New Abu Dhabi focus for film biz

New film commission unveils plans

Two years after Abu Dhabi first revealed its intentions to become a global film player at Cannes, execs from the ambitious emirate are relaunching their film plans with a clutch of new schemes.

Abu Dhabi’s recently appointed film commissioner, David Shepheard, was on hand to announce details of the newly created Abu Dhabi Film Commission.

The organization, which falls under the auspices of the Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage, will take the lead in nurturing emerging film talent in the emirate and also serve as the central conduit for Abu Dhabi’s various film initiatives.

The film commission will take over the running of the film financing and training program the Circle, which will unspool Oct. 9-11. The three-day confab, which this year will run during Abu Dhabi’s Middle East Intl. Film Festival, will once again offer six Middle East filmmakers a shot at winning the $100,000 screenwriting grant.

Last year’s winner, Moroccan helmer Hicham Ayouch, subsequently inked a deal with 20th Century Fox to develop the winning project.

This year’s grant winner will be offered a first-look deal with Abu Dhabi’s $1 billion production arm Imagenation to develop and produce the project.

That kind of collaboration between Abu Dhabi’s various film initiatives is being actively encouraged by Shepheard.

“We’re the central point of all of this,” Shepheard told Variety. “We recognized (that) there was a need for all of us to work together and serve a common purpose.”

The film commission will also now take charge of the 9-year-old Emirates Film Competition to encourage local emirati film production.

“We’re different from some other commissions because for us building infrastructure means growing our local film talent,” added Shepheard. “If we build the film talent, then we’ll be able to start building the film activity here.”

Shepheard wasn’t the only new face repping Abu Dhabi’s film plans.

Former Tribeca exec director Peter Scarlett was also part of the attending delegation in his new role as exec director of the Middle East Intl. Film Festival.