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Omani duo facilitate filming the glory of Oman

27 Dec 2023 oman fixer By HUBERT VAZ

Oman Fixer, a company started by two enterprising brothers – Jassim and Sami al Lawati – a decade ago, has been providing a high level of efficiency and quality to international productions seeking to film in the sultanate. In their own little way, the duo has been showcasing the sultanate in good light to the world

There’s an unmistakable effervescence in his voice as he reels out intricate details of his expertise and enthusiasm to take Oman across the globe in a way that would not only elevate the sultanate as a ‘not to be missed’ destination for tourists but also bring in the moolah like never before.

For Jassim Jaffer al Lawati, joint proprietor of Oman Fixer (a company he started along with his brother Sami, to film varied aspects of Oman as well as provide logistics support to international film makers) the race has just begun. The duo, who have learnt from as well as worked alongside some talented filmmakers and production companies in the UK, have, indeed, bagged some very prestigious filming projects in Oman. Yet, they admit, that the immense potential of offering the glory of Oman to professionals from abroad remains underutilised.

With a team of experienced film fixers based in Oman, Jassim and Sami are enthusiastic about helping filmmakers capture the beauty of Oman on celluloid for varied productions in different countries. And, their in-depth understanding of the local culture, along with their extensive resources and network, gives them the courage to offer a ‘one-stop solution’ for all film production needs, from location scouting to securing permits, renting equipment and managing logistics.

Head of production, Jassim Jaffer has worked on commercials, feature films and factual TV for BBC, Sky, CNBC, ITV, and Discovery channel, including a BBC Natural History Blue chip production filming in the central and southern parts of Oman. In an exclusive tete-a-tete, Jassim shares details about his passion. Excerpts:

What exactly is Oman fixer and why did you chose to set it up?

We facilitate overseas productions that want to film in the sultanate. In the film industry this position is known as ‘fixer’ hence the name. Essentially, we organise all the crew permits, logistics, locations, interviewees, as well as access to communities and interesting stories. We work on commercials, documentaries and feature films, although our speciality is blue chip natural history shoots.

What is your background in this field?

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I worked my way up the UK TV and film industry over a period of 12 years, when I was living in London. I primarily worked as a sound recordist and drone operator and worked on many large productions in many different countries. Through working with top UK production companies with excellent crews, I learnt a lot about production itself from the ground up, something that gives us an edge when working as fixers. I worked with some famous people – Idris Elba, David Hasslehoff, Penelope Cruz and Pete Bethune over my years in London.

Who are the key personnel in charge in Oman Fixer?

Myself and my brother Sami run the company and we have a solid team of operators that jump in on productions as and when needed. Having a technical background, I manage the technical side of shoots, and Sami deals with the permissions and research. Ali Nasser al Balushi is one of our top fixers and has vast experience on bigger productions. Realistically, it is all hands on deck once a job comes in. We work fast and efficiently as most of our clients are Europe and US based, and we need to match them.

What variety of services do you offer and how competitive are your tariffs?

We try to keep our rates in line with standard international rates, and our ethos is to be Co-producers with our clients. Hence, we are not in the game of charging high. There is a model of ‘charge fair and build a sustainable business’ we are working for the future. The TV and film industry is driven largely by word of mouth and recommendations, hence we get much repeat business on account of our attitude.

Are you in collaboration with any government establishments?

We work closely with MoI and the CAA as we regularly have drone permits pending, for our own work and for in-bound productions.

A lot of our shows that we work on, show Oman and all its glory to the world. That kind of TV exposure for the country is very beneficial for tourism. When people see Oman in an adventure TV show on Discovery channel, the impression stays with them on a more emotional level, when compared with a direct advert for Oman or similar commercial promo.

Do you coordinate with any regional agencies?

Yes, we have an office in Jeddah now, with a great partner there. Saudi is blowing up in the media sphere as well as entertainment, so it’s great to work there also. Regionally, we have partners in Bahrain, Qatar and UAE – mostly through productions I have worked on in the past in those countries.

Could you briefly share some of your key projects?

Oman From Above

This was our own production (co-produced with a company in UAE) and is being distributed by TVF International. I shot and directed the film myself with our drones, and additional footage was shot by Qassim al Farsi and Matiz al Jahwari. The film showcases Oman’s natural beauty, culture, heritage and modern architecture.

BBC Planet Earth III

It was a real privilege to work on this fantastic show – one that we grew up watching in awe. To show Oman’s natural beauty to millions of people around the globe feels very special. Since doing PE3 we have worked on many more amazing blue chip Natural history/Wildlife shows – of which we can’t talk about until broadcast.

Oman Botanical Gardens

We worked with a UK company – Yoho Media – to document and film all the plants, landscapes and traditional cultures in the country. This was a
year-long job and we, probably, went to every location from Musandam to Sarfait. We made 15 films and these will all be shown on big screens at the OBG when it opens. Spending time with the amazing botanists (Saif al Hatmi, Abdul Rahman al Hinai) at OBG was a real life experience.

Oman Across The Ages Museum

We also shot the majority of content for this museum many years before it opened. In fact, one of my proudest achievements is the 10-minute film that is played on the large 6m screen at the museum. I filmed all the aerial shots for this on drone with a top production team. It’s great to visit the museum and reminisce about that 5-week shoot.

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What lessons have you learnt through these projects?

Each project is a life experience, and many lessons are learnt from the struggling through adversity, out on the road, on a race against the schedule.

Is Oman Fixer the only organisation of it’s kind in Oman?

There are many excellent companies in Oman working on production. We ourselves have a niche and work to a high standard. Through my many years in the UK, I have a good network and companies will generally have been recommended. We have worked for Netflix, BBC NHU, Discovery, National Geographic and more.

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