Over the last few years, the UAE has become synonymous with entertainment - be it films, theatre experiences, live dinner shows, and a lot more.

Popular franchises such as Mission Impossible and Dune have shot in the vast desert landscapes of the country. Theatre and dinner shows take place almost every day of the week, catering to the diverse audience present in the country.

A film festival currently underway in Dubai; hosted by Paramount Hotel Dubai, 'We Create Drama', in its third season, features filmmakers of every calibre who get to unveil their storytelling prowess. This festival serves as an unparalleled opportunity for filmmakers to actualise their visions and forge connections within the industry's circles. During the festival, attendees get to see films set against the backdrop of the Paramount Hotel Dubai's iconic movie-inspired locales. Throughout the festival, the hotel also hosts complimentary masterclasses on scriptwriting and independent filmmaking, providing invaluable insights for aspiring filmmakers eager to hone their craft.

The film festival's inception dates back to 2021, a brainchild of Paramount Hotel Dubai's General Manager Pascal Eggerstedt and Creative Producer Nicolas Naim.

"Pascal pointed out that we have such a unique selling experience at Paramount, the screening room," Naim tells City Times. "It's one of our main selling points and it's something that sets us apart and really makes us stand out as a hotel representing such a colossal entertainment brand Paramount Studios."

The team at Paramount Hotel Dubai wanted to utilise the space and give storytellers an opportunity to showcase their films and narratives, with all scenes being shot at the cinematic hotel.

'We Create Drama' has been an incredible success for Paramount, with participants from all across the world. The idea is to make it a creative hub, Naim said, "Our brand promise here is 'For the creative, by the creative.'"

"I believe we really stand true to that promise because during the film festival, this becomes a hub for creatives, writers, and actors. They come here, brainstorm their scenes, and it starts to feel we're not just a Paramount Hotel, but we're in the backlogs of Paramount Studios."

The festival's grand finale will unfold at the screening room of the Paramount Hotel Dubai in late May, where a dazzling preview awaits. Exceptional contributions will be lauded with prestigious accolades, including the highly coveted "Film of the Year" award, alongside distinctions such as Director of the Year, Actor of the Year, Actress of the Year, DOP of the Year, and Writer of the Year. Winners will also receive exciting rewards, including cutting-edge Nikon equipment to elevate their filmmaking craft, as well as exclusive experiences within the hotel premises, ranging from gourmet dining at its exquisite F&B outlets to indulgent staycations at the Paramount Hotel Dubai.

This year, Naim's role in the festival is to make sure the filmmakers have everything they need. "My job is to make sure that the locations are available within the premises, because, of course, we have a film festival going on, but at the same time, it is a fully active 5-star hotel where guest experience comes first," he said. "We need to make sure that the guest experience is not jeopardised by anything that we do with the festival."

Naim, who has been a judge in previous editions, says this year's panel has a skilled set of judges, including two from the Golden Globes. "The same people that select the Golden Globe film nominees are selecting our scripts," he said.

'Acting is very dear to me'

Away from all the judging and being the Creative Producer, Naim, who grew up in Dubai and the US, is also an actor and director himself. In fact, he been an actor his entire life, he says, "I was always the one that was putting on acts and shows for my family and friends, or bringing all my cousins together and creating a short film. So filmmaking and theatrics have always been in my bloodstream."

But Naim grew up in the hospitality industry, with both his parents being hoteliers. "So by default, I joined the hospitality industry when I graduated high school," he says, "though I wasn't very enthusiastic about it after doing a semester because everything that they were teaching me, I felt like I already knew as I grew up in a similar environment."

So Naim decided to follow his dreams and pursued a film school in New York where he studied film and theatre. Naturally, with a background in hospitality, he ended up creating content and marketing campaigns for hotels following his graduation. "That's how I ended up here, because when a hotel representing a production company was looking for a creative director, it was like a pot finding its lid."

However, Naim hasn't given up on acting.

Paramount Hotel Dubai upholds its value of entertaining its guests and providing them an element of escape. With that in mind, the diners at the hotel hold immersive experiences regularly. And Naim is among the many actors and singers who take part in the performances. "I write myself into these shows because I am a storyteller by nature and a trained actor," he said. "Putting myself into these narratives in the very beginning was actually my actor's request. As a director for one of the very first Murder Mystery shows, I was explaining how it is all about improv acting, and the actor asks 'why don't you put yourself in this show and do the part?'"

For Naim, a method actor, acting is always like coming home. "When I am in character, I come into work that day in character," he said. "Because I am a method actor, I really become that character for the day and I am always drilling the other actors to stay in character because breaking character breaks the illusion and we don't want that especially if it is an immersive experience. We want you to feel like you really stepped into this alternative universe of Paramount. So acting is something that I hold very dear to myself."

Theatre and immersive experiences in Dubai

"It is a tight community of theatre actors here," says Naim of the theatre scene in Dubai. "The Musical Theatre DXV group puts on a lot of independent theatre shows here."

Live dinner show concepts, on the other hand, have grown tremendously in the city. People love to enjoy shows as they indulge in delectables and beverages. "People are starting to appreciate immersive experiences a lot more because of this sudden emergence of AI," Naim said. "I would call it the attack of AI, because of which the creative industry is very shaky at the moment. With the help of AI, you could create things instantly now whereas before it would have taken months. So now people are genuinely appreciating immersive experiences, one-on-one interactions, and live entertainment a lot more. Dubai is heavily growing in the immersive experience world."

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