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Beyond the classroom | Western programs reach out to region | Below-the-line focus builds on tech skills

While most Middle Eastern training orgs concentrate on teaching the rudimentary basics of filmmaking, a few forward-thinkers are offering technical-based training to help build skills in the local industry to meet international standards.

“Most talent here are focusing on the storytelling aspect, but we’re working to set up a full value chain here so that aspiring talent can actually produce, start to finish, their production in the region,” says Wayne Borg, COO of Twofour54, a two-year-old Abu Dhabi-based training outfit focused on building technical proficiency within the community. “Very few outlets in the region are offering comprehensive tech training,” he says.

With more than 200 courses ranging from camera skills to editing and post, Twofour54 offers clients the largest greenscreen in the region, 22 HD post-production suites and a 7,000 square foot studio. In October, it will add 3D facilities.

“It’s a bit early for filmmakers to look at 3D here, but it’s important that people in the region familiarize themselves and have access to it,” he says.

The group recently forged a partnership with Turner Broadcasting to create the Cartoon Network Animation Academy, a one-year, fulltime animation training course designed “to provide a sound foundation for creating new animated productions that reflect the humor, culture, values and heritage within the (Middle East) region.”

Borg says courses are busy and hopes training will familiarize people in the region with post-production work so the area can build a more “commercial aspect” to its industry.

In Jordan, the Royal Film Commission also provides tech-oriented courses on sound, digital cinema, cinematography and special effects. Despite the fact that budgets have been slashed by more than 50% this year, RFC communication and culture manager Nada Doumani says the cuts haven’t dented its training programs, thanks to support from orgs such as UNESCO and the British Council in Jordan.

“The whole post industry is emerging in Jordan, but not a lot,” Doumani says. “Young people are very interested in animation but most students are focusing on the foundations: script and directing.”