Hollywood to Capture Saudi Arabia’s Oil Discovery in New Film ‘Sands of Fortune’

The dramatic story behind the discovery of oil in Saudi Arabia, a pivotal moment that gave rise to the world’s most profitable company, Saudi Aramco, is set to be portrayed in a Hollywood film titled ‘Sands of Fortune.’ The film will delve into the historical partnership between American geologist Max Steineke and Bedouin Khamis bin Rimthan, credited with the construction of Saudi Arabia’s inaugural oil well in 1938.


  • Film Production: Passage Pictures, based in Los Angeles, has revealed its plans to produce ‘Sands of Fortune,’ a historical drama highlighting the collaboration between Max Steineke and Khamis bin Rimthan, who played a crucial role in drilling Saudi Arabia’s first oil well.

  • Screenplay by Bernie Campbell: The screenplay for the film is penned by Bernie Campbell, who spent several years in Saudi Arabia as a speechwriter and strategist, providing an authentic touch to the narrative.

  • Incorporating American and Saudi Talent: ‘Sands of Fortune’ is expected to feature a blend of American and Saudi talent. Passage Pictures is also exploring partnerships with local production companies for the project.

  • Historical Significance: The film will delve into the significance of the oil discovery, which occurred in 1938 when oil was struck at a depth of 1,440 meters in Saudi Arabia’s Dammam oilfield.

  • Role of Max Steineke and Khamis bin Rimthan: Max Steineke, the chief geologist at the time, and Khamis bin Rimthan, a knowledgeable local guide, played crucial roles in the exploration. Rimthan’s deep understanding of the land contributed to the oil discovery.

  • Formation of Aramco: The discovery led to the establishment of the Arabian American Oil Company, known as Aramco, which eventually became the world’s largest oil-producing company.

  • Saudi Aramco’s Success: Saudi Aramco continues to be a dominant player in the oil industry. As of Q2 2023, the company reported a net profit of $30.07 billion, and Fortune magazine ranked it as the most profitable company globally with $159 billion.

  • Saudi Arabia’s Film Industry Development: The announcement of the film aligns with Saudi Arabia’s efforts to promote its entertainment landscape. The government has allocated funds and incentives to attract international players, including tax rebates for film productions.

  • Global Partnerships: Saudi Arabia’s Cultural Development Fund announced grants totaling $180 million for developing the local film industry, fostering collaboration with Hollywood production houses, and enhancing the country’s cinematic environment.

  • Tax Rebates and Cultural Promotion: Saudi Arabia offers tax rebates for film shoots, similar to incentives provided by Dubai and Abu Dhabi. These rebates encourage production companies to utilize local talent while showcasing the nation’s culture and geography.

‘Sands of Fortune’ presents an exciting opportunity to bring to life the remarkable story behind Saudi Arabia’s oil discovery, a pivotal moment in the nation’s history. The film not only sheds light on the collaboration between Steineke and Rimthan but also aligns with Saudi Arabia’s efforts to bolster its entertainment industry and attract international filmmakers through incentives and partnerships.

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