate goal is that the children are with us, especially in the age group of four to nine, are with us for two to three years, and not just summer. When they spend couple of hours with us every week, their fundamentals are way more developed than other children that don’t have that opportunity,” he said.

Muller believes it is important for children in their early years to try different things. After the initial first few years enrolled in the sports program, children will then be able to choose the sports that they love.