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Abu Dhabi: Image Nation Bridges Hollywood and Arab Worlds

Abu Dhabi-based Image Nation, run by U.S. exec Michael Garin, is a unique outfit set on a financially disciplined course with a multi-pronged strategy: calculated risk investments in Hollywood pics and bold but commercially viable local projects such as the UAE’s first reality TV format, “Beyond Borders,” in which rich Emirati kids travel outside their comfort zone, and an upcoming Abu Dhabi-set version of “L.A. Law” to be titled “Abu Dhabi Judicial.”

“The nice thing about Image Nation is that with our initial capital and cash flow we are financially self-sustaining,” Garin says. “So unlike other organizations that keep looking for outside capital from the government, we have all the money we need to operate for five years and beyond.”

Garin claims the initially government-backed outfit is enjoying a high rate of return from its partnerships — currently with Parkes/MacDonald on upcoming pics, including the live-action “Barbie” project and “Men in Black 4”; and with Hyde Park Entertainment, most recently on Ramin Bahrani’s “99 Homes” (pictured). While Image Nation’s deal with Participant Media has expired, they recently teamed up to co-finance an upcoming docu about Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani student activist who survived a Taliban assassination attempt, being helmed by “Waiting for Superman” director Davis Guggenheim.

While the docu makes a political statement, it’s more about creating opportunities for filmmakers. And while Garin is on a mission to build the foundations of a motion picture and TV industry, he says, “If we did it just in Abu Dhabi it could reach a certain level of quality, but at the end of the day it would be provincial.

“We have the talent and we have the financial resources,” he adds. “What’s lacking in our region is experience and mentors.”

And even that is changing fast. Staff at Image Nation is now already 55% Emirati. The goal is to become 75% Emirati in three to five years.

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