Saudi Arabia is taking its film industry to the next level one quick step at a time. In 2020, the kingdom’s very own cinema brand Muvi opened up the largest local multiplex cinema. This turned out to be the right decision when almost 6.6 million movie tickets were sold that year.
The country then launched its first ever drive-in cinema in 2021 bringing back the 1950s era when such movie screenings were in high demand. Later the same year, the Saudi Film Festival was introduced in Dhahran and the ‘Saudi Film Night’ found itself in Paris at the Arab World Institute. These industry achievements only scratch the surface of the initiatives the kingdom is implementing to strengthen its presence within the industry, both locally and globally.
In fact, the local feature film ‘Scales’ directed by Saudi filmmaker Shahd Amin was chosen by the Film Commission to represent the kingdom at the Oscars. Although this specific film did not win in the International Feature Film category, it was still a move in the right direction for the country and a proud moment for Shahd Amin.
Bringing imagination to life
Nearing the end of 2020, TAM and the Ministry of Culture’s Film Commission began preparations for the subsequent year’s Digital Filmmakers’ Program. The program is part of the commission’s efforts towards advancing the industry by supporting and developing film-based talents within the kingdom under the Vision 2030 umbrella.
On a more specific level, the program was created as a means of training and empowering local film talents, enriching local content, and enhancing the overall fondness for the industry. To get things going in the right direction, Digital Filmmakers’ Program collaborated with some of the most prestigious local and international film schools and institutions, such as 3rd action, Sidra, and The London Film School to name a few.
As things were still slightly uncertain in terms of the pandemic, the 44 available courses were held online and developed for both amateurs and professionals looking to advance their skills in five main industry areas (scriptwriting, production, business, editing, and audio). Interested individuals also had the option to take on more general courses that covered acting, directing, and documentary filmmaking.
"An initiative full of passion for Saudi filmmakers. The #Film_Commission launches the #Digital_Filmmakers_Program to provide cinematic talents with knowledge-filled resources that raise the standards of the Saudi film industry with international and local universities and film institutes."
Mufarreh Zraiqan (Translated Twitter Post)
To start things off, TAM designed the program’s identity and logo giving it a personality of its own that would resonate in the minds of local cinematic talents. Once that step was completed, the team was able to move forward with creating a website that fit the identity and where film fanatics could find all the information they required to register. Before anyone could register however, TAM had to work on notifying the locals and raising awareness about the existence and uniqueness of the Filmmakers' Program.
With the target audience set and the communication tools decided upon, the message with its patriotic, educational, inspirational, and enjoyable tone could be sent out to the masses. Between static posts on Twitter, information-filled videos, local coverage by well-known media platforms, and the knowledge that 37 skilled industry veterans would be hosting the courses, the program banked 1,120 attendees.
"The courses the ministry is offering to students for free is amazing. As soon as I received the link I forwarded it to all my students. There are courses we can even learn and gain from for professionals, which I appreciate, because we should forever be learning and improving."
Film Director and Producer, Danya Alhamrani, Arab News
These program attendees were chosen from a pool of over 5,400 applicants which had to be filtered through based on certain criteria determined during the planning process. After the conclusion of the courses, the talents were presented with certificates of training and completion as proof of their newly reinforced and acquired skills which they can now put to the test at any time.