Film unit, talent agency launches mark growth

If a company’s strength lies in its depth, then Pyramedia knows all about the benefits of diversification. The shingle, which launched 10 years ago primarily as a vehicle for TV skeins, has expanded in recent years to include festival production, event management, PR consultancy and now feature film and documentary production.

This year, Pyramedia topper Nashwa al-Ruwaini is launching Pyramovies, a film division; Pyradocs, to focus on docs and factual programming; and Pyrastars, a talent agency for Arab thesps that al-Ruwaini hopes will allow them to break out on the international stage.

It’s all part of a strategy designed to help Pyramedia become one of the main content producers in the Arab world.

The company is developing a slate of 20 feature films.

The first to be greenlit is a $5 million pic with the working title “Friends and Money.” Project, now in pre-production and likely to start shooting in the summer, follows a group of Arab friends living in the U.A.E. Helmer Bader Bin Hirsi will shoot English- and Arabic-language versions of the pic back-to-back. Pyramedia is self-financing the project.

Also in pre-production is feature-length documentary “Changing Sands.” The $1.3 million pic follows the life of British explorer Wilfred Thesiger, who traveled and mapped the great Arabian desert area known as the Empty Quarter in the 1940s. Thesiger became friends with U.A.E. founder and former president Sheik Zayed al-Nahyan during his travels.

A number of environmental docs, mirroring the government of Abu Dhabi’s own keen interest in all matters green, are also in the works, including “The Free Spirit of the Desert,” about the wildlife of the Arabian desert. The lineup also includes current affairs docs, such as “Guarding the Coast,” about the U.A.E.’s Coast Guard and its role in protecting the Emirates.

Engaging directly with its viewers, Pyramedia is set to go into production on one of its most ambitious projects yet, a 30-episode reality TV series designed to improve the lives of Arab auds and targeted to air during the viewer-heavy Ramadan period. “Dreams Come True” will invite viewers from around the Arab world to send in their wishes, one of which will be granted by al-Ruwaini every day through the Muslim month of fasting.

Pyramedia is also teaming with the Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage and the Washington, D.C.-based Brookings Institute for the Muslims on Screen and Television (MOST) project, an academic study of Muslims in the media with a view to helping better understand the need for positive representation and cultural dialogue in the post-9/11 world.

“Our work with the Middle East Intl. Film Festival ┬áleads us to our most cherished and proud objective: to nurture and support the indigenous voices of Emirati filmmakers,” al-Ruwaini says. “They are the soul and driving force of our work.”

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