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KUWAIT - Telecoms & IT

Sheikha Al-Zain Al-Sabah

Chairperson & CEO, National Creative Industries Group (NCIG)

Bio

A pioneering film/TV producer and social entrepreneur, Sheikha Al-Zain Al-Sabah Al-Zain currently serves as Chair & CEO of NCIG. Prior to this, she served as the Undersecretary of State for Youth Affairs in Kuwait. She also serves on the board of a number of like-minded international organizations including UNDP’s Development Advisory Board, Boston University’s COM Board, the Equality Now Board, the 10 Arts Foundation at the New York Film Academy, and the OSN Board of Directors, where she serves as Vice-Chair. Before taking on her executive roles, Al-Zain worked for ABC News’ World News Tonight in New York. She is the recipient of the Arab Woman Award for Inspirational Woman of the Year 2015, the United Arab Media Council’s 2017 Haithem Media Award, and Leaders Middle East Power Women of Arabia Award. Al-Zain is a MELI fellow at the Aspen Institute and holds a BS in journalism from Boston University and an MFA from the University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts.

"Such partnerships are extremely important for us if we want to effectively cultivate the creative industries sector of Kuwait."
NCIG was founded to produce impact-driven content to bridge eastern and western markets and provide a creative haven for talented regional storytellers and help spread messages of peace and plurality.
What is the mission and mandate of NCIG?

The acronym NCIG translates to “weaving” in Arabic and, much like a web, NCIG weaves together different components of industry, creativity and community, working to bridge the gaps in our local creative economy, and allowing the sector to have more of an impact both regionally and internationally. At NCIG, we bring together writers, producers, directors, and so on in order for the community to function as one healthy entity. We also bridge the gaps between the East and West. Human stories are exactly that—human—and they are universal in scope. NCIG works to bridge the gaps between the private and public sectors. We weave connections between these components through facilitation, incubation, and production. Facilitation includes our assets and our activity-driven studio offerings, incubation empowers the transfer of knowledge between people and companies, and production refers to creating original content in collaboration with many companies worldwide.

According to your website, less than 1% of GDP is invested in the Kuwaiti creative economy. How would you assess your success in promoting this ecosystem so far?

Even though the 11 sectors that make up the creative industry of Kuwait employ more than 35,000 individuals and generate hundreds of millions of dinars for the local economy, this field is extremely underappreciated. The income generated by CI translates to about 24% of the entire value of the non-oil manufacturing sectors and about 72% of non-oil business services sector. Given all these variables and understanding the need to diversify our sources of income in the country, NGIC seeks to build a community that believes in the role of CI in driving the economy forward and creating a sustainable ecosystem for this to become a reality. To address these challenges, we have built a world-class multi-media facility and studio campus to offer space for creative people to meet and collaborate. Second, we have started working on a legislative blueprint for the industry. When it comes to TV and film, at the moment, there are many restrictions and laws binding creative expression in many ways. We find this to be crippling, and we are determined to develop a new approach to remedy the landscape and update these laws and regulations with our lawmakers. Finally, we are working on the incubation aspect and helping artists in Kuwait and the region to find their way and gain the courage to create, collaborate, and succeed.

What is the nature of the NCIG’s partnership with Netflix on the Lab 6×6 Project created with the support of the New York Film Academy?

Such partnerships are extremely important for us if we want to effectively cultivate the creative industries sector of Kuwait. This project, created in partnership with Netflix, focuses on empowering up-and-coming TV writers. In summary, Lab 6×6 was a pilot program that we did with Netflix at the beginning of the year. We created a six-week program for six writers—three from Saudi and three from Kuwait—who came together to learn and develop their ideas. In the end, they emerged with six full-fledged projects ready to be pitched to Netflix. With this process, we also brought in the New York Film Academy to build a toolbox curriculum, allowing our creators to experience what it feels like to be part of a writers’ room. The executives at Netflix were extremely generous with their time and were available to assist us throughout the whole process. The program itself was great, though the submission process for the program also showed us the true ocean of potential in both Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. Moving forward, we hope to work with Netflix and similar organizations interested in co-investing in the development of the creative community in the region.

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