GOOD Stills on some really GOOD reasons to shoot in Dubai and the ‘Camel Whisperer’ project they will never forget
Let us introduce you to GOOD Stills, one of the top production agencies in Dubai and all of the UAE.
We had the pleasure to speak with Jolianne Ray, co-founder of the company, about the history of GOOD Stills, the story behind their fascinating ‘Camel Whisperer’ shoot, the challenges and advantages to work in such diverse locations, and their hopes for the future.
Production Paradise: How did the company start and who do you have in your team now?
Jolianne: GOOD Stills was started in 2011 by myself and Pooja Belani. I like to think that the idea sparked while we were stuck in an elevator in the world’s tallest building during a 40-hours shoot. Dangling hundreds of meters above Downtown Dubai, finally having a chance to take a breath we realised that we had it in us to do it on our own. A week later, Pooja was on a train to Paris, and I was in a bar in Dubai. We messaged each other at the exact same moment that it was time. A few names were scribbled on a cocktail napkin. Excited texts were sent back and forth. GOOD was born. We were ready to Get Out Of Dodge (GOOD).
Eight years later, with a small team, we’ve become a well-respected production agency in a city where the competition is fierce. It’s always been important for us to be hands on with every project — so our size doesn’t just keep us fast and lean; it means that you get the absolute best from every one of us on each and every shoot.
Production Paradise: What is GOOD good at?
Jolianne: We work on projects that move us and with people who want to change things. We aren’t afraid of the short deadline, the tight budget, the big ideas. We push ourselves to be better than our clients’ expectations. We believe in production being a collaborative process, and have a really incredible network of talent from all over the world.
Production is madness, but there’s something really beautiful about the challenges it presents. It makes the brain work in fantastic creative ways, and allows us to leave a piece of ourselves in every shoot we produce.
I want to say that we’re good at leaving a positive mark on every shoot experience. I want to say that we have created an incredibly talented and loyal shoot family. I want to say that we are GOOD at being good. But I think our work speaks for itself 😉
Production Paradise: How do you attract clients from around the world to shoot in UAE?
Jolianne: We love bringing people here, and fortunately it’s really easy to convince them to come! Most people from abroad contact us with a very rough idea of what they want to shoot. Our job is to make that idea a reality. It’s a wonderful challenge to have. The UAE has an awesome variety of locations for us to shoot — from futuristic space age skyscrapers, to rolling red sand dunes. From no star to five star — we have it all. And it’s all out of this world. Location scouting is probably one of our favorite things to do — it really makes us look at this country in a way that we never would if we had a desk job. One of the best compliments we regularly receive is “Was this shot in the UAE?”
The production capabilities out here have also become really amazing over the past few years – the industry has boomed, and we now have some really incredible local talent to shoot with.
But back to your question, how do people find us? We’ve been lucky enough to have an awesome network of people who like to talk a lot! Most people have heard of us by word of mouth. And apparently, Google is a thing, too. I heard our website has lots of pretty pictures, so maybe that helps.
Production Paradise: You have a very diverse list of clients from car brands and hotel chains to government bodies and sports brands. Is there a type of project that excites you most? Or a type of client you haven’t worked yet but would like to in the future?
Jolianne: It’s the diversity that makes our jobs awesome. One day our office is at the beach, another day on an indoor ski slope, and the next on top of a helipad looking out over the skyline at sunrise. It’s cliché to say there’s never a dull moment but… We get excited about the jobs that make our brains work in new ways, or introduce us to amazing new people. We grow from every experience.
I couldn’t name a type of client we haven’t shot for, but can safely say we just want to work with awesome people. Tell your friends.
Production Paradise: What has been the most inspiring project you have worked on so far?
Jolianne: Without competition, the Camel Whisperer – an installment of an incredible collaboration between M&C Saatchi UAE and Abu Dhabi Tourism called The Untold Stories. The agency approached us with photographer Katarina Premfors to help them discover unique characters from Abu Dhabi to tell the Emirate’s extraordinary stories.
And we discovered Fatima. Fatima is a whip-smart bedouin who has been raising camels since she and her father used to cross the deserts of Abu Dhabi to take them from camp to camp. Now she’s someone who both embraces tradition and clashes with it head on. She’s the UAE’s first female camel herder and top participant in the local camel beauty contests and auctions. A man’s world until she knocked down the front door.
A direct quote from our translator: “Fatima is insane. The way she talks is so F*ing metal. She’s patriotic, motherly, humble bragging… very Kanye at some points. I want her to adopt me.”
She speaks very little English, and my Arabic barely gets us by, but you somehow understand everything she’s saying. She’s constantly talking, sharing, touching, taking you somewhere, showing you something. She’s an encyclopedia of the desert – its plants, its animals, its spirits, its poetry. It’s as if she can’t communicate fast enough because she knows that her ways won’t be around forever and she wants to leave her mark on anyone who will listen.
We followed her over months – from camel beauty festivals to the house where she was born. From her camps and farms, up and down vast dunes and even with her camels to the sea.
All the while, she’s filming literally every single thing on her phone for her hundreds of thousands of Snapchat and Instagram followers – adoring fans who even started to recognize Katarina and me on the street from her Instastories.
She is all things at all times. She is an experience.
It was advertising, but it wasn’t. It was work, but it wasn’t. It was something deeper. The photographs were beyond beautiful, but it was the first time I’ve ever felt like I had really experienced something more than producing an advertising campaign. I’ve met someone who is, in every sense of the word, special. And I feel humbled to have discovered such an extraordinary story from Abu Dhabi.
Production Paradise: What have you found the most useful being a Production Paradise member?
Jolianne: It’s been amazing having a global platform to get our work out there. As I said, we’re tiny, and most people until recently had only discovered us by word of mouth. I feel like since joining we’ve been able to show more people that the UAE is a kickass production location and that we have the ability to produce world-class campaigns here. I can definitely say that we’ve had a few new exciting clients that have sent us briefs since joining who I don’t think would have ever heard of us without being members.
Oh, and having one of our images on your homepage that one time was pretty cool 😉
Production Paradise: What are your projects for 2019?
Jolianne: Watch this space… a few exciting projects for a few real estate clients, hotels, cars…like I said, we rarely receive the same brief twice and shoot for a huge variety of clients, so I can definitely say that the work hitting our desk for the rest of the year will be the kinds of brief that get us out of bed with a smile on our face every morning. Even when it’s before sunrise!