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HomeIndustry SectorFilmBack to Work: Ric Roman Waugh Tests Production Waters in Saudi Arabia

Back to Work: Ric Roman Waugh Tests Production Waters in Saudi Arabia


Gerard Butler in Greenland (STXfilms)

It’s been a minute since we’ve updated Below the Line’s ongoing attempt to help get production and post back in gear, even as we continue speaking with working filmmakers and craft people about how they’ve been able to manage under COVID-19 protocols.

Recently, Below the Line spoke to Director Ric Roman Waugh (Angel Has Fallen) about his upcoming movie, Greenland. At the time we spoke, Waugh has been in Al Ula, Saudi Arabia for a few months prepping for his third movie with actor Gerard Butler, Kandahar, which will begin filming in February.

First, Waugh had to finish post on Greenland, which will be released via PVOD December 18, and that also involved doing quite a bit work during a pandemic. “We filmed it last summer. We cut it — Director’s Cut was finished — we tested it, locked picture, everything,” he told us in a Zoom interview a few weeks back. “Just when I had started the mix is when Los Angeles and California literally went into full lockdown. We got stuck for the next three months having to finish everything remotely, including 175 visual effects shots.”

“Everybody really kind of dug in,” he continued. “The movie obviously has a statement about hope, and it felt that with the crew, everybody was really into doing it right and finishing it right. Technicolor really backed us on that as well. We went back three months later, and we literally walked into Technicolor at Paramount, and the mix stage was literally where I left it — the pens, bottles of water, notepads. Nothing had moved. It was an insane experience.”

Waugh talked to us about the decision to film Kandahar in Saudi Arabia, as opposed to trying to create the Middle East elsewhere. A lot of that has to do with how well the country has handled COVID.  “When you get to a place like this, masks are mandatory. They take your temperature everywhere you go. When you walk into a restaurant, you walk into the gym, they’ve got hand sanitizer everywhere. There’s a process, and I will tell you this, I’ve gone to the malls, I’ve gone out in the streets, I’ve been in cars, and everybody’s totally safe, because they’re all doing the protocols. It just shows that we can live with it, we can work with it.”

Ric Roman Waugh
Ric Roman Waugh

“I’m switching up DPs on this,” Waugh told us when asked about retaining some of his crew from other recent movies. “Khalid Mohtaseb, who I was just a really big fan of, and a young, really killer DP, who also has roots from the Middle East, where he was born. I just love that I’m an outsider coming into the Middle East and putting my lens on something as a Westerner, but I’ve got somebody that actually is from this region that is going to have it shot in an interesting way. It’s like shooting in Mexico and having a really cool Mexican or Latin DP with me being an outsider. We’ve been really kind of mixing our international crew. Some people I worked with on Angels Has Fallen, a lot of my British crew like Terry Glass from special effects, some of the Bulgarian stuntmen that I worked with on Angel Has Fallen and some Brits that I’m bringing in, they’re all coming over to Saudi Arabia and working on this one.“

“Also with COVID, just keeping the flights as short as we can, and pulling people more locally because of the pandemic,” the director explained. “Obviously, we’re going through a huge spike right now, so we’re paying attention to that. I’m starting to get a little more international with different pockets of people that I really love. When I go back to America, I’ll be hiring all the same people again, and just keeping that family thing going. You feel like you get collaborations with people, and you get to build these different paths with each other of how to raise the bar.”

Waugh illustrated how they’re going to proceed once they’re ready to start bringing in the rest of the cast and crew. “We’re doing a lot of the early prep until the holiday break, and then we’ll go down for a couple weeks. Then six weeks out, we’ll fly the body of the crew in by charter, so we can kind of control it and really get everybody in here.  75% of our crew is from the UK and the rest are coming in from Europe. There’s just a few of us — Gerry and I are really the only two people from the U.S. coming over.”

“We’re gonna do all of our protocols on set,” he continued. “We’re going to do all the PCR testing and the different bubbles that people are doing. We took over an interesting resort here in Al Ula, Saudi Arabia where they build these beautiful Bedouin tents like hotel rooms, and it’s really kind of fun. It feels like the old days of making Lawrence of Arabia or The African Queen when everybody went somewhere to make a movie. We bubbled ourselves, so we’re completely insulated as a crew inside this resort and being very conscientious of each other. It doesn’t mean that somebody can’t get sick — it could happen — but you can see that there’s a method to the madness, and that everybody can coexist without having all this lunacy that’s going on about mask up, no masks or anything else.”

“It is hard enough to invent the movie business here in Saudi Arabia and then do it during a pandemic and everything else, but we’re gonna pull it off. We got a good group of people,” Waugh said in conclusion.

Look for more from our interview with Waugh next month as Greenland debuts on PVOD on December 18.

Edward Douglas
Edward Douglas
Edward Douglas has written about movies for print and the internet for over 20 years, specializing in box office analysis, reviews, and interviews. Currently, he writes features for Below the Line and Above the Line, acting as Associate Editor for the former and Interim Editor for the latter.
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