Netflix, which has been steadily growing its subscribers in the Arab world, has teamed up with Kuwait-based production studio NCIG (National Creative Industries Group) to set up a writers’ lab that will spawn six series projects from writers based in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.
The plan is to turn them into market-ready pitch decks on which the streaming giant will have the right to a first look.
The Arabic series incubator initiative, which is called NCIG TV Writers’ Lab 6×6, marks Netflix’s first initiative of this type in the the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region.
The writers’ lab is the brainchild of multi-hyphenate Sheikha Al-Zain Al-Sabah, a former undersecretary of Kuwait’s Ministry of State for Youth Affairs and co-producer of Palestinian-American filmmaker Cherien Dabis’ debut feature “Amreeka,” and also high-profile doc “Journey to Mecca,” among other titles. Al-Zain is CEO of NCIG, a media company dedicated to fostering fresh Arabic content that has one of the largest studio facilities in the MENA region.
“As we move forward with content creation in the Middle East I’ve found that we lack the essential tools for our incredible story tellers to reach global OTTs in the way that they should be reaching them,” Al-Zain told Variety.
“It was clear that we needed to look at the writing at the grass roots level in order to help our stories travel and cross over into the larger global community,” she aded, noting that Kuwait has always been central to TV production in MENA and primarily the Gulf region.
According to a recent study by London-based Digital TV Research, Netflix – already the top streamer in MENA – is expected to increase its subs in the region from 3.4 million to 5.4 million over the next five years.
Production-wise the U.S. streaming giant has made several Arab originals, mostly out of Egypt, where they launched the series “Paranormal,” and Jordan which is where the most recent Netflix Arab Original, “Al Rawabi School for Girls,” comes from.
“Through our partnership with NGIC, we will bring our global expertise in creating world class content, to hone regional creators’ craft and provide the tools to tell the best version of their stories,” said Christopher Mack, who is creative director of Netflix’s Grow training program for the Europe, MENA, Latin America and Asia Pacific regions.
Mack added that “Netflix is committed to investing in Arab stories and talent long-term and pointed out that “the Arab world has a pool of incredible talent that has been underrepresented on the global stage.”
The six-week workshop that starts Feb. 5 will see selected participants receive mentoring and master classes by prominent writers, show runners, and script consultants. At the end of the program, the six writers will have the opportunity to pitch their final scripts to Netflix which will have first right of refusal.
If Netflix does not select a project the writer/creator will completely own the IP and be free to take it elsewhere. If Netflix does pick it up they will sign separate deals with the creators for further development or production.
Applicants need to be based in either Kuwait or Saudi Arabia, but don’t need to be nationals of those countries. They must own the IP completely to the story they are pitching.
“We are looking for writer/directors whose past writing experience is recommended but not required,” said Al-Zain, who added that projects should not have a producer or director attached.
The submissions process for the NCIG TV writers’ lab in partnership with Netflix opened on Nov. 1 and will end on Dec. 1.