Meet Mohamed ‘Kudu’ Ibrahim: man behind Maldives’ premier production coordinator Blue and White
By Shamman Zahir
A global franchise such as Star Wars is known by many. For a part of such a movie of this caliber to be shot in the Maldives is not something you see every day. Today, Maldives Insider sits down with Mohamed ‘Kudu’ Ibrahim, the man behind it all, coordinating the shoot locally.
Being an ex-musician and after working for a while came the start of Blue and White. Simply wanting to get into business, not knowing what industry or nature of work that could be done, Ibrahim recalls registering the name. The truth is, he never had any thoughts or ideas behind the name. Later it was mentioned to him that Blue is for sea and White is for beaches — smart name choice. He went along with it. Always being curious to learn how things work, he was convinced what he was doing now was worthwhile.
How did he get into this industry? There was a friend, from Cochin. He sent a person who was shooting an ad that needed help. Ibrahim simply offered his help as a favour to his friend. Afterward, he looked it up on the internet to find this is a work people do.
Fast forward, with over 15 years of experience of keeping a rapport with clients, Blue and White is the leading production coordinators in the Maldives with a production count of roughly 480 and having worked with the biggest names in the world. From two-person to 210-person productions. Every production is different in its own way.
“We make the statement that the Maldives is paradise but a logistical nightmare. It’s not the cheapest to plan production around the Maldives,” he says.
Production coordination is a seasonal work, but that’s where Ibrahim’s passion took him. He says he may be wrong on this, but based on the experience he has a feeling the Maldives will be over-filmed. In the sense, we may have unique white sandy beaches and crystal clear waters but there isn’t a lot more variety to be covered.
“It’s all about production costs at the end of the day and a recent crew we spoke to, they do their research on places to visit and areas of interest to shoot but they came to the conclusion it wasn’t worth it to shoot in multiple locations in the Maldives. In the end, they chose to get their footage from one atoll. That too is a business so their bottom line is very important. So it’s very clear we have limitations in this industry. If they can get the same thing elsewhere cheaper, they would go. For comparison, in Sri Lanka, geographically you can have different landscapes and different weather temperatures in a matter of hours of travel. That’s unfortunately not possible here,” he says.
What are some of the challenges Ibrahim has had to face moving forward with Blue and White? It’s not only crew, but it is also a lot of expensive gear as well with this kind of work. One experience of a famous crew here. There are certain specifications of what can be taken on the aircraft. So Ibrahim recalls hiring a boat to take the gear five hours each way by speedboat because there was no other way around it. You realise what it truly takes only with experience.
“We have been doing this amidst challenges, the Maldives being not a film-friendly country. It is no secret we need less talk and more action for improvement. A good example of this is the Carnet system. To those who don’t know, it is basically like a passport for your film equipment. It’s the system used around the world and we haven’t adopted such a system in the Maldives at this time but there is work being done to make it possible to my understanding,” he says.
But to our surprise, Ibrahim mentions that he is not an avid movie buff: “I wouldn’t be able to tell apart from a photo camera and a video camera or recognise famous people. A few folks maybe, but I am the sort of person to fall asleep when watching a movie but I know the work I do.”
Ibrahim has also won the national award in the area of new up and coming businesses in 2015. Here is a memorable moment from his career: “A 23-day shoot, a director who came by for a shoot post-Covid, He was very silent. I’m questioning whether I’m doing anything wrong he doesn’t seem too happy, talks nicely on the last day and leaves after the shoot is done. Another group comes soon after, one of the members, the one who contacted me has a water bottle with a name on it. It didn’t register to me at first but it seemed familiar. Then she tells me that’s your friend’s water bottle. Turns out the silent director who went is her husband and he had recommended me. So that was just his style and he was impressed by the arrangements. So, goes to show that when you do your job right, that’s enough. The simple rule I follow is that you should be the 180-degree sight when needed, they shouldn’t have to turn back to find you.”
Blue and White is well known as the company that handled Star Wars rogue one production in the Maldives. That sounds like once in a lifetime opportunity and the kind every production company dream of. Ibrahim shares with us a bit about the opportunity and experience: “Now I know they are really big players in the world of production. At the time I didn’t know them, I was just doing my job and getting things done. They too thought I was just joking and took them a moment to realise that I truly don’t know them. It was nice to see the reception of it. A friend of mine sends a picture of the company name in the credits. That’s when I realised some people stay back to watch the credits too.”
Ibrahim’s advice to those trying to break into this field of work is all about discipline: “What I have come to know down the line in the years of experience is that this is 60 percent paperwork and planning and 40 percent execution. Most people talk too much and even if they do have good ideas it is better to materialise those things with the right planning to back them up. Proper planning and discipline is crucial to success.”