Piero Cozzi, 59, is the MEA chief executive of Filmmaster, an events and content creation company that co-produced the Olympic Games opening and closing ceremonies in Rio last month. Mr Cozzi, 59, who is Italian, has lived in Dubai for the past 12 years. He has just returned from Rio, where he attended the Olympics alongside Filmmaster’s international team. The company was also involved in last night’s opener for the Paralympics.
How did Filmmaster come to be involved in the production of the Olympic Games?
We did the opening and closing ceremonies of the Winter Olympic Games in Torino in 2006, and just over four years ago were invited to pitch for this one. We put together an international team and joined up with a Brazilian partner company called SRCOM. We did the flag handover between the London and Rio Olympics, during the closing ceremony of the 2012 games, which took six months to prepare for. From then, we had four years to prepare for Rio. For the first year we were just consultants to the Olympic committee, then we spent just over two years preparing for the opening and closing ceremonies and the torch-carrying around Brazil. We are also involved in the opening and closing of the Paralympics.
Were any staff from Filmmasters offices in Dubai and Abu Dhabi involved?
Some from the Middle East, also from our Italian offices and people based in Brazil were involved. From our office in Dubai Studio City, our associate creative director Adriano Martella was in Brazil for six months helping on the creative side. From six, the team eventually grew to over 500. I was in Rio for three weeks during the games, behind the scenes with the Filmmaster team.
How do you think the Rio ceremonies compared to the London 2012 ceremonies?
From social media and the press around it, despite the very important cut in the budget due to the economic situation, we still managed to do quite an emotional show. The fact that people around the world were talking about Brazil, about the ecological aspect of the show, and of course all the wonderful music they had, was great.
How did you manage to pull the ceremony off, despite the cuts?
We used more volunteers. It was quite complicated with the organisation as we had over 12,000 volunteers, which is a big number to handle. In terms of the technical side, we managed to keep trying with the same amount. It was simplified but we still kept the overall idea. Compared to London I think we had eight times less budget. [London 2012 reportedly cost $40m (Dh147m)].
Were there any big mishaps during the ceremonies?
We had a lot of problems at the closing ceremony because of the very strong winds – up to 60 or 70mph – and rain. It hadn’t rained at an Olympic ceremony for at least 30 years. Up to the last minute, we weren’t sure if we would actually do the firework show, because it would have been dangerous. Also at the last minute we had to actually change the positions of all the athletes, for security reasons. Luckily the weather got a little better five minutes before the show, so in the last five minutes, we organised everything and it actually happened as per plan – apart from all the athletes being soaking wet towards the end. That was the trickiest part. Actually, the whole ceremony could have been stopped.
What is Filmmaster currently working on in this region?
We have the inauguration of the King Abulaziz Center for World Culture in Dhahran in Saudi Arabia, before the end of 2016. It will be an event that the king will participate in, and is very important. We have 85 people working full-time in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, and a lot of freelance people coming over when events happen. We currently have a lot of pitches going out. In inaugurating any cultural event or building, there are similarities to organising the Olympic ceremonies. In both cases, we use high-end technology to touch people’s hearts and create a show they will remember.
What are the biggest productions you’ve been involved in regionally?
The 40th National Day anniversary in Dubai, the 2012 celebrations of the 50th constitution day in Kuwait, and the 2009 inauguration of King Abdullah University in Saudi Arabia, which was attended by over 40 heads of state. We also have a lot of work with the Government here in the UAE.
Sebastian Coe, the president of the International Association of Athletics Federations, once said there’s absolutely no reason why the Olympics should not be an ambition for Dubai. Do you think Dubai or Abu Dhabi would be able to organise a sporting event of similar magnitude in the future?
I’m sure the UAE is absolutely able to organise something of this size, and we would really love to be involved if they do.
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