Fast and Furious lessons

21 Apr 2014

Our young Emirati interns talk about their experience on the set of Fast & Furious 7

We’ve heard plenty about the antics of the celebrity cast of Fast & Furious 7 over the past few days, but with the cameras no longer rolling and the cast and crew heading back to Hollywood, it seemed a good time to catch up with some of the people who don’t make it into the papers every time they sit down for a meal or emerge on the steps of Emirates Palace.

As part of its mission to develop the UAE production industry, every time Abu Dhabi’s production hub twofour54 attracts a big international production to the capital – in return for the myriad support and services producers receive, from visa help to rebates – they are required to give a number of aspiring Emirati film professionals internships on the set, where they will hopefully learn the skills needed to work on international productions and pass the knowledge on to their peers in the local industry.

One such intern on Fast & Furious 7 was Omar Al Muflahi, who was granted study leave from his media and communications course at Birmingham City University in the United Kingdom to come home and work on the film.

“It was really hard work but really, really good. I was on the splinter unit and we were mostly based around driving rather than acting, out on location in Al Ain, Liwa, lots of different locations,” Al Muflahi recalls.

“I had no idea of what went in to filming even two seconds of the production – it’s been an amazing experience.”

Working one’s way up

As he was on the second unit, Al Muflahi didn’t have much chance to interact with the stars and, of course, as a member of the crew, even when he did see them he had to retain a professional approach.

He had plenty of chances to mix with the film’s primary crew, however, including meeting the director James Wan, and says he learnt some valuable lessons.

“I was basically the lowest rank on set,” he says. “I was handing out water bottles, delivering SD cards and things like that. But all the crew – from the director, assistant directors, the unit production manager, director of photography ­– they all told me that they started at that level, too. That’s how it is with media, you start at the bottom and work your way up.”

Nitty-gritty experience

Al Muflahi is convinced the system twofour54 has put in place for interns can have a real positive effect on the local industry.

“It’s difficult for young Emiratis,” he says. “We get loads of support from the government, but we don’t actually get the real nitty-gritty experience of how things are done and this gave us a great, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. This is my first internship on a production and it was a huge Hollywood feature film, so I couldn’t pass that up.”

Al Muflahi’s only slight regret is that he missed the wrap party at Etihad Towers when shooting was complete – he says that he had missed about four family weddings recently and had to find the time to visit relatives while he was back in the UAE.

But he’s not overly concerned: “I got the experience, I got the contacts and I got to say bye to everyone before they left. I’d jump at the chance to do it again.”

Once in a lifetime

One man who didn’t miss the wrap party was Mohamed Yahia, who served most of his internship working in casting, where he helped organise hundreds of local cast members.

“The party was mostly for crew, but Nathalie Emmanuel was there from the cast and James Wan, too,” he says. “It was no big deal. The first day of shooting all the cast were there and we were all star-struck, but after that it just becomes an everyday thing.”

Yahia took time off from his day job as a product development manager at Etihad Airways to do his internship and he has a refreshingly realistic approach to his dreams of a career in the industry: “I might not move into film full-time just yet as it’s still not a fully established industry,” he explains. “But I hope to be a part of growing it and if that succeeds, then, why not?”

Yahia recalls: “It was really hard work – I did 10 days on the production in total and on the third day we finished working at 2.30am, then had a 4.30am call next day and worked till about 10pm, but it was an amazing experience.

“It was the most difficult 10 days and the most enjoyable 10 days I’ve had for a long time. It really was once-in-a-lifetime and I’d gladly do it all again. I’d do it all day everyday if I could, so I really hope the industry gets there.”


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