Breaking into the film business is hard in any part of the world, but it was almost impossible in Dubai a decade ago when there was almost no local industry.
Ali Mansoor started working as a runner for an English production company after finishing a degree in aerospace engineering, but he found it hard getting the big break, with international companies that were working in the Emirates preferring to employ people from their own countries.
But today Ali is chairman of the hugely successful Arabian Studios production company, which works with clients internationally, has offices in Paris, London, Milan and Beirut as well as here in Dubai and is responsible for a number of films and commercials.
Speaking about how he broke the mould, Ali said, “It was hard for me to say ‘I’m a local’ and make people believe in me, so I had to start my career outside of Dubai. I started in Paris and created a huge database of clients. It slowly grew and we opened an office in Milan.”
In different production roles, Ali has been involved in a number of films including Arabian Felix and The Survivor as well as around 400 TV commercials for brands including Pepsi, Etisalat, Hugo Boss, Channel and Mercedes.
Ali was first attracted to film as he feels it’s a medium which can positively change people. He said, “One movie can change the world’s way of thinking and we in the Arab world need a different way. It’s an educational tool. I like to be a leader. I like it when I say something for people to listen to me. In movies, in entertainment, it’s always easier to develop a vision which I want to achieve and put it into people’s minds in an entertaining way. Some people don’t like being told what to do, but when you translate your message in a different way, in a dramatic way, let’s say, it actually works and makes people understand in their way. For example, the movie Samurai transformed the whole of the Japanese world. Every project I’m involved in is part of me giving a message.”
While Dubai’s economic downturn had a negative impact on many businesses, it attracted Ali back to the Emirates as he felt only the toughest and most astute could have survived it. He said, “Dubai was going in the wrong direction. People who didn’t make anything were making big money, and the locals were just waiting, looking around and we all knew it was going to finish. Fast come, fast go. We looked at it going up, up, up and suddenly everyone disappeared. Even presidents of companies didn’t know anything. The people who stayed are the people that are actually real, that know what they are doing. So when I came back, I started talking to these people in the business language.”
Speaking about his long-term ambition, Ali said, “The goal I want to reach is to make a film that really changes the Arab world.” For more information about Arabian Studios, visit www.arabianstudios.com.
Ali Mansoor's top 5 places
Dubai Mall - I find it interesting looking at the locals, and how they select their clothes.
Grand Hyatt Spa - I go there to think things through and plan my daily challenges.
The cinema - I like it as I completely disconnect from everything in the world.
Teatro - I lived in that hotel for three years. I like everything about it!
Emirates Lounge - There’s so many different people there that I like to see.