By Mudassir Raja
Edge Picture Company, a British film production company, also has a regional office in Qatar. It was recently crowned Production Company of The Year Worldwide for the 13th year running at the New York Festival TV & Film Awards 2019.
The company was also crowned number one in Televisual’s Peer Poll 2019, and number two in the overall Top 50 companies, for its successful collaboration with some of the top-notch entities in Qatar including National Tourism Council, ExxonMobil, Sidra, Ooredoo, Qatar National Bank, Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy, and Qatar Petroleum.
Jamie Riordan is a British expatriate and Head of Production for The Edge Picture Company in Qatar. Community recently got in touch with the talented film director and producer to know more about his expertise and achievements.
Please tell us about your journey so far.
I started in the film and TV industry in London over 20 years ago with a varied career that spans documentary filmmaking in Yemen, Somalia, Sudan, and broadcast news in UK, British television in all its guises and commercial and corporate film.
I came to Qatar in 2009 for the Doha Tribeca Film Festival (DTFF) where I met my wife Victoria. We have two children Aya and Marguax. We fell in love with Qatar and after two years of returning for DTFF, I finally took a position with the Doha Film Institute (DFI). After a couple of years with DFI, The Edge approached me to open their first office in Qatar, an offer that was hard to refuse and, in 2014, I joined The Edge and started to build our team here.
What kind of work has The Edge been doing in Qatar? What are the things that you find unique about the Qatari market?
Qatar is unique in many ways. The cultural diversity you find with people from all over the world living and working together brings such value to a creative business. At The Edge, we have employees from all corners of the globe, bringing their own ideas to the table which enriches the work we do. There is a real can-do attitude in Qatar, which is visible from the very top of Qatar’s leadership. This attitude runs deep in Qatari spirit. You can see that with the blockade, and this sentiment is passed down through the community and businesses alike. We see it in our employees in Doha all the time. We regularly turn around high profile film productions in record time.
What were the challenges that you faced when you first established your office here?
The Edge already had a solid footprint in Qatar when we opened the office in 2014. Our first project was the inauguration of Weil Cornell Medicine – Qatar back in 2005, so we were already well-known in the market. In that first year of being an official Qatari company, we won the prestigious Qatar Tourism Authority Brand film which went on to win 11 international film awards, as well as a massive three year contract with Hyundai/Ashghal documenting the Lusail Expressway.
The biggest challenge can be finding talent, and last minute sometimes too, but when you find them, they are worth the wait, we are so proud of our team at The Edge. Networking is a key to finding talent and I was fortunate to have first come to Qatar with the Doha Tribeca Film Festival back in 2009, followed by a senior position at Doha Film Institute, so this background and local knowledge was a great resource in finding talent to join our expanding team.
Can you share some of the successes of your company?
As a global agency, we produce over 400 films a year, and a large percentage of those go on to be award winners. It’s always such a privilege to win awards for our clients, and it also gives real recognition to the team involved, from the writers to producers to post production and distribution team.
The Edge have been crowned Production Company of the Year at New York Festivals for 13 years in a row. We regularly win awards at major festivals in Cannes, London and New York. Recently we produced a film for Sidra hospital to help build awareness about child abuse. The film also won awards at the London Brand Film Festival, The London Film Awards and The Cannes Film Awards.
What are some of the most prominent works that you have accomplished for Qatari institutions or projects that you are proud of?
It’s a long list, but recently we just completed 120 films for National Museum of Qatar as well as the digital documenting of 1000’s of artefacts which was a real honour and privilege.
A recent production for Shafallah Centre with ExxonMobil is something I am personally proud of. We were tasked with making a film that encourages inclusiveness, understanding and compassion for children living with intellectual disabilities. It’s a really important film that shows that just because people are different, they still absolutely have a role to play in family, society, and in the workplace. I was privileged to write and direct the film. It was really rewarding to work with the wonderful staff of Shafallah and their talented students.
What is the value you bring to the projects you undertake?
We pride ourselves at thinking outside of the box. We look at every project and every company differently. We work closely with the client so that we understand their brand philosophy, messaging and values, then come back to them with a fresh way at telling their story. We never forget that film is a powerful communication tool and our films have a lot of thought process going into the scripting, production and delivery.
The Edge Qatar works in harmony with our mother-ship, and we tap into a large creative development team when coming up with ideas that may not have been seen before in Qatar. Our local producers can reach out to our London team for specialist talent, such as 3D animators, or high-end grading, and we have a fantastic pool of producers and directors that come from London theatre, BBC drama, animation studios and British advertising.
We also take a project from ideation through to distribution, so when coming up with the creative we are also thinking about it in terms of delivery — will this be shown on YouTube, do we need short excerpts for social media etc.
How much has the film production changed or improved over the years?
Film production has changed an incredible amount since I first started out. When I was working in post-production in London in the early 2000s, at that time we were still editing on tape with hugely expensive hardware driven AVID machines. The digital shift has done away with the hardware expense of filmmaking and made it much more accessible to anyone who wants to get involved. This has allowed more people to share their stories with the world and Qatar is a shining example of a country that has a flare and passion for storytelling.
We are very lucky to be working in an ambitious, fertile market with bold, dynamic people from all over the world. As a company, we keep an eye on the shifts and trends in technology and how film is shared and distributed. We have explored and use a wide range of technologies as new ways of telling stories such as Virtual and Augmented Reality.
But regardless of the camera, the technique, or the trend, it’s the story that is always at the heart of our films, how it is told, what it says and most importantly how it makes an audience feel, react or change. It’s a powerful medium with the real ability to make a change.
What do you think is the future of film production in Qatar?
Qatar’s film production is on an upward trajectory and I can’t see that trend stopping anytime soon. We’re seeing our clients have a stronger appetite for more dynamic and bolder films and they’re always looking to collaborate on ideas outside of the box. The country as a whole is developing at an unprecedented pace in all sectors and Qatar’s film industry is no exception. DFI returning from Festival de Cannes recently with success in 7 official selections of their funded and co-funded films is a testament to the incredible growth and appreciation for Qatari film. In the 10 years I have been here. I have seen Qatari filmmakers grow and present their films on the international platform — an incredible achievement for Qatar’s film industry and a tribute to the success and creativity of the people of Qatar
What are the things you like about Qatar?
What I love about Qatar is that every week there is something amazing to see, my former boss, HE Sheikha Al Mayassa has a lot to be thanked for this.
The new National Museum of Qatar is spellbinding. You can walk under a Louise Bourgeois Spider at Qatar National Convention Center. I have watched the China State ballet perform The Nutcracker with my daughter, I’ve seen the sunset at Richard Serra East-West/West-East statues in the desert, as well as the huge collection of Damien Hurst that was here a few years back. For an art lover, it is a real privilege to live in a country where art is appreciated, and as the leadership commissions new pieces and acquire old, I look forward to seeing what will be next on the peninsula’s canvas.
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