Industry insiders discuss Saudi Arabia as a production hub at Red Sea 360° 

DUBAI: International experts in the film industry this week discussed Saudi Arabia’s efforts to become a leading production hub at Red Sea 360° —a four-day industry event at Red Sea Souk during the Red Sea International Film Festival.  

The event hosts a series of talks on production, innovation and finance in the entertainment industry. It is welcoming over 50 panellists from all over the world for the 2022 edition. 

“It’s a new market for us and it’s quickly expanding, and it’s very young when compared to European audiences,” said Livia Van Der Staay, who is in charge of business development at France’s Wild Bunch Intl., during a panel at the event.  

“It’s also interesting from a talent’s perspective because with new audiences comes an emergence of new talent. We’ve worked with Middle Eastern directors many times but never a Saudi, so we are really looking forward to discovering their talent,” he added. 

Van Der Staay also talked about the tax incentives, including the 40 percent cash rebate established this year by the Saudi Film Commission.  

“Everybody knows about the incentives and it’s great to see people taking these opportunities. I am in the middle of a Saudi production where we applied for the rebate, and it’s looking like it will be an efficient system,” he said. 

The panel centered on the importance of creating local productions instead of replicating work done in Western countries.  

“The idea is not to adapt to other standards, is to see the perception the audiences here have of the films and how we can adapt to the specificities of a region,” added Van Der Staay. “The idea is not to renounce a culture, so it fits in a sort of mold.” 

US producer, publisher and media consultant David Uslan said that he is interested in producing stories from the region. “I spend a lot of time in places like Saudi looking for content we can build off from. I have been surprised with the quality of what has been created in this region, so that is what we have been hunting down, the next IP to adapt into franchises,” he said.