Ahmad Baageel

Production Designer / Art Director Based in Riyadh

"As an architect I have a passion of creating and building worlds, moving from one world to another following a storyline."

How did you start in the film business?

After getting a Bachelor’s Degree in Architecture from the University of Dammam in Saudi Arabia, I started to shift gradually into filmmaking. I always had a big interest in movies and storytelling & living in Los Angeles exposed me to different opportunities to explore filmmaking more.

I started as an art assistant in student films and found my way as an art director by gaining experience in small music videos and commercials. I then had the opportunity to work on a Saudi TV show that was shot in LA. That job gave me the enthusiasm to become part of building up the art industry in Saudi Arabia with my fellow Saudi art directors. 

Describe your job?

As an architect I have a passion of creating and building worlds. Moving from one world to another following a storyline is a small summary of what I do as an art director and production designer.

What productions have you worked on internationally?

One of my very early international projects was the short film Lollipop, directed by Hana Alfasi and shot in the US. I also worked on Stones, directed by Nicole Vanden, and a US feature which partially shot in AlUla

What is one of your most satisfying moments?

My work coming to life is always satisfying. There’s always a special feeling transferring what’s in my head into reality.

I owe a lot of my experience to commercials. It gave me the opportunity to experiment and get different results. One of my favorite commercials was Maestro Pizza National Day 2019; it won the Best Saudi National Day commercial that year. The challenge was having to build six sets in an empty warehouse. I'm very proud of how it came out. It was not easy, but it proved the potential we have and the high standards we aim for.

Also, the wrap of Book of Sun ‘Shams Almaarif’ feature film had a special satisfying moment since it was difficult to film. We had twenty-five sets, some built and dressed from zero. The movie sold well in cinemas in Saudi and the Gulf area. And now it’s available on Netflix MENA.

Tell me more about your company?

Makzn 7 is an art department service house that aims to provide and cater to the film and commercial market with high standard art solutions. Makzn 7 aims to have the best of both worlds: a local base with international industry standards.

How do international crew perceive Saudi Arabia and how does that change during filming?

There’s always excitement in experiencing a new culture, new food and shooting in untouched locations. On the US movie we filmed, the US art team were surprised by the availability of equipment and products. They came prepared to shoot in the wilderness and were pleasantly surprised of the availability of quality products.

What are the main challenges the film industry faces in Saudi Arabia?

The industry in Saudi Arabia is new and growing quickly, and like most art directors in Saudi, I had to find creative solutions for the art department. When quality exists but the experience and tasks are blurry you find people going beyond their job description.

With the establishment of Film AlUla and Saudi Film Commission I’m sure we will see a lot more recruitment and training.