It takes a lot to impress globetrotting location veteran Douglas Dresser, but he was duly smitten during a trip to Dubai last year.
“They have amazing locations, and not just the obvious sand and desert ones,” says the supervising location manager at Sony’s Screen Gems, who worked on “Mission: Impossible 3” and “The Kite Runner” and has scouted locations all over the world.
Dresser was among the guests invited by the Dubai International Film Festival and hosted by Jamal Al Sharif of Dubai Studio City and Talaat Captan of Avalon Arabia.
“They toured us around the city and gave us an insider tour of the new studios being built, and I am really looking forward to seeing it when it’s completed,” he adds.
The project will boast large stages, production-office space and a huge backlot — all aimed at attracting international production.
Dubai’s filmmaking initiatives do face some challenges, however. “They need the infrastructure and a proven track record to attract projects — and they don’t have all that yet,” Dresser explains. “But I think they’re going to be very successful because they really get it. They work from a broad global perspective — not a regional Middle Eastern one. Like everything else in Dubai, it’s brand new but growing very rapidly. They’re investing in equipment, and they have available labor.”
Dubai has one major feature film production service, Filmworks (headed by Tim Smythe), which has experience with studio projects (credits include “Syriana”) and a proven track record.
Other companies are working on smaller projects.
Dresser notes that in many cases equipment would need to be brought in from Europe, although that may be changing.
As a shooting location, “other than a few small cameos in features, Dubai hasn’t really been tapped,” Dresser notes. He cites the Burj Kahlifa tower, an enormous indoor ski resort, one of the world’s largest man-made marinas and gigantic shopping malls.
“On top of all that, they have tons of office space, far more water features than I imagined, great restaurants and world-class hotels, including one just outside the city, called Bab Al Shams, which is just amazing.”
Dresser notes that Dubai also recently built a world-class Formula One racetrack near the marina “that would be a perfect place to shoot a car chase or a Formula One race.”
On the downside, Dresser says that Dubai’s permitting process “still has to be fully worked out. They’ll probably want script approval, but then once you get their blessing, you can just go to town. … When we have the right project, we will definitely return.”