The Power of Art – Michelle Nickelson

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Painting, performance or prose- art and it’s many forms inject a shot of courage and bravery into the artist. It
takes grit and gumption to bare your soul and be judged for your work. But who are the faces that create these
wonders? We talk to those that have mastered the arts and carved a niche for themselves

Michelle Nickelson

Film Producer

For Michelle, her journey with film began in the 1990s. “My father became a shareholder in a visual effects company, Manex Entertainment and that’s where I became involved with the business development side of things,” she says. And when the company changed gears, Michelle had enough experience to look around and find a place to establish something like Manex along with a film production facility. “My research showed that UAE was an up and coming market, so I came here.” That was in 2004. Since then, Michelle has realised that, while there may not be much experience with film in the region, there is a lot of excitement. “I think the overall attitude is less jaded than in the USA and that is inspiring.”

Just like the many that work in the film sector in the country, Michelle does not consider it to be an ‘industry’
as yet. “Most are working on something else to support themselves. Film is not the only thing they are involved in. Also, they do a lot of commercials here but not a lot of film making,” she explains. But she has hope that it will grow. “Latest statistics show that there are more young Emirati women graduating from college than there are men, as seen in other GCC countries too. This means there are more young women getting an education in film and media, which makes them more qualified and able to grasp better opportunities,” says Michelle. She adds that film is a tough industry to start in and if Arab women are getting an opportunity to be heard, it changes the game.

With regards to women working as crew, Michelle points out that there are more women in production in the GCC than people realise and while the productions are on a much smaller scale than Hollywood, there are many films being made. “Education about the production end of things needs to increase. That is how more women will end up getting into it,” she explains. She adds that it also comes down to culture, “Many young women still have to deal with families who think film and media is not an acceptable career choice. This makes it harder for them to get into the sector despite the opportunity available.”

Michelle firmly believes that filmmaking is a team effort that requires members to work together for a successful production “No one knows everything but the attitude some men have that makes them speak to you as if you are a child is most annoying,” she expresses. Surrounding herself with a group that are creative in business and content creation is how Michelle deals with the challenges. “There is an old saying ‘It’s amazing what you can accomplish if you don’t care who gets the credit.’ and it’s true!”