Abu Dhabi confab unveils online platform

Site will allow delegates to discuss possible co-productions

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TORONTO -- The 2010 Circle Conference in Abu Dhabi is diving into the social media world.

The financing and production forum will feature a first-time dedicated social media platform to allow delegates to connect online before discussing possible international and regional co-productions, and possible location filming in the UAE.

Endemol CCO Tom Toumazis, Quinta founder Tarak Ben Ammar and Al Jazeera doc channel head Atef Dalgamouni are among scheduled speakers for the conference, which runs from Oct. 13-15 in Abu Dhabi.

David Shepheard, director of the Abu Dhabi Film Commission, said Monday as he unveiled an initial conference lineup at the Toronto International Film Festival that the speakers list will also include Rotana Studios president Dr. Hala Saran, Kuwaiti producer Sheikha Al-Zain Al Sabah, Syrian director Najdat Anzour and Kuwaiti producer Walid Al Awadi,

Shepheard said the UAE, which has built an expanding media production infrastructure in recent years, is currently helping producers of "Mission Impossible 4" scout locally to complement an upcoming shoot in nearby Dubai.

The plan is for the movie's producers to build permanent sets for the blockbuster shoot in Abu Dhabi.

It proves that projects can come to Abu Dhabi and be bonded, he said of efforts by the Abu Dhabi Film Commission to pave the way for increased foreign production locally.

The Circle Conference will once again include the $100,000 Shasha Grant Award, which includes a first-look deal with local producer Imagenation Abu Dhabi.

Last year's winner, Saudi director Haifaa Al Mansour, has backing from Imagenation for "Wajada," a coming-of-age story about an 11-year-old Saudi girl.

And the 2008 Shasha Grant Award winner, Moroccan filmmaker Hicham Ayouch, is developing his third feature, "Sambo Do Maazouz," in partnership with Fox International.

Besides production financing awards, Shepheard said his commission is currently pitching the UAE government on offering production incentives to foreign producers considering a local shoot.

"There are plans for an incentive fund. We're making the business case to why we need one," he said.

The 2010 Circle Conference will be held in conjunction with the Abu Dhabi Film Festival, which is set to run from Oct. 14-23.
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