As the commercial arm of the Abu Dhabi Media Zone Authority, twofour54 was set up to nurture entrepreneurship in media and entertainment. How would you describe the creative environment and the work culture at twofour54?
A group of 30 people started up this company in 2008. From day one we wanted to reflect creativity, teamwork, and a unique sense of environment, differentiating ourselves from companies that fall under the government and follow a specific structure. This does not mean that our processes are not fully compliant with the government, but there is a different look and feel of twofour54 and in how people operate here. This is a loose environment where we allow for creativity, and it is an environment where we allow people to express themselves. At the end of the day, they are part of a creative sector that is commercially based. In our creative lab, we have a video editing room, an audio editing room, and tablets for creatives to work on their films, animations, or games, and also a game area to help generate ideas and encourage the flow of creativity—all for free. Individuals can come here during the weekends too. This is where we harness their creative energy.
In terms of content and new developments, what are some current projects taking place at twofour54?
We have partners like CNN, Sky News Arabia, and Cartoon Network set up here, and each one of them is responsible for its own target when it comes to its content or news segments. The Ubisoft studio developed a full iOS (iPad compatible) game called CSI: Hidden Crimes in Abu Dhabi with some graduates of Ubisoft Abu Dhabi, and it currently has over 13 million downloads. Furthermore, season two of an Emirati animation called Mansour supported by Mubadala, which used to be done outside the UAE, will be fully developed here in the Cartoon Network studios. We will also start filming the GCC version of Sesame Street, Iftah Ya Simsim, by the end of 2014, and it will show in 2015 on all GCC channels. We plan to have a channel on YouTube that will show the short films that are being made at twofour54; more than 400 members from our creative lab are volunteering on those short films. We have received a request from Etihad Airways to work on a documentary that shows the stories of Emirati pilots and cadets. These projects are helping our ecosystem by bringing more professionals, young creatives, and enthusiasts to twofour54; our creative lab now has more than 10,000 registered members. Our production services arm, intaj, has supported the production of more than 18,000 hours of content from its Abu Dhabi studios. intaj works closely with the Abu Dhabi Film Commission to encourage international films to be filmed here, such as Fast and Furious 7, Star Wars 7, and Bollywood films. We have also arranged for two episodes of the BBC's Top Gear to be filmed here.
Following the Abu Dhabi Media Summit in 2014, the three themes are distribution, content, and finance. What were the main topics discussed?
At the 2014 Summit we talked about how to build a sustainable media ecosystem in the Middle East. From a financing perspective, we wanted to talk about how start-ups can be taken to the next level. From a distribution and content perspective, there is a lot of piracy taking place and that, too, was a major topic of discussion. People were also talking a lot about the mobilization of content. In the coming year, we will be hosting people from Europe, the US, the region, and the Far East to talk about their models. For instance, the Hulu and Netflix models do not exist here yet. We discussed the major developments in the industry, such as new gadgets and technology.