CANNES -- Abu Dhabi's twofour54 has been picked by Disney to line-produce the United Arab Emirates portion of the "Star Wars: Episode VII" shoot, currently filming in the Emirates, Paul Baker, exec director of twofour54 intaj, revealed Wednesday in Cannes.
Speaking to Variety, Baker said that the "Star Wars" shoot was a great shot in the arm for the nascent UAE film biz: "It's the film, isn't it? If you are trying to build an industry and you manage to attract that film then it's a great start."
J.J. Abrams and the cast flew to Abu Dhabi in early May, with the support of the Abu Dhabi Film Commission and twofour54 intaj. Hundreds of local and international cast and crew are working on the production in Abu Dhabi with key production staff working closely with twofour54 intaj since January.
Six UAE nationals from twofour54′s internship program are working with the "Star Wars" crew, both in Abu Dhabi and at the U.K.'s Pinewood Studios, where the production is based.
"There's a wide number of reasons why 'Star Wars' chose to shoot in Abu Dhabi. Obviously, straight off the bat, you've got to get the creative right," said Baker, who was previously exec VP of Pinewood USA. "We have a great selection of locations that appeals to those guys. Then, there is everything else that falls into place: production infrastructure, crew, equipment suppliers, and obviously a big one in the rebate."
The 30% production rebate, which was launched two years ago, has proved popular with international producers. twofour54 and the Abu Dhabi Film Commission in the past 12 months have attracted several international productions, including Sony's paranormal thriller "Deliver Us from Evil," Universal Pictures' "Fast & Furious 7" and Bollywood movie "Bang Bang" from Fox Star Studios.
"We really started ramping up last year," Baker said. "We wanted to create a production environment that was international standards. So a producer can say: 'If I spend $1 million on the ground in Abu Dhabi, I am going to get $300,000 back.' So we launched the rebate, and I think that's had a big impact on the decision-making process."
Nick Vivarelli contributed to this report.
Why 'Star Wars: Episode VII' Decided to Shoot in Abu Dhabi (EXCLUSIVE)
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