This month we’re talking to our Head of Production in the Middle East, Poppy Clinton.
Hey Popps, thanks for chatting to us!
Tell us a bit about your role?
As Head of Production my role is pretty diverse, I’m responsible for running the day to day of the production office in Qatar, as well as overseeing all of the projects. Each year I produce an array of films and TVC’s myself, and work alongside our producers on their productions, to ensure they (and their PA’s) have support, and can come to me for advice on their projects.
I meet a lot of clients face to face, and having worked in Doha for 4 years, I’ve developed some longstanding client relationships with people we work for on a regular basis.
What part of your job do you love the most?
Once we’ve been awarded a project, I love working with the director to bring the film to life, working to interpret his/her vision as well as solving the challenges that come with any production. Then brainstorming with the team to solve problems. Most of all I love being out on the shoot – that’s my favourite part, making it happen. And then in the edit, I get huge satisfaction (and sometimes breathe a sigh of relief!) when it all comes together.
You used to work for The Edge in London, how does production at The Edge Qatar differ?
Qatar is a unique place to work – it’s very culturally diverse, we work with clients from over 50 countries and our team hails from at least 16 countries, this means everyone has a different starting point, and a different perspective, and a lot of different ideas are brought to the table. The pace is different – the projects tend to have shorter turnaround times, and there’s lots more phone calls and face to face meetings than in the UK.
We’re a smaller team so we tend to wear lots of hats and we train our production teams, whether it’s Producers, Production Managers or Production Assistants to do many different things, we want them to have many strings to their bow. So they work across pitches and proposals to the productions themselves. Everyone is different, and has different interests so we try to nurture that so that everyone feels fulfilled and stimulated by the variety of work.
What projects have you recently been working on?
I’m producing six different films at the moment which vary from a new brand film for a major player in the gas industry, to a couple of comms campaigns in the medical sector, to some TVC’s in the banking world which are being launched each week.
I’m also producing a short film in conjunction with Doha Film Institute, working with a young very promising Qatari director Khalifa Al Thani. It’s a drama set in a futuristic world, so the team and I are very excited about it. Watch this space!
Can you think of a career highlight?
Not long ago, after I came back from a 3 week holiday, one of my colleagues turned to me and he said the thing I like about you, is you’ve always got our back. That means more to me than any award.
Tell us your greatest adventure whilst working in film production.
There are so many!!
Here’s one that springs to mind! While shooting for a client in the mangroves a couple of years ago, we were filming a scene with a ‘Qatari family’ kayaking through the mangroves, we set off from Doha and met the boat up at Al Thakira, and embarked on the journey. However not long after (and quite far out to sea) it transpired the captain hadn’t checked the tide times so we got caught out at low(ish) tide and the boat was stuck in the mud… there were about 10 of us on the boat, 5 crew, 4 cast and the captain. So the director, DOP and I rolled up our trousers, took our shoes off and climbed in up to waist height to push the boat out of the mud.
We made slow progress, compounded by the fact the director was then stung by some unknown sea creature – and I, as the producer was responsible for all. I really had to consider our options, should I call the Coast Guard? The director started feeling better, so we pushed on, we ended up arriving at the filming location with 45 mins to spare before sunset and having to film everything at record speed, just as the female cast member mentioned she didn’t know how to swim… anyway we lived to tell the tale, it all ended well and we captured some gorgeous shots!
You’ve shot around the world – what’s unique about filming in Qatar?
The heat! The conditions can be a bit of a challenge especially when we have campaigns to shoot from June to September time – we put certain things in place, we have easy-ups, cold boxes, cold towels and take regular breaks, but it is a unique challenge.
As I said earlier, the turnaround times can be incredible short, but the team thrive when under pressure and we love when everything comes together against the odds – it’s like magic!
What’s your most memorable location/shoot to date in Qatar?
There are so many and they each mean something special to me. Last year I produced a new film for the Al Shafallah Centre, we worked with children with special needs, putting them front and centre, giving them lines of dialogue.
It was an incredibly touching project, and especially so when – at the launch event – one of the mothers came up to me, grasped my hand and said, thank you so much for what you’ve done for my son. That brought tears to my eyes and brought the value of it right home.
I have too many stories to count from The Essence of Qatar for the National Tourism Council – a lifetime of funny stories for sure.
Give us an example of a film where you distilled the message and captured the beauty?
The Essence of Qatar and Senses of Qatar, both produced for the National Tourism Council, were projects where we had to really dig deep into the local culture, to deliver a film which went beyond the stereotypes and clichés, we wanted to feel like it came from a local perspective. To do this, Leo Dalessandri (director) Jack Coulter (co-producer) and I did a lot of research and recces and engaged several local Qatari specialists as cultural advisors as well as Peter Webber – Director of The Girl with a Pearl Earring, who has worked in Qatar extensively, he was able to advise on several elements, so we were able to get them just right. The film won 14 awards in New York, London, Hamburg and in Cannes, so a good result all around.