The past few years have been a sullied triumph for the Pakistani entertainment industry. While several Pakistani artists have gone onto carving a name for themselves in the film, television and music industry of other countries, such as India, it is also reaffirmation of the fact that there is no dearth of talent in Pakistan.
The latest in a long line of Pakistanis to lend their expertise to an international project is that of the Karachi-based production house — GrayScale, who recently collaborated as the local producers for the upcoming HBO television series, The Brink.
Speaking to The Express Tribune, the team behind the show reveals how they got to be part of such an elusive project.
“We were initially contacted by the production team of The Brink in October 2013. Primarily they were only interested in licensing some existing footage from our library. After licensing the required motion assets for the pilot, we didn’t hear from them for about six months (about the length of time it took them to get the approvals from HBO to air the series),” says Biya Shadab, the content and marketing manager of GrayScale.
Having not heard from the production team of The Brink for some time, they were once again contacted by the producers of the show asking them if they’d be interested in filming original content for them — an opportunity they ‘jumped at’.
Having functioned as the second unit (Pakistan unit), the producers bequeathed on them, the additional responsibility of filming scenes in Pakistan — that were to ‘double in for sequences meant to be in New Delhi and other parts of the Middle East.’
According to Shadab, “Our stock footage along with some customised driving plates and other sequences filmed specifically for them helped add the genuine feel required for a successful implementation of their vision.”
Since the project required the team to cover three different cities of Pakistan (Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad), the crew had to be split into three teams to ensure that they were able to meet the tight deadlines.
Despite boasting of a production crew of several individuals, the core team for GrayScale comprises Akbar Allana, Haya Salim, Zahra Zahid, Usman Dadi, Kashif Rashid and Ibaadullah Naqvi.
Filming in Pakistan though, was no stroll in the park for GrayScale and they had to take a few risks in order to meet the requirements of an international client like HBO.
“One interesting sideline to the story was the timing of our shoot. Our budgets were approved at the beginning of August, just as Imran Khan and Tahir-ul-Qadri were about to launch their marches against the government,” stated the content and marketing manager, adding, “We had to decide whether to risk going to Islamabad to film or wait for the protests to die out.”
Luckily their gamble paid off as they reached the capital city three days before the protests started.
“Part of what we needed to film was in the Red Zone of Islamabad, which was completely cordoned off at the time. Initially, we thought we would leave that part of filming for the end, but once it became clear, the protests weren’t going to be ending anytime soon so we had to take some tough decisions,” said Shadab.
Despite this being their first time collaborating on an international television series, the GrayScale team credited the producers of the show for making them feel at home with the project. “Rather than being made to feel that we were working under the primary production crew, we were treated like equal partners on the creative endeavour,” said Shadab.
Revolving around the geopolitical crisis in Pakistan, the series is a black comedy created by Roberto Benabib and stars Tim Robbins, Jack Black and Aasif Mandvi in pivotal roles. The series will premiere on June 21 on HBO.