Saudi Arabia’s General Culture Authority has announced the launch of the Saudi Film Council. The body is being established as the Kingdom lifts a 35-year-old ban on public movie theaters and as it looks to create infrastructure for the local industry. Faisal Baltyuor has been named as CEO.
The Film Council’s stated aims are to build a dynamic film and content ecosystem through sustained and strategic development across core industry pillars. Throughout 2018, it will “pioneer multiple initiatives to lay a solid foundation for industry growth,” including streamlined filming processes and support services, a National Fund for Saudi filmmakers, and year-round training programs and skills workshops for talent development, both in the Kingdom and internationally.
The initiatives are part of the Vision 2030 program under the aegis of Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman who wants to propel economic diversification through new industries.
Baltyour said today, “Given the incredible creative energy and talent within our country’s young, diverse population, Saudi Arabia is uniquely positioned to develop a vibrant and commercially successful film and content sector that tells Saudi stories at home and to the rest of the world. Over the past few months, we hosted several workshops with many of the country’s leading filmmakers and have incorporated their insights into the wealth of strategic initiatives we will be rolling out in 2018 and beyond.”
GCA CEO Ahmed Almaziad commented, “We will nurture cultural talent and support cultural diversity as a key element of our Saudi identity… We recognize that this is a historic moment within our country’s cultural journey and will foster this important industry which plays a key role in overall economic growth and development.”
Saudi has been swift in laying the groundwork for the future industry with the Crown Prince, aka MBS, known to be a man of action. In early January, Deadline reported that a ratings system for film was being developed; that will likely now fall under the SFC. And, a knock-on effect from theaters opening in the country is the positive impact it should have on the local production industry.
The Kingdom is touting the economic contributions of a growing film and content industry, including job creation, services spending, infrastructure development and tourism, as well as social impact through cultural influence and a new Arab narrative in film.
With the Crown Prince currently on a tour of the United States, there’s been much media attention paid to the Kingdom’s moves. It’s making a big push overall into the entertainment sector, planning to invest $64B over the next 10 years. The sovereign Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia is also close to closing a deal to acquire 5%-10% of Endeavor (the holding company for WME) for $400M.