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Inside AlUla Creates’ short film competition: The program supporting women directors from Saudi Arabia  

DUBAI: Saudi Arabia’s Film AlUla, the film agency of The Royal Commission for AlUla,  recently announced its partnership with British production company Vertigo Films to present AlUla Creates’ short film competition, a program that will support three Saudi women directors in the international marketplace. Now, the key players are opening up about why the initiative is so important.  

“We will be mentoring three female Saudi filmmakers to make short films based on an original idea, with a view to launching the filmmakers at an international film festival, where we hope their films will be screened,” said Jane Moore, CEO of Vertigo Films, in an interview with Arab News.   

“We’ll be working closely with them during the development and production of their shorts. (And we) will be introducing them to other industry professionals, sales companies, distribution companies and giving them exposure to the production environment,” she added.   

With Saudi Arabia looking to rapidly expand in the field of arts and entertainment, the moment felt right to explore the region and mine it for talent.  

“Saudi Arabia has a population of over 35 million and that means there’s a huge opportunity for a mass of new talent. Whatever we can do to be a part of the movement and encourage that talent in the international marketplace will be great for everyone — specifically women,” said Vertigo Films founder James Richardson.  

The initiative has tapped Saudi filmmaker Haifaa Al-Mansour and US director, producer, and actor Katie Holmes as mentors for the program.  

“Essentially, we’ve got two people hugely experienced in their respective fields in Haifaa and Katie,” said Richardson.  

“The idea that there’s someone who has come from the region and has launched her own international career was very important to have as part of the team. Also, Katie Holmes is a hugely experienced Hollywood actress and director. So, we have the best people we could have to help us and be part of this mentoring process.”  

When asked about what advice they’d like to give to young filmmakers from the Kingdom, Moore said, “I think that you should be a huge consumer of media yourself. You’ve got to learn from other people, learn from the best and really watch a lot of films, television commercials, music videos and so on.  

“I think that you need to keep on developing your skills — not only creative skills but also leadership, management, time management and organizational skills, because those are all incredibly important when you’re on a film set.”  

Richardson, meanwhile, talked about the importance of having a thick skin if you want to make it in the film business.  

“Tenacity is also essential. A lot of people are going to turn you down. You’ve got to really believe in what you do, and you’ve really got to go on and try and knock through some of those rejections,” he said.  

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