Greenstone Pictures, a New Zealand production house which set up an office in Dubai Studio City last year, has revealed to BroadcastPro ME that it now has a strong slate of stories from the region in development. The four-member, female-led team in Dubai specialises in producing factual entertainment and documentary series, with projects to be announced in the coming months.
“The MENA region has many fascinating stories that haven’t reached screens yet,” Greenstone NZ CEO Rachel Antony told BroadcastPro ME. “We are here to tell stories that haven’t been told before, from a local perspective. There is such a wealth of knowledge, history and amazing characters in the region.”
New Zealand is a small market of four and a half million people, and Greenstone was looking to expand its business into new markets. Its shows, produced in New Zealand and Australia, include factual series such as Border Patrol, Highway Cops, Dog Squad and obesity series The Big Ward, as well as documentaries on arts, culture, heritage and the environment, and educational children’s content such as Young Ocean Explorers and Kitchen Science. With these productions screening in more than 30 countries, they saw huge potential in the Middle East.
Antony has been coming to the region periodically for the last three years, and explains: “It’s not a decision made lightly. While drama is hugely popular in the region, we want to focus more on factual entertainment and observational reality.”
“We are specialists at covering quite complex stories that require a lot of time to produce and develop. It’s not just a couple of weeks’ shoot,” Tara Pradhan, CEO of Greenstone Middle East, explained. “We realised that if we were serious about the Middle East, we would need to commit to being here, and build relationships.
“We have been incredibly fortunate to secure Rania Ajjour as our Head of Production; she has a wealth of experience in the region and is a fantastic fit for our way of working. We are building relationships with channels and broadcasters, and with government entities and some of the amazing local crew and suppliers.
“For our kind of projects, we plan to use a combination of local and international crew, and knowledge share. Part of our approach is to build capability and capacity, and build a roster of suppliers and crew that we can work with who understand our type of factual storytelling. We would like to serve this market with their own stories first, and take it out to the rest of the world as well.”
The team has already been in talks with government entities in the UAE, having worked closely with similar organisations in New Zealand.
“We work with police, immigration, conservation, health, education and other government entities in New Zealand and Australia to deliver some of their strategic messages in entertaining top-rating formats that audiences respond to; Border Patrol is one such example,” Pradhan pointed out. “A lot of the people we have spoken to have said they want to see more of their own stories. Our productions show the heart of people’s stories and reflect a mix of cultures.”
New Head of Production Rania Ajjour concluded: “We are excited about the opportunity to tell the real stories of this region and to build our business here. Greenstone has been going for over 20 years in New Zealand, and it’s a privilege to be part of this new adventure.”