In March the Abu Dhabi Film Festival became an integral part of Twofour54, the government-backed media and creative industries hub that drives the industry in the region.The move sharpens the focus of the fest’s role as a key plank of an ambitious and comprehensive plan aimed at making the emirate the region’s main entertainment and media industry center. Since it was set up in 2008, and named after Abu Dhabi’s geographic coordinates, Twofour54 has grown into a media zone that houses more than 160 media companies including CNN, the BBC, Fox Intl. Channels and Cartoon Network. It also runs training programs, state-of-the art studio and post facilities, and operates the Abu Dhabi Film Commission, which recently launched a 30% production rebate, touted as the first of its kind in the region. “We’re at a point now where we are able to service international productions competitively and effectively,” says Twofour54 topper Wayne Borg, a former Universal Pictures Intl. exec who is masterminding the entire Abu Dhabi effort. “The rebate incentive provides the momentum and drive to really energize the infrastructure that we have in place,” he says. As for the festival, Borg and his team are striving “to give it a very clear, unique positioning within the region, focusing on the Arab filmaking community, making this the emotional home for that community, wherever they may be based, either here in the region or further afield,” he says. The key is to stimulate and nourish local audiences and hopefully get young people excited about the industry from a career perspective. Right before the fest Abu Dhabi hosts its annual media summit, also organized by Twofour54. It further reinforces Abu Dhabi as an industry hot spot thanks to high-profile workshops and speakers that in past editions have included James Cameron, Rupert Murdoch and Jim Gianopulos, with Bill Gates among those expected this year.
Showcase for Arab film | Abu Dhabi media summit aims big | Variety honoree Nasrallah mixes genres | Hub projects itself as club for growth