Star Trek Beyond had the biggest budget of any film to shoot in Dubai, confirmed Jamal Al Sharif, chairman of Dubai Film and TV Commission, on Monday.
The first ‘sizzle’ of behind-the-scenes footage from around the city (Meydan, DIFC, JLT and Dubai Studio City included) was shown to press at the Dubai International Film Festival.
After, Al Sharif told tabloid! that Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol — which featured an iconic scene where Tom Cruise scaled the Burj Khalifa — had once been their costliest project, but not anymore.
“Mission: Impossible set a benchmark at $22 million. This is somewhere around $32 million dollars, plus soft incentives. This is just the Dubai budget. The main budget is over $200 million, I believe,” he said.
Abu Dhabi Film Commission offers a 30 per cent rebate as incentive to shoot in the capital city. Furious 7 was the latest film to take advantage of that. In Dubai, a rebate system doesn’t exist.
“Hopefully, we’re planning for one soon. We have customised incentives — we tailor it. From hotels, equipment, studios, location fees, police, civil defence, ambulance. We waived custom fees. These things really add up.”
Depending on the film, they can “add up” to anything between 10-45 per cent of costs.
When Al Sharif first began negotiations on this project, “everyone came to me and said, “This is Star Trek. Be careful. It’s big. They have big requirements. They have big demands.” I said that Star Trek is one small event in the middle of Dubai,” said Al Sharif.
The crew asked for a “mass amount” of studio space, props, workshops, steel, lumber, make-up, make-up artists and film extras, which were all sourced locally. They initially worried they wouldn’t have enough extras, but 2,000 people lined up outside of Dubai Studio City, including some who travelled from Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Oman.
Before the cast and crew landed in Dubai in October, they were filming in Vancouver.
“They shipped 11 tonnes of props from Canada to Dubai. Emirates Airline handled it. The Royal Wing handled it. Dubai customs had to search 11 tonnes of goods in 24 hours [and] scan them. You can’t find this in any other country. 10,000 square feet of warehouse were filled up with boxes of props,” said Al Sharif.
The exclusive sizzle shown at Diff, at just over a minute long, featured interviews with Zachary Quinto, Chris Pine, John Cho and Kurl Urban, who talked about the distinctive and futuristic architecture of Dubai.
Quinto called it “the city of the future” and Urban hoped for the opportunity to shoot in Dubai again.
“It was only once we got here that we knew how the third act was going to come together,” said executive producer, Jeffrey Chernov.
On whether anything went wrong with the shoot, Al Sharif said that all projects that come through Dubai are learning curves.
“Star Trek was a big benchmark for Dubai’s infrastructure. Until almost a week before shooting, everyone was asking me: “Can we do this?” I always [responded] in a positive way: “Yes, we can do this.” In the back of my head, I was like, “This is trouble. What did I get myself into?” But you never show that as a leader,” he said.
The shoot lasted for 20 days. It went over the original schedule of 16 when the crew added locations.
“They shot in the DIFC Central Park Towers — have you seen those black buildings with the V shaped cut? The shape of those buildings was so futuristic to the director. Those towers, the black towers, actually showed the scene where the [ship] crashed.”
Al Sharif added that a “major iconic building” would also be seen. Burj Khalifa, surely? “No. Burj Khalifa was presented as the now, the current, the present in Mission: Impossible. So it can’t be the future anymore. Something else.” Burj Al Arab, then? “I don’t know... You’ll have to see.”
The film is set for a worldwide release on July 22, 2016, and will have a red-carpet premiere in Dubai. Al Sharif is expecting the stars to attend, though who shows up will depend on availability.
“I don’t know if we’re going to get all, but hopefully we’ll get everyone,” he added.
As for what’s next in Dubai, Al Sharif is in negotiations with two major films, one from Hollywood and one from Bollywood. He can’t divulge much just yet.
“It could be in 2016-2017. Hollywood, especially, takes a long time to be planned.”