Equinoxe sets up Mideast program

Screenwriting org will mentor Arab filmmakers

Equinoxe, the international mentoring org that promotes up and coming screenwriters, has launched its first dedicated Middle East program. Equinoxe Arabiya will mentor Arab filmmakers and connect them to producers in Hollywood, Europe and the rest of the Middle East.

It is the latest in a series of initiatives introduced to help establish a pan-Arab film industry. Officials at Abu Dhabi have launched a film festival, film commission, film academy and, most importantly, a potentially unlimited film fund with a view to turning the oil-rich emirate into a financial hub for film execs in the region.

Equinoxe has inked a deal with a not-for-profit division of Haroun Multi Media, a Dubai-based animation and post-production house, to run the scheme. Slots are offered to 12 candidates, who will then team up with mentors for one-on-one workshops and development of their scripts. The aspiring filmmakers will also get guidance in marketing projects to producers and funds.

The scheme is open to Arab filmmakers living in or out of the region. A number of Western helmers of Arab origin have already benefited from the original Equinoxe program, including French helmer of Algerian origin Rachid Bouchareb, whose “Little Senegal” was supported in 2000 and Lebanese-American Omar Naim with Robin Williams-starrer “The Final Cut” in 2004.

Other programs are helping jumpstart the Arab production biz. The Abu Dhabi-based Emirates Foundation, launched by Abu Dhabi crown prince Sheik Mohammed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, currently offers grants ranging from $2,700-$27,000 for arts projects, including films.

The Amman-based Arab Fund for Arts and Culture offers a maximum grant of $50,000 for cultural projects including film, while the Cairo-based Cultural Resource Foundation offers coin ranging from $500-$5,000 for film projects.

Dubai film fest officials plan to announce development coin prizes to winners of the fest’s Muhr awards.

“Arab filmmaking has long suffered from a hemorrhage of its talent to established film industries,” says Wissam Haroun, CEO of Equinoxe Arabiya. “Along with reversing this trend, our mission squarely aims at transforming promising Arabic talent into world-class television and filmmakers. With the global entertainment industry projected to grow to over $2 trillion by 2011, the development and representation of Arab talent will undoubtedly bear fruit.”

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