The Egyptian cinema and drama industry is experiencing a major crisis as many filmmakers tend to shoot their works outside Egypt, such as producer Mohamed Hefzy, who is currently shooting his films abroad. The infection has also spread to TV series makers as more and more now go to Jordan and Lebanon to film their works. This would significantly affect the industry. In addition, satellite channels have reduced their annual package of TV series from 15 to 10 series to reduce their budgets and avoid bad debts, which will greatly affect the industry and increase unemployment.
In an attempt by the Syndicate of Cinematic Professions and the Chamber of the Film Industry to address this crisis and the problem that threatens the cinema and drama industry in Egypt, writer and producer Farouk Sabry, head of the Chamber of Film Industry, said, “As producers, when we shoot our films in archaeological and tourist places, it must be free because then we will dazzle the world.” We are doing free propaganda for our country.” He added, “The filmmakers are currently placing a wooden sign with the phrase ‘Cairo Airport’ anywhere in the Media Production City for filming, to indicate Cairo Airport, because they cannot film in the real place.”
Sabry stressed that the abolition of photography fees contributes to the freedom of the writer and director in the creativity and realism of events, and to show all the required places in the work. This also contributes to supporting and revitalizing tourism by showing ancient and modern civilizations, and showing all stages of development, urbanization, and renaissance in the country, especially after the development of slums.
Sabry continued, “Let’s look at Morocco, which has built pyramids and temples and has an open filming city in Ouazzat to attract all the world’s films, even from Hollywood, to film in them without any compensation. We have a state of lack of love for cinema, and officials’ lack of belief in the importance and role of cinema in stimulating tourism. This is what compels the producer to save money and, unfortunately, to distort the image of the country, so I say to the officials, “Take advantage of the cinema, save the expenses of tourism promotion, and correct the image of our country because we have lost the true image of Egypt.”
Producer Omar Abdel Halim Nasr said that producers are facing difficulties in obtaining filming permits and that there are many fees imposed by more than one party. He complains about the lack of clear facilities for filming, whether hotel discounts, flights, equipment, personnel or places.
He asserted that political decisions must be issued in order not to collect any fees for filming films in tourist sites, antiquities, and all places belonging to the rest of the ministries, including, for example, Cairo Airport, hospitals, tourist and archaeological areas, universities, courts, and schools. He demanded the necessity of facilitating the procedures for issuing filming permits from the various authorities. This is because these fees are very high and exorbitant and limit the use of high-end tourist places in Egypt and their appearance in our films. Unfortunately, the expenses of filming in those places have become so expensive that the producer and screenwriters, before they think of writing a movie, avoid the ideas that require filming in these places. This is why the exported image of Egyptian cinema is limited to slums and small neighborhoods. It has become difficult to film a movie such as “Gharam fi el-Karnak”. This type of films that served Egyptian tourism cannot be made now because of this exaggeration. Also, photography fees in these places do not benefit the state, but are placed within the entertainment funds for each facility and body, and for this reason, the fees are doubled from time to time.
He said: This is not a shortcoming on the part of the production, but a rationalization of expenses, limiting the appearance of these places in our films. This is despite the fact that there are many places that were known to the Arabs through films, including Cairo University, Agouza Hospital, and many beaches, which are no longer available.
He continued: Rules must be established by agreement between the Chamber of Film Industry and the Ministry regarding the fees that the latter imposes on the producer during filming in the streets and places belonging to the Ministry, as well as tourist places.
Director Moussad Fouda, head of the Syndicate of Cinematic Professions and President of the Arab Artists Union, added that there is a major crisis that cinema and drama are suffering from, and perhaps no one feels it at the present time.
He confirmed that there is a crisis facing the Egyptian seventh art industry, as evidenced by the fact that there are many dramas from which scenes are filmed for a short period, then stop and then return. This is where we will reach a time when we do not find more than 5 series only, at a time when the Turkish series invades all parts of the Arab world. He says, “I have felt this greatly during my stay abroad in more than one country, which will lead to widespread unemployment in this industry that includes many makers, and we will also miss an important feature that we always boasted about in the past, that our dramas were marketed on paper before filming them.” This is what prompted us in the Film Professions Syndicate to hold a set of urgent meetings with the Writers Union, the Drama Writers and Critics Association, and all those interested in the cause of the deterioration of television drama, with the importance of state intervention to save it, so we must feel that the state embraces art and television drama.
He emphasized, “We, as a syndicate, try as much as possible not to stop the industry, and we have established five production companies for drama, cinema, radio, and theater to create job opportunities for members of art syndicates in Egypt.”
Director Omar Abdel Aziz, head of the Federation of Artistic Syndicates, affirmed that “I have a deep belief that the children and makers of Egyptian drama, pioneers and adults, are more capable than others of presenting its cause and studying its causes and root solutions.” He asked businessmen, producers, and the public and private sectors to support Egyptian drama productively because the lack of funding is the most important problem facing Egyptian drama, and that participation is required between the public and private sectors in the creative industry.
Abdel Aziz added, “There must be an extensive meeting to find out these problems and their roots, and to ask questions. Is the crisis related to raising the wages of stars or reducing budgets, in addition to the increase in photography fees in tourist places and airports?”
He stressed that facilities must be provided for art makers abroad to invest in Egypt. “We must all be frank, and everyone reveals the problems they face, because the industry is in dire need of this kind of discussion at the present time.