Film schools opening across Mideast

Institutions aim to create world-class workforce

LONDON — A slew of film training orgs are opening across the Middle East that could well lay the foundation for generations of aspiring filmmakers to come.

Dubai ruler Sheik Mohammed announced the creation of the Mohammed Bin Rashid School of Communications on July 16 in partnership with USC’s Annenberg School of Communication.

The college, which open its doors this month and will initially offer short courses, will eventually expand to offer graduate and post-graduate courses in both English and Arabic and attempt to become the Arab world’s foremost center for scriptwriters.

USC has also teamed with the government of Jordan to open, in the seaside resort of Aqaba, the Red Sea Institute for Cinematic Arts, which will be the Mideast’s first full-fledged film school. It opens its doors this month with students from Jordan, Kuwait, Iran and Egypt.

Jordan also opened a branch of the S.A.E. Institute media college in October last year, with courses on everything from filmmaking to 3-D animation and music production available.

The development of these institutions together with Abu Dhabi’s branch of the New York Film Academy, which opened in February this year marks the most significant attempt yet to create a world-class workforce of Mideast film and TV execs.

“We must have decent schools teaching screenplay writing,” says Lebanese filmmaker Ziad Doueiri, who has offered to tutor part-time at Jordan’s Red Sea Institute. “You need to teach people how to write proper screenplays. It’s as important, if not more important, than offering people financial subsidies to make films. That’s how you create an industry, by encouraging people to make quality films that can sell overseas.”

“It is only when you tell your own stories to your own people that you’ll be able to tell them to others,” adds Mohammed Bin Rashid School of Communications dean Ali Jaber.

The Dubai college will handpick the best students from across the Middle East and offer the majority of them free tuition.

Scholarships will also be available at the Red Sea Institute, particularly in its debut year, although these are likely to be reduced down the road as the number of paying students increases.