Q&A

  1. What effects have technological advances had on the production business?
    The wave of technological advances in the industry, over the last few years, has had both positive and negative effects.  With rapid changes taking place in both equipment and media management, companies have had to do a complete rehaul on the preparation and set up of productions.  Productions today have to ensure that a comprehensive and tight media management policy is in place before they commence and that all crews understand and comply with these policies.  There are so many formats available to crews in terms of hard equipment, like cameras and software that confusion can reign along the production chain.  However, on the positive side, the wide variety of high quality, low cost technology available has opened up a vista of possibilities, to creators and producers, unthinkable only a few years ago.  High-end production equipment and versatile and sophisticated post-production applications and equipment have become very affordable for tight budgets.The downside of rapid technological advances has been in both the comprehensive understanding and usability of these technologies by crews and producers as well as a lack in the fundamental understanding of the management of these technologies.  Moving from analogue to file based technologies has created a whole slew of problems in the management, archiving and retrieval of these files.  For a company like Firehorse, the effect of technological advances has been to invest in a Digital Asset Management system.  A few years ago we created an Archive Department to deal with the impact of these technologies.  Our archive department is staffed with knowledgeable personnel who are trained in archiving and retrieval of information and is the hub for all production and post-production traffic in the company.
  2. What genres are trending most & why?
    From our experience at Firehorse, genres and trends in the industry tend to have a five-year cycle.  Lifestyle programmes and Women’s Issues are currently the hot topics on most Arab channels.  The Arab women’s movements mushrooming across the region have brought women’s issues and the empowerment of women into the foreground and the television and media industries have quickly followed with talk shows, lifestyle shows, cooking shows and the like.
  3. What are the fundamental transformations in the industry today?
    There are two fundamental transformations in the industry today, the first is technological and the second is the viewing experience.  Programs are no longer watched on one screen and have not been for some time.  This has created a challenge to producers and creators in the industry, in that what is watched on television, is not necessarily the same as that, which is watched on the internet or mobile.  This has created the need for what is known as ‘content architecture’.  A fairly new title for a creative producer with the ability to manipulate the same content across different viewing platforms.
  1. Currently, most communication outlets have a digital presence. What kind of content is being offered to online users & how, if applicable, does it differ from the traditional channels?
    Content in all genres is being offered online from traditional programming to specially created online or mobile content.  The difference is not the programming or the content but the viewer interactivity with the programming, the programs shelf life and its global reach.
  2. People today consume content using mobile devices more than ever. What are some of your strategies catering to those individuals & what related content is being communicated?
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  3. What are some of the big ideas you’ve executed & and what are some of those currently in the pipeline?
    With two decades of experience in the industry we have tackled many big challenges at Firehorse.  In the past year we accomplished two big idea challenges.  The first was in entering and winning a Saudi government bid to rebrand all Saudi Television and Radio Channels.  Entering the Saudi market was very tough and the competition fierce.  Winning the bid was only the first hurdle in this exciting project.  Apart from the rebranding we were tasked with the setting up of a centralized Creative Department, which included the generation of all promotions and graphics for all Saudi Television Channels as well as designing and building new studios.  Our second challenge was producing our first large-scale lifestyle show for MBC4.  Dr. Chef was the first originally produced show that has aired on MBC4.Some of our previous challenges include being asked by Abu Dhabi Television to create a series of programmes to launch their Emirates Channel a few years ago, they gave us one month to create, produce and manage seven programs, five of which were daily live shows.  This leviathan production challenge included; Jarida Bila Warak (five daily live current affairs and social shows), Muthir Lil Jadal (weekly political and current affairs show) and Joozoor (weekly show).One of our greatest challenges was entering the secret and dangerous world of Al-Qaeda and other salafist groups by making a series of hard hitting political documentaries and talk shows.  Documentary series like ‘Al Moukayada Al Kobra’ and ‘Adwa Ala Zouloumat’ highlighted our credibility as film-makers who can gain access to people and exclusive material in very difficult and dangerous conditions.  The objectivity and depth of these programmes were highly appreciated by the world’s media and covered by the likes of the BBC and CNN as some of the most interesting and informative documentaries coming out of the Middle East.  Documentaries like ‘Al Moukayada Al Kobra’ also showed that this type of programming was very lucrative for the broadcaster as there was a return on their investment from very high advertising revenues. On a much lighter note, in 2012, we were given twelve days to shoot a promotion for Manama Capital of Culture, for the Bahrain Ministry of Culture, which included scoring a two-minute opera and recording it with the Prague Philharmonic.  The timeline for this project was extremely tight but the result was astounding.  Finally, the most profound big idea, which we executed and, which in essence launched us as a production company was pioneering the documentary strand in the Arab World with a series of programmes on religion and on the politics of groups like Hezbollah and Al-Qaeda.
  1. What have been the most difficult challenges faced in the past year, how were these overcome & what would you say are some of the advantages you offer over the competition?
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