Dubai’s production community creates commercial for TCF

One High Definition camera and a little money went a long way when The Citizens Foundation (TCF) wanted to film a commercial about its activities in the interiors of Pakistan.

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By  Vijaya Cherian Published  July 3, 2006

|~||~||~|Late last year, a small team comprising a director, a producer and a cameraman went down from Dubai with a HD camera and a little money into the deep interiors of Pakistan to do a commercial for The Citizens Foundation (TCF), a charity organisation founded by a group of Pakistani businessmen, to educate low-income children in the country. The team, led by Dubai-based producer/director, Danish Mumtaz, found itself ridden with challenges while filming for the commercial. “Producing this commercial in Karachi was a huge challenge,” says Mumtaz, who led this effort to promote the work of the Foundation and encourage more donations towards the education of these children. The advertisements are due to run in customised formats on the ARY channel in different parts of the world. “I have been raising funds for TCF for the last four years,” says Mumtaz, who hails from Pakistan. “Part of my thesis in the US, where I went for higher studies, was based on a TV campaign that I made in 2002 for TCF. However, it wasn’t until I came to Dubai that I got the opportunity to air it on ARY Digital. The old one is pretty outdated now so I decided it was time to do a new one and roped in film director, Anthony L’hullier and Mike Charlton from Atlas TV, both of who are based in Dubai.” The script L’hullier wrote for the commercial was initially much larger than the current version and involved a cast of 12 to 15 children, including both girls and boys, says Mumtaz. Owing to the fact that most of these schools catered to rural children, permission was required from parents to film their daughters. Other challenges included travelling to schools in remote villages, getting financial support and free equipment from major market players as well as hiring local production crew. Together, the team went to a fishing village at the edge of Sindh, where one of the TCF schools was located. “This was a typical rural place where the roads were so bad that we had to use a bike for a major part of the journey. There, seated in the midst of the fishing village with the old huts, fishing nets and fisherfolk is a freshly painted colourful building with two storeys, a playground and a generator for electricity. The building has a modern feel to it and is in complete contrast to the fishing village around it, and yet, we see a certain harmony between the two,” explains Mumtaz. Again, the team would have liked to shoot on film but budget constraints compelled them to go for the next best thing: an HD camera. Charlton had offered to do the camera work for this commercial. The shoot was organised during Ramadan last year when all members of the team were more likely to be free from their work in Dubai. Perhaps one of the big challenges of the shoot was getting everything they had planned for. L’hullier, for one, had an elaborate script, elaborate plans and was determined to get all of it on camera. This, of course, brought with it several issues. For one, the team needed a crane to get top angle shots but with a very small budget at hand, it was difficult for them to procure one. The ultimate resort was to dine with a few top producers in Pakistan and try and wrangle a few freebies for the commercial. This is what the team eventually did, and got a few hired help as well. Another issue was traveling with expensive equipment in a country known for daylight robberies and roadside attacks. “Driving in Karachi with all that equipment definitely meant we’d need some protection,” says Mumtaz. “Luckily, TCF has a couple of ex-military personnel in their group so they arranged for a couple of guards to accompany us and they took care of many things including crowd control for us,” adds Mumtaz. One of the most exhausting parts of the shoot was filming a scene in which all the students gathered together for the morning assembly. “This is a scene in which all the children in the school gather in the morning for the assembly. Since we didn’t get the shot right the first time or for the next ten takes, it meant that every time the children dispersed, they had to be called back again to reassemble in the main courtyard but we did manage it finally,” says Mumtaz. There’s another challenging scene in which each child is to say a part of a sentence. “We only had to post dub two children for this. The rest were fine,” he says. Once the production was done, the team returned to Dubai, where it is being colour corrected at Nirvana, a post production house located in Dubai Media City. “Manasvi Gosalia of Nirvana has very sophisticated systems at his disposal such as Avid, Smoke and Flame. He’ll be able to give the commercial the sophistication it requires,” says Mumtaz. Likewise, Richie Birkett of audio house, Creative Force has offered to do the sound track for the commercial. “Each of these people have offered their skills and time free-of-charge for this project,” says Mumtaz. “If we had to pay them for their efforts and the rest of the production and post, this project would have cost us at least US $100,000. Instead, we only spent about US $3000 from our pocket. We had two versions, one with and one without dialogue. It might end up being 60 seconds and the ad will be beamed through ARY to different countries. Depending on the country, parts of the ad will be customised." With the commercial, the team hopes to direct more people to the activities of TCF, which is aiming to have reached a target of 1000 schools that educate more than 300,000 students by the year 2015. In fact, they currently have plans to build 60 schools, 40 of which will be in areas devastated by the recent earthquake. Hopefully, the commercial will do justice to the efforts of the Foundation.||**||

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