MBC Studios’ Zeinab Abu Alsamh Talks Rapid Growth Of Saudi Industry, Opening Up Programming Options & Opportunities For Women — Deadline Disruptors

Zeinab Abu Alsamh has only been the general manager of MBC Studios Saudi Arabia for a year, but with the breakneck speed at which the local industry is growing, she says it has felt more like five.

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“Things are happening much faster than I anticipated,” says the Saudi native. “But it’s great because for the last 40 years our stories haven’t come out, I’m not even talking about the world, I’m talking about coming out even for us.”

Abu Alsamh, who was previously the chief commercial officer of the Saudi Broadcasting Authority, is responsible for overseeing all Saudi content and development projects for MBC Studios, the in-house production arm of Saudi-owned free-to-air network giant MBC. , as well as expanding the content production industry in the kingdom.

With 13 different regions and a population of 30 million people, two-thirds of whom are under 35 and hungry for content, Abu Alsamh says it’s an extraordinary time to be a filmmaker in the country.

“People are eager to be a part of this thriving industry,” she says. “There are parts of the country that even I, as a local, don’t know much about. So every time I get scripts from different areas of Arabia, I get really excited because it’s a first step and everything is new. We have so many stories to cover that haven’t been represented to us yet.”

Abu Alsamh was instrumental in facilitating the filming of the two biggest Hollywood productions in the country: the $100 million action film + desert warriorwith Anthony Mackie and Aiysha Hart, shot in the Neom region of the country, and kandahar with Gerald Butler which was filmed around AlUla.

“It was very important to have these productions here because it laid the groundwork for other productions to come,” he says, noting that the experience the local crews were able to gain from these projects was invaluable. “Every time I go to these sets, I always talk to the interns to see how they are doing, what the experience has been like for them, and it is always like a dream come true for them to have this opportunity to work on a production without having to leave the office. country”.

The executive is especially looking forward to his next series. witches Rising, which is one of the highest budget television series in the country to date. The story is based on a Saudi novel and follows the rise of two covens of witches who ultimately go to war with each other.

“It’s very cutting-edge and very modern,” says Abu Alsamh. “It’s mystical and fantastical and such exciting material for us to work with and offer to the public.” The show features an all-Saudi cast and is also filmed in Neom.

MBC is also busy with a local version of The office. “Our workspace is unique and not open to anyone,” says Abu Alsamh. “Families don’t know how their children work in offices and it will be great to portray this interaction between men and women from different backgrounds coming together in one space. I am very excited about this opportunity.”

Read the digital edition of Deadline's Cannes/Disruptors magazine for 2022 here.

Read the digital edition of Deadline’s Cannes/Disruptors magazine for 2022 here.

Abu Alsamh also runs the MBC Academy, an education and training platform with the aim of discovering and upgrading Saudi talent. “We’re booming right now so we need a lot of talent and we’re always trying to grow our local skill set through this,” she says. “It’s important to recruit new faces, get acting coaches and build our industry from scratch.”

Abu Alsamh is especially passionate about empowering women in business. As a mother of two daughters, who also has three sisters, Abu Alsamh says it is a great directive for her to make it easier for Saudi female voices to be heard in the film and television sector.

“From a company standpoint, MBC has always striven to empower women, whether it’s in productions or empowering executives within the organization,” she says. “It is a very holistic, comfortable and diverse place to work. But personally, I’m very passionate about empowering women. There are a lot of women in my family, and I feel like it’s our responsibility to make this world a better place, as cliche as that sounds. It inspires me to see what women can do: we are fantastic creatures.”

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