• Nehan Sarfaraz

How 'Zoom' made shooting an ad possible during the pandemic

Updated: Jun 20

’3, 2, 1, action!’ was heard hundreds of kilometers away from where the director was. It was a full lock-down here in Kuwait, there was no way to shoot a commercial and impossible to travel. Thanks to technologies like Zoom, the video conferencing app that helped bridge many people during this pandemic.

We never thought that the day would come to use such technology to remotely direct a film shoot, let alone direct a superstar like Mohamed Ramadan - Nasser Al-Sabah CEO/Founder of Cinemagic

This is why it is interesting for us as well as the industry to share this story and experience that happened with Khaled AlRefai. Khaled (Founder/Director of All Over group) started his career as a music video director after taking film-making introductory courses at workshops conducted by Cinemagic. Khaled quickly excelled in his career, learning new skills, expanding his horizon on many projects that you are now seeing from commercials to feature films.


Khaled was very enthusiastic about the first project we supported him on, he was always experimenting with new things, learning new things, and always curious. This leads us to support him even further. He is very talented! - Nasser Al-Sabah, Cinemagic

On the 10th of May, the lockdown in Kuwait was extended with the rising number of cases, and the country was placed under a full curfew that allowed people to only leave their houses for emergency or groceries. With the majority of the countries of the world in lockdown, there is a rising demand for content across the globe. When it comes to advertising, organizations need to express their participation during times like these - making advertising extremely important.

Advertising is always an industry that needs to be able to turn on a dime in response to current events, cultural moods, product breakthroughs, economic shifts, and more. - Ran Ben Yair, Digital Signange Connection

Zain, the client company, was founded in 1983 in Kuwait as MTC (Mobile Telecommunications Company) the 1st mobile telecommunications company in the Middle East and Africa. In 2008, Zain became the 4th largest mobile operator in the world in terms of geographical presence, with operations in 15 African countries and 7 in the Middle East.


The Pre-Production phase before a shoot usually involves a lot of meetings to organize the complete planning of how the production is going to take place. Finalizing the script, storyboards, shot lists, finding the right crew, location scouting, budgeting, gear selection, casting and even rehearsals for the final shoot are all parts of the pre-production process.


Over the past few years, Khaled AlRefai has been wholeheartedly directing the Eid-ul-Fitr ads for Zain. He has been in the industry for quite a few years now. With such an innovative idea to execute the Zain Eid-ul-Fitr 2020 Commercial in times that limit us from being able to perform, it is safe to say that his experience should not be taken lightly. One of the minor setbacks that Khaled was facing was the inability to travel, as well as, finding a director who he could hand over this project.


We decided to shoot in Egypt because in Egypt it's more controllable and it's easier to do it there. The problem that we had was that we didn't have the director and I wanted to do it myself as usual. I'm doing these commercials from 2014 till today. - Khaled AlRefai
Image Courtesy - Zain (اعلان زين العيد 2020 افتحوا الأبواب) - All Over Group

Khaled had a word with his producers in Egypt and was willing to direct the commercial all by himself through Zoom or through any other video conferencing platform. He made sure that his homework was done and all the details of how the commercial was meant to look like, were shared with the crew.


They said okay - so I did my homework really good. I did a really good animatic to explain the shots exactly how they were going to be, the timing of the shots, I did a lot of rehearsals with the little girl from the cast. And to be honest, the team over there helped me a lot to achieve this. - Khaled AlRefai

Khaled's experience in shooting this commercial not only depicts his innovation but also the professionalism of the crew that he had worked with. To execute an entire filming process with the director being on a video conference with his team is an absolute marvel in itself.


Even though they may not appear in front of the camera, the director is one of the most important people on a film set. They do more than shout “action” and “cut” behind the scenes—they’re the person who determines the creative vision and makes all of the film’s biggest decisions. - Jodie Foster for MasterClass

Khaled also mentioned that he managed the time between the clients and the crew very well and he also made sure that the clients were involved throughout the process all the time. I asked him a couple of questions about how he was able to control the set while being at home because, well, as per my past experiences on set, the director has so much that he has to look at on a set. During the process of a shoot, he's one of the most important people on the set.


I had my Assistant Director on the set, I had direct contact with him all the time. I'm talking to him and there are headphones and there are speakers. So if I want to talk to the cast or to the crew, I can communicate because all the crew has headphones and they can hear what I'm saying - they're on the meeting the whole time. - Khaled AlRefai

The entire process of shooting this commercial took them about a week. According to Khaled, it may look complicated or even feel complicated to do something this big - like shooting an entire ad online but what counted most was teamwork. He mentioned that he had good past work experiences with the same crew and he was fully aware that the team allocated in Egypt to do the job was fully capable of managing their tasks.


Another thing I noticed, that I found really cool is that the commercial features MENA's leading artist - Mohamed Ramadan. Mohamed is an Egyptian actor and Singer and has won an award for the greatest nationwide talent 3 times consecutively. (I had a fan-girl moment, please excuse me)



The pandemic surely hasn't stopped Khaled AlRefai from doing what he does best! Personally, I am nothing but highly impressed with the whole concept of a director managing to shoot an entire commercial while being at home.


Cinemagic supports industry innovations, we empower talents, and we want this story to empower you to be more innovative and start creating.



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