The Circle sets new dates and initiatives

LONDON — When Abu Dhabi launched its Middle East Intl. Film Festival in October last year, most eyes were drawn to its three-day-long Film Financing Circle. Headed by U.S. producer Adrienne Briggs, the Film Financing Circle’s ambition was to become the Davos of the film biz, bringing together financiers, producers and filmmakers from all over the world in the oil-rich emirate.

A year on and the event — now simply known as the Circle — has even grander plans: to become a year-round hub for nurturing filmmakers from the Middle East as well as providing a platform for film execs from all corners of the globe to come and do business. “I’d like to see the Circle become the ‘go-to’ place for the best emerging talent in the region and provide them with concrete opportunities,” Briggs says.

Rather than taking place during the Middle East fest, as happened last year, the Circle has now been spun out — and expanded to five days — to Oct. 5-9. That has given it the opportunity to establish its own identity.

A slew of initiatives have been created, including the Claewin Connection, which will select 15 up-and-coming Middle Eastern filmmakers and mentor them through their projects; the Adasa screenwriting lab, which will focus solely on Emirati scribes; and the Investors Circle, which will host workshops for international financiers to provide tutorials explaining the film biz to prospective U.A.E.-based and Arab film investors.

“The European Union does a fantastic job of cross-national promotion, and our Claewin Connection was designed with this in mind,” Briggs says. “It not only exposes exceptional regional directors to the international press and industry, it also creates a mentoring network for filmmakers in countries throughout the Middle East and North Africa.”

While many U.S. and European execs attended last year’s event with the hope of leaving with suitcases of cash, the reality proved to be different. This year, however, Abu Dhabi’s potential to become a genuine global film player may take a step closer to becoming reality.

The long-awaited Abu Dhabi Film Fund is finally close to being unveiled. The Circle will serve as a bridge to that coin, as well as work closely with the Abu Dhabi Media Co. — which oversees the $500 million film fund with Warner Bros.

Filmmakers from across the region will also have the opportunity to pitch their projects to a panel of biz pros, with the winner receiving a $100,000 grant to complete his or her screenplay.

It all adds up to what could become a transformative addition to the Middle East film biz.

“We’re not trying to manage expectations, we’re trying to meet them and exceed them,” Briggs says.

This article was updated on Aug. 25, 2008.

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