13/10/2014

Iron Hekoya: giving long life to web series in Lebanon

Gangsters and superheroes could populate new web series in Lebanon

Industry, Lebanon

Iron Hekoya: giving long life to web series in Lebanon

Carlo Mouzannar and Daniel Habib are childhood friends. Both audiovisual enthusiasts, they worked together on Daniel’s graduation film, before deciding to embark on a new project: to create a Lebanese production company dedicated to web series.

A saturated traditional market

Joined later by Mark Eid and Ramzi Assaf, the co-founders of Iron Heyoka started up the company after reaching the same conclusion: "Lebanese television series are of poor artistic quality, their producers hold the monopoly, the market is saturated and they do not give young people any chances," says Daniel Habib.

This particular team of young people developed their own web series projects inspired by the success of Beirut I Love You and Shankaboot.

"The creators of these web series had the courage to produce work of quality. We want to follow in their footsteps and show that, in the region, we are not afraid to launch into web series."

Iron Heyoka targets a particular audience, the age group of 18 to 30 year olds, "those who don't watch Lebanese television series."

"Western quality"

For its work, the team has a brand all of its own: a focus on aesthetics, of "Western quality", says Daniel Habib. Their series will be filmed in Lebanon, in Arabic with subtitles, but to the standard of American series.

Sevra, a gangster drama set to a backdrop of passion and violence will be inspired by the realism of The Wire or The Shield, while Rkod (lit. Run! In Arabic) will explore the life of a superhero in the world of the Lebanese music industry.

"Who needs a superhero more than the Middle East?" says Mouzannar Carlo. "That said, our heroes won't have any superpowers. This series is realistic. And for the production as well as for the actors, we want to find fresh blood, we want to place new talent in front of and behind the camera."

To achieve this desired quality, and especially to maintain their independence, these four audiovisual musketeers are taking their time. For ten months now, they have been filming the first episodes for their series, working towards 20 minutes of material to broadcast. But they have done so on a minimal budget.

"We received support from a company called Keeward for the first three episodes of Rkod, but now we have to find investors to develop both series. "

Looking for investors

The co-founders are open to all television formats and do not consider themselves to be "anti-television."

"We want to become official and we don't want to make any concessions or to go into advertising for basic wages," says Daniel Habib. "The world of advertising is a jealous lover," he says, laughing. "Eventually we even hopes to produce feature films, but this would not make the web-series secondary by any means."

While they try to find themselves a spot in the Lebanese market, the four creators also hope to see this largely unexploited field in Lebanon open up to the competition.

On this, they all agree: "Competition is healthy, it pushes companies to improve. It's encouraging, and it's what we need in Lebanon!"

 

Anaïs Renevier

Translation: Clementine Bogg-Hargroves

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