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Middle East set for ‘first Arabic soap’

A trio of companies in the Middle East have partnered with a former EastEnders showrunner to make what they say is the world’s first Arabic-language soap opera.

Tony Jordan

Created by veteran UK writer and showrunner Tony Jordan, Inheritance will be produced by Twofour54 Abu Dhabi, MBC Studios and Image Nation Abu Dhabi and is expected to air in 2020.

Jordan spent many years writing on BBC soap EastEnders before going on to create and co-create hits such as Hustle and Life on Mars. He set up Death in Paradise producer Red Planet Pictures in 2005.

The new soap marks Twofour54’s first direct investment into a production. The agreement will see a dedicated studio built for the show in Abu Dhabi, which will serve as the main location for filming.

Middle Eastern broadcaster MBC, which last year tapped former NBCUniversal president Peter Smith to lead its fledging studio arm, is set to benefit from the Abu Dhabi Film Commission’s 30% rebate on production spend.

Meanwhile, both MBC Studios and Twofour54 will work with Image Nation Abu Dhabi on talent and script development for the project.

The soap will be shot across more than 250 days of the year, with the production team estimating it will generate more than 200 jobs in the first year alone.

MBC Studios MD Peter Smith said: “Twofour54 has overseen numerous productions from all parts of the world, offering producers a unique support system and production infrastructure while also excelling in Arabic-language content. We are thrilled to have agreed to a long-term production deal – the first of its kind in the Arab world – with Her Excellency Maryam AlMheiri and her team.

“We appreciate Image Nation’s support and resources to nurture the region’s talent. These soaps are very labour-intensive and collectively we view this agreement as a long-term opportunity to rapidly develop aspiring production professional through extensive training of local cast, crew and writers. When it comes to producing key long-running shows in Abu Dhabi, this is only the beginning.”

Jordan added: “One of my long-held ambitions has been to create and help develop major drama projects outside the UK. This project is truly groundbreaking and I think we’ve created something really special.”

Principal photography on Inheritance will begin in December, with the debut episode expected to air in the first quarter of 2020.

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