Imax ‘Arabia’ Production Took Discomfort to New Level

We’re used to stories of tough productions, but Academy Award-nominated documentarian Greg MacGillivray takes discomfort to a whole different level, having already taken IMAX cameras to the top of Mt. Everest and the bottom of the ocean.  MacGillivray’s new “Arabia 3D,” narrated by Helen Mirren, offered its own sort of brutal challenges, including “filming in 120 degree heat, wind blowing, dust on the camera, dust in the lenses, sand everywhere,” as MacGillivray recalls it.

He came away with visually stunning pieces including a trek to the ruins of the Madain Saleh, “two cities carved out of limestone,” he says.  “A second visual highlight is diving in the shipwrecks off of Jeddah in the Red Sea.  It’s a beautiful environment.  The water is like 85 degrees, there are coral reefs and it’s super clear with all kinds of fish and different animals.  And a third would be the Hajj — the tribute to faith that happens once a year, when three million pilgrims come to Mecca to celebrate their faith and commune together.”  Although he wasn’t permitted in the main mosque, “My camera team was Muslim and were able to take the camera in.  We also had helicopters and a view of everything from an adjoining high rise building.  It’s an amazing thing to witness.”

“Arabia 3D” was hatched after the 9/11 attacks nearly 10 years ago now.  Not by MacGillivray. but by “a group of Arab business people who were educated in the U.S. and have homes over here, who love the U.S. and who love Arabia,” who came to him with the idea.

“They were completely shocked by that event and they completely understand the reaction of everyone toward Arabs after that event, but they decided that, well, the U.S. population isn’t gettting the full picture of what it is to be an Arab.  We don’t know much about it, and what we do know is not very good.  We’ve gotten a lesson in the bad stuff over the last 10 years.  They thought, ‘Maybe if we make an IMAX film to show around the world, it will give a full picture.'”

He maintains that his mandate required filming “not in a propaganda-ish way, no rah rah we’re great kind of thing” — just real.
By now, having shot his film during nine trips over four years of time, he says, “I really loved the people that we met — hundreds and hundreds of really amazing people.”

Next up for MacGillivray:  chilling out in a giant way.  He’s now working on an IMAX film of the Arctic.

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This entry was posted in The Hollywood Exclusive by Marilyn Beck and Stacy Jenel Smith and tagged , on by .

About Stacy Jenel Smith

I grew up in the San Fernando Valley when it was a kids' Shangri La in the 60s and we had Fabulous Eddie's miniature golf and trampolines on Ventura Boulevard. My big brother frequented The Third Eye psychedelic shop back in the day, but he wound up turning out anyway. Dad was an NBC video man who worked on "Laugh-In," Dean Martin's show, and specials by everyone from Sinatra to Fred Astaire. Mom was a first class home maker and PTA and GCA volunteer. They're still doing great. Anxious to get going in life, I quit college and jumped into journalism when I was still a teenager, and was writing for the New York Times syndicate and People magazine before turning 20. But that was a long time, many adventures, lots of traveling around the world and thousands of interviews ago. I go back to the very last days of hot type and getting to talk to Henry Fonda and Bette Davis, and Sammy Davis at the old Brown Derby...What a ride. That's in no small part thanks to my amazing writing partner, Marilyn Beck, one of the grand old-school Hollywood columnist stars -- a true star -- who knows how to do it right. I'm lucky, for sure. Now is fun, too. I love going out to events with my 17-year-old daughter (Jonas Brothers!). Seeing everything fresh through her eyes renews my excitement about the game. In-between I went back and finished school -- University of Redlands -- married, divorced, and at long last found my true love. My favorite things outside of the show business realm are being with my family, my faith and spiritual growth, learning new things (from doing Qigong to uploading stuff on Facebook), and running. See you on the trail.

One thought on “Imax ‘Arabia’ Production Took Discomfort to New Level

  1. Pingback: Big Movie Zone Blog » Blog Archive » Filmmaker Greg MacGillivray talks Arabia 3D

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