Founding CEO of Dubai-based Filmworks lured shoots of Syriana and The Kingdom to the region.

Dubai-based producer Tim Smythe, a key figure in United Arab Emirates’s burgeoning film industry, has died aged 54.

Staff at Smythe’s Dubai-based Filmworks production company confirmed to ScreenDaily that the producer had passed away overnight following a battle with cancer.

The company later released a statement that said: “With regret and deep sorrow we, the Filmworks family say goodbye to our CEO Tim Smythe who passed away peacefully on Monday night in Dubai.

Tim relocated to the Middle East region from South Africa in 1993, having already been a well established and respected producer of feature films, TV dramas and commercials.

“Believing in the region’s potential and foreseeing the economic growth that lied ahead, he established Filmworks in Dubai in 1998 and before long, the company of five attracted a loyal client base consisting of the region’s top advertising agencies representing major local, regional and global brands which helped the company grow to become one of the most reputable full service film production houses in the region, staging highly complicated technical productions which attracted the attention of producers all over the world.

“With all the resources in place Tim followed this major feat by kickstarting the feature film production industry in the country. He was instrumental in attracting and servicing the most high profile feature films to ever visit the region including Syriana, The Kingdom, Mission Impossible 4 and the Borne Legacy.

“Apart from being a consummate and ethical professional, he was a strong advocate of attracting top international talent while at the same time nurturing and cultivating local ones.

“He was a mentor to many and a friend to many more and thus he will be deeply missed. We bid him farewell and hope that he rests in peace and promise to preserve what he started and keep the dream alive.”

Smythe started his career in his native South Africa, making feature films and television series highlighting the injustice of the Apartheid regime, before producing commercials worldwide.

He founded his Dubai-based Filmworks in 1998.

A key pole of his business plan was building up a state-of-the-art equipment facility on a par with facilities in Europe and the US. 

Initially focused on executively producing commercials for the likes of Coca Cola, Pepsi, Audi and General Motors, Smythe steadily expanded the business to make it one of the biggest production facilities houses in the region.

The company today has satellite offices across the world, including in Los Angeles, Cape Town, Abu Dhabi, Doha and Beirut.

A major coup for Smythe was convincing Warner Bros to shoot Syriana in Dubai.

Last year, the company also worked on Chinese director Sun Jianjun’s big budget action feature Switch, starring Andy Lau as a special agent.

Filmworks would also go on to service Samsara, The Kingdom and Mission Impossible - Ghost Protocol, which involved a death-defying stunt on the top of the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa in the heart of Dubai.

More recently, the company also became involved in features by local filmmakers such as Emirati director Ali F. Mostafa’s City of Life capturing the intercrossing destinies of a privileged Emirati man, an Indian taxi driver and a European woman.

Smythe was regarded a driving force in the region’s burgeoning film industry.

Tributes to the producer from young Emirati filmmakers poured on to Twitter.

Actor/director Nawaf Al-Janahi said: “Tim Smythe passed away last night! A great person & mind. The UAE film scene lost the key player. May his soul rest in peace. Truly sad!”

Writer/direct Mohammed Mamdouh said: “Rest In Peace Tim Smythe, you’ve done so much for the rest of us.”