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27. Ten things I’ve learned as a film producer in Abu Dhabi

  1. Working long hours in extreme heat is crazy. 39 degrees may sound nice in theory, but it isn’t. Add in humidity from hell and 8+ hours on set, and it gets painful.
  2. You can never have enough people. The amount of people it takes to do a film shoot is absurd. Yesterday we were almost 20 people behind the scenes, and around 40 in front of the camera.
  3. Filmmaking is sloooow. I’ve done quite a few film/TV things before, but never in this way. We’re shooting for four days, and the end result will be one minute of film trailer.
  4. Everybody expects somebody else to solve problems not directly related to their work. No gasoline for the generators the light guys use? Not their problem. Covering up somehing so it won’t be in the shot for the camera team? Someone else will fix it. Having multi-talented production assistents on stage is crucial.
  5. Filming makes a mess. Water bottles, towels, snacks and remains are everywhere. Having a team to tidy up is a must for this sort of production. And you need a makeup person full time just to take care of sweat on people’s faces.
  6. Everyone is a specialist. The director doesn’t know how to dress the set (that’s the set dresser’s job), the DOP (Director of Photography) doesn’t know how the costumes should look (that’s the wardrobe person’s job), and so on. If you have enough specialists, that’s probably great. If you have a guerilla operation, it’s stressful.
  7. Hierarchies are VERY clear. Only the gaffer (head lighting person) speaks to his crew. The DOP speaks to his assistent. If someone tries to fix a lighting issue without clearing it with the gaffer (because he’s out fixing something else), there’ll be hell to pay. Minor temper tantrums are expected and accepted.
  8. Filmmaking is expensive. People who work in film don’t come cheap. Add to that the cost of flights, hotels, food, transport, equipment, etc. and money disappears like sand running through your fingers.
  9. Repetition, repetition, repetition. When you film a scene, you want different angles on it, which means that the actors have to do the same thing over and over and over again. 20 times? Not even close, sometimes…
  10. It’ll look amazing in the end. At least, I bloody hope so! :-)

Director at The College of Extraordinary Experiences, Coach at McKinsey & Founding Partner at The Global Institute For Thought Leadership. Author of 31 books.

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