Champ of the Camp was a new one on me, and probably many of our readers. Can you tell us a little about the competition and its organisers?
Camp Ka Champ (Champ of the Camp in Hindi) is a singing competition held annually in the UAE since 2007. The concept, idea, and execution of the ‘Camp Ka Champ’ competition is by Right Track Advertising. It is made possible through the corporate sponsorship of Western Union, Etisalat, and Unilever.
This was a pretty big production by local standards, with four camera crews for some of the final section as well as the extra emphasis on sound. Did you find it easy enough to access the necessary equipment and skilled personal?
We were fortunate to assemble a great crew entirely from within the UAE, making this a purely Emirati production.
We chose David Thirion as our lead sound engineer because of his vast experience on local productions and his knowledge of the sophisticated sound equipment we wanted to use. Regarding equipment, we worked with Melody House to put together a sponsorship with equipment manufacturers DPA and Sound Devices for the provision of the special 5.1 sound gear.
There has been some well-publicised controversy surrounding film crews working on labour camps and the authorities in recent years. Did you face any hurdles in gaining access/permissions? Was help available where required?
Obtaining permission to shoot this film took an enormous amount of work and nearly two years of my time. It was a frustrating process because there was not really any clear “process” to follow; no one has made a film like this before in this part of the world.
That said, we never encountered explicit opposition to the film. Quite to the contrary – every official of every government entity I met expressed support and often enthusiasm for the concept. I was always particularly impressed with the Ministry of Labor. Also, Studio City’s Location Approval Services team provided valuable assistance to us.
From a producer’s perspective, are there major differences between working on a feature such as this and the more typical day-to-day corporate-type shoots, or is it much the same process?
Working on our creative documentary projects is very different from our corporate work. As a producer, I have to deal with more variability and risk. Due to the lack of significant production funding available in the UAE, the Champ of the Camp shoot was financed out of pocket.
This increased pressure on me to secure funding as we went, but it also left me free from the constrictions of a contracted budget. So, for instance, when Mahmoud [the director] came to me with a brilliant idea for a new scene beyond our original scope and budget, I had the flexibility to accommodate it and the film is stronger for that.
Another difference is that creative projects are harder to get off the ground here than corporate projects. But the creative films are our labour of love and that passion fuels us through all the obstacles that arise. I think our genuine love for the subject matter also trickles down to the crew. The energy on location while shooting this film was something special.
Finally - do you have any more news on the films likely completion date, or probable festival appearances/ premiere information?
The film will be finished before Christmas.There’s no news on premieres yet – our top choices of festival probably won’t notify selected films until late December / January.