With the help of a courageous client and a knack for innovative cinematic metaphors, Digital Hydra partners Hamzah Jamjoom and Patrick Wimp recently gave the Arabic world a TV show like it’s never seen before.
They were hired in March to create a new look for the 15 fifteen-minute episodes of the third season of WaMahyaya, a science and philosophy program airing throughout the Middle East. Hosted by Saudi media personality Dr.Walid Fitaihi — known by some as “the Dr. Phil of the Middle East” — the theme of the season was taming the ego in our lives.
The partners decided that interpreting Fitaihi’s on-air advice with marionettes as humans and fencing matches as egos was a bold but feasible way to go.
By the end of July, tens of millions of viewers had proven them right.
Shooting interiors at Resolution Productions Group and exteriors in New Buffalo, marionettes dramatized the emotional constraints within families and fencers fought with styles that represented the conflicts of the past, present and future. Underwater revelations and a trip through a magic looking glass were among the addtional techniques that the partners sketched out in their Cinespace offices during prepoduction.
Saudi Arabia native Jamjoon, who oversaw the production, recalls thinking, “Are we pushing the limits too much here?” But in fact it was their client who was taking the greatest risk.
Before scratching out idea one, Digital Hydra convinced Fitaihi to modify the style that had made his show a success for two seasons running.
Specifically, they told him to open up and talk about himself, to reveal his own struggles with the ego, while advising a huge, conservative, religious audience on delicate matters of behavior health.
Like most entertainment consumers outside of America, Middle Eastern viewers are not amused by people who give out too much information.
“There’s a huge distinction between what happens publicly and what happens privately,” explains Jamjoom. “But Dr. Fitaihi agreed, and did it in a very elegant, classy way.”
WaMahyaya aired on eight Saudi-owned networks throughout Ramadan, an occasion that Hamzah calls “the Super Bowl of the Middle East.”
“It’s a month when everybody gathers to break their fast with family members and usually watch a positive TV show,” he says. “After the meal is done, people will immediately discuss what they have seen.”
In this case, the discussion ranged from Morocco to Indonesia and included nearly a billion people. But it won’t end there. Digital Hydra plans to release an English version of the show this winter.
WaMahyaya executive producer was Jacquelyn Jamjoom (Hamzah’s wife) and DP was Ross Heran. Like Jamjoom and Wimp, they are DePaul film school graduates.
Digital Kitchen’s Tim Little partnered with Hamzah on the opening title sequence. NoiseFloor’s Devin Delaney composed the audio track. Resolution Productions Group edited and Bryen Hensley supervised sound design. Capture equipment from Daufenbach Camera.
Contact Dan Patton at email@example.com, or phone 312/969-2600.