UAE filmaker appeals for funds to make 'Expats' the movie

EXCLUSIVE: Dubai resident planned to make film last year but investment was pulled.
UAE filmaker appeals for funds to make 'Expats' the movie
FILM FUNDS: Dubai resident Craig Johnson is looking for funds to make his move Expats in time for the Dubai International Film Festival in December. (Getty Images)
By Tom Arnold
Tue 19 May 2009 04:39 PM

A filmmaker, whose planned movie charting the lives of expatriates in the UAE was scuppered after the financial crisis hit the country, is appealing for fresh funding to shoot the project.

Craig Johnson needs AED3m ($816,000) to make the feature film, entitled Expats, which will follow the fortunes of three different families who move to the UAE in search of what Johnson describes as the “Arabian dream.”

Last year the 36-year-old New Zealander was all set to begin shooting the screenplay he had written after investors came forward to fund the project.

However, it was while Johnson was waiting for approval for the film from the UAE National Media Council in Abu Dhabi at the end of 2008 when the first signs emerged that the Gulf state was feeling the strain of the global financial downturn.

Johnson, who owns a real estate company which has been hurt by the slowdown in the UAE property market, watched in frustration as investors withdrew their interest - and the project ran aground.

Now, after tweaking the script to reflect the unfolding economic turmoil that has shaken the UAE, the father-of-two is keen to launch the project anew.

“We have cast and crew ready but just need a bit more money,” said Johnson, who is aiming to have the film featured at the Dubai International Film Festival in December.

“We are stuck in a situation where we’re ready to go but are short of funds as some of the people that were willing to invest backed away as they’d been burnt in other areas.

“I saw a business opportunity as well as a personal interest in doing a screenplay about expatriates as nobody had really tackled the subject before and it’s fairly topical as a lot of people around the world were talking about Dubai,” he said.

Johnson, who has lived in Dubai for five years, hopes to attract the AED3m he needs to make the film by inviting investors to buy into a block of 10 shares valued at AED300,000 each.

He is also looking for investors who may would be willing to help fund further films to be made by McMahon Johnson, a production company he is setting up in Dubai with his wife Laura.

He’s already completed a script for a comedy which he’s hoping to sell to a studio and has another screenplay he’s working on. 

He has previously sold a screenplay to a company called Supreme Media Group in Hollywood.

“This is a business for me and I want to attract investors who I can show profit to and can participate in one or more of the films we are doing,” he said.

“All the money that we are putting into it is going into an escrow account and investors are covered legally.”

The cast includes seasoned professional actors from the UK, as well as expatriate and Emirati actors.

“The film is about expatriates chasing the Arabian dream and making a new life for themselves where it’s all happening,” said Johnson.

“Even though we’ve gone through what we’ve gone through in Dubai in the last year, it’s all still relevant.  Even with the turmoil we’re facing, people are still coming here to make a new life – some of them succeed and some of them fail.”

For investment queries, please contact Craig Johnson directly at

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