Making an Emirati Western (Part 2)

ACT TWO – Where can we get some horses?

Ah, yes. The horses. This is what had lead me to this spot, urgently reminding my camera operator to ‘format the SD card’ as we set up the first shot of the day, beneath the palm trees at the stable gates. (Incidently, when Brad Pitt’s production team for War Machine (release due May 2017 on Netflix

) were looking for stand in locations for Afghanistan, they used the exact same location two years later!) I’m guessing they didn’t have less than twelve hours to find it like we did. But, one of the perks of working with my students – all locals from the UAE – is that one of them usually knows the right person to talk to in case you need a horse farm at short notice (or a helicopter, or a palace). And sure enough, as we drew our genre from the pot – randomly assigned at the 48 hour launch event – and read out our fate: ‘Western...’ The first words out of my mouth were ‘where can we get some horses?’ A five minute phone call later and one of my boys had the answer. His uncle’s horse farm in Ras Al Khaimah – an hour north of Dubai.

By the time we got back to production HQ, half an hour later, we’d added another couple of elements to our Emirati Western. Obviously we had to include the high noon showdown, the quest for revenge, the wanted poster … but we had another weapon in our arsenal… twin actors! The only question was, how to use them? And how to get it all onto the page – script, storyboard, shotlist (ha!) before arriving on set in 10 hours (and counting?) Somehow, we found a way. With hindsight, we probably would have been better off not being so ambitiously epic in our storytelling - the complexity and subtlety of our plot were not best served by the seven minute format! Try to imagine how Dances With Wolves would look if it were forced into a seven minute cut! (although Waterworld would certainly have benefited from such a restriction).

Back to 6.45. Our first shot of the day, our actors are dressed and we’re getting cameras set up for a nice, easy close up of… oh, wait. No, that’s not what happened at all. We’d decided instead to start our shoot with a wide angle master of a bandit on a horse trotting up behind two actors then dismounting and firing off a shot with his rifle as our two protagonists try to make a get away with a bag of gold. Simple enough, right?

The concluding act - coming soon...

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